Whitehot Magazine

Interview with Curator and Writer Robert Curcio

In It For The Long Haul installation, Lichtundfire. All photos courtesy of the artists and curcioprojects.



Robert Curcio has carved a niche for himself in the artworld that is a bit difficult to define. His approach to a recent exhibition he curated raises some interesting perspectives. Let’s ask him about his career: 

Christopher Hart Chambers: First of all, I’d like to thank you for including my work in the exhibition you recently curated for Lichtundfire gallery. It was a remarkably cohesive exhibition considering the number of artists involved. I’d like to discuss the genesis of that show. But first, do you remember how we first met? I think it was when we were both writing reviews for d’Art International, and Steve Rockwell, the publisher, would have get-togethers whenever he was in NYC.

Robert Curcio: Yup. That would probably be right. Or maybe we met each other a little bit beforehand at some art thing. But it was through Steve that we really got to know each other.

CHC: Where do you come from, what’s your background? Do you have degrees in the arts? 

RC: Well, I was born in Brooklyn, raised in Long Island, went toTyler School of Art in Philadelphia; graduated with a BFA and stayed in Philly for a couple of years, and then moved back to New York.

CHC: How would you define your role in the art biz? You seem to wear a lot of different hats. What exactly is it that you do Robert?

RC: Umm, that’s exactly it. I am a very diversified art professional who can help or assist just about anybody doing something in the artworld. Whether you’re an artist who needs more media coverage - I can help you with that. Whether you’re a gallery that wants more visitors to your space - I can help you with that. Or, if a gallery is looking for interesting new artists to work with, I can make suggestions and work with them on that. I work mainly on a project to project sort of basis, but I can work more long term with people. It depends on what the situation calls for.

CHC: You also write and curate.

RC: My writing and curating is not necessarily academic. I leave the academic things to far more intelligent people. But, umm, yeah - writing is a good amount of what I do and curating is, as you know, a main outlet that I very much enjoy. I try to organize interesting and cohesive exhibitions.

CHC: Do you favor any specific artistic medium or style, such as painting, photography, video, etcetera ~ and, neoexpressionism, new imagist, or whatever?

RC: With all my exhibits I try to mix it up from the media to the style to emerging to well established artists, and try to make the whole demographic as mixed as possible. I just think that’s a better way of organizing an exhibit and it’s more reflective of artists in the artworld. In terms of having a specific theme of focus for each exhibit: not exactly. Although I do tend towards more figurative, human-condition type of work. Like, one upcoming exhibit that I’ve organized is called, “Intimate Connections.” It’s a seven person exhibition. It focuses on the brain and the cosmos. It’s about the connectivity between our brains and the so-called brain of the universe; how there is a thread through everything. 

CHC: Okay, down to brass tacks here. How do you derive your clientele? You mentioned direct sales - or, it was sort of implied by, “getting more feet through a gallery.” But, your clientele across the board? How does this happen?

RC: It happens all sorts of different ways. Either word of mouth: somebody who I might have worked with on a project recommends me for something else. Sometimes it’s from me doing direct emailing and people come to me with their situations. 

Walter Robinson, Triumph, 2022, AI-generated painting, 30 x 30 in.

CHC: Now let’s talk about this show at Lichtundfire, “In it for the Long Haul.” Group exhibitions traditionally either comprise a gallery’s stable or focus on a specific theme. It’s interesting that you have called the exhibition a ”retrospective,”  It is apropos, but I have never heard of the term being applied to a curator’s efforts specifically. Maybe this will become a “thing.” Please comment.

RC: Yes. For lack of a better word and to give an idea of the exhibit is how I came up with the idea of calling it a retrospective. It’s not just a bunch of artists that I tossed together. There is reasoning behind it all. It’s the basis for the exhibit. Whether it was artists that I have recently met or I’ve known for decades who have been pursuing their craft, their process, regardless of their situation.

CHC: How would you account for what I previously referred to as the cohesion of the works in the exhibition? Close to sixty artists I believe. And I also want to comment that it was very well hung in the space. Do you think that cohesion is because of the way you arranged the works?

RC: Yes. It’s the way I arranged the works. I’ve been installing artwork since I was nineteen. Everybody was like, if you’re going to have sixty artists, how are you going to hang them in the space? Even Priska [Priska Juska, owner Lichtundfire gallery] was a little concerned. I was like . .  it was easy.

CHC: Were all of the works in the exhibition recently executed?

RC: No. It wasn’t a requirement. A lot came down to what the artists had available. The main restriction I imposed was size. It had to have a cohesive format.

CHC: Did you select which works were displayed by each artist, and were in person studio visits necessary?

RC:  Because these are all artists I have known and worked with either recently or for many years, I knew what their work was or is. What I did was ask everybody to send me at least three examples and from those I selected a piece for the exhibit.   

CHC: Some of the better known artists on the roster are equally known for their writing and occasional curating, such as Loren Munk and Walter Robinson, among others. Even like you, in that you exploit various avenues in the industry. I mean, success in the arts and many other pursuits has at least as much to do with notoriety as anything else. 

RC: True.

CHC: Have you ever run into a conflict of interests?

RC: The only time I felt a little conflicted was a couple of times artists have wanted to hire me to do things for them and I didn’t think their work was quite up to snuff, shall we say? And, you know, like anybody else, I gotta’ pay the rent. I took on some projects that maybe I wouldn’t have; but it came down to straight financial consideration. But, not as far as any sort of moralistic or political conflict of interest. 

Loren Munk, Homage to Hilma (The Ontology of the Work of Art), 2022, oil on linen, 30 x 36 in.

CHC: Do you see any general direction for trends the artworld is heading in? Wait, I want to qualify that. Throughout the twentieth century, more and more rapidly, pretty much every decade had a salient style. And towards the end it became even more and more so. This is not only in the visual arts, but in music and, I don’t know enough about the other stuff. 

RC: I get what you mean.

CHC: It seems to me that just about anything goes nowadays. 

RC: It’s a good and bad thing. It’s allowing for more things to happen, more people, more artists to get recognized. But then again, there is such a glut of so much stuff that’s out there. Whether it’s music or literature or visual arts.

CHC: We have at the moment NFTs and now AI is kind of a  . . . and this is just in the last year or two. What’s your prognosis?

RC: My prognosis? I think AI will keep going along. I think NFTs will keep going back and forth, because NFTs; the broader public doesn’t really get it other than it’s the new fancy thing. Whether it’s an NFT or the latest I phone. It’s going to be more difficult to discern - I don’t want to say, “quality” - something that’s more durable and independent and important that’s going to be remembered in fifty years. One thing I would say in terms of trend that’s been going on for the last ten, fifteen years, or maybe a little bit more, is the artworld, like in many other places,  is looking more back at itself, at its history, and the artists that might have gotten overlooked, or only had their moment in the sun back in the forties are being revisited and in some cases are doing better now than at any time. 

CHC: That’s interesting. We’re not only culturally mining the past, it’s also to find artists that may have come and gone.

RC: On the one hand it’s very much a business like anything else, because you’re dealing with estates if the artist has passed - but you’re also trying to set the record or make a correction by showing an under recognized or under known female artist of the twenties.  

CHC: I’d say that’s a good thing.

RC: In general that’s a good thing, but there’s also the business and the money involved. Who’s buying and selling? So, there are all sorts of reasons why and where and how. It’s not just purely from their souls and goodness that they’re trying to do this. Somebody’s making a buck somewhere.

CHC: Those are some pretty sporty galoshes you’re wearing. Did you make a trillion dollars this year?  

RC: Oh, I don’t know about that.

"In It For The Long Haul" curated by Robert Curcio at Lichtundfire was October 5 to November 4, 2023. WM


Christopher Hart Chambers

Christopher Hart Chambers is an artist born in NYC where he lives and works. His paintings and sculptures have been exhibited in numerous solo and group gallery and museum exhibitions such as The Nassau County Museum of Art, PS1, and Andre Zarre gallery, to name a few. He has also written extensively about contemporary art for Flashart, Tema Celeste, Contemporary, Sculpture magazine, and several others, as well as occasionally curating exhibitions.

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