A Dance with Life & Death: Art 3 Interview

A Dance with Life & Death (installation shot). Traité d’Anatomie Humaine (2015), and Embryological Study of the Fetus on Ostrich Egg (2015).

Art 3 Interview


In New York, solid gallery programming is as rare as a 24 hour diner. The more interesting spaces I frequent seem to be deflected ventures rooted in making art, extending the insights gleaned from a studio practice into curating. These artist-run spaces seem to sympathize naturally with the artists they show, and their programming is as intrinsically various and surprising as the creative process itself. Often, however, these spaces only engage in regional conversations—suggesting that if the art that matters isn’t being made in New York, it’s being made in some other city, which can be brought here without losing any as of its exotic freshness.

The purely commercial galleries might have an even harder time of it. A gallery instituted for sales can’t fall back on the integrity of the work or the quality of curation alone. What commercial galleries give their artists is a market: ideally, an international market. Even then, exhibitions can feel flat, works might not sell, and galleries fold.

Art 3, which opened last May on Ingraham Street in Bushwick, is a hybrid form of the artist-run space and the commercial. The two directors, Silas Shabelewsks and Monika Fabijanska, have brought a decidedly international flare to the space. The current exhibition, A Dance with Life & Death (on view through Oct 25), brings together three bodies of work by the New York-born, half-Mexican/half-French artist Alexis de Chaunac, showcasing baroque renderings of modified objects (texts, posters, books) alongside painterly portrayals of mythic histories. Intrigued by the vibrant energy of the show, I interviewed the artist and Silas Shabelewska about how the A Dance with Life & Death ties in with the gallery’s overarching goals. 

Jeffrey Grunthaner: How did you two come to meet and work with Art 3?

Silas Shabelewska: A dear friend of mine introduced me to Alexis a few years ago; and during that meeting Alexis showed me some of his drawings. I was very taken by them and fell in love with them. A year later, when I opened my own gallery, I decided to include Alexis in the Inaugural Show.

Alexis de Chaunac: I was in the process of developing a new body of work and Silas was in process of thinking about the project of ART 3 gallery. I feel we met at the right moment at the right time. It was a series of coincidences that brought us together.

SS: We started a beautiful dialogue. At the same time, Alexis received propositions to exhibit his works in museums in Mexico. As he went along to do just that, I followed his progress and decided to do his first solo show in a gallery.  

JG: What’s the history of Art 3. Why did you decide to open a gallery in Bushwick, as opposed to, say, Chelsea or SOHO?

SS: Bushwick is a vibrant area…it still resonates with authenticity, with amazing artists all around. I have been working in the art world for 15 years; after 15 years it was a natural to me to finally open my own gallery. I wanted to deal with artists "alive" not just dead ones. My real passion has always been contemporary art. 

AdC: I feel that Bushwick has today the same energy that Chelsea and downtown Manhattan used to have in the 1980’s. There’s a feeling of creativity and reinvention that has now almost vanished from the downtown scene.

JG: What are you doing differently than other galleries, in Bushwick or elsewhere? What are conversations like between you two?

SS: My artists come first. I am sincere with them. I love the work and try to understand their intentions. I never linger with payments to them either. That is key to me. I knew Leo Castelli when I was younger and I always think of him. He’s my role model.

AdC: A real dialogue established between the gallerist/dealer and the artist enables the work to have a certain consistency. An exhibition is constructed around that discussion in order to have as much weight as possible. That conversation can also go beyond the work itself and enables an opportunity to exchange ideas, which is very valuable in the process of making art. 

JG:  What is the underlying theme of the current exhibition, “A Dance with Life & Death”? How does it relate to Art 3’s programming generally?

SS: Life and death are very personal subjects for the artist. The two main bodies of work in the exhibition address Life (Le Traite d'Anatomie Humaine) and Death (The Last Supper). ART 3’s programming is about process, history, concept intellect and strong visuals. My passion lies particularly with works on paper, drawings, paintings and sculpture, so it’s well reflected in the programming.

AdC: The underlying theme alludes to the intricate ties between life and death. The third body of work presented, the Anthropology series, is inspired by the statuary from the lost Pre-Columbian civilizations. Those civilizations had a strong belief that life and death intermingle with one another. It seemed to be the logical intermediate between the two other bodies of work. As I am myself half-Mexican, through the work, I was looking into my own cultural identity and heritage.

I feel Art 3’s mission as a gallery is also to make meaning through contemporary art. The artists collaborating with Art 3 strive to find a meaning through their process of art-making but also meaning in a larger sense. 

JG: How does multiculturalism relate to Art 3’s mission?

SS:  I am multicultural myself: Polish-French-American. We live in a world now where multiculturalism is all part of us. So the program and the artists at Art 3 reflect that.

We show artists from the US and from international backgrounds. The world is the limit.

AdC: Art today should break cultural boundaries and try to find the universal in the local. Part of the current exhibition is a search of cultural identity. Cultures may be different because of their language, or their way of approaching life—but they also have some common ground that makes us all human. Art 3 seems to motivate an exciting dialogue between cultures and different perspectives on how to look at the world. WM 

Alexis de Chaunac, Divinity of the Underworld (2015).
Oil stick and acrylic on paper 43.5 x 29.5 in. (110.49 x 74.93 cm).

Embryonic Development (Keimesentwicklung) (2015).
44h x 32.5w in (111.76h x 82.55w cm).

Traité d’Anatomie Humaine. Mixed-media on paper.

Traité d’Anatomie Humaine. Mixed-media on paper.

Polyptych – The Last Supper (2015) 13 oil stick works on paper 25.5 x 260.5 inches (64.8 x 661.7 cm).
From left to right: Giuda (Judas Iscariot); Simon Pietro (Simon Peter); Giovanni (John)



Jeffrey Grunthaner

Jeffrey Grunthaner is an artist & writer currently based in Berlin. Essays, articles, poems, and reviews have appeared via BOMB, artnet NewsThe Brooklyn RailAmerican Art CataloguesHyperallergic, Heavy Feather Review, Arcade Project, Folder, Drag City Books, and other venues. Their poetry pamphlet, Aphid Poems, will be published later this year by The Creative Writing Department. Some recent curatorial projects include the reading and discussion series Conversations in Contemporary Poetics at Hauser & Wirth (NY), Sun Oil for Open White Gallery (Berlin), and FEELINGS for synthesis gallery (Berlin). 

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