Whitehot Magazine

Work That Doesn’t Play You: Cierah Opens in NYC

Installation view by Damien Ding. 

By MARIA OWEN October 8, 2023

On September 14th, in the midst of the art world’s annual end-of-summer resurrection, Cierah opened its doors on Suffolk Street. Falling somewhere between storefront and apartment gallery, the space is simple: good bones, crown molding, a glass brick window, and a terribly inviting sofa. In the words of co-owners Cierah Sargent and Samson Stilwell, the gallery intends to be “a friendly place for viewing serious art,” and based on the ambiance of opening night (think polite yet enthusiastic, gose-sipping attendees who actually spent time looking at the art), all seems to be going according to plan.

Before opening Cierah, Stilwell ran Mole End in Ridgewood from 2019-2021, a platform for emerging artists to cut their teeth and experiment in a flexible space. His own art practice, in conversation with Sargent’s work as a visual anthropologist and filmmaker, informs the gallery’s programming. “We’re interested in work that is generous towards the viewer––work that doesn’t play you,” Stilwell explained during my second visit. Cierah makes space for sensitive art that demands time and study, the antithesis of the immediate, heart-on-its-sleeve eye candy of the mainstream. When asked who their ideal visitor is, Stilwell and Sargent replied: “an artist.”

Installation view by Damien Ding.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition is Christopher Peckham’s Jupiter Drive, the artist’s first solo presentation in New York City. This body of work draws from multiple streams of his practice: sculpture, drawing, painting, and felt collage. Each work begins with a hand-crafted panel, originally made from offcuts of poplar, pine, or maple from a nearby lumber mill and card stock scraps from a bookmaker. 

Installation view by Damien Ding.

Peckham explains, “Every material has its own logic. The felt serves as a natural color ground; its texture gives resistance to oil stick, producing a scattered, heavy line totally unlike the fine point of a pencil. The scraps become patchwork color experiments. One drawing is based on a photo series, while the other is completely imagined. The door jambs reference a time when I worked at a millwork company in Ohio, manufacturing interior double doors for 12 hours per day and 11 dollars per hour.”

Installation view by Damien Ding.

In placing distinctly different works in conversation, the exhibition connects moments of intimate awareness with detached labor, reconstructions of material with an acknowledgement of memory as an ongoing remembering. At its core lies a study of reassemblage––physical, historical, and psychological. While the world moves, Peckham continuously puts things back together.

Installation view by Damien Ding.

Cierah is open every Friday from 12pm–6pm and by appointment, with Jupiter Drive continuing through October 22nd. What should visitors know? “The door is open, you don't need to buzz. We are no longer serving espresso.” WM

Maria Owen

Maria Owen is the associate director of MARCH, a public benefit corporation and gallery located in New York City. Owen holds a BFA in History of Art from Pratt Institute and a MSC in Psychology of Art, Neuroaesthetics, and Creativity from Goldsmiths University of London. Before joining the MARCH team, she worked with Institute 193, an arts and culture nonprofit based in Lexington, Kentucky and New York, New York.


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