A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery

Pete Lamberto’s Slowroom Contemporary

Looking into the motivations behind a brave new pop-up gallery and an artist proving that curation is as much about love and support for a community as it is about taste.

Words: Pete Lamberto & J.Scott Stratton
Published: August 17, 2017
Reference: Slowroom Contemporary

I’m going to go out on limb and state that art and creativity exist solely for purpose of moving us to feel some emotion—because art without a gaze is nothing and creativity without execution is just empty thought. It is an inevitable truth in life that art will always breed more art—creativity will breed more creativity—yet we sometimes ignore these facts. We like to think that art is created in a vacuum and that the artist simply drew inspiration from his or her unique outlook on life, rather than being sometimes directly influenced by another artist.

Originality is the art of concealing your sources.

This popular maxim that has been, in some form or another, attributed to famous creative and genius minds for the last century. Everyone from Einstein to Warhol has said some iteration of this statement, which goes to show how we see art and creativity in relation to originality. In other words, in order to be a good artist, you have to be good at hiding where you get your inspiration.

Now personally, I am not a believer in this statement. I think that its maxims like this that stop people from becoming artists. And it’s this resistance to this type of thinking that drew me to reach out to artist Pete Lamberto about his latest project.

To elaborate, by complete accident I stumbled into a small pop-up exhibition in Copenhagen new little-hidden-gem of culture—PostBox. Hidden on the top of the old Post building in the central city, a small community of shipping containers host a number of little shops, restaurants, bars, and PostBox; the small gallery where I found the Slowroom Contemporary exhibition of photographic work curated by Lamberto.

After picking up the description of the work, I found that Lamberto was driven to move from artist to curator by his emotional connection to ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Now I will admit, that Gonzalez-Torres’ piece is an amazing political and personal work of art, but that is not was resonated with me. It was that Lamberto was openly “revealing his source”.

Now, in this case, the connection is not as one-to-one–as Lamberto is a photographer and Gonzalez-Torres was an installation artist, and in this case Lamberto is only curating the work fro Slowroom Contemporary–but I still found it refreshing to visit an exhibition where the intent and motivation behind was clearly stated as coming from an emotional connection to another artist’s body of work. It was simply stating what we all know, which is that art moves us, and that art will always breed more art.

As an artist yourself, what moved you to put on the skin of “curator” to give birth to Slowroom Contemporary rather that simply showcase your own works?

Lamberto: The dream of nourishing the value and artistry of contemporary artists of my generation, and ultimately curate exhibitions, surfaced many years after heavily focusing on my own artistic development. I’ve always felt I had a sixth sense for finding art and putting them together. A short time ago, I launched a similar project, purely online, under a different name. I did solely to test the waters, first of all to see whether I was capable of convincing artists to join my project, then curate and execute with actual artworks at my display. This went quite well. I had the honor to have amazing artists like Johnson Tsang and Dimitri Papaioannou onboard that project. Also, I briefly was in contact with Ren Hang, so when I heard of his passing, it saddened me deeply – we truly lost a rebel heart.

But back to your question about the change of ‘skin’ from artist to curator. I suppose the pleasure and liberation that my own work brings me (which it truly does) only reaches so far. In recent years, I have found that what really triggers great pleasure, is to find artists from inside- and across borders, helping them surface and, as with this project, placing them alongside established artists into curated exhibitions, to really bring everyone’s artistic value to front. So having this temporary space in the middle of Copenhagen to pull this off, really is great.

You’ve written that your emotional connection to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ piece ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ was the flash point for beginning the Slowroom Contemporary project. Can you tell me more about your relationship to this piece?

When speaking of flash points, I remember specifically this piece because it truly moved me by miles; the layers of depth within ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ surely was one of the contemporary pieces that fueled my love and fascination with contemporary art. The reason why I began the project description with this piece, was simply to illuminate a reference point of where my love for art began. I became familiar with the installation in the late 90’s, but as with many pieces, especially installations, I did not fully understand it as first glance. But when digging just a tad deeper, my perception of the installation changed completely. And the brilliance of this piece, is that it so many years later, still moves me, and is still incredibly relevant.

And lastly, as part of the LGBTQ community myself, it really struck a chord with me. I know people with HIV who still feel the stigma that surrounds it in their everyday life – this said in light of coming so far on the scientific front. It surprises me time and time again, when I meet and hear about the amount of people still having the perception of the HIV as being a death sentence.

A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery

Yes, that particular work is deeply emotional and political, specifically to the history of gay rights and the public view of the HIV and AIDS. But, how has that political and emotional subject matter influenced your choice of artists for Slowroom?

I don’t feel the subject matter of ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ has specifically had a major influence in my choice of artists for the Slowroom Contemporary project, but surely I wanted to have a collection of artworks that could ‘move’ the viewer, regardless of which direction; some will be experiencing a brushstroke of curiosity, some will find humor, while others undeniably will be provoked. But having the viewer feel something when stepping into the exhibition space, has of course been a mission when choosing the artists and their work for this project.

It’s taken almost a year of research, visiting gloomy basements studios and a whole lot of back- and forth to create the final roster of artists I have involved now – and I’m incredibly proud of my current artist-roster. I feel they all bring so much to the table, each and everyone of them.

“I have found that what gives me great pleasure, is to find artists, help them surface, and placing them alongside established artists to really bring everyone’s artistic value up front.”

You mentioned your relation to art and storytelling as one based on emotional value. What this a factor in your curatorial process?

This was surely a crucial factor in my decision of which artists I wanted to be involved. As mentioned earlier, my relationship with contemporary is based on emotion rather than anything else, to be completely honest. I wanted pieces within the ‘Rotations’ that could tell several stories when placed in various contexts and placed alongside other pieces. It was important to me, that each artwork had a highly emotional value just by itself, but on the other hand could be altered.

Another aim of mine was not to force too many layers of intellectualized concepts onto the combination of artworks and exhibitions. I wanted to keep it fairly simple and accessible to the viewers, and not making them leave with too many questions, but leave with impressions and stories.

As an artist yourself, what moved you to put on the skin of “curator” to give birth to Slowroom Contemporary rather that simply showcase your own works?

Lamberto: The dream of nourishing the value and artistry of contemporary artists of my generation, and ultimately curate exhibitions, surfaced many years after heavily focusing on my own artistic development. I’ve always felt I had a sixth sense for finding art and putting them together. A short time ago, I launched a similar project, purely online, under a different name. I did solely to test the waters, first of all to see whether I was capable of convincing artists to join my project, then curate and execute with actual artworks at my display. This went quite well. I had the honor to have amazing artists like Johnson Tsang and Dimitri Papaioannou onboard that project. Also, I briefly was in contact with Ren Hang, so when I heard of his passing, it saddened me deeply – we truly lost a rebel heart.

But back to your question about the change of ‘skin’ from artist to curator. I suppose the pleasure and liberation that my own work brings me (which it truly does) only reaches so far. In recent years, I have found that what gives me great pleasure, is to find artists, help them surface, and placing them alongside established artists to really bring everyone’s artistic value up front. So having this temporary space in the middle of Copenhagen to pull this off, really is great.

A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery

You’ve written that your emotional connection to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ piece ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ was the flash point for beginning the Slowroom Contemporary project. Can you tell me more about your relationship to this piece?

When speaking of flash points, I remember specifically this piece because it truly moved me by miles; the layers of depth within ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ surely was one of the contemporary pieces that fueled my love and fascination with contemporary art. The reason why I began the project description with this piece, was simply to illuminate a reference point of where my love for art began. I became familiar with the installation in the late 90’s, but as with many pieces, especially installations, I did not fully understand it as first glance. But when digging just a tad deeper, my perception of the installation changed completely. And the brilliance of this piece, is that it so many years later, still moves me, and is still incredibly relevant.

And lastly, as part of the LGBTQ community myself, it really struck a chord with me. I know people with HIV who still feel the stigma that surrounds it in their everyday life – this said in light of coming so far on the scientific front. It surprises me time and time again, when I meet and hear about the amount of people still having the perception of the HIV as being a death sentence.

Tell me more about your process of “Rotations”?

Well, it’s all about storytelling and about how many stories I possibly could pull out of each of the pieces. The individual value of each piece is obviously still very much in the center, but as I’m fascinated with storytelling, I wanted to explore the emotional core of the artworks, by having them rotate among themselves into several exhibitions. To give an example, one of my artists, Florian Hetz, takes these beautifully composed and simplistic photographs that to some extent are ultra claustrophobic, as he almost reduces his subjects to objects, and doesn’t leave much room, if any, for the person he portrays.

To put his subtle work next to the loud expressions of Lolita Pelegrime’s colorful painting and alongside Vinicus Cardoso’s video performance ‘OMNIA’ with the iconic Vera Valdez, creates a very interesting dynamic in the room. It’s within these dynamics that the stories, I find, are created. This is really what it’s all about; the bridges the artworks can build between each other.

Can outline the specifics of how you have orchestrated the exhibitions over the course of its duration?

A curated amount of the artworks will be rotating into four exhibitions in total. Each of the ‘Rotations’ will have different themes attached to them. The current exhibition is entitled SLOW, where the collected work all has a slow-moving aesthetics to be found in them, individually as well as collected. I’m quite satisfied with how they build bridges to one another and sometimes obstruct. The next exhibition will be a purely queer theme, where the chosen artists all are part of, or to some extent represents a queer theme in their work. Six of the artworks in the current ‘Rotation’ will be included in the next round, where over 10 new pieces will be added.

In general, I have a very tight style of curation and a very mellow aesthetics by nature, which will, of course, shine a bit through in the overall exhibitions. I suppose the current ‘Rotation’ is the one that my aesthetics has colored the most, in terms of my own style and aesthetics. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, so hopefully, I will be just as satisfied with the next three exhibitions.

Beyond the Slowroom Contemporary pop-up, what is in-store next for you?

What’s next? That is a good question, but difficult to answer. What my ultimate aim is, is to someday own my very own gallery. But as for plans in near future, I’m slowly planning other pop up events, though in a tad larger scale and, possibly, expanding my artist-roster. But when the last ‘Rotation’ is over, I first of all need some proper sleep and hopefully be able to go on a little getaway with a certain special someone.

Pete Lamberto's posing for his Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery
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