Nestled in the community of Williamsburg, NY, is The Rotating Gallery, the project of Parsons photography graduates Alana Celii and Grant Willing. Since 2007, Alana and Grant have curated shows in their exhibition space, which consists of a 12×9’ wall in their living room. The exhibits combine eclectic and contemporary photographs, found objects, and curiosities submitted by artists from around the world, which are documented for online viewing.
What is The Rotating Gallery and how did it come about?
Alana: The Rotating Gallery is a project Grant and I started unintentionally back in the Summer of 2006. He and I are both a bit of pack rats, and would put photos, art, and found objects on the wall of our apartment haphazardly. About six months later, I guess it was about January 2007, our friend Grady was throwing away a print while working in the lab, and I snatched it up. We went home that night, and we’re like, “We should change this out monthly, and put it online.” We both like to collect and share things, so it was a perfect way to show both of those interests. Also, one of my favorite things about the gallery is that cultural items from our daily lives, as well as people who donate items via post, are a record of what was going on in our lives that month. I love that the works of art can play off these items and vice-versa.
Grant: Like Alana said, the gallery is something that physically exists in our home, but it only viewable on the Internet. We try to update it as close to monthly as possible, ranging from thematic shows to solo shows to completely ambiguous shows where we focus on aesthetic juxtapositions of the objects we have. We plan, hang, and update the website in one day; so in a sense we have a month or more to acquire as much as possible and then create something very quickly based on our moods, a current popular topic, or anything else that is running through our minds. Also like Alana said, it’s a nice record of what was going on during a specific time period.
What intrigue are you looking for when featuring an artist’s work?
Alana: We accept anything that is donated to us and sent via mail. The purpose of that is mostly to find new work, and to give everyone a chance to exhibit something. Sometimes we’ll approach people we know, and ask for specific pieces, but a lot of the works that are exhibited are presents or found.
Grant: I’m particularly interested in the relationship between works made by artists and found objects. In this setting, they often times assume a similar value. We store all of the works together and treat everything similarly. This isn’t to say that we don’t truly appreciate the work sent to us by artists, rather it is a way to inject a sense of value into these random, discarded things we find on a daily basis.
Can you share some of your favorite exhibitions?
Alana: We had accidentally painted over our wall in the wrong color (bone white vs. a bluer white), but with this month I feel that it fit the “romantic” theme we were going for in honor of Valentines Day. I think my favorite part of this exhibition was the large piece of wood paneling mounted to a board. We had found it in the street probably a year or two prior, and finally found a place for it.
Alana: We never really set out with a theme when we install exhibitions. Mostly we pulled from what we have and haven’t shown yet. I think as the gallery has grown, though, we’ve become more interested in trying to use it more as a place to explore how we can use the space and the Internet. This was our second exhibition, and probably one of my favorites. Each item reminds me of something specific, but a lot of it was from this amazing one-night only exhibition we went to call, “you can have it all” at Hunter College.
Alana: This exhibition was put online on my birthday. The painting of the Native American was a birthday present from my friend Chris, and the creepy rubber dolls were made by my mother and me when I was a child with a girls’ version of creepy crawlers. The drawing of the horse was made by my friend Megan, and I’ve kept it since high school. We also received submissions that month from Daniel Augschöll, Chrischa Oswald, and Mikaylah Bowman. The placemat is from a restaurant in Cape Cod.
Alana: We had gone to Massachusetts prior to putting up this exhibition, and gone to one of the best stores in the entire universe–Building 19 3/4. Grant bought the Hulk Hogan finger puppet and the stick, stretch hand in the vending machine there. Our friend Grady purchased an amazing collection of star wars embroideries on eBay. He lent them to us. We also asked Jessica Hans for a copy of her “Oil Heats Bests” images. Every time we leave the city via the Holland tunnel, I see them and think of her pictures.
Grant: This is one of our newest exhibitions and our first one in our new apartment. It is also our second “solo” show ever. Inka Lindergård and Niclas Holmström contacted us and right away we knew this work would look perfect on our wall. We received the polaroids in the mail and constructed a sort of organizational pattern as a way to hang the work on the wall. I think it was a really great start for our new space.
Grant: This was our first solo show ever and one of my favorites. My friend, Noel Boyt, from my hometown and I had been talking for a while about him sending a bunch of his current work. He sent us so much that it felt natural to do a solo show with his work. I like that even though the work is created by one artist and has a similar style, it looks and feels like our other group shows. The range of mediums and subject matter give it a good variety that also feels succinct in a way.
Grant: Most of this show is a result from a road trip we made through the northern Midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa). I really like the simplicity of this show, too, it represented a decision to move back to the original aesthetics of the gallery instead of showing a large amount of work each month. This show also has so much funny stuff that signifies inside jokes to Alana and I, but is also humorous regardless of our personal connotations.
Grant: I like this show because it feels like the perfect mixture of found objects and works sent to us from other artists. Especially in the photo montage, its difficult to tell on first glance which of the images are found and which of the ones are “art photographs” sent to us (or even found photographs sent to us). I also like that a large amount of the images and objects are of a figure staring directly at you.
Will you open your gallery to the public?
Alana: No. We’ve been going back and forth about this for a while, but although it exists in our home, I don’t consider it a house gallery. It exists online.
Grant: I like this sort of tension between physical and virtual. It’s a strange cycle of showing online, contacting artists online, physically acquiring items, physically displaying the items, but only able to view the physical items virtually. I really enjoy this notion of being neither a true online or physical gallery.
Be sure to check visit The Rotating Gallery online and see more great work by Alana and Grant.
Alana Celii was born in Chicago in 1986. She recently graduated from Parsons School of Design with a BFA in photography. Alana is the co-founder of Fjord; a project whose aim is to bring opportunities to young and emerging photographers on the Internet. Her work has been featured in publications such as Vogue Girl Korea, Culture+Travel, Hijacked, Canteen Magazine, and Beautiful/Decay Anthology. Alana was also a winner of the inaugural 2008 New York Photo Awards. She has exhibited work in group shows in the US and abroad.
Grant Willing was born in 1987 and grew up in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. He graduated in May 2009 with a BFA in Photography from Parsons the New School for Design in New York City. He is the 2009 recipient of the Tierney Fellowship for Parsons and is currently continuing his series, ‘Svart Metall’, in Scandinavia. He has exhibited his photographs in the USA and internationally and has been featured in several publications.