Tomorrow, Today: Tara Downs and Tomorrow Gallery

Sep 7, 2014 12:21 pm

From 2011 to 2013, Tomorrow Gallery was a vital young art space in Toronto. Founded by Tara Downs, Aleksander Hardashnakov and Hugh Scott-Douglas, Tomorrow became a notable hub for emerging artists from Europe and North America, featuring early exhibitions by artists Ben Schumacher, Brad Troemel, Dena Yago and Sebastian Black, among others, along with curated screenings, events and a publishing imprint titled Yesterday.

Now, Tomorrow has set up shop in New York, with Downs as the sole proprietor. After a spell in Berlin working as associate director at Tanya Leighton Gallery and operating Tomorrow remotely, she has spent the past year in New York carefully planning Tomorrow’s Manhattan resurgence. Following a group show titled “Santal 26 / 33” at the Lower East Side venue Grand Century in May and a booth at NADA New York 2014, Tomorrow is holding its inaugural exhibition, “Eternal September,” at its new home on Eldridge Street. The show, which opened last Sunday and runs through Oct. 5th, will feature work by Bradley Kronz, Jason Matthew Lee, Mary Ann Aitken, Oto Gillen and Valerie Keane. On Sept. 26, Tomorrow will host a launch party with Toronto’s Art Metropole, featuring a book edition of Andrew Norman Wilson’s ScanOps, as well as the New York debut of the Vulnerability Beach Bag created by clothing brand Eckhaus Latta.

Downs met with A.i.A. in advance of Tomorrow’s Lower East Side debut, discussing the gallery’s forthcoming programming, the challenges of transplanting a space from Toronto to New York and what it means to provide support for young artists today.

NICK IRVIN Will you tell me about the first show?

TARA DOWNS “Eternal September” is a term coined by members of the early Internet discussion platform Usenet. It refers to the constant stream of new Internet users and platforms that we know today, but it harkens back to an earlier state, when most new users arrived on an annual cycle. Usenet’s was aligned with the school year, with incoming college students joining every September, fumbling as they learned web etiquette. That cycle was disrupted in September 1993, when AOL granted its entire userbase access to Usenet, exploding the community’s population and inaugurating the current climate of endless, continuous expansion of the Internet.

IRVIN There’s a sense that everyone has to jump in midstream, both with technology and with art. Can you say more about the artists in the show?

DOWNS There are a couple of artists in the show that I’ve worked with before. Jason Matthew Lee, one half of the curatorial project Jason Alexander, organized a show at Tomorrow; Bradley Kronz participated in an exhibition I curated, “Day Before This Place,“ at Tanya Leighton [in 2013].

I’m excited to include the work of Mary Ann Aitken, whom I’ve never shown before [Aitken died in 2012]. I first learned about her through the Detroit gallery What Pipeline. Usually, she’s been treated as an outsider female artist. I want to present her outside of the outsider category, and put her in the context of artists working right now that are engaging with similar aesthetic questions. Mary Ann never really pursued exhibiting while she was alive—she participated in only a smattering of group shows—but she had left funds for a catalogue to be published and was adamant that her work be shown after her passing. It’s an honor to be able to sustain an understanding of her practice at Tomorrow. The work in the show spans 30 years, in an interesting way: late in her career, she started incorporating aspects of old pieces into new ones, mining her own archive and generating a multi-decade dialogue with herself.

IRVIN Obviously, a move to New York is seen as a move to the center. In the art communities of cities like Chicago or Portland, the margin-center relationship looms large in a lot of spaces’ decision-making processes. Was that palpable for you in Toronto?

DOWNS Operating in a sort of margin position can be advantageous for a young gallery. Toronto can be provincial at times—the art community is smaller and it has its own internal hierarchy—but New York conducts its own navel-gazing. Working outside of a major art hub allows you to sidestep New York’s internal politics while still participating in a dialogue with said center, and offer adventurous programming that highlights local talent.

IRVIN How do you see Tomorrow’s relationship to traditional gallery structures?

DOWNS From the beginning we’ve always had the intention that we would allow artists to complete projects that other galleries have difficulty programming because of financial constraints. Often, if you get into a groove with a gallery that represents you, and a certain series sells well, you can get stuck—a dynamic career can appear at a standstill, and that’s just not satisfying. It feels good to give artists space to explore.

IRVIN You’ve worked within a community of artists who have shown together often, including Dena Yago, Ben Schumacher, Carlos Reyes and Bradley Kronz, among others. Obviously it’s tricky and not ideal to speak in broad strokes about a scene of artists, but how might you characterize the general interests in that world?

DOWNS Everyone’s practices are so disjunctive in this scene—if you can pardon that term—that it’s hard to say what unifies them other than their dialogue. There is a rapid-fire show-to-show conversation between everyone. Ben Schumacher curated a group show at [New York gallery] Bortolami called “Bloomington: Mall of America…” earlier this year, where this loose network sort of coalesced, but there have been other shows featuring lots of the same artists in very different ways: Ben’s other show at Croy Nielsen in Berlin, my exhibition at Grand Century, Dena Yago’s at JTT in New York. In each case it feels like there’s an element of response to a show’s immediate precedents, picking up on various notes and expanding on different facets of this group of artists’ work. It’s a friendly and somewhat competitive exchange of what we’re extracting from their activity, working over similar ideas in different ways. We all keep re-amalgamating together.