Reflections on the Magic of the Journal Gallery, From the Artists Who Show There
By Ben Barna
Julia Dippelhofer had come to the United States from Germany to work as an au pair when she met Michael Nevin in a photography class at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass. Then 19, Nevin had recently started a photocopied zine out of his dorm called The Journal that was dedicated to his twin passions: snowboarding and art. The two formed a bond based on their shared aesthetic sensibility, and soon moved to New York and turned The Journal into an effortlessly stylish publication at the crossroads between the city’s downtown fashion and art worlds.
As it grew in both recognition and reputation contributors included names like Juergen Teller and Terence Koh, Dippelhofer and Nevin became champions for the artists they featured, who often created work specifically for the magazine. The next logical step was to transform their East Village production office into an event space that could showcase works from emerging and established talent. In 2004, the Journal Gallery was born.The magazine, along with the gallery, created a certain energy that we found inspiring, Nevin says. We wanted a space in which we could connect with readers and contributors to create a dialogue.
They later relocated to Williamsburg as a full-fledged gallery representing artists that quickly established itself as a bastion of taste and creativity across the river from New York’s traditional art epicenter. To the New York art world, that's like opening on Mars,Nevin once said. To celebrate the Journal Gallery’s 10-year anniversary, the Manhattan gallery Venus over Manhattan will be staging a retrospective that will include works from the artists that defined it, including Rita Ackermann, Brian Belott, Daniel Hesidence, Sarah Braman, Graham Collins, Peter Demos, Chris Succo, Michael Williams and more. Five of those artists wrote in to share their thoughts on what makes the Journal Gallery one of a kind.
“Hanging a show with Michael and Julia, I suggested (jokingly) that we put a tiny painting of mine way up near the ceiling on top of a ladder. We all laughed at that. The next day, I came to the opening to find out they had done exactly that.”
I'm relatively new to the gallery, but have known Michael and Julia for awhile. When they were in Dallas, I managed to coax them into my studio too early on a Saturday morning. Julia was drinking some kind of lemon potion. I see a lot of people come through my space, and the experience is either super polite or just excruciating. But Michael and Julia were so refreshingly direct with me, so willing to address the commodity status and theoretical aspect of my work. I knew they understood the project, and this is where I first began to suspect that Michael and Julia are able to communicate with each other telepathically. (That's a longer story.) They took everything from me that day, and I was stunned and thrilled and quite skeptical that they'd be able to place the work. A week later, one of the paintings was purchased by a celebrity collector. Michael informed me of the fact with the most perfectly wry, deadpan delivery, like he was recounting something as inevitable and unremarkable as the continental breakfast at Leo House.”
“Besides the architecture, location, and Michael and Julia themselves, the magazine as this other point of focus seems essential. And like the magazine does in print, the Journal Gallery has this great history of bringing together disparate attitudes, styles and personalities in shows that would be hard to imagine in any other context. Walking into Eddie Martinez’s show, ‘Matador,’ I was in aesthetic and architectural shock. You’re on one of the last kind of gritty, undeveloped blocks of north Brooklyn, and then you step into this amazing, thoughtful space. Eddie’s beautiful, aggressive show in that space was an epic experience. It was just so great to see a friendâ€™s show in such a familiar neighborhood look better than most shows in Manhattan.”
“I moved into an ‘away studio’ in Austin, Minn., in late December of last year. To celebrate our working together, Michael and Julia took a flight, plus a two-hour drive through a blizzard, to come to the middle of nowhere. They wanted to kick off my new studio space, which was basically in the half-gutted remnants of an ’80s era shopping mall. Michael said with a smile, ‘What are you doing here, you maniac?’ Julia just hugged me and said ‘Everything will be fine,’ and looked off to one side at the moving dinosaur carousel.”
“Maybe it's a holdover from when they didn't have a roster, but Michael and Julia have a way of being generous to artists beyond who they represent. The program has always felt pretty open. They talk and listen to a lot of artists which serves them well. It's almost like an artist-run space, where the committee is a large extended group that they tap into. There isn't the top-down structure of so many other galleries. I never feel ego from them. They've done many good shows and helped a lot of artists that otherwise weren't getting much attention. They like gathering people together and they are good at it. I get the sense that they are actually interested in creating something that isn't so much about them as it is about creating a community or a platform for artists to congregate.”
Interviews have been edited and condensed.