Interview with Kyle DeWoody: A Grey Area

Justin McCallum: What has been your favorite kind of work - designing, curating or writing? What are the chal- lenges of each? What have been your most rewarding ex- periences with them? Kyle DeWoody: I don’t get too much writing done these days with so many projects on the docket. Though I do try to write out my ideas. It helps you get a clear head about things. I love curating and consulting, as it means working with artists, sharing ideas, and seeing them come to fruition, which is an incredible thing. Often, there can be big compro- mises, due to monetary or temporal restriction, which can of course be quite frustrating. Lately I’ve been pursuing some of my own designs and ideas and that’s been such a treat. It can be nice not having as many cooks in the kitchen and no one else to please but yourself.

What was your vision for the Whitney Museum store? How did you look to change it? What would you like to bring to the Whitney Contemporaries?

You mean when I was working there? I just had some ideas, but I was only a lowly intern. For the Whitney Contempo- raries Exec committee, I tried to contribute programming ideas for the group, which offers its members access to the dynamic art scene that those who join might feel disconnect-ed from. When you’re in it, you can forget how exciting it is to see behind the scenes.

Between your experience at Creative Time and Whitney Museum, what have you learned about public art? What are its shortcomings? What challenges does public art face in our current economic hard times?

Right now art is “cool,” and whatever that might mean for the world, one upside is that many companies want to attach themselves to exciting projects by contributing funds to make them happen, and what can be more exciting than a project that is out there for all to see i.e. public art? Of course this can mean compromising to the desires of the benefactor and the restrictions of the public arena, but many organizations like Creative Time do a damn good job of creating incredibly provocative and engaging programming despite various restrictions. I hope to do the same with my projects one day.

How have you brought your varied experiences to Grey Area? How did they lead you here?

From my mentors at both organizations I’ve witnessed passion, fearlessness and integrity, principles that I am constantly working to reinforce. Everyone has their ideas and critiques, but at the end of the day, you have to do what feels right to you, what excites you, and what you’re meant to contribute. I think from both there is an earnest desire to reach those outside the inner circles of the art world and use art to reach people. There is an aspect of that in Grey Area.

What place do you see for function in art? Must form follow function, or can something be both functionally de- sign-oriented and artistic?

Since starting Grey Area, it’s been incredible to see how much the art object has emerged as a serious expression of artistic vision. Many artists are using their ideas and eyes to create functional pieces as a natural extension of their art. On the flip side there is such a wealth of interesting young designers right now who are showing how design can be art. With so many great talents from both worlds, as well as engineering and architecture, it seems that when it comes to form and function one doesn’t need to supersede the other.

What problems do you see with “traditional” galleries that lead to the creation of Grey Area?

No problems, just different objectives. My interests, tastes and ideas are so varied, I could never put together a cohesive program. I like the freedom that Grey Area provides me to work with different artists and designers depending on the project or ideas.

Kyle DeWoody Image1

Do you find artists are drawn to showing their work in the exhibition space?

The formula is certainly appealing. As a Libra who belabors every decision, but I would never be happy bound to any set rules. My hope is that I can offer a space (either physical or abstract) for artists and designers to work out ideas, take on a challenge, or try things that don’t make sense for them in the gallery context. I’m especially drawn to projects that transcend the normal viewing experience, whether by virtue of the medium or the venue. I’m also obsessed with the experience itself. Yes, I will always love the object, but offering people an incredible interaction, an irreproducible moment, that is an amazing thing. It’s a small example but last week we had artist Jen DeNike do tarot readings for the New Year. Everyone walked away awed and empowered.

You market varying pieces from clothing and lighters to knick- knacks and abstract objects. How do you think these physical attributes allude to the metaphorical idea of grey area?

The various shop objects and pieces were selected because I found some sort of physical or conceptual value in them and I wanted to share them with people. They are often original works from artists or designers and starting this year will be pieces only found through us (that is unless we create a shop for someone else, which we are starting to do.)

What obstacles do you face in curating an unconditional Grey Area is divided into collections for home, body, wall and anywhere. Why did you choose these categorizations?

These categories might change with the coming of our new site, but because the works are all so unique they are hard to categorize, so we went with the place where one might enjoy the piece.

With your business minded background, how do you weigh your commercial insights with your curatorial interests?

Ideally one can appease both. I have my eye as a collector and as a curator (though I hesitate to use that word), but when I’m hired to consult on or produce a project, my eye works for the specifications of the project. I believe that is where some of my talent lies, in sourcing artists or designers that I feel ap- propriate for the specific project, for the audience intended, and/or for the visual and conceptual results desired.

With collecting running in the family, do you find your cu- rating is an offshoot of your mother’s work? How did that influence you? How do you hope to distinguish yourself from her legacy?

We have some overlapping tastes and talents for sure. We also have divergent ones. My plan is to just do what feels right to me, for my ideas and abilities, and see where that takes me. I’ve found it unhealthy to try to define myself against my mother or anyone else for that matter. That being said, I very much aspire to my mother’s fearlessness and endurance.

Image from Kyle DeWoody 2


Is there something you look for in particular when bringing art to the various spaces you contribute to? Do you discern a difference in you personal taste as opposed to when you are curating?

As I explained before, when hired for a project, if it’s one I believe in, my focus is on finding the right answers for that project. What I think visually and conceptually fits the proj- ect and will get the results desired. Of course I like the work of everyone I’d suggest collaborating with even though I may not collect it personally.


Given your varying expertise in the art world, how do you think the art world has changed?

Change needs a starting point to compare it to, but I’d say that in my limited experience (not expertise), in this moment I feel a sense of over-saturation that is inciting big spectacles to overcome it. I’d say this is unique to our era of endless sharing of information and the popularity of the art career.

The current issue of Musée is fantasy, so we must ask, what is your fantasy?

It’s so lame, but right now it’s as simple as a real vacation. Time away with no electronics in the woods upstate or on a beach in Mexico. Some time in nature with dear friends, amazing food, and beautiful boredom. That’s when the ideas come!


All Grey Area images courtesy Clemens Kois.


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