In Conversation with Lori Zimmer: Making the New York Art World Cooler, One Project at a Time
Lori Zimmer is one of the coolest women in the New York art world. Period. Balancing a prolific and busy art career which spans writing, curating, consulting, and authoring new books, Zimmer moves intelligently, producing dynamic exhibitions with emerging and recognized artists. Zimmer is also the Founder and EIC of Art Nerd New York , uncovering hidden art historical gems throughout the city, executed in her signature and witty style. She and her artist/muralist boyfriend Logan Hicks, form a dynamic duo, often partnering on collaborations, and jet-setting the globe on glamorous art adventures. Zimmer has helmed curatorial projects for Times Square Arts, SCOPE Art Show in New York and Miami, and the ACT/ART committee for The White House. I chat with Zimmer about the release of her second book, The Art of Spray Paint, what's keeping her busy right now, and what to see artwise in 2017.
Gallery Gurls: In your latest book, The Art of Spray Paint, you once again explore a niche art material. What inspired this book?
Lori Zimmer: I’d previously worked with Rockport Publishers on The Art of Cardboard, and absolutely loved the way it came out, so we decided to do another book together. I’ve floated around the periphery of the “street art world” somewhat over the past few years- largely because many of my friends (and boyfriend Logan Hicks) are artists working in the genre. Actually, Logan was a big inspiration for the book, because he uses spray paint in a way that I can’t fully wrap my head around (even though I’ve seen him make work many, many times!) His level of understanding of both color and spray can pressure just mystified me, and so I started looking to other artists using the medium that weren’t in the traditional “graffiti” world. Spray paint is so democratic, it is mostly used as a utilitarian product, but I love how it has crossed over into the fine art realm over the years. During the beginnings of this book, Gagosian in London did a show called “Sprayed,” which was a sort of historical survey of blue chip artists using spray paint, and so I knew the book was going in the right direction. I tried to create a well-rounded balance of artists working in the medium- like traditional graffiti, but also photorealism, graphic work, as well as those using spray paint as part of their mixed media arsenal.
Many of the artists in this book started out using spray paint while exploring the graffiti world, even those who no longer are considered graffiti artists. But another commonality between most of the 20 artists is that many of them turned to graffiti out of convenience- it was available at Home Depot, or they needed to do something fast, or it was on hand. I love when artists are so inspired that they utilize whatever materials are immediately available to them- in a need to create something, rather than thinking “Oh, I should do this in oil because it would be more archival or taken more seriously.” Conversely, I loved learning what properties about spray paint each artist was attracted to- some play up the drips, some avoid them at all costs, others love the shading properties, and others loved being able to make flat fields of color easily.
"I love when artists are so inspired that they utilize whatever materials are immediately available to them - in a need to create something..."
You founded the very awesome art site Art Nerd New York almost seven years ago, what has been your proudest moment so far?
Thanks! Honestly, the whole existence and continuation of Art Nerd New York has been my proudest moment (aside from the launch party, which was amazing). Not many people know this, but Art Nerd New York started out even nerdier than you’d think- as an Excel file. In 2009, I was unceremoniously fired from my gallery job, and I spent several months struggling to find myself again. All I knew is that I did not want to work for someone else again. I would give myself tasks each day, which included structured walks. For example, I’d say, okay, today you have to walk the entirety of 31st Street, Hudson to East River. As I did these “tasks,” I’d notice ornamented architecture, public art, hidden galleries (this was 2009 so New York was a bit more of a mystery) and the like. Then I’d go home, and research them, for fun, then record the address and information in the Excel file. This eventually was expanded to become Art Nerd New York. I told you it was nerdy. Since then, it has morphed along the way, and I realized that trying to compete with other great blogs about contemporary art was too tiring to do, so I’ve returned to just sticking to the art-historical aspect. Now long overdue, I’m now finally thinking about an Art Nerd New York book project, which I’m still mulling over in terms of how I want it to look and feel.
"All I knew is that I did not want to work for someone else again."
What art exhibits are you looking forward to seeing in 2017?
I’m a bit of an obsessive traveler (it is really all I spend my money on), so I’ve already passed one art goal this year, by visiting The Louisiana Museum outside of Copenhagen. I’m excited to check out Desert X in the Coachella Valley in March, and plan to gorge myself on art history this summer in Paris. Locally, I’m looking forward to finally getting over to the James Cohan LES space for the Simon Evans show and the Raymond Pettibon show at New Museum which I haven’t seen yet.
Any new projects on the horizon for this year?
Always! I’m doing an exhibition for The Art of Spray Paint with some of the artists featured in the book that will open April 1st at WallWorks, which is owned by one of the artists in the book, Crash. I’ll also be doing a launch party for the book sometime in the spring, along with a book signing (of some of the artists, not me!). I’ve got a few book projects in the works, and I'm working on a new business concept, but its too soon to blab about. I’m going to disappear for the summer as usual, and then will be doing an immersive exhibition experience in the fall with Jon Burgerman, who is one of the most talented people I know!
Follow Lori Zimmer on Instagram: @thelorizimmer