Gillian Sagansky talks with gallerist Jack Chiles and curator Pati Hertling about their collaborative project on the Bowery, which features artist-designed signs.
The Jack Chiles Gallery occupies the top two floors of a three-story federal townhouse which dates back to the 1790s, making it one of the oldest buildings on the Bowery. Jack Chiles, who is British-born, has teamed up with curator Pati Hertling to present the most recent edition of the 208 Bowery Sign Residency project at his gallery. Every few months the pair chooses a different artist or group of artists to take over the advertising space which consists of one large sign that spans the width of the building (measuring 16 by 4.5 feet) and a light box sign that projects at a right angle from the building (measuring 5 by 3 feet).
The duo launched their sign residency project in July with a dinner catered by famed Mission Chinese, and chose the New York-based collectives United Brothers (consisting of Ei and Tomoo Arakawa) and Rirkrit Tiravanija (German artists Kerstin Brätsch and Adele Röder) to kickstart the project with two original signs. The collectives wrote a haiku on the large sign in commemoration of the Fukishima catastrophe (“B Personal/Sun in the Sky Blocked/Radiants Cost. A Tanning Haiku by Das Institut & United Brothers”), and used the lightbox to advertise their upcoming shows in Japan. The current artist in residence is the highly acclaimed Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravinija who has transcribed the English words “Freedom cannot be simulated” across the larger sign and “Time not waiting” (which translates into “Don’t waste time”) in traditional Chinese characters on one side of the lightbox and in contemporary characters on the other side.
I met with Jack and Pati on the first floor of the gallery. Their personalities complemented one another—Jack is bubbly and witty with a charming British accent, while Pati is more contemplative and soft-spoken. We discussed the motivation for the sign residency and explored the relation between their site-specific project and the environment in which it resides.