Artist and curator Jonny Star appeared on the art scene last spring full of fresh ideas from NYC. She wasted no time, setting up salon exhibition series SUPERUSCHI in her flat, with a strong serving of artists from New York and Miami who came to Berlin just to take part in the show.
Often mistaken for an American, she first came to West Berlin in 1983 as a teenager after being thrown out of her Düsseldorf home. Her artwork uses visual and tactile elements of kitsch, ranging the full spectrum from stuffed animals to softcore porn images.
Equally intuitive is her approach to curating, where she bears a strong gift for objectivity even when she includes her own artwork – which she almost always does. Her next show opens this month (June 14) at the art space Montagehalle in Wedding, a former brothel that connects directly to a traditional Berlin Eckkneipe.
How did the Montagehalle show come together?
Sabrina Schieke, the curator, asked me. I wanted to do a collaboration with another artist, Elke Graalfs. The space is wonderfully exciting, it was the core of our exhibition concept. The title is “außen hui, innen pfui” (a fair face may hide a foul heart). It’s going to deal with concepts of morality and worth. It will be a collaborative installation including all our works.
How did you move from creating art to curating it?
I am an artist with the talent to organise and to bring people together for a collective experience, not a curator. In 2007, I extended my themes within my art by starting to organise shows. I started to invite artists to show their works within my art installations. First it was a Portuguese store called Jonny’s. Then, in 2011, a campy living room called Sweet Home. Since 2013, I’ve been curating group shows in private homes or private staged galleries/project spaces. So, I as an artist have always been part of the show.
Is there a leitmotif in your curating practice?
There are visual works that I pick to stand alone, or to work together as a group. I often add performance to it. Then, through this collaboration, a personal network between the artists arises. Then add the guests to this. There is a ‘comfort’ made, that’s very important. Eat, drink, have a seat. For me, White Cubes are almost unreasonable demands, and the viewers victims. Even if the artworks need a clear, well-lit room, I would prefer to sit so that I could spend more time with them. I am trying to create the greatest possible privacy for the viewer and the art.
Jonny Star/Elke Graalfs Jun 14-Jul 4 | Montagehalle, Malplaquetstr. 25, Wedding, U-Bhf Seestr., opening Jun 13, 19:00
Originally published in issue #128, June 2014.