The show started at Pierogi 2000, an exhibition space in Brooklyn, New York. Compiled by gallery director Joe Amrhein, who had amassed portfolios of works on paper by more than 650 artists, the three cabinets full of portfolios now travel to galleries around the world, allowing visitors to browse through the drawers at their lesiure.
Raechelle Smith, who coordinated the Artspace exhibit, has added files from Kansas City artists in the project room while the Pierogi files are on view in the main gallery. "I didn't want the show to be curated," she explains. "I wanted it to be inclusive." Donning their gloves, visitors decide for themselves what deserves attention.
One of the artists, printmaker Michael Schonhoff, sees viewers' process of uncovering the works as being similar to what happens when he pulls his own prints off the press. "There's a difference between having works presented to you and having the chance to present the works to yourself at your own pace. When you present it to yourself, it has that exciting quality of 'What's under this one?' and then 'What's under this one?'"
When viewers take Schonhoff's work out of the file, they'll find a print from a series he did using a wind-up toy called Sparkzilla that walks on paper with ink on its feet, breathing menacing sparks as it goes. They'll find a few drawings too.
Other artists' files contain playful experiments (translucent tracing paper with ink dots and cutout patterns, for example) and fully realized pieces ranging from collages to drawings to photographs.
"Most people who do something creative start with a pen and paper," Schonhoff points out. "Musicians use sheet music. Most people do sketches of some kind. It could include a lot of different creative outlets."