Jessica Silverman: Gallerist Extraordinaire

Jessica Silverman (photo by Daniel Trese)View slideshow 

"Art dealer" may be the best way to describe her day-to-day work, but Jessica Silverman (MA Curatorial Practice 2007) wears many hats as the founder and director of Silverman Gallery in San Francisco. While her exhibition programs have garnered increasing visibility and national press and her business has grown and thrived, Silverman has needed to be not only "dealer" but also curator, director, writer, installer . . . and sometimes delivery person!

Silverman started showing her own artwork as an undergraduate at Otis College of Art and Design. Later, as her interests evolved and diversified, she converted her studio into an exhibition space and called it Studio 228. Silverman Gallery was officially founded in October 2006, during her final year as a student in CCA's Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice.

"I always had a close relationship to art, but I became increasingly fascinated by curating and dealing as creative enterprises where I could collaborate with artists in different ways," says Silverman. "I grew up around artwork, and always loved the idea of artistic collaborations—for instance movements like Fluxus that really expanded the idea of what it is to make art, and what art looks like. Many of the first shows at my gallery were in fact conceived less as straightforward exhibitions and more as collaborations between different generations of artists, curators, and other art-world figures. For instance Double Resonator in 2007, which put the work of the emerging artist Christopher Badger in conversation with Robert Smithson, or TV Honey, curated by Larry Rinder, who's been an incredible presence in the gallery. All in all, the gallery is the culmination of my long-term relationship with art. It's a big nexus for the convergence of artists, curators, writers, and other creatives. I can't imagine myself doing anything else."

Silverman Gallery represents emerging and mid-career artists. Although many of the shows Silverman curates (and is drawn to) are directly influenced by the artists and curators with whom she has worked closely, the ethic of the gallery was also shaped by her curatorial residency at Frankfurter Kunstverein in summer 2006. From May to August of that year she worked closely with the roaming Martha Rosler Library, developing film screenings, lectures, and other artist projects designed for public access. This spirit informed her initial run of exhibitions, which focused on hybrid shows and special artist collaborations.

"The artists that I represent rely on and trust my ability to create a space that allows them to continue to do what they love, what I love: make artwork. Coming out of a curatorial practice program, I realized there is both a gap and a complement between curating and running a gallery. While I thoroughly enjoy working directly with each artist and organizing each exhibition in the space, running a business brings my focus to other arenas such as building a collector base, sales, promotion and press, and much more."

Silverman Gallery has been growing in leaps and bounds since its opening in 2006. It recently had its first successful run at the Paris Art Fair, FIAC, where Silverman presented the work of Susanne M. Winterling, and an appearance in Miami for the NADA Art Fair. At NADA she showed the work of CCA alumnus Luke Butler (MFA 2008), who's had an amazing career trajectory since his graduation two years ago. In December 2010 she presented a show of photography by CCA alumnus Job Piston (Photography 2006), and this month she is heading to Los Angeles for the LA Contemporary Art Fair, where she will present the work of CCA Photography Program chair Tammy Rae Carland.

"CCA has remained an important touchstone for the gallery. It is crucial for me to maintain rich ties to such a strong, creative talent pool. Working with Tammy Rae Carland has been an incredible experience, and she has great support from the student community. I also have ongoing relationships with several other CCA grads, including Luke Butler and Conrad Ruiz."

Silverman has independently curated projects such as the January 2009 Trip Down (False) Memory Lane at the Lexington Club in San Francisco and Bad Moon Rising 3 at Boots Contemporary Art Space in Saint Louis. She also co-operates the online print and fashion outlet Look Boutique, has written numerous essays for exhibition catalogs, is a regular contributor to Whitehot Magazine, and somehow also finds time to be a dedicated board member of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery.

"The reality is that when you love what you do, you want to make sure it is sustainable and therefore you dedicate your time in ways that ensure this. Being a gallery owner is a more-than-full-time job; it doesn't allow for a lot of extracurricular projects. However, I'd like to think that everything I do on my end has a strong creative ethic behind it. And it definitely takes an artful approach."