When former Contemporary Arts Museum Houston curator Toby Kamps was named Menil Collection curator of modern and contemporary art in 2010, CAMH's Valerie Cassel Oliver assumed his former position, leaving an opening for a fresh voice at the museum. In July, Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based independent curator Dean Daderko will arrive at the CAMH, assuming the role of Houston's newest contemporary art investigator.
Along with making his mark at New York's alternative art spaces, Daderko has mounted curatorial projects in Buenos Aires, Montreal and Vilnius, Lithuania. His credentials also include a term as a graduate seminar instructor at Yale University School of Art and as visiting curator at the Centro de Investigaciones Artisticas in Buenos Aires, Cooper Union School of the Arts in New York and at M.I.T.
CultureMap spoke with Daderko about his curatorial vision and his hopes for his Bayou City debut.
CultureMap: How did you happen upon this position at the CAMH?
Dean Daderko: I found out about the position and immediately threw my hat in the ring. I've known of director Bill Arning since the time he was at White Columns. Bill's been aware of the work I've been doing for some years.
CM: How would you describe your curatorial vision?
DD: One of the things I'm really dedicated to is establishing dialogue for and with an audience. So, I'm interested in getting people talking. What's exciting about the CAM is the chance to centralize my practice, get to know a new audience and establish some opportunities for dialogue with people.
It's also about creating a continuity between exhibitions — thinking about the way exhibitions talk to each other. It's not about the conversations a particular exhibition will generate, but how other exhibitions will relate to each other over a continuous vision.
CM: What qualities in artists do you look for when organizing an exhibition?
DD: Clarity of vision, energy, interesting formal and conceptual qualities — that both of those be mixed in the work. I'm often very interested in things that are unfamiliar to me, things that I haven't seen before.
That's certainly what happened with Forcefield, a collaborative group who I worked with in Williamsburg in the space Parlour Projects, which was actually the modest living room of the apartment that I lived in. It was a non-commercial space, so I was working with a number of artists whose work was performance or interactive that I wasn't seeing in galleries, that I thought was really important. It was very much about wanting to be experimental and ask questions.
I met Forcefield because they came to an opening of another exhibition I had that featured work by Megan Whitmarsh. I had a dialogue at that opening about their work, and to be honest, some of the first things they showed me, I was like, "I don't get this." And it intrigued me enough that I realized that one way to understand it would be to do an exhibition. I basically took a chance, and it was a great exhibition both for me and for them. It began a critical acclaim for their work. Soon after, they were in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.
CM: Like Forcefield, you're credited for somewhat discovering Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, who will debut their exhibition on Saturday as the U.S. delegates at the Venice Biennale. What is it like to see these artists find great success after working with you?
DD: We did work very early on in their career, but I avoid terminology like "discovering." I'm not interested in discovering things in a way that I have ownership of it. I'm much more interested in what dialogues I can create.
CM: Are there specific artists we can expect to see exhibited after you arrive at CAMH?
DD: There are a lot of people I am thinking about, but I suppose that might be premature to reveal. I'm interested to go down there and see what makes sense for Houston.
Watch a video by art collective Forcefield below: