Sean Alday talks with Eric Heist of Momenta Art.
As I walked into Momenta Art’s gallery space I saw Eric Heist on the ground installing a piece of drywall for a new exhibition. I waited for him to get it into place before asking if he was ready for an interview.
56B: What brought Momenta Art to 56 Bogart?
EH: This is where the artists were going. My friends from Williamsburg were relocating their studios here too.
56B: How many spaces were open here when you moved in?
EH: Interstate Projects. I believe that was it.
56B: What is Momenta’s relationship to the other spaces?
EH: Peter [of the Bogart Salon] has been on the advisory board for many years.
The model that we worked with when we opened in Philadelphia in 1986 was, we rented more space than we needed and then we sublet studio space to artists. In Philadelphia we rented an entire 5 story building and sublet the four stories above us.
We rented extra space here to sublet also. Each space we sublet is roughly 650 square feet and our space is 1,200 square feet. So we sublet to Studio 10 and an artist’s studio. The benefit isn’t as drastic as our original location, though it does allow us to have a larger space than we had on Bedford Avenue.
Which in turn gives more freedom to the artists we show.
56B: When did you move from Philadelphia to New York?
EH: 1992. I went to Hunter College for graduate school and was working with Momenta at the same time. We started doing nomadic shows in SoHo when the galleries were moving out. We funded that by doing raffles somewhat similar to the benefits we host now.
We were later able to rent a space in SoHo. And after that it was off to Williamsburg in ’95.
56B: When did you move to this building from Williamsburg?
EH: We opened in September of 2011.
56B: What’s the biggest difference between here and Philly?
EH: People come out after the opening is over. It was pretty sparse after the opening, but those were and continue to be successful.
56B: Who do you feel is Momenta Art’s main audience is?
56B: You just hosted your spring benefit. Can you give me your feelings about that went?
EH: For me personally… It was a blur [laughs]. I try to blend in and make things run as smoothly as possibly.
We had a lot of artists and a lot of ticket holders. It was a lot to keep track of.
56B: What kind of feedback did you get, both from the artists and the ticket holders?
EH: Everything I heard from the artists was positive. Everyone understands that it’s charity. I definitely understand that there’s a lot of anticipation surrounding getting your ticket called. I think that people come because they know that it’s done to support the artists.
56B: What galleries have you visited in the neighborhood?
EH: Not enough. Let’s see… I’ve been to Regina Rex. I went to Luhring Augustine’s opening. I go to English Kills pretty often. Factory Fresh. Storefront.
56B: Could you pick a favorite show that you’ve seen in the neighborhood?
EH: I really liked Stephen Truax’s works [at Storefront]. I had never seen his work presented that way. I thought it was really nice.
56B: What do you think Momenta’s relationship is to the larger Bushwick community? The arts community in particular.
EH: Well… This building has definitely become a hub. We’re pleased with that, we get an audience that we didn’t have on Bedford Avenue.
I know it creates some friction with some spaces that were already here.
56B: What’s been your gut reaction to the attention that you receive? You were definitely thought of as a big fish after relocating, along with Nurture Art.
EH: We showed up before Luhring Augustine, but they are certainly the biggest fish now.
56B: Do you read what people write or do you measure it in inches?
EH: I do care about what they say. I would like to see real criticism about the work being shown.
I want to know what people are thinking, what their ideas are. What’s the point of making art?
What I saw happen in Williamsburg was an emphasis on the entrepreneurship. I didn’t like that dialogue.
56B: What would like to demystify about this whole thing?
EH: That there’s some specific aesthetic to Bushwick art. That line came out of Williamsburg too, that there was a funky aesthetic to it.
This is where artists are going and they bring their practices with them. They don’t suddenly arrive here and find trash on the street and start making collages out of found objects. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s not how it is. It’s a container for all different types of work.
56B: What’s the future of Momenta?
EH: It’s gotten to the point where it needs to become a bigger organization. One component of that will be an artist-run area, which I will be working within.
I need to keep pushing Momenta to take risks.
56B: Do you think that the move allowed it to take more risks?
EH: I think that the danger is that we will stop taking risks. I have to mess it up a little bit in my role.
There’s an element of chaos that is important in any creative endeavor. Finding a balance in that chaos is the key to success.