Sundance 2014: SPACE and 1MSQFT

Curator Ken Miller leads the art pack in Park City, Utah


Amid the clattering bustle of a small resort town packed street-to-screen with the film industry, two art galleries are providing a different option for the artistic influx that temporarily inhabits Park City, Utah. This year at Sundance, pop-ups “SPACE” and “1MSQFT” are delivering divergent experiences linked by the same curatorial team. The former, a serene reprieve showcasing breathtaking landscape photographs, and the latter, with bright and powerful works across multiple media, were conceived by acclaimed curator Ken Miller and art advisor Elana Rubinfeld. Their work together on “SPACE” ultimately led Miller to additionally curate “1MSQFT” with Rubinfeld’s help.


For “SPACE,” the duo united 10 leading contemporary photographers—from world renowned Nan Goldin to celebrated fashion photographer Juergen Teller—for a group showcase of one image from each artist. Rubinfeld observes that “even the most well-known photographers still do sunset portraits.” The idea of capturing landscapes still appeals to professional lensmen, and when complemented by Park City’s mountains just outside, the team believed it would be an apt subject that would appeal to the worldly Sundance goers. Rubinfeld tells CH, “Photo speaks so nicely to film. We weren’t sure if anything would come of this but we thought it would be nice to try and offer it. It’s a peaceful place in the midst of all of it.” Miller continues the sentiment, explaining that “there’s an audience here and no one has done a photo show.”

The two met each other through Rubinfeld’s previous gallery position and by having mutual friends in the art world. Miller has previously curated multiple museum-quality photo exhibitions on a global scale, while Rubinfeld has organized exhibitions for MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center to The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with a specialization in contemporary works. With “SPACE” their interests and background functioned hand-in-hand to produce more than just a photo show.


Together, they intended to craft a meditative space that would reflect the natural beauty of a city’s landscape—seeking something both low key and intimate. The space within “SPACE” is exactly that. A big, broad window defines the front façade, filling it with natural light. Just inside, a wooden block seating area provides respite. “It’s so hectic outside and you come in and look at this landscape or an intense mountain and you feel better,” Miller notes. The selected works span multiple generations of photographers—all with different backgrounds. Landscape photography has had a historic impact on art and visual language. To see drastically different viewpoints side-by-side demonstrates the full depth and breadth of nature portrayed within art.


Miller was also tapped to curate the artists for Microsoft’s “1MSQFT” pop-up in a slender, ever-unfolding gallery space. This is the second iteration of the art series (the first debuting at 2013’s Miami Art Week), and the temporary exhibition continues to deliver vibrancy and encourage engagement. Miller pulled in a few artists he has worked with before and believes in, and the three installations—one each by ConfettiSystem, Hisham Bharoocha and Carlo Van de Roer—connect by way of their ability to dazzle with a hyper-modern approach to art making.


Carlo Van de Roer‘s impact was felt twofold. His contribution, “The Portrait Machine Project” is both an exhibition and an invitation to have your own photograph taken with a Polaroid aura camera. Each large-scale image morphs and warps color, re-imagining the subject surrounded by an energetic aura. The muted color explosions and distortion beautifully embody an almost spiritual element, while the makeshift portrait studio questions the nature of artistic authorship and ownership. The subject has a say, the camera builds the aura, yet Van de Roer orchestrates it all.


With “Churn,” artist, musician and designer Hisham Akira Bharoocha greets all who enter. The massive, geometric art piece lies flat against the wall, positioned opposite the entryway. There’s balance and chaos, conveyed through small patterning, found within expanding concentric octagons all trapped within a circle, being pierced by two triangles. The use of color soothes as the shapes challenge. As thoughtful as it is, it’s also easily beautiful.


“Complex Fringe Wall / Crystal Pinata / Tassel Garland” by CONFETTISYSTEM contributes an air of celebration. The work lends itself as a performance space for two musical acts, but more than that, it drapes the space in shimmering, wondrous waves. Theirs is the type of art begging to be touched.

The drastic differences between both gallery environments demonstrate Miller’s prowess. Two locations, two shows, one city; each distinct in content and message. “SPACE” aims to offer a spatial mind-break with beauty as the pathway, while “1MSQFT” encourages active involvement with a pop of color, a twist and a turn, and even an aura. And there is most certainly value in both.

Lead image courtesy of Space Gallery, “1MSQFT” facade image courtesy of Thomas Prior, all other photos by David Graver