Originally published August 2, 2021 by Tim Buckley (MFA 2014) through the Academy Bulletin, the AANYAA is delighted to re-publish this spotlight on the AANYAA's website.
And now for something a little different. A variation on a theme, if you will. For this edition of Alumni Spotlight, Bulletin contributor Tim Buckley (MFA 2014) chats with gallerist and collector Brad Brubaker of Accesso Galleria, who has exhibited many Academy artists and is currently showing sculptor Kelly Robert (MFA 2020).
Tim Buckley: Brad, how did you get your start? Could you tell us a little bit about your personal journey with art?
Brad Brubaker: 20 years ago, I was living in London. While there, my husband and I became interested in art — looking at art in museums, going to galleries and fairs, and we bought a painting from an English artist (who we now represent, funny enough). At home, I would sit and look at the painting, and I was sort of fascinated by his ability to create this 3-dimensional figure. So, from there, to understand how he was able to do that, I started taking art courses myself. I was taking art courses in London, drawing primarily. After that, I became more and more interested in art and going to more galleries, going to more exhibitions, and museums, and we started buying more and from there it just kind of snowballed. After moving to Italy, people would come to our house and look at the pieces we had and someone suggested “Why don’t you open a gallery?” and really, I had never thought about it to be honest. The more I thought about it, the more interesting the idea became. TB: Can we talk about the location? The gallery is in Pietrasanta. There are quite a few foundries, stone carving workshops, and artist fabrication studios there. There seems to be quite some weight and history to the location. There are old marble quarries nearby and Florence is only a hop skip and a jump away. BB: The town dates to 1200 or something. Even Michelangelo came here looking for stone, I think for the façade of San Lorenzo in Florence, which was never executed. It seems he came through here a few times — apparently he hated it! He was quite difficult anyway, probably no surprise there. Pietrasanta is close to Carrara, to the marble. I'm not quite sure why Pietrasanta has this concentration of people carving marble, when it's Carrara that has the marble. I mean it's not far, 30 to 40 minutes by car, but going back a few hundred years that would take much longer. So, I never understood exactly why Pietrasanta had this sort of thing. But it does. Then Henry Moore came here to use the foundries. So, from that point on other artists came, more foundries were built, more people started carving and then the galleries came. Pietrasanta has one of the highest concentrations of galleries in Italy. TB: Currently, there is a two person show at your gallery featuring Academy alumni Kelly Robert (MFA 2020). One thing that I really like about Kelly’s work is the way that it casts shadows. A shadow is such a transitory thing and to have that as such a principal component of the design is very interesting to me. The other artist in the show, Luca Moscariello, has made paintings that mix a formal geometric abstraction with trompe-l'œil painting. The shadows in his work are painted. Could you tell me about the curatorial concept behind the exhibition?
BB: I agree. Kelly creates these lines — subtle, fine, and they grow and often there is this lip that creates a shadow. When I started looking at Luca’s work, which is two-dimensional and trompe l'oeil, I realized that they approached a similar idea in different ways. The works presented in the show are united in how they tease the viewer. The paintings of Luca Moscariello make the viewer work to understand how the color panels of the two-dimensional surface seem to recede inwards or jut out of the surface. Kelly Robert’s sculptures tease us in the way that they curve, sometimes gently while other times suddenly, yet create the softness of the human form. The slightest curves make subtle shadows. As the viewer, both artists require us to look further than what we see at the first glimpse. The exhibition title "Guarda Oltre" translates to "look beyond." The idea is just that — you need to look further than first glance to see what is going on. You won’t get it on first impact. TB: And you have worked with a few other Academy alumni as well, such as Amber Sena (MFA 2009), Jiannan Wu (MFA 2016), and Sian Smith (MFA 2018). How did this relationship develop? BB: My connection to the Academy started when I went with a friend, many years ago, to the Tribeca Ball. This was before I had started the gallery. I met Peter Simon Mühlhäußer (MFA 2009). I told him about my idea of maybe opening a gallery and that I really liked what he was doing. We kept in contact and once I opened the gallery, I contacted him. Our second year we did a solo show with Peter. After that first show, I would go back to New York every year to see friends and meet with artists and I also began touring the Academy with Provost Peter Drake. Kelly Robert I met when she had a residency here. She was working in Carrara. I liked her work and we kept in contact. The gallery is 10 years old this year. I don't think that it has deviated much from when we opened. It tends to be heavily, almost exclusively, figurative work. I'd say for no other reason than that is what attracts me. That's just my own personal taste. No greater artistic or other reason, it's just what I like. I think the reason being is that I feel that I can evaluate figurative art. Conceptual work, for example, I have no ability to evaluate it and it also doesn't give me anything in return. So, therefore, as a gallerist I couldn't proudly talk to a client about something that I don't get or particularly like. We must like the work that is in the gallery. I don't know if all galleries do that, but it is very important to me. TB: It’s a personal mission? BB: Indeed.