Sunday, December 7, 2014

December Salt Lake Gallery Stroll: CUAC

Catching up with the former Ephraim gallery at this month's Stroll

Posted By on December 7, 2014, 12:00 PM

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This past Friday night was the last Salt Lake Gallery Stroll of 2014, surprisingly being one of the first “Holiday Stroll” events that didn't require a giant coat and a shovel to get around. For those of you who normally stick to the warmer months and are too good to venture into weather under 60 degrees, the December version is, for lack of better terminology, a clusterfuck of group exhibitions. You can peer down the list of official spots on their website and see what I mean. So rather than trying to cover 10-50 artists in a single night, we're turning our focus to a single gallery. For this month we visit CUAC, the badass gallery that once occupied an Ephraim historic site until the townsfolk voted them out, Footloose style. So the gallery relocated to an environment more catering to the eye-catching and experimental: Salt Lake City. Today we chat with one of the gallery founders, Adam Bateman, to catch up from our last interview a few years back, as well as look at the current works on display from Jenny Morgan and Benjamin Cottam.

Adam Bateman
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Gavin: Hey Adam, to start off, how have you been since we last chatted?

Adam: It’s been a while, been some ups and downs, more ups now. Our whole move was hard for lots of reasons, but going strong now and it makes me happy.

Gavin: For those who may not be aware, let's catch up on your story from our last interview. How was your final year down in Ephraim?

The final year was awesome until the very end. Ephraim was a great place to run a space, it is my hometown. The people are generally surprisingly open and intelligent and interested in learning experiences. Artists from all over were really interested in participating in a show there. It was highly unusual to have a world-class contemporary art venue in such a small town and I think that helped make it unique and better in lots of ways.

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Gavin: What would you say was the one exhibition you were most proud of during your time there?

It’s hard to say. One of the last ones was a solo show by Mariah Robertson, who went on the show some of the same work in a solo show at MoMA a few months later. A show curated by the AD Projects was a highlight for me as well. That was one of the two times ever to screen a version of Bec Stupak’s film Flaming Creatures with the original by Jack Smith. That was a truly historical occasion.

Gavin: What initially led to the city trying to evict you from the location?

I’m not going to dwell much on this. There was a ton of coverage that reached the New York Times, as well as many other sources on our eviction. Basically, after years of a wonderful relationship with Ephraim, there was a ton of turnover in city government as well as a new city manager. They were offended by two photographs containing nudity we had on display and we were evicted the following day.

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Gavin: When the decision was announced, what were your thoughts on the whole situation? And was there any attempt to fight the city or sue at the time?

They sued us as part of the legal eviction process and we countersued them in Federal Court on the basis of their violation of our First Amendment rights. This has also been well documented. Basically, after a long legal process, we settled with them out of court (this is all public record). Our settlement included a $60,000 payment to CUAC and a letter acknowledging the importance of the freedom of speech and a commitment to maintaining an art center in the building we had renovated and occupied.

Gavin: At what point did you start thinking about relocation rather than closing down?

In our first board meeting after we received the notice to vacate the building, the board voted unanimously to continue operations and we began to search for a new site. We considered places in several towns, including in Central Utah before deciding on Salt Lake.

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Gavin: So then what eventually brought you to SLC above other places?

CUAC’s mission is to affect significant cultural change in Utah’s art culture through the exhibition of world-class art. It became apparent that being located in Utah’s cultural center, SLC, was the best place to affect art culture.

Gavin: How did you come across the space on 200 South and how was it for you turning it into a gallery?

La Porte Group owns the building and they have been extremely supportive and generous in our opening the space. A ton of diverse things came together that made our current space the right place to us. Two years later we have had great neighbors for a year in Modern West Fine Art, Johnny's, Bar X, Beer Bar, etc.

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Gavin: You've aimed more at bringing in visiting artists more frequently as opposed to locals. What influenced that direction for your exhibitions?

That’s not true. Our programming remains heavily focused on Utah with about 50-60% of our artists living in the state and the majority of artists we bring in from outside are from Utah or have significant ties to the State. Further, we believe that by contextualizing Utah artists with the best international artists we can find, helps to elevate the way Utahns and outsiders consider the work of the Utah artist.

Gavin: For this particular Stroll, you have Jenny Morgan and Benjamin Cottam. Tell us about both artists and the work they're presenting.

Jenny Morgan and Benjamin Cottam are great examples. Jenny grew up in Utah and is now very well established in New York. Benjamin Cottam lived in Utah for two years as a young child and is a practicing Mormon with lots of family in Utah, though he was raised in New York City. He is collected by MoMA and the Whitney Museum.

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Gavin: For those who wish to be put on exhibition at CAUC, what must they do?

Artists who are engaging in a vocabulary of contemporary art as is expressed at an international level are considered for exhibitions at CUAC. There isn’t a formal process, but I’m always willing to look at websites or images of artists’ work. I like to support artists who support CUAC and the community in general here.

Gavin: Looking ahead, are you planning to keep CAUC in SLC or is this a temporary residence until you decide to head back down?

CUAC will be in Salt Lake as long as we can maintain our programming support. We have also been active in curating shows of Utah artists in Los Angeles and New York City. We are considering additional programming, pop-up style elsewhere in Utah, including Central Utah.

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Gavin: What do you have coming up over the next for months for people to check out?

We will be hosting exhibitions by Chris Coy (from Salt Lake, living now in Vegas) and Justin Berry in January. Then our Utah Ties Juried Exhibition in March.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, do you have anything you'd like to promote or plug?

The Utah Ties show is a great opportunity for Utah artists to get their work included in a show at CUAC and to be seen by an outside curator. Watch for our call for entries in February.

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