Local Seen: The Curators
With four-month-old contemporary art gallery The Southern, Erin and Justin Nathanson are pioneering new territory in the Holy City art scene.
Written by: Anna Evans
Photographs by: Ruta Elvikyte
Erin and Justin Nathanson opened The Southern in a warehouse-like space behind a Pizza Hut on the Eastside, far from the Historic District’s Gallery Row. Focusing on contemporary art with Southern connections, they plan for upcoming exhibits to tackle racism; Charleston’s conflicted history; and the so-often-asked question, ”What makes that art?” Adding more variety, the Nathansons also devised an ongoing ”Works on Paper and Objects” exhibit, with a custom rack showcasing pieces by a rotating array of creatives. We sat down with the couple to hear about their innovative enterprise and its current exhibit of new works by Benjamin Hollingsworth, ”Vision of Labor.”
CM: What’s The Southern’s objective?
EN: It is a commercial, contemporary gallery. Collectors are our primary clientele, but we’d like to be thought of as an arts destination, as a thinking space. We exhibit work that isn’t just rooted in aesthetics. We are working with artists who are saying something with their art and have a museum track in mind, who aim to make a lasting impression.
CM: Tell us more about the gallery’s exhibition space.
JN: We reinforced the 18-foot-high walls so that we can install anywhere—and any weight—on them. For example, ”Vision of Labor,” has works up to 40 square feet and 400 pounds on the walls.
CM: So far, what’s surprised you about owning an art gallery?
JN: The South is a conservative place, and with this gallery we have the opportunity to talk about subjects that aren’t discussed enough. I’m happy to be in a place where Erin and I can present exhibits and events that represent our personal ideals, and I’ve been surprised by my growing openness in sharing these thoughts. Starting this business has given me a new sense of community.
CM: Why should people run and see ”Vision of Labor” before it closes on May 15?
EN: You won’t find an explanation for what you are viewing, which is refreshing. In galleries and museums, you’re often met with literature that prevents the viewer from thinking and making their own conclusions. From chromed-out ceramic sculptures to climbing cleats as design, Hollingsworth establishes a conceptual space that grants viewers the capacity to set their own associations to the objects, colors, shapes, and textures on view. They are invited to explore the collective consciousness and ultimately question the influences and processes that shape human behavior.
Live: In North Central downtown with cats Bonnie, Clyde, and Talulah
On their résumés: Erin was formerly the arts and cultural relations director of ArtFields and coordinator of the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Justin owns TV, movie, and web content production biz The Cut Company.
Day-off perfection: A long walk on the beach