Looking Back @Karen: SPACE, Time, Separate-Togetherness and the Irrational Fears of an Intern

For the duration of her show "Standard", Karen Gelardi asked us at SPACE to install her banners incrementally. (As an intern, I was tasked with this and many other responsibilities that ranged from working with the exhibiting artists, to cleaning up after them, to writing this blog post reflecting on Karen's work and my own involvement with it.) So every Thursday, for six weeks, I conquered my irrational fear of ladders to add 7 or 8 more of Karen’s hand sewn banners to the gridded installation on the walls of the annex gallery. 

Every component of her collection of banners was hand-sewn by a for-profit network of artisans and makers called “New Factories.” In their words, they are “a network of artist studios and workshops. We connect artists, production resources, and opportunities.” Using this method of manufacturing combines both new and old technologies to create these objects that are visually mechanical an geometric yet retain a strong human presence.

Each banner was designed on a computer using any combination of 26 shapes in any of six colors. The designs were given to the members of New Factories and, subsequently, each cut and stitch was performed by hand. The banners, which were all individually designed, carried a factory-made likeness to one another yet the hand of the makers was vibrantly present in each one. My Thursday routine of pulling the ladder out during open gallery hours to nail the dowel-hung banners to the gridded walls seemed to emulate the continuation of the hand in the work. My fear of ladders became secondary to the desire to continue the banners down the never-ending assembly line of the creation and function of art.  

The hand-made process directly correlated with the necessity for Karen’s work to be installed incrementally; the work was simply still in process and the banners were installed as they were completed. Time, then, became an inherent part of the work. Despite the decision emerging from necessity, I found that the additive nature of the installation echoed the concept of “New Factories” as an integral part of both the production and inspiration of the work.

The empty spaces within the gridded gallery walls made the room hold an aura of anticipation. The mind instantly recognizes the symmetry and continuity of the plan and can envision the empty spaces being filled. The slow realization of the gridded plan parallels an idea of separate-togetherness, which implicates the true purpose of these art-objects.


The original function of Karen’s banners is as commissioned, decorative works for a hostel in Chicago. One hundred and twenty of them will be displayed separately in each of the guest rooms. While all the banners are connected by the continuity of color and shape, the final installation of “Standard” in the annex gallery of SPACE was the only time and place that the banners will ever be seen together. 


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