Taking inspiration from his childhood fascinations as well as the show’s surrounding Bowery neighborhood (which still houses many wholesale lighting stores), Fitzpatrick asked contemporary artists to brighten up the gallery with artistic lamp creations. He says, “I grew up in the town where Thomas Edison lived and had his factory, and the idea of inventing light was so crazy to me.”
From Josh Smith’s glowing pumpkin head, to Nate Lowman’s t-shirt turned lampshade, to a Joe Bradley ceramic head turned light, Fitzpatrick let the artists—many of whom are personal friends of his—contribute their own ideas and suggestions to the general theme of the show. The result is a collection of work as relaxed, witty, and lighthearted as Fitzpatrick’s own curation style.
“I don’t necessarily curate art, I curate the artist,” Fitzpatrick tells The Creators Project, mentioning that he didn’t see most of the art until the day of the opening. He was recently appointed as a director of Marlborough Chelsea and will create an intimate project space inside the gallery space called Viewing Room, his first show in September, showing 80-year-old Los Angeles-based sculptor George Herms.
“I’m a real loose curator,” he explains. “I don’t stress the art too much, which sounds weird since that’s the whole point, but basically I just put the idea out in the air. I think artists want to experiment and have fun and I try to give them a venue to do that as opposed to just showing what they are known for.”
The loose theme allowed artists to go beyond their usual mediums resulting in an expressive and functional collection of radiant pieces, physicalizing each artist's individual style. With the main gallery lights out and the air conditioning cranked high, Marlborough Lights creates an atmosphere of glowing serenity in the blistering summer heat, a similar vibe to those dorm room days of throwing a scarf over a lamp for makeshift mood lighting. That DIY aspect adds a charming twist to the show, not to mention an element of danger. “We did have to think about fire hazards,” admitted Fitzpatrick with a laugh, remembering what Nate Lowman warned him during their installation: “Turn these lamps off at night! I’m an artist, not an electrician!”
To learn more about Leo Fitzpatrick's Marlborough Chelsea exhibitions, click here.