Curator of 2008 Carnegie International already feeling deadline pressure

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Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette
Douglas Fogle, curator of the 2008 Carnegie International, has organized the exhibition, "Forum 57: Luisa Lambri and Ernesto Neto," in Carnegie Museum of Art's Forum Gallery. Fogle is traveling around the world in search of art for the International.

As you read this with your morning coffee, Douglas Fogle is tucking in for the night, halfway around the globe.

The 2008 Carnegie International curator and Carnegie Museum of Art curator of contemporary art moved to Pittsburgh 11 months ago, but he's been away as much as he's been here, having begun the extensive travel necessary to organize the world's second-oldest international art exhibition.

He says he's "really excited" about the work he's doing, but also that things are "a bit brutal at this point because the time is running out. I'm confident, but I have a lot to do in the next several months."

Fogle took some time between trips recently to talk about his International plans and other things that he's been doing.

He came to the Carnegie from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he was curator of visual arts and organized exhibitions on such subjects as contemporary photography -- including that of Catherine Opie and artists Julie Mehretu (who exhibited in Carnegie International 2004-05) and Andy Warhol. He also co-curated "How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age."

At the Carnegie, he succeeded Laura Hoptman, whose appointment extended through her curatorial role for the 2004-05 Carnegie International.

Fogle, 42, was born and grew up in suburban Chicago, where he was involved with drama club and the student newspaper in high school. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

While in graduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he began teaching art history and film on campus. He left in 1994 for a visual arts internship at the Walker, and although his dissertation research was interrupted, his interdisciplinary topic -- the history of consciousness -- remains a prominent interest of his. The emphasis of that research, Fogle says, was on "how technology changes you. How we interact with it and how we are changed, psychologically and physically."

In addition to his International responsibilities, Fogle makes acquisitions for the Carnegie's permanent collection and arranges for their display.

"I think it's really important that contemporary art not only be happening every three or four years [at the museum]," he says.

For example, work by Adam Pendleton that Fogle recently acquired is replacing, in the contemporary galleries, the Julie Mehretu painting -- which is going out on loan to her first large European show. Pendleton is a young African-American who makes silkscreens -- "kind of an update of Warhol" -- and he "has a band and does live performance and spoken word, too," Fogle says.

Another way to highlight contemporary art is through Forum Gallery exhibitions, such as his current "Luisa Lambri and Ernesto Neto" (reviewed in Wednesday's Post-Gazette).

Fogle also tries to see as much work by Pittsburgh artists as possible, often making studio visits with Heather Pesanti, Carnegie assistant curator of contemporary art who's assisting him with the International.

"The artists are a big part of our audience," he says. "We're really committed to being out there."

Fogle lives in Lawrenceville, where he purchased an apartment in Blackbird Lofts. "That little neighborhood in Lawrenceville is fabulous -- I love the texture of it," he says of the interspersed shops, restaurants and galleries.

"There are families and young people. A lot of my colleagues live there. It's a great sign of a revitalized city; a great mix of people. I was at the Red Room last night having a drink, and was recently at Kelly's."

If his concern about deadlines sounds a little extreme for an exhibition that's two years out, consider his agenda:

Fogle left last week on a month-long itinerary, the longest of his tenure. He's traveling in East Asia for the first time, to the inaugural Singapore and the sixth Gwangju, Korea, Biennales -- two of the flock of large international exhibitions that began to be established outside of mainstream Western locations late in the last century -- and also to Seoul and Tokyo to research artists.

After Asia, he flies to Europe, where he'll meet in Baden-Baden, Germany, with his international Advisory Committee (members of which have yet to be disclosed), and Carnegie Museum of Art Director Richard Armstrong, concluding with a few days in Cologne, Germany, and in Paris.

As with committees for past Internationals, the members of this one will supplement the curator's areas of expertise. Fogle says he's also relying on "a whole [professional] support network I've built over the years" for advice.

He's back for a week or so in October before leaving to make studio visits in London, which he says has been an art hot spot for the past 10 years, and Glasgow, where younger artists have been gathering.

Looking further ahead, Fogle has plans to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Brazil, including Sao Paulo, home to another long-lived international exhibition, and Belo Horizonte.

He'd like to return to other locales in South America; to Mexico City, where he says there's a "big [art] scene" that he's dropped in on several times; to India, another country he's traveled to in the past; and to China, which he visited in 2002. "I have to," he says of the latter, acknowledging the continuing interest in the work of contemporary Chinese artists.

"Everybody's thinking China, China, China," and he says he's interested in the conceptual, video and installation art the younger artists are creating.

Also on his wish list are parts of Europe he hasn't yet been to -- Warsaw, Prague, Helsinki, "maybe Moscow" -- and Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, where "small scenes are opening up." Before the recent war, he'd hoped to go to Beirut and to Tel Aviv, and that still might happen.

During the past year he met with artists and/or saw exhibitions in Istanbul, Oslo, Stockholm, London, Zurich, Basil, New York City and Los Angeles. And in Berlin -- now more cosmopolitan than London, he says -- where the "gallery scene is strong" and it's possible to see a lot of art from across Germany and elsewhere.

With so many directions yet to explore, it's hard to predict what specific shape the exhibition will take, but Fogle has defined a goal.

"The whole point is, in the end, the dialogue between the artist and the public. I think it's important to realize why you're doing it. You're there to make the art speak to the public.

"We're not just transporting this show in from Mars. I'm hoping it will connect with Pittsburgh. It's such a wonderful city, with such a great history, and such a great history of the International."

In the end, Fogle says, "it's about doing a really interesting show."


Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas may be reached at mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.


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