Occupying the cozy interior of a former record store on Forsyth Street, Signs and Symbols is the latest art space to crop up on New York’s Lower East Side. Describing itself as a “curator’s studio and non-gallery gallery,” Signs and Symbols takes its name from a short story by Vladimir Nabokov first published in The New Yorker in 1948 (as “Symbols and Signs,” the inversion coming in a later edition), and acts as a laboratory for curatorial projects. Founded by Mitra Khorasheh and Elise Herget, Signs and Symbols’ vision is centered around three major figures of twentieth century art—Ulay, VALIE EXPORT, and Vito Acconci. As such, the space will largely focus on photography, performance, architecture, and the intersection thereof, opening with an exhibition of British artist Rachel Garrard entitled Primal Forms.
Signs and Symbols had been hosting performances nomadically around the city since 2012; however, this is the first permanent physical iteration of the project. Perhaps most relevant to architecture is the focus on Vito Acconci. Acconci (1940–2017), the poet turned artist turned designer, opened Acconci Studio in the late 1980s to focus on sculptural and architectural projects.
Signs and Symbols’ planned exhibitions have a number of artists whose work intersects with architecture, as well as some architects making art. Sarah Entwistle, a British architect, will be presenting her project in which she communes with her late grandfather, whom she never met, the architect Clive Entwistle. Wermke/Leinkauf, the Berlin-based artistic duo infamous for illegally climbing the Brooklyn Bridge and flying white-out U.S. flags, will be presenting photographic work engaging architecture, the built world, and the body. Brooklyn-based Drew Conrad, whose sculpture deals with buildings and their ruins, will also have a solo show.
Signs and Symbols differentiates itself from galleries in another critical way—it works on a royalty model and doesn’t require exclusive representation. A platform rather than a gallery, Signs and Symbols will also be presenting performance collaborations, lectures, workshops, one-off projects, and other programming to complement the exhibitions. Finally, landing a physical location doesn’t mean Signs and Symbols plans to become rigid or stagnant—it will continue to be “a platform for re-thinking and re-adjusting,” that, like contemporary art, is “in a constant state of becoming and transforming.”