Tatiane Santa Rosa is an art expert, curator, and writer who was born in Brazil and now resides in New York and California. Tatiane is actively pursuing her Ph.D. in Visual Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz while working as a faculty of the San Francisco Art Institute.

Tatiane's reviews and articles concerning exhibitions have been featured in numerous well-respected magazines including ARTnews Magazine, Brooklyn Rail, Guernica, Artcritical, and Hyperallergic. She has also curated, co-created, or interned at top-rated New York museums including El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she was a member of the Whitney Biennial Team in 2014.

Tatiane recently discussed her experiences as a curator and her upcoming projects via an exclusive interview.

Art, curating, and museums

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially got you interested in art and why did you decide to make curation your profession?

Tatiane Santa Rosa (TSR): I have a background in architecture, a field in which I worked for a couple of years in Brazil and in which I received a B.A. But I always had a passion for the visual arts, and when I moved to the U.S. in 2011, I decided to switch careers. I believe curating combines that background in architecture––which requires being able to visualize space––with an appetite for cultivating connections between artists and their artworks, concepts, and aesthetics in general.

MM: You were born in Brazil, so how does their art scene differ from the American one?

TSR: Brazil's art scene––especially in the major cities such as São Paulo and Rio––is very dynamic and is growing fast, despite the economic crisis in that country. We have a couple of Brazilian galleries, such as Nara Roesler and Mendes Wood with recently-launched spaces in New York. What I still think the art scene in Brazil is missing are spaces like A.I.R.

Gallery, which has historically advocated for women artists in the U.S., but also the existence of non-profit art organizations in general. This is something that will remain difficult to change, especially now with that crisis: there are still very few art nonprofits in those cities, despite a respectable number of galleries and museums.

MM: You are a curator who has worked in many established New York museums, so how did you secure these jobs?

TSR: I have mainly worked as an intern at institutions and museums such as MoMA, the Whitney Museum, and El Museo del Barrio. As a Brazilian-born professional, I felt I needed to immerse myself into the New York's art scene to learn how renowned curators and artists worked. Even internships are very competitive in New York, but I think my background in architecture and has worked at a non-profit in Brazil were two fundamental aspects that helped me to secure those curating opportunities.

MM: What are the rewards and challenges of working as a curator?

TSR: I work as a writer, a scholar, and an independent curator, so I like to combine these skills. At this point, when I work as an independent curator, I think the joy is to open a space for artists who are either young, emerging, or are somehow underrepresented.

I think one of the roles of independent curators is to intervene meaningfully in otherwise very normative––either local or global––art scenes.

I'm interested in art that is somehow subversive, conceptually or aesthetically. For example, I love Alice Quaresma's works because they speak to Brazilian art history––mostly Brazil's Concrete and the Neo-Concrete movements––but at the same time Alice wants to subvert, and play with that history. Her work is visually attractive due to the colors and the landscapes she juxtaposes, but there's also noise, something that doesn't easily fit in, which for me is very compelling. I enjoy perceiving that type of ambivalence, which is present differently in Teresa Viana's drawings in the fabric. Her series are very colorful, abstract, and apparently very dynamic, but if you look closely at her work, you can notice she has a slow way of making decisions and choosing shapes and colors.

Publications, galleries, and doctoral degrees

MM: You also write about art and review shows, so how do you get your articles picked up by established publications?

TSR: I usually write about art in the intersections between Brazil, Latin America, and the U.S. I think the feeling of being in-between cultures and nations provides readers with a diverse perspective on art that is also in-between spaces, and artists who are constantly juggling with transnational connections. And especially during times like these, in which societies are so divided, I think it's important to speak of and insist on in-betweenness; I hope art publications provide even more space for this mode of writing and its writers.

MM: Can you tell us about your present show at AIR Gallery and what sorts of themes inspired the artwork displayed within it?

TSR: I think the idea for the “Another Gesture” show was to open a space for dialogue between artists who wouldn’t usually appear together in an exhibition, either due to their geographical location (Germany, Brazil, and the U.S.) or due to the different conceptual and aesthetic approaches they adopt. We wanted to create a free and safe zone for a dialogue between different cultures, without the need of labeling them. I think there has been too much labeling and categorizing in art history, which is very important, but which sometimes also creates inflexibility. Although we acknowledge the aspect of “nationality” in the show, we wanted the works to speak for themselves.

I think both contrast and quiet conversations is happening between these artists: Svenja Kreh's drawings are inspired by old icons––a European aesthetic tradition––while Alice Quaresma takes pictures of tropical landscapes, which became part of the 14th century’s European imaginary and beyond.

Teresa Viana’s drawings are colorful, intense, and abstract––they tease the eye––while Veronika Hilger molds color into quasi-figurative/quasi-abstract spaces: both artists belong and stand at the intersection of painting traditions, at the same that time they don’t depend much on any of those traditions.

MM: You also teach college level courses, so do you find that work rewarding and helpful to your curator duties?

TSR: I teach Latin American contemporary art and history, and I have encountered many art students who are eager to decolonize their education, which in many institutions is still focused on western art historical traditions. In that sense, it has been rewarding to be a part of these students’ learning processes and to witness their excitement when they learn about their own culture.

It is fascinating to see how students apply concepts and ideas seen in class to their practices, and I have been able to transpose these conversations to my curatorial projects.

MM: You are also currently pursuing a Ph.D., so how did you select your topic and how do you anticipate the doctoral degree furthering your career in the arts?

TSR: I'm still in the process of narrowing down my doctoral degree topic. Currently, I’m interested in the visual culture produced against the military dictatorship in Brazil, which lasted from 1964-84. What is always on my mind is to produce something significant both to the art made in the U.S. and Brazil. The Ph.D. takes you to a new level regarding ethics and responsibility to your work and the work of others; I hope that when I complete it, it becomes only the first step towards further encounters, teaching opportunities, research, and curatorial projects.

MM: To date, what do you regard as being the highlight of your curation career?

TSR: I think the show at A.I.R. has been a highlight in my career; first because it was very meaningful to bring Brazilian-born and German-born women artists into this institution’s history. Second, because it was motivating to think of a curatorial concept that was open-ended; a concept that we used to break away from thinking too rigidly of the long history of relationships between German and Brazil. We wanted to speak of those connections via the gallery, but also to leave space for each artists' subtleties.

MM: Do you have any exciting events on the horizon and is there anything further that you wish to discuss?

TSR: I'm hoping to curate an art exhibition in the SF Bay area that draws connections between Latinx and Latin American artists working both on the West and East coasts.

I also expect to pass my Qualifying Exams, which is going to be exciting and relieving.

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