Pete Tobey: You’re from New York City?
Brian Morris: Yup. First generation American-Irish from Woodhaven, Queens. My folks grew up 100 miles or so from each other in Ireland, and met in The Bronx in ’68. I love New York. Lived all over, Brooklyn, Harlem, Astoria, Forest Hills, Little Italy, Alaska, and now LES.
BM: (Laughs) I set out West just before my 19th birthday. I intended to write stories, poems, perhaps a novel. I mostly smoked cigarettes and snowboarded.
PT: Why an art dealer?
BM: Because, Pete, I know the deal. I’ve been around dealers of all kinds all my life. I’ve seen dealers sell bags of weed through mailbox slots in East New York, and I’ve seen people make multi-million dollar real estate deals, and everything in between.
I have been surrounded by artists, always have been: painters, writers, dancers, comedians, musicians, actors, rappers and poets.
They inspire me to create and live fully, and now I have an opportunity to share their work with the world. I’m a facilitator by nature and I absolutely love being at the confluence for all these creative individuals to come together and create dialogue. There is a wonderful ethos that is happening down here on Chrystie Street. I welcome the collaboration, the debate, the harmony and even the discord – those little moments when egos are diminished and the soul and the spirit of the converging energies involved take over. It’s really wonderful and exciting.
PT: You’re a creative person yourself. You’ve done all kinds of things. Writer, stand-up comic, professional basketball player in Europe, a business man, a fitness professional, a serious martial artist, and you were involved in the founding of Glasschord magazine, and that helped lead toward the gallery didn’t it?
BM: Yes, I have done all of those things and am still involved with many of them. These unique experiences have provided and helped me to develop good habits, strong character and solid values. Studying Kung Fu provides the foundation for me to do my best as an individual, and Glasschord Magazine provided the foundation upon which Brian Morris Gallery is being built. The other founding members, Gregory MacAvoy, Noah Post (my assistant director), Daniel McCabe, Phil Moffa, Vijay Singh and Patrick MacAvoy along with all of the GC community, which include over 100 artists and over 100,000 subscribers have collectively played a role in the gallery’s growth and success. I would not be doing this without them.
The common thread is having always enjoyed being around and involved with creative people. Composer Eric Maltz of ‘Peculiar Gentleman’, plays piano in the gallery twice a month, and has opened the door for more musical performances in the coming months. Poet Michael Collins and I are developing a writer’s workshop and a reading series. Geoff Young of Geoffrey Young Gallery and artist Gary Petersen helped guide Noah and me through this first year of development. All the artists that have shown here, and will show here, are so gracious and enthusiastic about the space and the potential of BMG. A list of all the artists that I’ve worked with is available on the website. In our first year, we’ve exhibited a solid group of emerging and mid-career artists.
PT: When did you open the gallery?
BM: We opened the doors December 11, 2012. It seems like a long time ago, already. So much has gone on in such a short time. I just added a backyard sculpture garden that can also be used for private events and performance. I intend to host theatre, poetry, music, comedy – whatever might lift the spirit of the community.
PT: What turns you on as a dealer?
BM: Truth, soul, rhythm the things you can’t fake. Mainly, all of the little connections between art, artists, and visitors that brings life to a space. Being a part of what’s true and relevant and grand.
Knowing that I can introduce art to people, and inspire them to take a second look at their surroundings, and perhaps encourage them to look deeper into themselves is a big part of what excites me as an art dealer. To be able to invite and encourage others to paticipate more fully in their own lives.
PT: So then you must collect as well?
BM: Absolutely. I have a collection of work from many of the artists that I show. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of being in this business.
PT: Where do you see the gallery going in the future?
BM: The gallery has been attracting a lot of attention as we come to the end of our first year. I would like to see the gallery become a cultural hub in the LES.
We are also looking to co-curate a 20,000 square foot warehouse in Bushwick with artist/curators Bonnie Rychlak and Peter Hopkins.
Coming up at the gallery we have some wonderful guest curators including Geoffrey Young and artist Rick Briggs. We will be showing work from artists such as Sean Greene, Michael Dotson, Brian Cypher, Jason Stopa and Russell Tyler. I also hope to see some new artists in here that I’ve recently begun a relationship with like Matt Phillips, Ruth Hardinger and Carol Salmanson. We have been hosting group shows up until this point, we may have some solo-shows in the second year program. Now, with the upstairs gallery space and the backyard sculpture garden, the dynamic of the gallery has changed immensely. The shows can now be even more exciting, more creative, include more artists, more work, more, more, more!