Launch F18 didn’t just happen of its own accord—things shook out almost as if Tim Donovan and Sam Trioli were made to work together. They came to art from opposite angles. Sam started when he was quite young, finding the fire of inspiration in a failed glazing experiment in preschool. Tim found art much later in life, falling into a good relationship as an artist assistant and young protege with Helene Aylon. He was introduced to art scene heavyweights and encouraged to look into an art career of his own by going to school. It was in deciding to pursue art at the same institution as Sam that the seed of F18 was born.
Their beginning curating together was actually quite serendipitous. Sam remembers forgetting his books in the art history classroom where a meeting for the school gallery committee was just beginning. As he recalls, “I opened the door and heard ‘Oh awesome! Sam’s here to join us.’ I was too shy to say that I wasn’t there for the meeting, so I sat down and hung out for a little bit. The next day the other two people on the committee quit and Tim and I were left holding the baton.”
Though Tim had previously begun working curating and art making in tandem within his practice, for Sam this was a new leap, and one that would soon prove quite fruitful. The two curated a number of shows together during this time, working their organizational and creative explorations in tandem. As Tim puts it, “I am all about language and exploration, so curating became another medium I could use to ‘make art’”.
After putting together different projects in semi-permanent locations throughout the east coast for a number of years, Tim initiated a project called Launch Art which was a platform for showcasing new and emerging talent. This project soon gained a bit of steam, until four years ago when the perfect space to initiate a more permanent location in NYC was found in TriBeCa, and Launch F18 was born. This became the ideal base for Sam and Tim to really dig in and begin producing some head-turning exhibitions together.
In looking into putting together a new show, the two draw inspiration from everywhere across the mental map. Sam is the drummer for a band called the World War I’s and finds that, “atmosphere can be an incredibly inspiring component for me, and I love to be challenged to achieve that cross-pollination from it successfully working from one medium (this case being music) to something completely visual.” Tim finds aesthetic motivation in the varied strata of exhibition formats to be found throughout the art world, while at the same time being cognizant of focusing on what he describes as specific areas of energy. This can mean anything from studying the art coming out of a certain corner of the world, to asking artists he admires for suggestions on a certain theme he is working on putting together.
For a relatively young gallery, they have been able to find a generous mix of artists to show, from emerging talent such as Kottie Paloma, Raul Gonzalez, and Ryan Steadman to blue-chip names like Jenny Holzer, Tracey Emin, and Gilbert and George.
When conceiving of a project, the two bring the work to their space carrying a general sense of how everything fits together, but they remain alert and aware throughout the entire process. Arranging the show often fosters the emergence of new connections and Tim an Sam have always been open to ideas that may have gone unnoticed until they present themselves in the moment. As Tim explains, “Sam and I (independently and as a team) have spent many hours hanging and re-hanging exhibitions to find out the best way to have the works communicate. It is tremendously interesting to watch how the work tells us how it should be presented.”
The two have something of a ying and yang relationship, finding a solid balance between their ideas and a common interest in allowing strong work to show it’s true colors throughout the course of an exhibition. The space is always a concern for any curator, but for Sam and Tim, the interaction between the space and the work is what really produces the magic of an exhibition. Tim states it quite completely in saying, “There certainly are many rewards to curating, but my favorite is walking into an exhibition you’ve curated the day you’re taking it down, and loving it as much then as when you first hung it.” This same truth holds for Sam who states that, “Although I’m definitely attracted to many different forms of art and their processes, I would say that I’m always trying to see how little you need to create a big impact.”
The two have been lucky enough to strike a fluid balance between their own ideas for what makes a successful exhibition, while still keeping an open mind enough to be able to collaborate with other institutions in putting together shows. They have worked together with Site 95 a couple times, and also shown and collaborated with artist, curator, and editor Noah Becker.
Being artists themselves, Tim and Sam relish the opportunity to cash in on some of that good old art world karma, taking the curator hat off just long enough to show their own work where appropriate. The prefect opportunity has recently presented itself in an upcoming two-person show at Beta Pictoris Gallery in Birmingham, Alabama. Not only will Tim and Sam be able to show their own work at this time, but their work will be the focus of this exhibition.
Don’t count on either of these gentlemen to step off the curator train any time soon though—the experience of putting together a successful show holds too much value for Sam and Tim in cultivating their own artistic practices. The experience is one that continues to grow and mature as they put more work together in their space. As Sam puts it, “There is nothing more rewarding than experiencing the energy of a great exhibition. It’s like hitting a home run, the crowd goes wild, you take your lap, and then you’re right back to work. As they say, good work is rewarded by more work, and I absolutely love that.”
Look for more great work from these two in the near future, on both sides of the gallery desk. F18’s aren’t known for moving all that slowly, and at the speed this duo is traveling, you may be sorely disappointed in yourself if you blink.