Interview by Thomas Dewey Davis

Interview with Rafael Amadeo Foster

Viktor Timofeev, God Room, Alyssa Davis Gallery, 2018.

Rafael Amadeo Foster, Founder of Newton and recipient of the 2022 Gramercy International Prize, speaks to The Armory Show about the gallery's vision and presentation of Paul Gondry and Viktor Timofeev at the fair in September.

The Gramercy International Prize was initiated by The Armory Show in 2019, during the 25th Anniversary of the fair, to support the advancement of young and pioneering New York galleries. The Armory Show was originally launched in 1994 by four New York gallerists—Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, and Paul Morris—as a grassroots effort to support and celebrate the avant-garde. To honor this legacy, the Gramercy International Prize winner is selected, in part, for their embodiment of the spirit of the fair’s founders. How do you see yourself as continuing this legacy?

Paul Amadeo Foster and Paul Gondry. Courtesy of Newton.

Gallerists like Colin de Land and Pat Hearn have inspired many younger galleries like me with MX and Paul Gondry with 15orient. The Armory Show’s presentation of works by John Waters alongside Andrea Fraser and an early nerdy Mark Dion shaped my childish fantasy of the New York art world’s potential.

The concept of community building through fictional narratives, alter egos, anonymous players, and unlicensed curators was a part of their commitment to worldbuilding. Today, this “worldbuilding” is a common tool used by communities made via Discord, early Media Fire, etc. Their ethos of embracing both casual and grandiose experimentation is a legacy that we hope to include in Newton’s programming.

For now, our projects in less traditionally exhibited media generates an admittedly distinct aesthetic, but we maintain an openness to collaborate with artists working through transitions and working within maligned mediums. We are building an infrastructure for a community of artists that need practical resources and speed to execute their narrative-based projects, and a space that is capable of producing and publishing.

Viktor Timofeev, God Room, Alyssa Davis Gallery, 2018.

In the past couple of months, Newton has been transitioning from its previous name MX Gallery. Could you talk a little bit about what inspired this change and what you’re looking forward to in this new program? We read the name was inspired by Isaac Newton.

Newton refers simultaneously to the canonical natural philosopher, Isaac Newton; the historically de-centered social philosopher, Huey Newton; and a defunct Apple product that was later developed into the iPhone. Newton is the rubric under which we recognize the scientific method, frustrated impulse, critical insight, and dissolution as universal and useful for our operation.

Paul Gondry, Various Others 2019, Deborah Schamoni, Munich 2019.
Newton is the rubric under which we recognize the scientific method, frustrated impulse, critical insight, and dissolution as universal and useful for our operation.

Seeing as the program looks to showcase emerging video and media platforms, could you talk about how you’ve seen the contemporary landscape shift recently towards digital works and how you see the gallery responding to new mediums?

A cheeky response could be “the future is now.” Digital art isn’t new, it’s just being made recently visible. It, historically, ebbs in and out of visibility—these tools have been on the cusp of ubiquity for their lifetimes. There was a time when simply rendering something in 3D, owning a TITAN card, or knowing how to sarcastically tweak a mapped texture was considered a miraculous crossover, but, now, reflecting, crossing over has always been a just a quip anyway.

We referenced both the past and the future through a name like Newton because we are more interested in revelation than speculation. We hope to avoid newness labeling platforms as “new.” We also work and have had success in traditional productions like theater. We hope to be an old place for these previously “new-ish” types of work and at the same time, graciously avoid some of the formal, practical, conceptual restrictions that are true of a traditional gallery.

We’re excited if people might encounter a medium for the first time and enjoy something they haven’t experienced before—especially if it might build a new relationship with that might have been a bit alienating. These new tools have been slowly democratizing, and we’re just giving gravitas to more types of making and arguing for a place for these projects somewhere between “entertainment industry” and grand institutional art funding.

Paul Gondry, Various Others 2019, Deborah Schamoni, Munich 2019.
Paul Gondry, Le pays du soleil, Futura, Prague 2020.
Digital art isn’t new, it’s just being made recently visible. It, historically, ebbs in and out of visibility—these tools have been on the cusp of ubiquity for their lifetimes.

Your presentation in September will feature the work of Paul Gondry and Viktor Timofeev. Could you tell us more about each of their practices and what inspired you to want to bring them to the fair?

Paul and Victor are really representative of the types of practices that interest us, those in which the same person occupies different roles in different contexts, or they produce seemingly unrelated types of work simultaneously. Paul joined the team after running a traditional space like 15orient, and, like me, wanted to rethink both the role of the traditional gallerist and the traditional gallery.

At its core, The Armory Show looks to showcase emerging talent and provide a platform for new voices to thrive. What do you envision for the future of Newton and the artists you represent?

I thank The Armory Show for supporting unconventional projects like ours. Our goal, in revealing how artists actually work, think, interact, and learn, offers a narrative context that allows this kind of production to be appreciated.

Paul Gondry, film still from: Chronicles of Shpongle, 2020
Viktor Timofeev, God Room, Alyssa Davis Gallery, 2018.