Home Is Where The Art Is

For Maximiliano Ferro and A. W. [Allen] Strouse, location is everything—and nothing. Though normally the two run an art gallery out of their apartment deep in Bushwick, Ferro Strouse is currently working outside of the comforts of home: on the Lower East Side, where they’ve organized a show of Nick Parker’s work as part of Hundred Forsyth’s four-month-long series ambitiously titled Summer Shows (As Many As Possible).

At Ferro Strouse Gallery in Bushwick, the faux-wood-paneled walls remind you of your grandparents’ basement, cake is served at openings instead of wine, and visitors sometimes can’t tell the difference between art and a pile of dirty laundry. But don’t expect Allen and Max to spell it out for you; part of their project is all about blurring the boundaries between public, private, work, art, gallery, home, friendship, and working partnership. Often, you'll find them doing their work on the same couch from which they've just watched a movie. And this changes your experience as a visitor: “When people come to [our] shows, it’s as if they were at a friend’s house,” says Max. “Even if we don’t know them. Because there’s a couch, there’s a bed, there’s a chair, there’s clothes on the floor—it transforms it from a gallery situation; it’s a more recognizable experience.”

After meeting their collaborators (Suzie Oppenheimer and Margaret Kross, who are helming Hundred Forsyth for the summer) and checking out the gallery, we sat down with Max and Allen across the street in Sara D. Roosevelt Park to talk about what it’s like to navigate the web of identities they’ve been busy building. 

NYC-APs: How would you define yourselves? You have a gallery that you run out of your apartment in Bushwick, but you’re also working on the Lower East Side. And you did a show in Miami too. So does that make you gallerists, does that make you curators, does that make you—

MF: Geniuses?

NYC-APs: —nomadic gallerists?

AS: I don’t know what our identity is really. I mean we are curators and we are gallerists.

MF: And we’re also—I’m an artist and Allen’s a writer.

AS: I’m also an academic, I’m also an activist—

MF: I’m also an alien.

A.W. Strouse (L) and Maximiliano Ferro (R) : Geniuses or Aliens? Photo: Steph Ziemann

AS: We also live in the house and that’s part of the project and we’re also friends, and there’s all these identities that are part of this thing, and they don’t really cohere. From the beginning, even when it’s been in our house, it’s been ambiguous whether it’s a business or a hobby because it’s really both and we take it seriously but we’re also just having fun.

MF: For me it’s important to take it how it comes. Like if someone said, “Oh, I have this space on a boat, you want to put an art gallery on it? We’re going to sail across the Atlantic,” then I’d say yeah sure let’s do it, but then it would be a different thing. Or I’d see it differently, but I’d still feel that it was Ferro Strouse Gallery. So it doesn’t necessarily change our identity because I see it as being really fluid. It’s in our house because that’s kind of what we have, but then we’re conceptualizing around our…um…our…tools, let’s say.

AS: Did you ever read Orlando? It’s about this Elizabethan courtier who becomes a woman and lives for the next six centuries, and keeps getting…altered by historical circumstances in these really profound ways; like she can’t live how she wants to live or she has to get married because Victorian people are so obsessed with it, and uh—well that’s not really a good metaphor for this, but her situation is that she always is who she is. But wherever she goes she’s somebody new. I really believe that if you have a vision and you make it happen wherever you go, it doesn’t matter where you’re doing it as long as you keep the same value system. Something that makes it work is that it’s not a conceptual project. We’re not having the gallery at our house to say anything. We’re just coming at it from this place of wanting to do things, like, make the world that we want to live in; where friends come over to each others’ houses and share each others’ art and everyone can participate and make a living. I feel like what we’re doing is this post-individual, boundary-blurring, our home is our business is our home is—

Ferro Strouse Gallery during one of their openings. Photo: Paul Benney

MF: Is on the Internet.

AS: Everything we do is art, but none of it is art. Art doesn’t resemble life anymore and life doesn’t resemble life.

MF: Facebook resembles life.

AS: There aren’t any boundaries anymore between work and relaxation, the domestic and the public, the work and the artist. Everything is just consumed into one weird—like the Internet. Everything is on the Internet now.

MF: When we had the show in Miami, a lot of people weren’t able to see it. One of my friends was in Japan and when I saw her here she was like, “That was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.” She had just seen ten photos of it. And that just blew my mind. It’s like humans have now been able to actually take that experiential leap. When I was little I used to be really wary of reading; it blew my mind. If I did read I would have to read straight through a book. I couldn’t stop. When I would finish I would get really strange because I had started reading and it was noon, and now it was dark out and I’d be like, "Where’d you put the day? Where’d the day go? What have I done? I’ve just laid here." But also, I was like,"I was just on a boat," and, you know…And I think that mind-blowingness happens on the Internet in a different way. People are okay with actually not living something, but living it in a different way. The space is a gallery, it’s in our house, it’s also on the Internet, but we can also have a gallery on the Lower East Side. People are like, "Oh this is your gallery?" And I’m like, sort of…

AS: I don’t know how much I subscribe to that. I don’t really like the Internet. I don’t really like Facebook. I look at images of stuff and I don’t really feel a connection. I like to make things in reality. I have 400 Facebook friends, but getting them to all come to my house, that’s nicer.

NYC-APs: What is that thing about Ferro Strouse that stays the same even when it moves from place to place?

MF: I think I can’t even answer that, because it’s almost like—I can sense it. But let’s say I had to say something: It’d be an openness to exploring things that we’re attracted to.

"People are okay with actually not living something, but living it in a different way." Photo: Steph Ziemann