Dean Daderko, CAMH's Newest Curator, Talks Duchamp, NYC Life and Programming Exhibits in a Spare Bedroom

He's put together art shows in the States and abroad, nearly opened a restaurant and now he's one of the latest additions to the Houston art scene.

A few weeks ago, Dean Daderko officially started his post as curator at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. For years, the creative type worked out of New York City, where he organized exhibits ranging from performance and experimental conceptual work to painting shows. Additionally, from 2000 to 2005, he programmed 38 shindigs at Parlour Projects, which was the 15-foot-long spare bedroom of his Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment.

Daderko explains that while he was in the middle of a longstanding stint as an independent curator, "There were occasional jobs that would come up that I would say, 'Yeah, this is something that I would leave the city for.'" Those included a curatorial research fellowship in Paris, a three-month teaching gig in Buenos Aires and a two-month curatorial residency in Montreal.

When the deeds were done, he always came back. But after a bit, he says, "It became clearer and clearer that there were really fantastic and energetic things happening outside of [New York City] that I became increasingly interested in being able to connect with."

Then the CAMH gig opened up. Though he had only spent about 24 hours here, he accepted the job previously held by Valerie Cassel Oliver, who's currently a senior curator at CAMH.

Daderko's first big project is organizing a group show that will look at how certain artists responded to the readymades of Marcel Duchamp, the French Dadaist's "visual indifference" pieces that turned a porcelain fountain and dog-grooming comb into "art."

The exhibit "will look at how artists have taken that idea and overlaid it with historic, political and other issues to bring other narratives to the fold," he says. The show is scheduled to open in May 2012.

Daderko is also finding his footing in a city that he's lived in for less than three weeks. Instead of setting up shop in the creative heart, he decided to post up at a place just outside of the Loop.

"People were saying to me, 'Oh, you'll want to live in Montrose or the Heights,'" explains Daderko. "I did a little casting around and looked at some places there, and very quickly, as a New Yorker who has been shoehorning myself into a tiny box for a long time and calling it home, I instead found an opportunity to get a nice big place and have some real space to entertain and have guests."

A few years ago, Daderko came close to opening a restaurant in Philadelphia with a national of Yugoslavia (now Serbia) who had schooled herself in cooking Italian. Daderko, who holds a minor in botany, ultimately decided against that and instead focused on curating as well as his art/garden hybrid project that he calls "Benign Neglect."

As far as his curating style, Daderko isn't about to label himself a specialist in any one medium. Instead, he says, "The kind of art that I like is good art."

"Ultimately, what I'm doing is trucking in ideas and images. As a curator, I always felt like it was my responsibility to find the most interesting and engaging images and ideas and to surround myself with a community of people who are very interested in those and want to know more."

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen