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Cat Math and Carpentry: The Galleries' Preparators

By Kaitlin Hanrahan

As viewers of art, we often are told not to touch paintings and sculptures. The Galleries’ preparators, however, are paid to do just that. Preston Link, Monika Kuder, Lexi Rompilla and Jonathan Santoro—all of whom have art degrees—make sure every exhibition looks perfect.

As both a sculptor and chief preparator, Link is well-versed in the art of heavy lifting. In addition to his recent sculpture exhibition at the Pageant : Soloveev art gallery—a pyramid comprised entirely of The Da Vinci Code books—Link’s body of work also includes a 500-pound “rock” constructed from nearly 200 layers of laser-cut, multicolored acrylic sheets. And he recently hoisted 300- to 400-pound prints at The Print Center in Rittenhouse Square.

He got his start in gallery installation as a work-study student in Penn State’s Zoller Gallery. He’s been working in galleries for over 16 years, nearly 11 of which have included installations in Moore's Galleries.

“I’ve probably installed or been a part of installing 500 shows,” said Link, who has a BFA in painting. For him, the most enjoyable aspect of working in art galleries is the opportunity to blend creativity and problem-solving to make a piece of art look its best—to bring artistic vision into reality.

HERDING CATS

Despite graduating from Moore with a degree in Curatorial Studies and a minor in 3D art, Monika Kuder ’11 never wanted to be the artist. “I didn’t like the pressure, the due dates…it’s a lot of work to create,” she said. Instead, Kuder funnels her artistic and “fiddly” natures into curating and installing the creations of other artists.

“You do a lot of cat math trying to figure out distances and how everything fits,” she explains, referring to how cats size up the height of a countertop before leaping. As for the annual installation of Moore’s Senior Show, which displays art by dozens of students before they graduate, she said, “If we’re going to keep on the cat metaphors… You have to be really good at herding cats. You’ve got to be really patient and see the big picture because everybody else is zoomed in on their own thing.”

Once the tedious process of herding, painting, measuring, arranging, hammering and lighting an exhibition is finished, Kuder finds satisfaction in being able to stand back and take in her work. “When you’ve hung a show and you light it and it's all done and you can see it and you’re like, ahhhhh. It’s a visible, measurable success. That always feels great.”

Each has handled memorable installations. Link installed the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence at the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia a couple of years ago.

“It had the edits and notes in the margin, written by Franklin and Jefferson,” he said. Kuder had the opportunity to frame Picasso sketches for a private collector.

Published on June 26th, 2020