Assembly: Co-Founders on A Mission to Bring Positive Change to the Art World by Reimagining Models for Artist Support

Co-founded by former non-profit directors Ashlyn Davis Burns (formerly Houston Center for Photography) and Shane Lavalette (formerly Light Work), Assembly was created in response to the need to more expansively support and amplify diverse voices working in photography, mixed-media, video, and sound. By bringing together elements of a gallery, agency, creative studio, and art advisory, Assembly aims to holistically nurture artists and their practice while cultivating opportunities and collaborations with a global network of creatives, in both the fine art and commercial worlds.

With over two decades of combined experience supporting emerging, mid-career, and under-recognized artists through exhibitions, publications, fundraising initiatives, and public programs, Burns and Lavalette have developed an artist-centric model that bridges the gap between the different sectors of the arts and photography fields. “We have a passion for bringing creative minds together to make exciting and meaningful projects a reality,” says Lavalette, “whether that results in exhibitions, publications, commissions, or placing artworks into collections where they will be seen and appreciated.”

Over the past year, as commercial and non-profit galleries have closed their doors due to the pandemic, arts organizations have been challenged to develop new, virtual ways of community-building and advocacy for artists. Assembly was created in this spirit and will exist as a hybrid platform without fixed walls—instead, developing opportunities for programming in many locales, reflective of the diverse roster of artists represented and the global network Assembly is building.

Burns notes, “Assembly is dedicated to supporting artists who are engaging in some of the most important social and cultural issues of our time. With rich, research-based practices, our roster includes innovative voices who are quickly gaining in international acclaim and whose work is represented in important institutional collections.” Assembly’s award-winning artists are included in such prestigious collections as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in San Francisco, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London, the Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam, and the Musée de l’Elysée in Switzerland, among many others.

Assembly’s co-founders note that their website was created with the .art domain to clearly position the platform within the context of the art world. Assembly is quickly situating itself as a leading gallery | agency hybrid for contemporary artists working in photography, mixed media, video, and sound. 

In the commercial sphere, many of the artists have also collaborated with magazines and brands on distinctive creative projects, campaigns, and stories. Clients include The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York Magazine, TIME Magazine, Time Out New York, BBC, Balenciaga, Nike Lab, Guerlain, Mame Kurogouchi, the Wall Street Journal, and Vogue. Assembly plans to connect art directors and photo editors with artists that can bring their unique artistic vision to commissioned work.  

Assembly’s inaugural roster includes the following artists: 

David O. Alekhuogie (American, b. 1986) maintains a multi-disciplinary practice that investigates memory, technology, media, power, and identity.

Poulomi Basu (Indian, b. 1983) is an award-winning transmedia artist, photographer, and activist whose work advocating for the rights of women has received international attention.

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. 1977) delves into Latin American urban, labor, and environmental issues through documentary-style landscapes and portraiture.

Alinka Echeverría (Mexican, b. 1981) works at the intersection of photography and social anthropology, using her photographs to interrogate history, culture, and the representation of women in photography.

Alanna Fields (American, b. 1990) makes work that draws from Black queer archives—working with vernacular and found photographs and mixed media to consider the ways in which we process images from the past.

Fumi Ishino (Japanese, b. 1984) is an artist whose work explores issues of meaning, cultural interpretation, and the constructed space primarily through photography and installation.

Sarker Protick (Bangladeshi, b. 1986) makes work that revolves around the subjects of temporality, the materiality of time, and the metaphysical prospects of light and space.

Rodrigo Valenzuela (Chilean, b. 1982) creates work informed by painting and sculpture that points to tensions surrounding subjects such as immigration and labor.

Cristina Velásquez (Colombian, b. 1985) works in both photography and weaving in order to examine postcolonial structures of power and issues of race and class in Latin America.

Vasantha Yogananthan (French, b. 1985) addresses the space between documentary and fiction. Among his bodies of work, includes an ambitious seven-chapter project based on India’s national epic, The Ramayana.

As part of the platform’s Spring 2021 launch, Assembly will debut Index of Fillers, a new, limited-edition, handmade artist book by LA-based artist, Fumi Ishino. Following his acclaimed book, rowing a tetrapod (published by MACK, 2017), Index of Fillers expands on the artist’s alienated sense of cultural representation through found images of Japanese visual culture from the late 1980s and 1990s along with his own photographs. Assembly is planning for additional limited-edition artist books, exhibitions, and public programs for this year, including a presentation of the culmination of artist Vasantha Yognananthan’s long-term project, A Myth of Two Souls, in Fall 2021. 

To know more about Assembly visit their official website, assembly.art and follow them on Instagram under the handle @assemblyprojects.