Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Post's chief art critic, Blake Gopnik delivers his veredict on the DC pandas public art projects as "art."

panda done by Hunters Wood Elementary School for Arts and Science Regardless of whatever opinion one may have about this project (which by the way nearly every American city now has a version (New York has apples, Los Angeles has angels, Norfolk has mermaids, Baltimore has fish - or it is crabs?) being "art" (in the hi-fallutin' sense of the word - after all I thought that these days everything is art) -- but after all these years I am still amazed by how true the trite saying "art is in the eyes of the beholder" truly is.

Of interest to me, Blake makes the statement:

"The finished sculptures are coloring-book art, too, only blown up in 3-D.

It would take a really skilled contemporary artist to turn a coloring book into something worth an art lover's time. There probably aren't more than a half-dozen artists in this city who could do it. But even those six don't seem to have made it onto the project's 150 artist list. On the long roster of panda decorators, there wasn't anyone whom the city's art aficionados would be likely to count as a top local talent."
This is interesting food for thought.

It's a message to the 150 people on the list: not only does the Chief Art Critic of the Washington Post think your are not a top local talent, but neither do "the city's art aficionados," by his account.


Blake also writes: "There were barely a handful of artists whose names I even recognized at all from any of my visits to studios or galleries or art schools in the region."

I certainly consider myself an "art aficionado," but I have neither been asked nor have I seen the list until now. And after having gone through it, I agree with Blake, as I do not recognize most names, although I did find a few artists that I did recognize, plus a DC gallery owner, plus a well-known national muralist, plus someone with the unfortunate same name as a world famous model (I bet she gets great tables at restaurants).

There were also a large number of schools participating in teams, which I think is a positive effect of this project, and pushes it more toward the "public art" effort that Gopnik objects to.

On the positive side, some his words are good news, because until that statement I was not aware that Mr. Gopnik regularly visited studios or galleries, or art schools around here on a regular basis. I stand corrected and I applaud Gopnik for doing that.

This eloquent man also writes: "For a city its size, it [Washington, DC] also has a surprisingly large and vibrant community of contemporary artists, dealers, collectors and curators who keep things humming on the local scene, and have been steadily pushing its standards up."

It would also be good if he'd help with getting that "large and vibrant community" not be such a surprise by starting to write also about "local" artists and "local" galleries more often so that we'd all realize that he's "in tune" with our "local" art scene.

The proof is in the pudding, I mean writing.