Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Thursday Reviews

Jessica Dawson has several mini reviews today in the WaPo. Read them here. Still no news from the WaPo as to who will be hired to augment Dawson's twice-a-week reviews. Something new in Jessica's writing (at least new to me):

I also loved Galo Moncayo's installation "So far, I do not know," with its garden of stereo speaker cones arranged faceup like lily pads emitting belches and pops.
At the WCP, Jeffry Cudlin reviews Adam Fowler at Flashpoint.

DC Warming: First and Second Reports

I received the below report from one of the people who was present at the DC Warming Panel. It was sent anonymously, and so I debated posting it here.

However, it does raise some interesting points and hopefully some debate. It will also hopefully come across as intelligent and constructive criticism, which is nearly always good. I'd love to hear more reports and present all sides, if there are any more sides. Here it goes:

This panel started off like all the other panel discussions that have ever happened before on the DC art scene: A comparison of DC to some place else. Oh the insecurity! Will it always be THE defining essence?

DC is the District of Columbia. There is no place else in the United States of America that compares.

The District of Columbia is not a state. It's not even really a city. It's located below the Mason Dixon line but refuses to be called southern. It's a town, filled with people from somewhere else. It is accustomed to a slow moving pace of the bureaucratic cogs.

There is no rotting industrial core for flies to dwell.

DCAC has always provided a stable for flies off the fetid alleyway.

There is a curatorial convenience of plunking Washington area artists into a regional box, and since this panel was being led by a Washington area curator, the discussion began inside the box.

Henry Estada was a refreshing new voice outside the box. Estada glowed with the confidence of a professional and the perspective of the outsider, the Latino "other". He repeatedly opened up doorways and attempted to lead the group outside of the box, but in the box they remained. And a group discussion never really evolved. Instead of a moderated group discussion, we had a direct question and answer panel, which is fine, but frustrating when panelists refused to answer the direct questions that they were given.

The most irritating panelist was "critic" Tyler Green. First off, one has to wonder why he is even on a panel about the DC scene when his interests seem to lie anywhere else but the District of Columbia. Andrea Pollan asked an important question that he was unable to answer: Why does he focus so much energy on criticizing the critics?

Could the answer be because it is easy? What DC artist has Tyler Green championed, that was not already championed by someone else?

Tyler Green revealed his ignorance of the DC scene by making a point that no artists in DC make political art or that there is no history of political art in DC.

Oh really? Well, what was Steven Lewis doing? Excuse me, that was political art. What was Tom Nakashima doing (the other local who happened to receive a Joan Mitchell grant?) That's political art. Kendall Buster's husband Siemon Allen makes political art. But some might argue that Siemon Allen isn't a Washington artist anymore.

What about Hemphill's exhibition of Eduardo del Valle & Mirta Gomez, Cornell Capa, Bob Adelman, Eve Arnold and others. Does it really matter if these artists live in the Washington area or not? Well, Tyler Green claimed he had to go to Marfa, Texas to see political art.

It is simply not true.

It's even easier to argue the point and bring up racial and sexual political art that is being made here.

What is Jefferson Pinder making? Political art. Nekisha Durrett is making political art. Oh, you don't think that is what Tyler Green was talking about, eh?

Well, it cannot be denied that current flashpoints of national political debates include race, homosexuality, and religion.

An audience member asked a legitimate question to the panelists, where do they (the experts) see the next trend in Washington area art? Pause. Mouths drop open and Pollan finally spews sarcastic with "what'ya think we're FORTUNE TELLERS?"

Well, that type of response is a real conversation killer. You get more flies with honey.

Is sarcasm kind or is it mean-spirited? Could that type of response be born of an insecurity? Could a kinder response, while perhaps lacking the charge of mean-spirited humor, been more productive to the arts community as a whole? More productive to outreach efforts that, in fact, could sustain the local market in the long run?

Where is Tyler Green's critical response?

Flies overhead were privy to audience members whispering about content driven craft as being the next big Washington trend. Perhaps the sarcasm from the experts rendered them reticent.

Jerry Saltz coined the term "The Super Paradigm."

The Super Paradigm has overt weaknesses, including its vastness, lack of positive charge focused around change, an inability to form coherent groups and a tendency to undervalue the local. Other art centers are scenes more than worlds; they generate artists in clumps and clusters and are enormously supportive of their own. The Super Paradigm processes everything individually. It is so large that it's hard to get a fix on what's going on in it.

The upside of the Super Paradigm is that while more bad art surfaces, everything is potentially viable within it. Artists over 35 have a chance. This is creating permutations and anomalies.

Where does Washington, DC fit into The Super Paradigm? What permutations and anomalies are arising? What (or who) is proving to be the positive charges focused around change? Obviously, Philip Barlow, Henry Estada, and Victoria Reis are some. Had there been more focus on developing a group discussion, perhaps these panelists could have shown themselves to be the real "outside the box" thinkers that they are.

Artists make the work they are compelled to make, then they usually start to bump into members of their "tribe" all over the place, becoming aware of kinships formally or conceptually with other artists (or writers, etc.). Geography really has nothing to do with it.

It is more like shared webs of sensibility/influence/intuition/concern that are much larger than the immediate physical geography. An artist may find their local "tribe" first from sheer convenience, but that doesn't mean it ends there, or that the local connections will end up necessarily being the strongest at the end of the day.

There was an audience member who made a statement that political art was possibly the only path by which DC could distinguish itself and have a recognizable "movement." BUT, more importantly - in our globalized world & (art)world, why would such a specific, place-bound reference (politics) be the "only way" DC could stand out? We need bigger webs, man, bigger webs.


We need wide angle thinking among our (self-anointed) "movers and shakers."

The first way to conquer the insecurity is to honestly admit to it.

Comments and responses on this piece are welcome.

A second report was phoned in by Joseph Barbaccia, an artist currently showing in our Bethesda gallery, who started by making the observation that there were "a lot of flies, all slow and groggy from the cold," and to Joe it underscored a point in that he felt that the evening's discussion was more akin to "DC Freezing" than warming!

Joe expressed the point that he feels this way because no arguments or heated discussions on the subject of the panel was ever raised. However, he noted that he expressed this to Tyler Green, who convinced Joe that no arguments are needed to assure the vitality of the DC art scene.

Joe further adds that "there was no vitality in the panel or audience," and because there were eight panelists, a lot of time was consumed in just introductions, and that the two hours went by very quickly. He also noted that he had heard that some of the panelists were not aware that a $20 entry fee was being charged.

Barbaccia also pointed out to me that "Tyler Green was the only one saying anything of substance that addressed the DC Warming theme," and that Green made the point that "when people in Los Angeles or New York look at DC, they only think of museums and not so much of galleries."

Barbaccia also noted that the panel rarely addressed the DC art scene "warming," but he feels this was mainly because there were just too many panel members, the audience was never engaged (only 6-8 questions were asked from a crowd of 40 or so people). Joe wants to know: "where are the facts?"

Sounds like we need DC Warming Part II! (A smaller panel perhaps?)

Anyway, I applaud both DCAC and ArtTable for organizing this panel, kick-starting some discussions (at least here) and maybe they can get a round two to have the panelists react to these commentaries and suggestions in version two?

Tomorrow Kriston at grammar.police has promised to put up his personal observations of the panel in his most excellent Blog.

Anyone else who was there and who would like to add their two cents, please email me.

P.S. One of the panel members was identified in the ArtTable news release as "Henry Estada." Is that his correct last name or is it "Estrada"?

Update: It is "Estrada" and not "Estada." And for the record, in my opinion there's no such thing as "Latino/a Art."

Update Two: Andrea Pollan, moderator of DC Warming responds:
Dear all,

I was the moderator of the panel that Faith Flanagan kindly organized for ArtTable. It was a broad mix of panelists including an artist, a collector, arts administrators, curators, an art consultant and an arts journalist. Naturally with such a broad range of interests, and so many panelists, and so little time, I could only scratch the surface of such a rich and fertile terrain.

To the Anon contributor, certainly you have a right to your perspective and opinions. My comment about whether we see new trends developing in Washington, DC was certainly not meant to be sarcastic. As I recall, I smiled and said, "You mean fortune-telling?" It was intended to be light-hearted and certainly not mean-spirited. Sorry if you felt it was a conversation killer, but I recall it raised the discussion about political art. (And that's such a rich subject-plenty of material for another panel.)

Any curator knows that one should always take cues from the artist and the artistic output and not try to impose an artificial framework upon a city. Zeitgeists come and go. I see such a huge diversity of artistic output and aesthetic strategies among this city's artists, that I cannot say that I see a stylistic trend that is unique to this city. If anything, the artists of thiscity are becoming aware of global trends and want their work to enter that important context.

The idea of DC Warming had more to do with the growing level of interest in contemporary art that seems to be emerging (there's that word) across the city. Not a "Who's Hot" panel. If it had been a "Who's Hot" panel, it would have been called that. Personally I tend not to like those kinds of panels because they tend to serve the market and media more than the artist in the long run.

ArtTable is a wonderful national organization of women arts administrators from all kinds of backgrounds, not just contemporary art. The programs are meant to edify the membership and allow us to know what directions are occuring in other museums, galleries, educational institutions, and publications. I was happy that ArtTable opened this panel up to the public.

On a personal front, I have dedicated the better part of my life to making DC an exciting art city working with over 2000 artists, 80% of whom live in this area. And I won't even mention the 24/7 I have put in trying to do outreach to develop new audiences for contemporary art. So, I hardly feel that your characterization of me as elitist is appropriate. But then again, I believe in freedom of speech. So that's why I choose to work with interesting and provocative artists.

Andrea Pollan

DC Warming

If anyone took any notes or has any comments on the DC Warming Panel and discussions, please email them to me, as I'd like to give that panel's comments and observations wider exposure here.

Inaugural Installation

Because of the Presidential Inauguration, DC is in a state of security lockdown, and the last thing I want to do today is to be anywhere near downtown Washington. But unfortunately I have to install the new show that opens tomorrow, so I think that I'll be hanging that show later tonight.

Listen Missy

Listen Missy is a new (to me anyway, as it has been around since 2000) DC Blog with interesting photos and commentary. Some good shots of her visit to MOMA here.

Visit often.

The Tale of an Art World Lawsuit

This excellent article by Walter Robinson is one of the main reasons why our only "backers" or "investors" are Mr. Visa and Mr. Mastercard.

One of the basic laws of Cryptology is that there are no coincidences... and our Richmond neighbor ANABA seems to have found quite a few coincidences in a possible "insider art trading" issue.

Read about Douglas Fogle, a Mehetru painting, and an intelligent Blogger waiting for a clarification.