The Thursday Reviews and Faces of the Fallen
The WaPo's Jonathan Padget has a take on "Never Mind The Corcoran" at Warehouse Gallery.
In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews our current photography show in our Bethesda gallery and also reviews Andrea Way at Marsha Mateyka.
Also in the City Paper, Jeffry Cudlin delivers on a hard assignment: William Basinski and Richard Chartier's live electronic sound art at G Fine Art.
And there's also a very good piece by someone named Deborah Burand, who writes a really readable story on how her portrait came to be painted.
But it is the CP's Christ Shott who's got the best art story/review of the week, in discussing "Faces of the Fallen," a massive exhibition co-chaired by Annette Pollan.
A total of 1,678 American military personnel have perished so far in ongoing missions overseas, according to the Pentagon’s latest U.S. Casualty Status update. That’s 1,519 reported dead in Operation Iraqi Freedom plus 118 killed in and around Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and another 41 in other locations.The issue that is the core of Schott's article, is that some works have been pulled from the exhibition "on account of their content." This issue has not been (so far) discussed by anyone else from what I can find on the web.
"Faces of the Fallen," a massive outpouring of portraiture intended "to honor the American service men and women who have died," has room for only 1,327 of them. "There are that many of the fallen represented," says exhibit co-chair Annette Polan, a professor at the Corcoran College of Art & Design who recruited nearly 200 volunteers to memorialize each of the deceased through individual portraits.
Trying to keep an exhibition (homage?) like this apolitical, as Pollan has apparently tried to do, has to be one of the hardest tasks a curator has to face. She takes quite a bit of heat in the article.
And yet, exploiting a dead soldier's portrait to convey a political point of view (which may not have been shared by that soldier or by his family) is also a very difficult thing to swallow.
If you disagree, then reverse the sentiments of the artists discussed in Shott's article.
Imagine that a couple of the artists were "sooooo pro-war" that they would have submitted imagery glorifying war... say a portrait of one of the dead American soldiers with the inscription "avenge my death and kill 1,000 Iraquis for me and let God sort out the bad guys from the good guys."
We would all of course be horrified and probably no one would protest having that piece removed from the exhibition.
Two sides of a very dividing issue. You cannot support one without supporting the other.
There are no winners in a situation like this, and no art world Solomon can solve this issue. As much as anyone may disagree with the pro or anti war leanings of the artists, we must all support their right to express it; but as much as we may agree or disagree with the task and decisions of the curator, we must also all support his or her right to choose what is included, what gets pulled and how the exhibition ends up.
Read the CBS story here. According to CBS:
"This is to honor these men and women who have died, period," says portrait artist Annette Polan, who organized a couple of hundred artists to paint the portraits.Read the Seattle Post Intelligencer story here. According to the PI article:
The artists were told to "use your own style" and "be respectful for the soldiers and their families," said Anne Murphy, a volunteer organizer and president of Linkages, a consulting firm specializing in public policy and the arts.Read the New York Times story here. The Times writes:
"There will be someone who is unhappy" with a portrayal of their lost loved one, predicted Murphy, also a member of the acquisitions and exhibitions committee of the Corcoran Museum [sic] of Art.
Jean Prewitt of Birmingham, Ala., looked for the date of April 6, 2003, so she could find the picture of her son Kelley. He was her baby, all of 24, when he left for Iraq, she said. He was the soccer player, the Auburn University fan, the mischief maker.Lots more reviews from across the country here.
Ms. Prewitt said she came to the exhibit with no expectations, but she was touched that someone cared enough to do this for her and the other families. Then, through the jostling in the warm hall, she saw Kelley's portrait.
"I don't like it," she said. She got closer. She took out the photograph the portrait seemed to be based on, and the resemblance between it and the painting by the artist, Tom Mullany, appeared faint at best.
Her voice cracked. "This upsets me a lot," she said of the painting. Then she looked around at the crowd. She had said earlier that she knew everyone else at the hall would be from a family that had been destroyed, too. "But just being here upsets me, too."
The painting of Specialist Gregory P. Sanders, who was 19 when he was killed by a sniper on March 24, 2003, disappointed his family, too. His face is shadowy and gaunt in the portrait by Christine Chernow. His cherished big blue eyes are indeterminately dark.
But guided by the adamant cheerfulness of his mother, Leslie Sanders, his relatives remained gracious. "It doesn't matter," said Pat Knight, Specialist Sanders's grandmother. "It's the thought that counts."
The WaPo's jack-of-all-trades cultural writer Phillip Kennicott suddenly becomes a visual arts critic when he wrote about the exhibition yesterday and challenges the notion that if you "take a humble snapshot, turn it into a painting, or a sculpture, or a collage, and [then] it is somehow more than a photograph, more serious and honorable and respectful to the subject portrayed." Kennicott then goes on to get on a high pulpit and preaches to the readers; and in the process he misses the point completely.
But Kennicott's colleage, Libby Copeland, who is not a critic at all, sees what Kennicott's imperial view of art fails to see from the viewpoint of the plebian masses.
Copeland writes (bold effect is mine): "Painted portraits seem not only archaic but also impractical compared with photographs, which are taken in an instant and never drip. A portrait takes devotion, which is why painting a person can be an intimate process, even if you've never met your subject, even if the person died before you ever heard his name."
It's the thought that counts.