Thursday, May 12, 2005

Compelled by Content

Following two sold out solo shows (one in Georgetown and one in Bethesda), we asked Tim Tate to curate a group show for us.

We discussed having a show that would fit in with our galleries' focus and goals, and thus the show would have to avoid the highly decorative vision most often associated with fine art glass: the vessel.

Because Tate's own work is driven by his experiences, such as being HIV positive, his mother's death, etc., he has been able (and very successfully I might add) to cross an interesting juncture in the world of fine art: away from the decorative vessel and well within the context-driven camps of fine art.

And this is what we asked of Tim to do for us.

Mind Body and Soul by Ross RichmondAnd thus tomorrow evening we will open Compelled by Content, an exhibition curated by Tate and featuring 13 artists who use glass as the vehicle to express ideas, narratives, issues and thoughts, rather than to decorate. They are: Diane Cabe, Brent Coles, Michael Janis, Allegra Marquart, Syl Mathis, Elizabeth Mears, Turi McKinley, Marc Petrovic, Ross Richmond, Alison Sigethy, Tim Tate, Erwin Timmers and Lea Topping.

The premise behind this exhibition has already caused some stir (and every single one of Tate's pieces have already sold - all of them to a very influential local art collector - before the exhibition even opened).

Even more surprising to me, there is a tremendously heated debate in the fine art glass online community.

This is the original classified announcement listing about the exhibition and subsequent comments: Original Posting, which then jumped to main board listing for 9 pages: Main Board Comments, then spawned a parody of the main board listing for two pages: Parody Listing, and the current listing on the topic:Current Listing.

Liar Paradox by Michael JanisIt is surprising and good to see such debate in the artists who feed the genre; it has already, in a sense, proven the focus and theme of this show. In the preface for a book just published on this exhibition I wrote:

"Alfred Stieglitz has often been credited with dragging photography into the realm of the fine arts, and I think that now the time is ripe for courageous contemporary artists to once and for all bring glass out of the realm of craft and into the rarified world of fine art.

And like the many other genres of art that we automatically accept as "fine art," without questions of craft or segregation to "glass only galleries," content is one of the ideal concepts that empower art beyond technical skill and visual beauty. It is through content that today's artists working this demanding media are dragging glass into the realm of the fine arts.

About time."
The opening reception to meet all the artists is tomorrow, Friday the 13th, from 6-9PM as part of the Bethesda Art Walk. We're also working to have this exhibition travel to a Baltimore, MD venue and to a Miami, Florida venue.

See ya there!


Since we have our own opening tomorrow (more on that later), I went to see J.T. Kirkland's first solo show the other day.

It's always very difficult to put down objective words when writing art criticism; critics will lie (to themselves mostly) and tell how how objective they are when they pen a review. Bull! As Diane Keaton or Woody Allen would say: "Objectivity is Subjective..."

And it is especially difficult when writing about a fellow blogger and fellow artist. But let me try anyway...

I've been privvy (as have all of Kirkland's readers at Thinking About Art) to see JT develop, not only as a writer, but also as an artist, right before our PC screens. That alone, merits some thought when thinking about his art.

Shadow by JT KirklandIn addition to witnessing his art develop before our eyes, I've also exhibited in a show that included work by Kirkland, and was in that manner also privvy to his fussyness about how his work is displayed (good for him!).

There are some artists, and JT is one of them, whose work defies verbal description, just imagine the phone ringing in a gallery somewhere:

Riiiiing, Riiiing!

Bored Gallerist: "Hello, Snobby Gallery"

JT: "Good afternoon, my name is JT Kirkland and I'd like to discuss my artwork to see if your gallery would have some interest in seeing some slides and reviewing the work?"

Bored Gallerist: "Tell me about it..."

JT: "Well... it's very minimalist"

Bored Gallerist (slightly interested): "Good... we like minimalism"

JT (a little excited): "I know, I researched that and thought that my work would fit in with your gallery's focus. So anyway, my artwork is on wood where I then drill patterns so that the finished piece is simply a piece of wood with a series of holes in it."

Bored Gallerist (back to being aloof): "Oh... holes in wood?"
And that, I suspect, would be the reaction that a lot of us would have in simply hearing about Kirkland's work.

And that is why it is so important to actually see, and as many people seem to do (although I am alarmed by this), touch the work.

Kirkland's work in his debut solo show at the League of Reston Artists and the University of Phoenix Northern Virginia Campus is without a doubt one of the strongest and most elegant shows that a first-time-solo artist has had around here in a long time.

I use the word "elegant" forcefully, as the entire exhibition delivers elegance with that subtle tone that only minimalism can achieve when properly executed. A subtle tone that grows as one looks at what can best be described as beautiful wood transformed into art by a simple, but intelligent action.

And like many young artists who achieve a degree of success early, now Kirkland has limited time to explore the avenues open to him by this approach to minimalism before he gets dangerously tempted by Mondrianism.

But for now let us applaud a superbly strong debut of an area artist with many years ahead of him to push his artwork even further. It is refreshing to see an artist develop before the public eye and even more refreshing seeing an exhibition that forcefully plants him and his artwork as a new presence in our area's cultural tapestry.

What: J.T. Kirkland: "Studies in Organic Minimalism"

Who: Presented by the League of Reston Artists and the University of Phoenix Northern Virginia Campus

When: May 2 – June 25, 2005 - Special Reception for the artist: Friday, May 13, 2005 – 6:00 – 9:00pm

Where: University of Phoenix Northern Virginia Campus
11730 Plaza America Drive, Suite 200
Reston, Virginia
For directions, see the LRA's web site at

Viewing: Exhibition is free and open to the public during regular business hours
Monday - Thursday 9:00am - 10:00pm, Friday 9:00am - 5:00pm, Saturday 9:00am - 1:00pm