Saturday, August 06, 2005

Gagnon Responds to Kuspit

Lou Gagnon responds to Donald Kuspit's words on digitalism.

Response to Mr. Kuspit

By Lou Gagnon

This is little more than the coupling of both tired arguments - "Abstraction vs. representation" and "painting is dead" – with a technology twist.

Having used both "analog" and "digital" tools in my career as both an architect and an artist, I can say that they are not equivalents in the creative process. The fatal flaw of this elaboration is assigning the "code" or concept as the primary creative act.

Every creative human that I know starts with an analog process - a sketch, note or diagram. Digital tools are mainly production tools used in the refinement and analysis of the original concept (to produce not create the "code"). Powerful as they may seem, the cumbersome complexities of navigating a digital tool system (CPU, software, visual interface, input device and power supply) cannot currently compete with the fluidity and focus attainable with the analog system - (pen and paper). All digital characters are modeled and animated using haptic and visual input from analog (real & professionally trained) humans.

I resist digital art as "art" for the following reasons: Digital Art has no haptic record of human activity imbedded in the final object. No under painting, no sketch lines, no corrections; just slick and polished representation (yes it is still just representation), whether it is rich in information or not.

More simply: it does not smell. Are we to lobotomize our senses to accept Mr. Kuspit’s premise and thereby prefer lots of limited information to less information that actually "touches" us? We can relate to haptic records because we share a tactile world, because we make mistakes and we incorporate or work around them. We need that tactile feedback. I can take all the digital images that I can store of my children and all of them combined will pale in comparison to the fleeting power of holding their hand, smelling their hair and thumbing through their drawings.

Many modern and contemporary buildings, while brilliant records of design and building technology, fail miserably to address the human, both in scale and in relation to a community. That is why there is a sculpture, fountain or garden in front of most modern buildings.

The most powerful tool is the one that gets used. The most powerful form of communication is the one that actually communicates.

Perhaps we are doomed to Mr. Kuspit’s supposition. When a child spends more time with printers than paint, or when the image assembled by pre-designed digital parts gives a sense of finish that a clumsy, unskilled drawing may lack. In a world of unlimited "undos" and no messy cleanups, how can the stench and mess of paint and the frustration of ability not being able to match vision compete?

Children and adults spend more time watching TV than contemplating still images so that when they walk into a gallery what are they going to gravitate to? A still image can only lead you so far, there is some interaction required, it is open-ended. Linear media is a much more conclusive seduction. If you want to be lead, then watch TV.

Personally, the transcendence is less finite with a still image. While my belief may be suspended during a video, its conclusion is limited and therefore disposable. Once I get it, I am done with it. It is, however, comforting to know that the pieces, when placed in the right order, do add up to the picture in the box. I know first-hand that there is very little that is comforting about inventing the problem and then the solution. Then we are puzzled why novelty is more seductive than the sublime.

All this leaves me wondering why one of the first and longest lasting recorded images is the outline of the human hand in the caves of France. Clearly sitting around the fire and telling stories was not enough. I suppose that in the world of the human genome, binary logic and MP3’s, it is tempting to codify art as well.

I am glad to be free of the little dark room filled with power cords, flickering LCD’s and whirring little fans in plastic boxes. I am free to walk in the sunshine and smell the flowers however haptic, analog and direct that may be. Free to continue leaving my fingerprints in the colored dirt and burnt sticks I push across pulverized plant fibers. Then again what do I know? my path to understanding this issue is limited to what I have learned making stuff not history.

Tape all over town

If you're been out and about DC the last few days, and have seen a 1995 Honda Civic made entirely of tape, then you've gotten a preview of Mark Jenkins' exhibition at our Georgetown gallery opening on Friday, August 19, from 6-9PM.

Mark Jenkins street sculpturesAs some of you know, Jenkins' Storker project has been leaving tape babies all over the DC area, and some of his other tape sculptures have been left in Rio de Janeiro, Baltimore and New York City.

For this coming show, provided that he can fit it through our front door, Jenkins will have the lifesize 1995 tape Honda Civic in the gallery, and will also exhibit photographs about some of his other tape projects.

Additionally, Mark will have a series of tape people installations outside the gallery in the Canal Square.

Mark Jenkins street sculptureJenkins is doing some of the most innovative marriage of sculpture with street art and a singularly brilliant conceptual employment of photography, digital manipulation, audience participation (Jenkins usually leaves his sculptures around the city, and they are usually "adopted" by strangers, who take Jenkins' sculptures home. Sometimes, Jenkins photographs people's interactions with the work.

The opening reception is Friday, August 19, 2005 from 6-9PM at Fraser Gallery Georgetown. The four other Canal Square galleries (MOCA, Parish, Anne C. Fisher and Alla Rogers) will also be open that night.

Come meet Jenkins and his entourage of tape people.

P.S. And for the 2-3 people who usually email me when I post anything about Jenkins: No, this Mark Jenkins is NOT the same Mark Jenkins who writes for the City Paper.

Finalists Selected for Trawick Prize

Ten artists (from nearly 400 submissions) have been unanimously selected as finalists for The Trawick Prize: Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards, a juried art competition produced by the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District, funded by the generous Carol Trawick and chaired by the fair Catriona Fraser.

The top prize winners will be announced and honored on Sept 7 at 7PM at a special press event held at Creative Partners Gallery.

A total of $14,000 will be awarded, including $10,000 to the Best in Show winner. The jury members for the competition are Dr. Thom Collins, Executive Director of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, MD; Andrea Pollan, an independent curator, fine arts appraiser and art consultant and Olga Viso, the new Director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

The finalists are:

Christine Buckton Tillman (Baltimore)
Bernhard Hildebradt (Baltimore)
Dean Kessmann (Washington, DC)
Michele Kong (Baltimore)
Gabriel Martinez (Washington, DC)
Maggie Michael (Washington, DC)
Jiha Moon (Annandale, VA)
Daniel Sullivan (Baltimore)
Sonia Denise Tassin (Baltimore)
Jason Zimmerman (Washington, DC)

Of these artists, I am only familiar with the work of Kessmann, Maggie Michael and Jiha Moon. All three of them are superb artists.

My bet: Jiha Moon, who has made me eat my words when I first saw her work at the Arlington Arts Center a few months ago; my recommendation to all of you? Buy Jiha Moon now!!! For more information call 301-215-6660 (ext 20 or 16).

Studio Space Available

Private studio space in Old Town Kensington's Antique Row features private entrance, great light, and a large window. Hot & cold running water, air conditioned, private parking lot lit until midnight. $255 per month. Call Morris Parker at 301-949-5333.

Arts Dean Job

Instructional and College Dean for the Arts.

Montgomery College, a multi-campus community college located in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, is seeking an Instructional and College Dean for the Arts.

Starting salary $71,365-$121,576 per year.

Education & Training: Position requires a Master's degree in one of the arts disciplines, arts management, or in a closely related area; a Doctorate in one of these areas is preferred.

To submit an online application please visit this website.

Doggie Days

The Mid City Artists will be having a Summer Group Show through August 20 at Raven Arts, 1833 14th Street NW, 2nd Floor. And today and tomorrow, they will be participating in the neighborhood's Dog Days of Summer activities (August 6 and 7).

The Mid City Artists will also host an Artists' Reception, Thursday August 11th, 6-8pm.

Dog Days of Summer will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7th. Merchants all up and down 14th Street, P Street and U Street and up to W Street will participate this year. This is the 6th annual sidewalk sale event and in past years, thousands of shoppers, diners and people just out for a fun afternoon have shown up for this event.


Donald Kuspit goes yard.

Read it here.