Thursday, February 03, 2011

Wanna go to three openings tomorrow?

There are three openings at the Arts Club of Washington (2017 I Street, N.W.), but the one that I'm really looking forward to is the one of new paintings by the superbly talented Mical Hunter.

The reception is Friday, February 4th, 6:30 to 9 PM, in the Monroe Gallery. (There are three shows opening same night in different galleries).

Tools

Every once in a while I see an art critic write something so preposterously wrong about the technical aspect(s) of a genre of the visual arts, that I'm always wondering if they are aware at the multitude of readers who must be laughing at them, or at the very least wondering how this person got a track in writing about the visual arts when they can't tell a watercolor apart from an oil painting (this has happened), or praise an artist's technical ability when those with an eye for such things detect an over abundance of mud or titanium white.

Technical ability by itself does not great art make, and this Yoddaism permeates down the critic's voice to often mean that the idea, rather than the delivery, is what counts. I'm not in that camp, but coexist peacefully with it.

However, when a writer decides to praise an artist's technical ability as part of the review, then I think it's fair game to criticize the critic if he/she is blundering into areas where he/she has no training, the "eye", or perhaps experience to make such statements.

For example, for years I've read many critics praising John Currin, or Lisa Yuskavage, and a few other blue chip artists for many things, including technical ability. The idea is that their lowbrow subject matter is presented as ironic, and with superb technical skill.

And yet the first time that I saw both these artists' works many, years ago (and more recently), I was dumbfounded to discover that their technical ability is at best, average. This puts a question mark in my mind, as to why so many critics write about their painting skills, as if to excuse the lack of depth of the visual subjects favored by both these artists (Disclaimer: Lest I be policed, and although I am somewhat slamming his work, I own a very, very early John Currin which was a gift ages ago).

There are exceptions, of course. For example, with the paintings of Gregory Gillispie one can argue that they exist in a somewhat same visual genre as Currin and Yuskavage, etc. And critics have praised Gillispie's technical skill as a key and integral part of his success and perhaps even his sad end.

But in his case, his work merited the kudos for technical ability. He was a painter who knew the ins and out of the magical world of what happens when a brush and a set of oil paints meet in a true master's hand.

Donelly & Finsen at City Gallery

Nancy Donelly and Jill Finsen will have new works at City Gallery (804 - H St NE, DC).

The opening is this Saturday, Feb 5, 6-9 pm and the show continues until Feb 26, when they'll have a nice closing party, 3-5pm.