Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Another opportunity for all of those who dissed Art-O-Matic to eat crow.
Today's NYT has a piece by Sarah Boxer mostly focused on Frank Warren's PostSecret project, which made its first debut at the last AOM, then here with people's Top 10 lists, then at the Anne C. Fisher Gallery in G'town as part of Anne's Top 10 AOM list, and so on...
One of the best ways to prove negativity-driven mouthpieces wrong (just one of many ways), is success.
Congrats to Warren, and I know that this is not the last that we've heard of his project.
To Olga Viso, the Hirshhorn's new director.
Read the news release here.
Es un gran honor para Olga y para nosotros...
Monday, May 30, 2005
Blake Gopnik comes across with a really excellent piece on portraiture. Read it here.
On June 1, the National Portrait Gallery is launching its first nationwide portrait competition, borrowing an idea from its British counterpart. Photography isn't being allowed in. But even if some truly interesting painting or sculpture emerges when the winners are announced next year, it's hard to see how it could touch the hermetic world of official portraiture. Unless a picture looks a fair bit like the portraiture that's come before, it doesn't fill the peculiar social and political roles its patrons have in mind for it.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
The Frederick Camera Clique's 19th Annual Summer Competition
Entries will be received at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center from
9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, June 25, and again from 9 a.m. until noon on
Saturday, July 2.
A reception for the exhibition will be held on Saturday, July 16 from 5-7
p.m. at the Mary Condon Hodgson Art Gallery at Frederick Community College.
The exhibition will be on display at the gallery from July 14 to Sept 8.
Click here for complete details of the competition and a downloadable entry form.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
An idea that I hope to implement for Seven is to have the entire process documented.
As such we're looking for a volunteer videographer who's be willing to videotape the entire exhibition process, from the delivery of artwork commencing June 27th, to Kelly Towles painting a wall, to Alessandra Torres transforming a room, to the formal opening on June 30th.
Interested? Email me.
The deadline for the 9th Annual Georgetown International Fine Arts Competition is rapidly approaching: June 3, 2005.
The 2005 juror is Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator of the American University's Katzen Arts Center Galleries.
Entry forms and prospectus here.
Nick Salvatore writes that:
All this discussion of lies and faked photos as art immediately reminded me of the career of Darko Maver.
As discussed here, Maver was supposed to have based his work on using various sculpting materials to painstakingly re-create crime scenes and murders he'd seen in photos. The pieces were so obsessively crafted and "life"-like that they were nearly indiscernable from the actual scenes he recreated. The audience only ever saw his work in the form of photographs, so presentations of his work wound up looking like collections of forensic and medical photos.
As it turns out, that's exactly what they were. A couple of neoists had found a bunch of grim photos, re-imagined them as images of re-creations, created a compelling life story for their artist, and presented it all to the unknowing public. Not that this is going on here, necessarily.
But it's interesting to me that, years after the Maver thing, there's an artist out there who's actually put in the man-hours to make a more audience-friendly version of the same point. And I can't help but wonder whether Demand's work achieves or conveys anything that "Maver's" work did not. I suppose I should see the show.
One of the great assets of living around the DC area, is that in addition to having one of the most active fine arts scenes around the nation, and loads of exhibition venues, we are also lucky to have a lot of alternative spaces that show art, as any perusal of the Washington City Paper "On Exhibit" section will prove.
Area artist Vera Blagev is currently showing in two of these venues. Some of her drawings are currently on display at the CD Warehouse store in Georgetown (3001 M Street NW in Washington DC) starting on May 16th running for 8 weeks and at Cafe Luna (1633 P Street NW in Washington DC) starting May 16th for one month.
After reading Bailey's essay on Demand's work, Teague Clare was compelled to succumb to making a blog specifically so that he could easily post some things that came to him after reading it!
And a damned good start if I may say so myself!
Welcome to the BLOGsphere! Visit Innerbias often.
Friday, May 27, 2005
In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews Richard Barrett and Pamela Soldwedel at Parker Gallery.
In the Gazette, Dr. Claudia Rousseau reviews Compelled by Content at Fraser Gallery Bethesda.
In the WaPo on Thursday's "Galleries" day = Zip. But on Friday Michael O'Sullivan reviews "Close Up in Black: African American Film Posters," on view at the International Gallery of the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center.
At Solarize This, Alexandra Silverthorne reviews our Gabriela Bulisova show at Fraser Gallery Bethesda.
In DCist, J.T. Kirkland reviewed Teo Gonzalez at Irvine Contemporary and also Kehinde Wiley at Conner Contemporary.
And in here, Bailey reviewed Gopnik on Thomas Demand at MOMA.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
In the unlikely event that you are one of those Jonesing for a local Gehry, now that it seems that the Corcoran's Gehry plans have evaporated, then the webcam for the new Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi may feed your Jones to see one of the origami buildings being constructed (perilously close to the waters of the Mississippi Sound by the way).
Congratulations to Chan Chao, whose beautiful Echo photographs opened last Friday at Yancey Richardson Gallery. Chao's show runs through July 2, 2005 and he's represented locally by Numark Gallery.
Congratulations also to Jesse Cohen, whose photographs also opened last week at Brooklyn's Ch'i and runs through June 15, 2005.
Congratulations to our own Tim Tate, whose glass installation opens at SOFA NY at the Armory on June 2 and runs through June 5, 2005.
And congratulations to the below-listed almost locals from Virginia Commonwealth University's acclaimed Graduate Sculpture Program -- currently ranked #1 in the country by U.S. News & World Report -- and so it should be a strong show. Their show opens at Kim Foster Gallery in New York on June 4 and runs through July 2, 2005.
Below is J.W. Bailey's Magnum Opus on "photography, photographic lies and the liars who lie about photographs," as inspired by Gopnik’s recent review of Thomas Demand’s photographs.
"Photographs That Lie and the Liars Who Lie About Photographs"
By J.W. Bailey
I’m going to open this review by admitting to you up front that I’m going to lie to you at some point in the review; however, I’m not going to tell you what the lie is – assuming you care about the lie, it will be your problem to discover it, and further assuming you know something about art and care about photography, you’ll probably easily identify the lie anyway.
Let me tell you a story – a story that may be a lie itself. I don’t know if the story in any part is true. It was told to me and I’m simply repeating it (embellished somewhat, naturally) here.
Once upon a time a man confidently approached Pablo Picasso and insisted that the great painter paint a portrait of his beautiful wife.
Taken aback, Picasso asked the man, “But what does your wife look like?”
The man quickly reached for his wallet, opened it, retrieved a pocket-sized photograph of his wife and thrust the photo into Picasso’s hands. "See, Picasso!" the man exclaimed. "I told you she is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. And I demand that the greatest artist in the world paint a portrait of the most beautiful woman in the world. I also demand that you paint her just as she appears in that photograph you hold."
Picasso smiled, held the little photograph up to the light to take a better look and politely asked the man, "Sir, do you really mean to tell me that your beautiful wife is this small?"
Photographs have an inherent capacity to express a lie as the truth. Photographs can also take the truth and twist it into a massive lie. Of course, photographers and art critics can do the same, individually or in conspiracy.
As we all know, photographs and lies and the lies that photographs can tell and the liars who repeat those lies have an uncomfortable relationship with reality. There is a famous photograph supposedly showing Lee Harvey Oswald holding Communist papers, along with the rifle in his hand and the revolver on his hip that are purportedly the ones that he used to kill President Kennedy and Officer Tippit in Dallas, Texas, on a fateful cinematic November day in 1963. Oswald claimed to police after his arrest that someone superimposed his face on the photo in question and that the picture was a fake. Of course, the chief art critic of the Kennedy assassination, the Warren Commission, declared the photograph to be true and further certified the artistic integrity of Oswald as being a lone nut gunman.
Thank God for the mental health and conscience of our country that we have art critics who can divine the "truth" of photographs. Of course, the problem is that no matter what the photographic experts of the Warren Commission said, deep down in the collective heart of America, many of us just don’t believe we were told the truth – and we continue to disbelieve what we are told about the assassination no matter what that photograph or other photographic evidence offered in support of a lone nut gunman seems to suggest. We are also told that somewhere in the National Archives are photographs of Kennedy’s brain; some of us, however, to this very day continue to wonder about where Kennedy’s brain is. The brain goes missing, but the photographs of it "exist." And, of course, we have a plethora of official photographic art critics who work for the government who decipher the evidence and tell us what it all means.
And what it always means is that your government had absolutely nothing to do with the assassination of your president.
Yes, one picture is worth a thousand words, but 1 WORD = 1,000 LIES.
Photographs lie. Photographs are a lie. Liars lie about photographs. A retracted Newsweek report that the military was flushing the Koran down toilets results in a number of people being killed. We can only imagine how many tens of thousands would have been killed (and would still be in the killing zone) had a falsely manipulated photograph been published of the Koran being sucked down a john. Indeed, the free world holds its collective breath over the impending body count associated with the recently revealed photographs of Saddam Hussein in his underwear.
One wonders what in the world motivated people to kill out of anger before the advent of photography. With no photographic "proof" of wrongdoing, why would anyone dare to commit murder or go to war?
And yet, in the photographic real world, we do have real photographs of real people committing real murder and real genocide, and in many cases people don’t really seem interested in going to war. The world never went to war over photographs in Rwanda.
So many lying photographs so accessible to so many who lie whose lies are repeated by liars.
If Andres Serrano had kept his mouth shut about the process and named "Piss Christ" as "The Crucifixion" and passed it off as a sensitive art work reflecting deep respect for Catholicism, that photograph might be a worshipped icon in every American parish. But high art demands brand, intent, process, and meaning. The artist supplies the brand (title/author), intent and process (the artist is free to lie about intent and process if they choose to do so and they can even falsely brand their work as being created by them when in fact it is created by others) and the art critic supplies the meaning - which is always a lie, especially if it is a highly favorable and approving review.
Blake Gopnik’s "review" of Thomas Demand’s "photographs" of his supposed "paper sculptures" inspired by "found news media photographs," along with the accompanying cleanly cropped color photographic reproductions of Demand’s "photographs" in the Washington Post, raise many interesting questions – a great many questions, in fact, that require the reader to place a great deal of trust in the very few important facts that are shared about this body of work.
Do you believe that photograph of Oswald is real? Do you care that Kennedy’s brain is missing? Do you care that maybe a conspiracy existed to kill a president of the United States of America? If a photograph existed that could positively prove such a conspiracy, would you doubt it? Or would you nervously embrace it as a validation of your desired instinct for the truth?
Some believe that photographs bring a sword that severs the stupid from the smart. How you react to a photograph, according to these theorists, speaks volumes for your intellect, or lack of it.
Gopnik, apparently refusing to let go of his photographs-are-accessible-to-the-stupid-masses theory, (a theory that he recently proposed as the solution to all problems at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, although politely declined by David Levy’s "thank you but no thank you" response as published in the Washington Post that was further backed up by another Washington Post article wherein the Chairman of the Board of Trustees in effect told Levy "thank you but no thank you" for your distracting Gehry vision which has now been additionally backed up by Levy’s resignation) continues to advance his philosophy that un-theorized photographs are incapable of communicating anything but a superficial message to a gullible, dumb, and mentally reflexive audience.
From the gospel according to Gopnik in his holy scripture, "The Art World’s Paper-azzo: “For one thing, photographs are usually taken, and taken in, all at one go. It’s possible to shoot a picture of a scene while barely giving it a look; a quick glance at a snapshot is all it takes to grasp its subject." In other words, snapshot photography can not be a legitimate form of high art because such photographs cannot possibly contain any intellectual content and should therefore not be given any more than the same bored glancing look by a viewer than that I Blake Gopnik would cast upon them.
It’s clear that Gopnik has an axe to grind in his latest review with his brilliant plan to thumbtack easily accessible photographs all over the deteriorating walls of the now Gehry-less future incarnation of the Corcoran; what’s less clear at first glance is why. Perhaps if we hold the photograph of Gopnik’s review of Demand’s work up to the light in the same way that Picasso held that photograph of the woman, we might be prompted to state some clear observations.
Believing the truth in the lie of art usually requires that we accept what we’re told to believe is the truth of the process. In his review of Demand’s work at the Museum of Modern Art, Gopnik expects us to believe the following in order to arrive at the "truth" of his intellectual intersection with the lies of Demand’s art:
1). Demand finds news media photographs that inspire him to create paper sculpture re-creations of the scenes depicted in the photographs. Problem: We’re not shown the source inspiration photographs for Demand’s works, or given any provenance of the history of those supposed images, so we’re expected to believe that they (these source photographs) "exist" or "existed" and that the history of the scenes depicted in those photographs is "true."
2.) Demand constructs 3D paper sculptures inspired from the found media photographs. Problem: We’re not shown the actual 3D paper sculptures, so we’re expected to believe they "exist" or "existed."
3.) Demand photographs the 3D paper sculptures. Problem: We’re not shown the original film negatives or original digital files, so we’re expected to believe they "exist" or "existed," and that if they do "exist" or "existed," that Demand actually shot those supposed images.
4.) Demand presents these photographs unframed and wedged between sheets of industrial Plexiglas in a white cube space. Problem: Instead of being shown such images of the work in its natural gallery presentation, we’re shown cleanly cropped image reproductions accompanying the newspaper review, so we’re expected to believe that these real Plexiglas-encased images "exist" or "existed."
5.) Demand commands the review attention of the chief critic of the Washington Post who claims he actually visited the Museum of Modern Art in person to personally see this body of work for the purpose of reviewing it. Problem: We’re not shown any images of Gopnik viewing the work in question, so we’re expected to believe that he did in fact do so and that if there are in fact images of him viewing the work that such images "exist" or "existed."
A photograph is a lie that tells the truth about a lie that is not the truth.
An art review is a lie that is a lie about a lie.
Oswald was a lone nut gunman who killed President Kennedy – and we have the photographs and film to prove it.
But deep down in your heart, do you really believe it?
Of course, in the world of digital media, Demand could easily be pulling a gigantic art world hoax – it doesn’t take a George Lucas and an ILM Studios to manufacture clever digital presentations of "color photographs" of "paper sculptures" of "found news media images." That art fraud could easily be pulled off by a teen-age high school dropout with a flatbed scanner and Abode Photoshop (in the real world such criminally inclined children have been known to create high-grade counterfeit US currency that easily passes by experts as being the real thing).
Not that I’m suggesting the Demand has done so, or that if he has done so, that Gopnik is his willing or unwilling conspirator in perpetrating such a fraud.
I’m simply suggesting that a photograph is a lie that tells the truth about a lie that is not the truth and that an art review about a photograph is a lie that is a lie about a lie.
I’m also suggesting that reading an art review (complete with manipulated and misrepresented images of the work that is reviewed – such images being those cleanly cropped color reproductions in the Washington Post) raises questions about photography that the art critic refuses to confront.
And given the fact that the readers of the review are expected by the art critic to accept that so much stated as fact must in fact "exist" in order to accept the premise of the review, it might be interesting for one reader to take the thoughts of the reviewer as expressed in words at face value and offer his thoughts in words on those words.
Gopnik tells us that Demand's art set the following 10 ideas moving in his head. As discussed above, we’re expected to accept the existence of many things that are not offered to us as proof as we travel through Gopnik’s mind concerning this review. Like Demand and Gopnik, I have made the conscious decision to edit out some things and retain others to in order construct my thoughts. And just as Gopnik asks his readers to accept facts not submitted into evidence, I’m asking the reader of my review of Gopnik’s review to accept that Gopnik’s full comments in his review do in fact "exist."
Edited from the review:
1. "Slowing It Down"
For one thing, photographs are usually taken, and taken in, all at one go. It's possible to shoot a picture of a scene while barely giving it a look; a quick glance at a snapshot is all it takes to grasp its subject.
1-A. "Speeding It Up"
For one thing, photography reviews are usually taken, and taken in, all at one go. It’s possible to read a photography review of an exhibition while barely giving it a look; a quick glance at a photography review is all it takes to grasp its subject.
2. "Waking Us Up"
By making us intensely aware of how they've been constructed, Demand's pictures push back against our comfort with photographs, and our willingness to swallow them whole.
2–A. "Making Us Sleep"
By making us intensely aware of how they’ve been written, Gopnik’s reviews of photographic exhibitions push back against his discomfort with photographs, and our unwillingness to swallow them whole.
3. "Opening Windows"
People rarely look at a Demand and say, "What a great photo of that model!" They're more likely to say, "What an amazingly realistic piece of paper sculpture!"
3–A. "Shutting Doors"
People rarely read a Gopnik and say, "What a great review of that photography exhibition!" They’re more likely to say, "What an amazingly realistic piece of photography criticism!"
4. "Framing the Photograph"
Demand shows his color photographs without frames, protected only by a gleaming sheet of Plexiglas that's stuck directly to the surface of each one. Suddenly, you're extra aware of the moment you're in, standing in front of fancy art in a fancy art museum; you're no longer transported to the distant settings shown, or even to the paper worlds Demand has modeled after them. In their presentation at least, Demand's works resist photography's illusions.
4–A. "Cracking the Frame"
Gopnik presents his photography reviews without source images, protected only by gleaming sheets imprinted with cleanly cropped photographic reproductions that are stuck directly to the surface of each paper of the newspaper review. Suddenly, you’re extra aware of the moment you’re not in, not standing directly in front of so-called fancy art in a so-called fancy art museum; you’re supposedly transported to the distant settings of the museum discussed, or even to the paper printed thoughts Gopnik has modeled after his mind. In their presentation at least, Gopnik’s words resist photography’s disillusions.
5. "Crafting the Un-crafted"
Demand's crossbreeding of sculpture and photography gives him the best of both worlds.
5–A. "A Crafty Bastard"
Gopnik’s pimping of sculpture and photography with art reviews gains him the respect of the best of the photography and art world.
6. "Ignoring the World by Obsessing Over It"
If anything, Demand's paper re-creations seem to turn his subjects into bare excuses for displaying sculptural skill.
6–A. "Obsessing Over the Ignored It World"
If anything, Gopnik’s newspaper printed recreations seem to turn his reviewed photography exhibitions into bare excuses for displaying writing skill.
7. "Taming Chaos"
Weirdly, when a Demand photo documents our messy world, it turns out to be the product of methodical artifice.
7–A. "Unleashing Hell"
Weirdly, when a Gopnik review documents a messy photography exhibition, it turns out to be the product of methodical ART-IF-(ad)ICE.
8. "Evoking the Past"
Demand's preternaturally crisp pictures could almost be an illustration of that claim: Paper is a medium that positively begs to render edges, surfaces, flat fields of color and regular geometries.
8–A. "Revoking the Present"
Gopnik’s unnaturally murky photography reviews could almost be an (dis)illustration of that reclaim: Newspaper is a medium that negatively begs to engender non-edges, non-surfaces, deflated fields in black and white colors and regular demographics.
9. "Recalling the Future"
That is, his art points to today's most common simulation of reality -- rather than to reality itself, or even to reality as shown in photographs. And it's nice to think that in Demand, evoking the virtual depends on something as material as paper.
9–A. "Call the Past"
That is not, his photography review points to yesterday’s most uncommon stimulation of non-reality – rather not than to non-reality itself, or even to non-reality as shown in non-photographs. And it’s not nice to not think that in Gopnik, revoking the non-virtual does not depend on something being as immaterial as newspaper.
10. "Complicating Things"
Trace the life story of a typical work by Demand: The three-dimensional world first becomes a modest 2D photograph, which then becomes a life-size 3D sculpture made entirely of bits of 2D paper, which then becomes a giant 2D photograph, which requires substantial room in a museum's 3D exhibition space, only to evoke the simulated 2D surfaces and 3D spaces of a computer game.
Gone are the days when all an artist had to do was take a fruit bowl's three dimensions and render them with paint in two.
10-A. "Things Very Complicated"
Trace the life story of a typical photography review by Gopnik: The 3D art critic supposedly walks into a 3D museum to supposedly review a 2D art photograph that is supposedly taken of a 3D art object that is supposedly inspired by a 2-D news media photograph of a supposedly 3D scene so that a 1D opinion can be printed on a 2D page of a 3D newspaper with 2D cleanly cropped supposed photographic reproductions of the 2D supposed photographs taken of the supposed 3D sculptures inspired by the supposed 2D news media photographs of supposed 3D scenes that the art critic and we have not seen and are not shown.
Painting is dead.
CONCLUSION: Most photographs are easily accessible – and for those that are not, some liar will tell you the "truth" about them and what they mean.
DALLAS, TEXAS – 22 November 1963: "Mr. Oswald, I’d like to show you a very interesting photograph we have of you and ask you to respond to it."
Have you ever seen the original of the photograph in question? Have you ever seen a reproduction of it? Do you believe it? Do you believe the lies about it? Do you believe the liars who lie about it?
Did you catch my lie?
James W. Bailey
Force Majeure Studios
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I've re-visited about a third of the 24,000-plus slides in the WPA/C Artfile. There are a lot of old slides in there (including mine), and also a lot of WPA/C members don't have slides on file. Tsk, tsk...
I've also received quite a few entries electronically via email, and in some cases from members updating their files.
The selection process continues, and so far I've selected about thirty or so artists, most of which have or will receive an email from the WPA/C. I think that I will probably end up picking up about twenty or so more. After all the seven spaces at the Warehouse are quite ample, and I also have this salon-style vision for at least one of the spaces.
I've also invited (and they've accepted) Sam Gilliam and Manon Cleary, without a doubt two of DC's best known and most respected artists.
A few other artists that I wanted in this show have been unable to participate due to the fact that two of them have moved away and one is working furiously for a coming show and already has a waiting list for his next paintings!
There are also quite a few artists whose work I did not know... and this is part of the two way dialogue that happens between a curator and 24,000 slides.
There are dozens and dozens of very good artists who will not an invitation, but that have made a positive impression on me, and thus in a way are also gaining from this experience, as there's a good chance that their work may appear in something else associated with me in the future.
And that is why it is important to get out there and have slides in registries, and work online and so on: it needs to be seen!
Even being rejected has a possible positive footprint.
Case in point: Rebecca D'Angelo. Nearly ten years ago, Rebecca approached me with an exhibition proposal for a specific series of her photographs. The idea was interesting, but (for a then struggling commercial gallery) not very feasible, and so I told her no.
Years later, as I walked the seven various spaces that comprise the Warehouse holdings on 7th Street, one of them jumped in my mind as being perfect for Rebecca D'Angelo's project. I contacted her, she visited the spaces, and agreed!
Wait till you see it (her project that is). Opening night for "Seven" is June 30th from 6-8:30PM. Set that night aside.
JT reviews Teo Gonzalez at Irvine Contemporary Art.
It's a damned good review too, from a self-declared minimalist looking at another minimalist, and recalling the difficulty of comparison in the world of art.
The DCist Arts Agenda is here.
Dr. Claudia Rousseau, art critic for the Gazette newspapers, reviews our Compelled by Content group glass exhibition at Fraser Bethesda.
Compelled by Content has become one of our most-reviewed shows ever, as well as one of our best-selling, and I think it is a seminal indicator of a new direction that glass is taking; away from the vessel and the decorative, and towards the narrative and context-driven.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
"The rise of curators and "super-curators" hasn't come out of the blue. Twentieth-century modernist conceptions of art-making presupposed the need for a class of specialist professionals to mediate between "advanced", "challenging" artists and lay gallery-goers. In the past decade or so, however, the balance of power has tipped so emphatically towards curatorship that many canny artists have opted to reinvent themselves as part- or even full-time curators."Read the whole article by Rachel Withers here.
David C. Levy resigned yesterday as president and director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The Corcoran's board of trustees have also suspended the museum's longstanding efforts to build a new wing designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Read the WaPo story here.
Monday, May 23, 2005
This week I'll will try to re-visit all 20,000 plus slides in the WPA/C registry for "Seven.".
I'm continuing to attempt to bring together some of DC's most visible and recognized names, together with artists who (I feel) deserve a bit more recognition and/or exposure.
Deadline is June 10. Submissions details here.
According to comments in DCist, famed DC street artist BORF is about to be highlighted (no pun intended) in a WaPo article.
Jenny Vee tracks and photographs Borf (and his magic marker).
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Saturday, May 21, 2005
I'll be at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival today and tomorrow.
The festival averages around 80,000 visitors in two days and features nearly 200 artists from the US, Canada and Mexico.
Directions here. I'll be in booth 603 - See ya there!
Friday, May 20, 2005
Corcoran Fiscal Mess: Blame Management not the Building
By Rex Weil
David Levy describes the Corcoran Gallery of Art as more like a church than a business (Washington Post 5/20/05). Insensitive types who insist on examining the books just don’t understand.
Is it Levy’s contention that churches don’t need strategic plans, sound budgets, fair employment practices and transparent accounting procedures?
In fact, the Corcoran’s director wants it both ways. After all, he hauls in a CEO salary in the neighborhood of $300,000, while most of his employees makes less that $50K and the vast majority far less, with few or no benefits. Obfuscatory accounting practices -- that would make Enron execs blush -- have bled the Corcoran College to make the Museum look healthy. Sounds more like a business to me -- just not a very good one.
Levy’s strategic plan: Treat your major constituencies (members, students, employees and faculty) with contempt and buy your way out of problems with a celebrity building. Well, it might have worked, but it hasn’t. As the Corcoran’s new Board Chairman learned recently "support for the Corcoran is 'superficial.'"
Meaning (I suppose), that, although everyone would like to see the Corcoran succeed, most people (a) just don't feel like they have a stake in it; and/or (b) are disappointed with current management. Let’s face it: practically everybody in Washington knows someone who has left the Corcoran in frustration or disgust. (I left in December, 2004 after teaching there since 1996). That’s bound to have a major snowball effect in terms of community support.
What Levy has apparently failed to grasp from the beginning: You have to build support from the bottom up with good programs and good relationships. Build the base – with satisfied, dedicated employees, enthusiastic students and their proud families, members invested in ambitious programming, and a committed long-term faculty advancing the institution. Those folks are, in turn, your best fundraisers.
Instead, (according to the Washington Post), the Corcoran has spent over 22 million on the Gehry addition. One way or another, a good deal of that 22 million has come out of the hide of students and their families, employees, faculty and admission paying visitors in poor facilities, shameful employment practices and dreary programming. All in all, the institution’s core constituencies are bitter and alienated.
It didn’t have to be that way. The building was not a bad idea. But running the institution into the ground with the idea that the Gehry magic would eventually save the day – that was a very bad idea, indeed.
The Gehry building can only come to pass as a reward to the institution from committed, grateful constituencies for work well done over a long period of time. No, it is not going to pay for itself by generating new money from new visitors. Like the Hard Rock Café – every city will have one. Of course, the tour buses will slow down and point it out. What’s inside the building is the important part. That’s the part the Corcoran has neglected.
New management might still be able to make a case for the building. David Levy can’t.
In spite of the rain, a fairly good Georgetown opening (and also one in Arlington) for Gabriela Bulisova.
And Ukrainian Television was in Canal Square covering the event and interviewing Catriona Fraser about Bulisova's photographs detailing the long lasting effects of the Chernobyl disaster upon a huge area of Europe and a large, forgotten segment of the Ukranian people.
Bulisova's exhibition is on until June 15, 2005.
Art in Transition opens with art from members of artdc.org at a space in Takoma Park on Eastern Ave. See details here.
The reception for the artists is this Saturday the 21st at 6pm!
Mike Grass over at DCist has started an interesting comment thread on the whole Corcoran and Gehry issue.
Jefferson Pinder curates Superstition at DCAC and it opens tonite with a reception for the arists from 7-9PM.
The exhibition features Leslie Berns, Kyan Bishop, Stephanie Dinkins, Brandon Friend, David Krueger, Gina Lewis, Michael Platt, Christopher Randolph, Wilfredo Valladares and Adam White.
Jefferson Pinder selected artwork from those ten artists that deals with ritual and mystery. Each artist "seeks to personally define superstition, from mundane everyday rituals, to the transformative power of spiritual growth from artistic practices that form a passionate connection to the world."
Tonight the five Canal Square galleries in Georgetown will have the new openings and/or extended hours.
We will have the DC solo debut of Gabriela Bulisova, who was the Best of Show winner at the 2005 Bethesda International Photography Competition.
The openings start at 6PM and go through 9PM. They are catered by the Sea Catch Restaurant and are free and open to the public.
In the WaPo today, Michael O'Sullivan reviews "Close Up in Black: African American Film Posters," on view at the International Gallery of the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center.
Yesterday in the WaPo, Jessica Dawson mini-reviewed our group glass show in Bethesda, as well as Kehinde Wiley's sold out show at Conner Contemporary and also "Rebecca Kamen: Meta" at the Emerson Gallery, McLean Project for the Arts as well as Elisabeth Lescault at Creative Partners Gallery.
In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews Willy Ronis at Kathleen Ewing Gallery. Also in the CP, Joe Dempsey reviews "Collector's Choice" at Zenith Gallery. And the other Mark Jenkins reviews Gina Denton's installation at Flashpoint.
At the Gazette, Adam Karlin reviews the current group show at Harmony Hall. His colleage, Karen Schafer reviews "Portraits of Life" at the Technical Center at Montgomery College in Rockville.
At Thinking About Art, Kathleen Shafer reviewed Viktor Koen at our Georgetown space. And it was also reviewed by Alexandra Silverthorne at Solarize This.
At Drawer, Warren Craghead reviewed Kirkland's solo debut show at the University of Phoenix Northern Virginia Campus.
In The Georgetowner, John Blee reviews Woong Kim at Addison/Ripley.
The Washington Blade has the Tim Tate-curated "Compelled by Content" as their Best Best of the week.
Compelled by Content is at our Bethesda gallery until June 5, 2005.
The Washington Times has the Tim Tate curated "Compelled By Content" exhibition currently at our Bethesda gallery selected as their "Hot Pick" of the week.
"Hazel said he and fellow trustee Paul Corddry approached President and Director David C. Levy earlier this week and suggested he offer his resignation"The above is from a WaPo article by Bob Thompson and Jacqueline Trescott on the financial woes of the Corcoran and possible suspension of the Gehry effort, which according to the story, could come as early as Monday, when the board is scheduled to discuss a new strategic plan for the Corcoran.
Read the story here.
Both Bailey and Jenkins have expressed their thoughts on Melissa Ichiuji's Stripped non-performance. And I am thankful to them for adding their thoughts and words to our cultural soup.
Personally, I was both excited and pleasantly surprised by Ichiuji's project before it started; it showed a maturity and intelligence years ahead of most "art students."
And as the project developed, I visited her Live Update Website, and then eventually drove by the Corcoran, found a Doris Day parking spot right next to the building, and gawked at Ichiuji and the loads of tourists shouting questions and her and at each other.
Regardless of how it ended, I for one, applaud her courage, her ideas, her involvement, and above all, her ability to (as an art student), leave a strong footprint upon our art scene.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
The Postmodern Art Joke of Suffering
By James W. Bailey
The jokes in the world of high art often write themselves. Indeed, we were recently treated to the rare spectacle of an immensely funny postmodern art joke with artist Melissa Ichiuji, as reported in the Washington Post article, "Calling a Halt to Suffering for Her Art."
Ichiuji, who was suppposed to stand in the semi-buff in front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art for 36 straight hours, was forced to call a 14 hour early halt to her "non-performance" piece "Stripped" after nearly collapsing from heat exhaustion from excessive exposure to the balmy weather as enhanced and amplified by the unnatural elements of Washington, D.C. concrete and asphalt.
Mrs. Ichiuji supposedly shed herself of the excesses of her life (Starbucks, NetFlix, Whole Foods, Politics and Prose, those types of things I guess) in an attempt to explore something about who she really is outside of the unnatural products that she takes into her body and mind.
We are told in this supremely funny high profile Washington Post article that her only company prior caving in to upper middle class reality was a homeless man who lay down nearby to watch Mrs. Ichiuji struggle through her "non-performance" in all her sunburned and diarrhea-stricken agony – no doubt the homeless man could identify with that low profile real life struggle.
We’re also told Mrs. Ichiuji tried to contact her husband for emergency rescue from her plight. Apparently, her husband never bothered to return the desperate messages that were left on his cell phone. It’s also reported that one of the other luxuries in life that Mrs. Ichiuji swore off for her art was sex – I guess that might help explain the husband’s failure to respond to those text messages.
Although her husband is a banker, poor Mrs. Ichiuji, apparently penniless (I guess her sports bar didn’t have a change holder), was forced to thumb a ride in a cab back to the modern comforts and conveniences of her home. That must have been an interesting cab ride. One can easily picture Mrs. Ichiuji, half-starved, jumping out of the cab at every delicious chain restaurant in the District begging the management to freely inhale at will from the salad bar.
Now, nobody loathes postmodern art theory and theorists more than I do, but I just can’t help but deconstruct Mrs. Ichiuji "Stripped" to discover a greater truth and meaning about her project. There's a remarkable parallel between her self-imposed bodily denials leading to her near collapse and the refusal of a banker to assist her with the similar bodily denials (usually state enforced against the will of the child and their parents) that are found among hundreds of millions of impoverished children throughout the world and the refusal of the World Bank to assist them.
But unlike Mrs. Ichiuji, those kids don’t have a cell phone to call a high ranking bank official, let alone the ability to hitch a ride in an air-conditioned cab to a safe, cool and well-stocked abode.
James W. Bailey
Force Majeure Studios
By Mark Jenkins
I'm wondering if anyone else has found Melissa Ichiuji's "36 hours" a little unsettling in its aftermath.
Weening herself from cellphones, and TV, etc... I can see as a return to a more animal nature. I'm all for that. As for fasting, and cutting off social contact with friends, peeing in public, that's where it gets a little gray.
While the peeing part might be animal (I suppose), cutting off social contact while sitting on a corner on a platform and not talking to anyone seems to make yourself like an animal at the zoo with people gawking at you.
I too, came by, maybe to gawk, or to watch other people gawking; and anything done outside in the name of art outside (physically at least) of the institutions always gets my curiousity up. But upon arriving I discovered that she had left.
Just a note that said that she was ill. She'd left and taken her pee jars with her!
And in the aftermath, in my own comic way that amuses me if no one else, I sat on her empty perch and ate a hot dog, and when a few people came up and asked where she was I responded, "She's sick."
They looked a little concerned, disheartened, and sweaty (like me) after having made the walk over from their workplaces.
Ultimately, I think she's a caricature of our own inner selves who, seeing the ever increasing trash of technology, turns its absence into a treasure. But the catch is that even while seeking it you can't seek it purely.
One of Dostoevsky's characters said something profound once that I remembered. Something to the extent that modern man has become diffuse in his thoughts; he can no longer think a sole thought but always has several competing interests to contend with.
Buddhist monks would agree. And I'm sure probably wouldn't have given her a high chance at reaching any sort of success in this small amount of time. And of course there was the congential defect in her mission, that even while she fasted, and weened, her website blinked, (and blinks now) about Washington Post coverage and in the back of her mind, she was thinking...
Secondsight is an organization dedicated to the advancement of women photographers through support, communication and sharing of ideas and opportunities.
The next Secondsight meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 31, 2005.
All meetings will now be held at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Services Center, (just accross the street from the Fraser Gallery Bethesda) located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814. If you are catching the Metro, exit on Wisconsin Avenue, take a left on Old Georgetown Road and walk for one block. The entrance to the services center is next to Chipotle. There is a public parking garage on Old Georgetown Road. The meetings start at 6.30pm and end at approximately 9pm.
Secondsight's next guest speaker is Chris Foley, Master Digital Printmaker and Director of Old Town Editions in Alexandria, Virginia. Chris will discuss the history of digital printmaking as well as the latest techniques, he'll show attendees the latest papers, discuss archival issues and answer all of your questions.
The presentation by the guest speaker will be followed by portfolio sharing. The group will split up into smaller groups of about ten and each member will have the opportunity to discuss their work. For those who brought their portfolio to the last meeting, please feel free to bring it again as you will be sharing your work with an entirely new group of photographers.
Meetings are free for members of Secondsight and $10 (cash or checks only) for non-members.
Please RSVP to email@example.com if you would like to attend the meeting.
An interesting WaPo article on the alleged shenanigans being played through the use of art grants funding by the Politburo Chief of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Montgomery County.
The Montgomery County Council voted yesterday to strip County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) of his power to distribute millions of dollars in grants to arts organizations in the fiscal 2006 budget, saying the process has become too entangled in politics.Read it here.
Today's Express has a really cool interview with Tim Tate on "Compelled About Content" (page 30 of the pdf file).
"Tim Tate is a third generation Washingtonian and the city's premier glass artist..."Read it here.
Jessica Dawson has several mini reviews in today's WaPo and she has one on our current "Compelled by Content" glass exhibition in Bethesda.
Read it here.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I've never reviewed a movie in my life, but somehow a few days ago, because of DC Art News, I received an invitation to a press preview of the series-ending Star Wars movie and being the SF geek that I am, I went to see it [Duh!] and here's my review:
A @#$%*&! great movie!
When the new galleries at American University's new Katzen Arts Center open, they will be (by far) one of the the largest visual arts spaces in the area, and Jack Rasmussen has posted the submission guidelines for artists wishing to be considered at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center:
Please submit a CD of up to 20 jpeg images along with a resume, image list (title, medium, size, and date), a short statement and/or cover letter. If you are proposing a group exhibition please include resumes by all artists involved.
Please do not send slides. Submitted materials will not be returned. The reviewing process should take 6 – 8 weeks. We will contact you if we would like to see additional materials.
Submissions should be mailed to:
Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator
American University Museum
at the Katzen Art Center
4400, Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Our Viktor Koen exhibition at Fraser Georgetown was reviewed last week by Louis Jacobson in the City Paper.
It has also been reviewed by Kathleen Shafer at Thinking About Art and also by Alexandra Silverthorne at Solarize This.
More work by Koen here.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Alexandra Silverthorne has a list of the artists selected for the Synergy Project.
Read the winning teams here.
The DCist Tuesday Arts Agenda is here.
Together with some of the artists already selected for Seven, we walked through the spaces again on Monday.
There are so many nooks and crannies in the seven separate spaces that comprise part of the Ruppert holdings on 7th Street, that ideas and thoughts keep popping up in everyone's minds as we walked through.
And thus an exhibition begins to develop itself.
To start, I really like this powerful piece by Joseph Barbaccia titled "Naked Aggression;" A piece that I first saw at Artomatic.
When we discussed it, one of the interns working on this exhibition (Adrian Schneck) came up with the brilliant idea that a terrific way to exhibit it would be by having the blade stabbed into one of the walls, and thus the penis carved out of the knife handle sticking out.
Barbaccia liked the idea, which now brings the logistical issue of how to do this without damaging the blade (get to thinking Joe).
I am also considering giving an entire wall on the second floor of the third building to Kelly Towles in order for him to decorate the wall in a logical follow-through to his Artomatic show and his terrific solo debut at David Adamson.
And Mark Jenkins gets a tree on the sidewalk, and the outside walls of the building and probably a floating piece on one of the ceilings.
And Alessandra Torres has sent me a blustery proposal for an installation in a room that just whispers her name when one walks in.
And he doesn't know it yet, but Charlottesville painter Michael Fitts, whose piece received the highest bid (over original estimate) at the last Corcoran auction, has a great spot reserved on a distressed wall on the top floor of the third building, atop a stairs leading to the space where a performance will take place as part of "Seven."
I am still reviewing work and will re-review all slides in the WPA/C Registry soon, and will continue to review additional entries until June 10. Entry is free for all WPA/C members; see details here.
PrettyCity is a docublog for DC street art (including graffiti and performance art).
The BLOG is open to submission and if you'd like to contribute, or send in photos of art you've seen or done (flickr links are good too) send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
According to Mark Jenkins, the site's purpose is to document street art/expression in the DC area.
Monday, May 16, 2005
I'll be walking through the Warehouse spaces sometime today, along with some artists whose work I'd like to include in the coming "Seven" exhibition.
Visit here to enter "Seven."
Sunday, May 15, 2005
In spite of rain late Saturday (preceded by a brilliantly sunny day which of course resulted in a sunburn) and in spite of sprinkles throughout Sunday, the second annual Bethesda Fine Arts Festival was a spectacular success for the second year in a row. I managed to sell quite a few drawings, including a very large portrait of Frida Kahlo from my 2003 exhibition.
And loads of collectors were out and about: Pennsylvania sculptor Lorann Jacobs managed to sell every single one of her large, whimsical bronze sculptures on the first day of the festival, and New York painter David Gordon sold over $15,000 worth of his paintings plus gathered a $5,000 commission.
And many of DC Art News readers came by and said hello; it's very nice to put faces to the online hits. Also J.T. Kirkland, his mom, and the fair Brenn came by the say hello and chat for a while.
And I'm doing it all over again next weekend at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Together with around 130 artists from all over the country, Mexico and Canada, I'll be at the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival all day today and tomorrow.
Friday, May 13, 2005
This is one visual arts intensive weekend! No excuses allowed: go out and see a show or two.
For starts, tonight is the second Friday of the month, and thus the Bethesda Art Walk, from 6-9PM with fifteen participating art spaces. The artwalk also features free guided tours. Tours will begin at 6:30pm. Attendees can meet their guide at the Bethesda Metro Center, located at the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Wisconsin Avenue. Attendees do not have to participate in tours to visit Art Walk galleries.
We will open Compelled by Content, perhaps our most important exhibition ever, and one that's causing intense debate already in the online fine arts glass community. Opening reception to meet all the artists is from 6-9PM.
Tonight is also J.T. Kirkland's opening from 6-9PM at the University of Phoenix Northern Virginia Campus. Directions here.
In Alexandria, Principle Gallery has an opening tonight from 6:30-9:00PM for Lynn Boggess. Also tonight in Adams Morgan, Studio One Eight, a new space in town, has an opening of works by Steve Griffin.
On Saturday from 10AM-6PM and Sunday from 10AM-5PM is the massive Bethesda Fine Arts Festival, with over 130 artists from all over the nation showcasing original artwork and fine crafts. I will be there as well, in booth 23. This is an excellent opportunity to see a lot of original artwork all in one place. The festival is free and open to the public and takes place on Auburn and Norfolk Avenues in the Woodmont Triange of Bethesda and directions are here. The event is located six blocks from the Bethesda Metro station and is near several public parking garages where visitors can park for free on Saturdays and Sundays.
And Saturday evening is the Light Up the Warehouse party and fundraiser for the Warehouse Theatre and Galleries. It starts at 7PM and there are over 100 artists who have donated original work for this event. More details, including a list of artists, here.
Also on Saturday night, Evolving Perceptions is throwing a multi-genre and performance party at the Ratner Museum. It all starts at 8PM; see details here. At 11PM they will announce the Synergy finalists!
And on Sunday at 7:30PM, DCAC hosts Chris Lee's The Chelsea Manifesto: A three part discussion series about major trends and ideas in contemporary art and culture. Inspired by the current state of the London and New York art scenes - from which the title is derived - it is a mock "manifesto" of the modern revolutionary aesthete. Part III is this Sunday and it is titled "I Once was a Black Artist, Gay but not Stonewall, and All man/Almost." Race, alternative sexuality and feminist issues are all discussed in the context of mainstream culture. More details here.
That's a weekend full of art to satisfy any visual art cravings!
In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews our current Viktor Koen show in Georgetown. Jacobson also reviews Tom Barill at the Ralls Collection. Barill, of course, is the magician who did all the beautiful printing and darkroom work for Mapplethorpe.
In the WaPo, Michael O'Sullivan reviews Sensacional! Mexican Street Graphics, at the Cultural Institute of Mexico.
And Jonathan Padget discusses 12-year-old Hannah Rose at Hemphill Fine Arts, where Rose (who is the daughter of well-known artist Robin Rose) is exhibiting her artwork: "Gallery owner George Hemphill took note of Hannah's art, and he approached her parents last year about exhibiting what he considers a "prodigious" talent. The exhibition opening next week also features works by Lisa Bertnick and Tanya Marcuse."
Thursday, May 12, 2005
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.
And 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.
It 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.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.
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.
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.
In 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!And that, I suspect, would be the reaction that a lot of us would have in simply hearing about Kirkland's work.
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 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
For directions, see the LRA's web site at www.leagueofrestonartists.org
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
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
As many of you have already read, I have been retained by the WPA/C to curate a show for them. I will be assisted by two young WPA/C interns: Sandra Fernandez and Adrian Schneck.
Because this show will be exhibited at the three separate buildings that comprise the Warehouse Theatre and Galleries complex, a total of seven separate spaces are available, and all will be used, and thus the exhibition title: Seven.
Using the power of the web, I intend to keep this curatorial process open and available to everyone via commentary here on what I am doing, how and why. In doing so, I hope to bring to light all the many issues, baggage, ideas, agendas, nepotism, and a complete lack of objectivity that a curator brings to such a massive job as this will be. As well as a lot of hard work and a good work ethic to deliver a show that will make all involved proud to be part of it. All artwork and artists to be displayed will be picked by me.
I will also try to handcuff some of my fellow commercial gallerists and, once the exhibition is open, take them around and have them discover (hopefully) some new talent from our area. It is my hope that the final selection of artists will be a good blend of some well-known area WPA/C artists as well as an exhibition opportunity for WPA/C talent that we don't see as often.
To start, I have decided to focus each of the seven spaces on a specific theme, genre or subject... sort of. I will also bring to this selection process (and to one space) the commercial acumen of a for-profit gallerist. As such (for example), I will select the artwork that will go in the main gallery space (co-located with the Warehouse Cafe) to be that work that I feel represents the best compilation of all the remaining spaces and also stands the best chance (in my sole opinion) of being sold.
Other spaces will have different approaches; for example, on my first run through all of the WPA/C slides, I was pleasantly surprised at the high quality of a lot of abstract paintings, and will thus hope to deliver a gallery full of those artists that (in my opinion) are the best from the membership.
Another space will be focused on a particular agenda item of mine: the nude figure. And thus I hope to deliver a gallery full of figurative nudes. At this time, I am also toying with the idea (space and logistics permitting) of having a figure drawing class, nude model and all, present at the opening. This is in the hope that they (the artists and the model) will provide an in situ perspective on the trials, tribulations and joy of creating artwork from the live model.
Details on the exhibition and entry process is available online here. All members of the WPA/C are eligible for consideration, but all final decisions and selections are mine.
I've already gone through all the WPA/C slides once (about 20,000 of them I'd guess), and will review all new entries and slides that come in between now and some future date a couple of weeks before the exhibition opens on June 30, 2005. I also intend to re-review all slides in the registry next week.
And I've already made some surprising discoveries and even some selections! In fact the first artist selected, and one whose work I did not know, is a MICA graduate and VCU MFA candidate Alessandra Torres. The image above is hers, and that's the artist as part of a sculptural installation titled Possess/(pose-us).
More later... keep checking; I truly intend for this exhibition to be provocative and fresh, but in the end it still remains one person's opinion and the trite saying that art is in the eye's of the beholder never applied more aptly than in this case: My eyes and thus my Seven.
Kriston at G.P. joins in with some words on Gopnik's idea and DCist asks their substantial audience for their thoughts on the subject.
Just read it here; no need for me to re-hash this story of artwork, breasts and a Virginia magazine.
And Candace's artwork is here.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
To Scott Brooks whose work graces the cover of Direct Art magazine, as well as an indepth interview and several illustrations of Brooks' uniquely disturbing and highly intelligent art.
Read the interview here.
Scott will be having a solo show at Gallery Neptune in Bethesda from September 9, through Saturday, October 1, 2005. Some of Scott's works will be available this Friday at the Warehouse Fundraising and Party.
When: Saturday, May 14, 2005
Starting at 7pm at the Warehouse Theatre and Gallery. Free parking available - email Molly to reserve spot: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Warehouse hosts an eat, drink, look at art, go home with art, fun fundraiser. $150 includes art and evening festivities - bring a friend for $50 for evening festivities. Caricature Artist Andy Scott will draw the crowd - find your face on the wall of "party pics"!
Over 100 pieces of artwork donated by area artists is being displayed at Warehouse beginning Tuesday May 10th 3-10pm; Come and rate your favorites.
The party is at Warehouse, located at 1021 7th Street, NW, on Saturday May 14t.
Call: 202/783-3933 or call Molly at 301/654-2580 or visit www.warehousetheater.com.
Sponsor: $150 (includes art) - bring a friend $50; All tickets include: dinner, drinks, live/silent auction. Note: Tickets will be held at the door.
Street artists are beginning to bloom around the DC area. Today is the not only the first day that we can see Melissa Ichiuji at her Stripped non performance in front of the Corcoran, but also Mark Jenkins has quietly been doing his Storker Project all over the city!
Jenkins's Storker Project has been dropping tape-baby sculptures all over the city (13 so far in seven different places). They are a specific set of sculptures that are part of Jenkins' street artification our city.
See the Storker Project here.
See the rest of the Street Art here.
Mark Jenkins checks in with some thoughts on Gopnik's Corcoran idea:
Thomas Paine vs. Blake Gopnik
By Mark Jenkins
I admit I didn't make it through Gopnik's whole read.
I kept thinking of what a "common sense" decision it was for the Corcoran to do such a thing. And that got me to thinking about Thomas Paine's Common Sense: "these are the times that try men's souls..." the impassioned pamphlet (or memo if you will) that helped ignite the American Revolution.
And then I saw the irony since Gopnik has talked this same talk: "With so much courtly dissolution on show in art these days, you have to wonder if a revolution isn't due. And if it comes, will Whitmore put his classy talents at the service of the rebels?"
This is from Ian Whitmore's review at the Fusebox. Another review I read of his talked about awaiting the next artquake and I sent him a link to Banksy's pranks in NYC. No reply.
What I have noticed is that the Corcoran is doing art out on the street. I saw a chalk drawing on the sidewalk by a student, and this upcoming piece Stripped, ditto.
Instead of getting a Gehry addition (zzzz....) the Corcoran might do better to take the top off the museum, pave a road through it and let the students do street art. I'm sure the students would perk up at the idea.
Really, DC has enough museums; It is a museum Mecca.
And they're all conveniently located on the National Mall so that tourists never have to set foot outside it. If it wasn't for the National Zoo tourists probably wouldnt travel further North than the White House.
That being the case, even if the Corcoran gets hyper trendy with photography, gets a Gehry piece, it may still atrophy just because its just a few feet too far removed from the Mall and you have to pay to get in.
Mostly for me though, the Corcoran is known for their revolutionary school, and so to me its a school first and a museum second. Corcoran is also the only museum where a local artist has a shot at getting works on display. Turn it into a photography museum and await an Ansel Adam's show? Well, the Corcoran might hang on and survive but I don't think it will be birthing any "artquakes." But I don't think Gopnik looks to DC to do anything for the art world, but instead sees it as a container to showcase it. And if the Corcoran takes his advice I think he may be right.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Ask and ye shall receive; From J.W. Bailey:
Memo to: Blake Gopnik
Re: I'm a local photographer and I don't do prints!
Blake Gopnik's wickedly cynical and sarcastic memo to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in which he boldly goes where no man has gone before and outlines its science fiction titanium-clad Frank O. Gehry-future as a tourist-friendly blue-collar-fanfare-for-the-common-man low-art-literate repository of the questionable high art practices of "accessible" photography, almost rises to the level of a comedic masterpiece.
But Gopnik’s clear distaste for throw away representational photography as a legitimate form of high art is glaringly transparent and he’s no doubt very serious; Therefore, the understory of his mildly insulting views about the saccharine appeal of Kodak-moment photos to the non-MFA card carrying uneducated masses are enough to compel a local photographer to respond.
Gopnik says "Because most photographs exist in multiple prints, getting the images you need doesn’t put you at the mercy of a single collection that happens not to lend."
Perhaps if Gopnik spent more time with his eyes and ears attuned to local photographers (as well as their collectors) he would know that many of us aren’t into the mass-production multiple print aesthetic that he seems to loathe and actually do create one of a kind photographic works of art. But where Gopnik really gets going in his subtle ploy in support of the exhausted arguments declaring the weaknesses of photography as a legitimate art form is having Sarah Greenough, Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Art, confirm that "casual visitors seem to find photography more ‘approachable’ than more esoteric, and explicitly artistic, media."
From the grassy knoll Gopnik attempts to triangulate the assassination of the legitimacy of photography as a high art form by having Malcolm Daniel of the Met echo that "People don’t feel they need to take an art history course to appreciate photography."
Translation of the above curatorial/art critic conspiratorial drivel: Although the American masses are intellectually incapable of understanding and appreciating the serious challenges of critically celebrated postmodern fine art painting, even the most uneducated illiterate backwoods hard core anti-postmodern-art-hating hillbilly tourist from the most culturally deprived area of the most remote coal mining country of West Virginia can at least enjoy and appreciate looking at a nicely framed photograph of a rock in Yosemite National Park shot by Ansel Adams – in fact, these déclassé trash de blanc Disney World-Florida-vacation-dreaming fools may even be willing to pull cash out of their Wal-Mart purchased Harley-Davidson motorcycle chain wallets to pay for an admittance ticket for the privilege of stepping inside a chrome plated Gehry building so they can drool all over easily accessible patriotic representational photographs of American flags flapping in the breeze over Arlington Cemetery, snap-shot panoramic impressions of purple mountains majesty, and digitally enhanced scenes of mallard ducks floating on a pond in which the polluted waters have been scrubbed blue through the magic of Abode Photoshop, as well as old photographs of just about anything remotely Americana.
This is priceless!
Here we are several years into the 21st Century and the Chief Art Critic from the Washington Post is still questioning the place of photography in the pantheon of great art. It makes me mad enough to want to burn my camera, as well as my film and prints!
But the real joke with Gopnik’s silly proposition is that his opinion is not the one that counts. Frank O. Gehry is the one who signed on to design a new addition to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, not Gopnik. And you can bet the last worthless multiple print in your museum-worthy donor-friendly photographic collection culled from the discount bins of Salvation Army Thrift Stores that Gehry did not sign on to design a tourist-friendly holding area for low brow photographs.
All one has to do is take a very close look at Gehry’s body of architectural work, as well as his definition of art – save yourself a lot of research and understand that Gehry and Gopnik worship at the same high-tech high art painting church - to see whether or not he would ever agree to this photographic scheme.
To Gopnik’s credit, he opens his ridiculously funny piece by informing all what is common knowledge to everyone in the art world, and especially in Washington, D.C.: that being that the Corcoran Gallery of Art has deep problems at every level.
What a shame Gopnik wasted so much space on his trivial vision for the rehabilitation of the prestige of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, rather than detailing the true extent of the Corcoran’s problems and suggesting real solutions.
Gopnik is a creative art critic/writer and can no doubt produce multiple print solutions for the Corcoran all day long – perhaps when he gets serious, he’ll come up with a creative one of a kind photographic image of a solution that everybody will agree is a work of art.
James W. Bailey
Memo to: Dr. David Levy
RE: Corcoran BS Detector – Would You Care to Tell Us What Frank Really Thinks about Blake’s Idea?
Dr. David Levy, President and Director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, has weighed in with his polite corporate art speak Letter to the Editor to the Washington Post responding to Gopnik’s idea. I’ll weigh in with my Corcoran BS detector and offer the following translation of Levy’s letter, paragraph by paragraph:
We are grateful to Blake Gopnik for his interesting May 1 think piece, "Memo to: The Corcoran; Re: Sharpening Your Focus." His timing is apposite. Over the past few months, task forces composed of our Trustees, Boards of Overseers and staff have been assigned to think creatively about our institution's future.
Translation: We appreciate you attempting to embarrass us with your lame proposal, but as powerful a member of the DC art elite that you are, much more powerful powers (and certainly much bigger donors than you) are calling future programmatic shots right now in order to secure the needed additional funding to get this Gehry thing to the ground breaking stage.
We find Gopnik's suggestion to focus more sharply on a single programmatic area -- in this case, photography -- to be a provocative and interesting idea. And we agree that such an approach could help us strengthen our identity in a city that sometimes seems to have more museums than residents. After all, the Corcoran has a long history of distinguished photography exhibitions and a pioneering tradition of photographic education at its College of Art + Design.
Translation: Some members of the Corcoran’s staff have children; and just like most kids, we also think photographs can be fun, enjoyable and accessible and wouldn’t necessarily object to having more child-like residents of DC walk into our museum to see more accessible photographs, as long as these children can afford to live in the area of the city where museums do indeed out number residents. It might be problematic for us to have certain problematic residents from certain problematic areas of the city that have no museums to flock en mass to the Corcoran to see overly accessible photographs; so, for security reasons we, would naturally under your proposal have to temper that potential problem by keeping the photographic exhibitions accessible, but not too accessible – for example, we probably would not entertain a photography exhibit titled, "The Massacre," that examines a day in the thug life of 50 Cent. We strive to be ‘bout it ‘bout it, as much as possible in a predominately African-American city such as Washington, D.C., but please give us a break and let’s get our board more diversified first. Once we have a board that truly reflects the demographics of Washington, D.C., then we’ll see what we can do increase visitation to the museum among the young DC resident African-American youth members of 50 Cent’s posse and fan club. Although we briefly flirted with the OPTIONS 05 concept of providing a credible exhibition opportunity for area minority and marginalized artists whose works touch on radical, provocative and disturbing themes, concepts and philosophies through the curatorial direction of Philip Barlow, fortunately cooler heads prevailed in the interests of not rocking the DC government approved TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district for the Gehry project (I think we fired his ass), and, although we know it’s a cop out, we’ll all now look forward to the new OPTIONS 05 curator Libby Lumpkin’s safe choices of predominately white MFA graduate students who are recycling ad infinitum non-confrontational imagery served up by the more easily digestible forms of minimalism that are perfectly suited for display in museums like the Corcoran, but also in the marble foyers of McMansions in Northern Virginia.
In fact, there was an effort some five years ago to establish a National Museum of Photography on the old convention center site, based on the great photography collection amassed by Howard Gilman. When this plan did not materialize, we proposed that the Gilman Foundation join us in the creation of a National Photography Center at the Corcoran, housed in our new Frank Gehry building. Although ultimately this idea did not work out, it would have built on the strength of our important photographic holdings and would have been very much in keeping with the spirit of Gopnik's ideas. Faced with another such opportunity, we would enthusiastically explore it.
Translation: Oh know you didn’t, dog! Props up, bro! You ain’t the first, Blake, to suggest this wonderful idea so don’t go gettin’ all high and mighty and actin’ a fool up in here like you did – uh, actually, I tried and, yes, I do admit that I failed. If somebody wants to pick up the ball and kick it around this time, I might be interested, but I would have to vet the idea, again, with Frank…and I think we all know where that will go, again.
Taken in its entirety, Gopnik's proposal might be hard to reconcile with our continuing mission to present the Corcoran's choice collection of American art (of particular resonance in this capital city) or with its very strong educational and community orientation. Still, he suggests a promising direction, not just for this museum but for our city and our national patrimony.
Translation: Look, man, all of us at the Corcoran know we have problems (and, by the way, I would like to personally thank you and the editorial staff of the Washington Post very much for not going into too much detail about all that history), but, as you know, we’re really all about real high art at the Corcoran, not exhibiting multiple prints or scavenging around in abandoned attics looking for old historic photographic stuff to display. Although there’s no chance in hell we (Frank) will every go along with your scheme, we do appreciate you taking the time to devote a full page to your ego and its idea, rather than excoriating us in painful detail over other serious matters. The potential commercial success of your brilliant concept would probably be much better realized through a for profit corporate enterprise like that which built the International Spy Museum. I personally know the folks over there and would be happy to set you up for a lunch date with them. You can reach me anytime on my Blackberry.
"The hype comes from unemployed or partially employed marketing professionals and people who never made it as journalists wanting to believe," he said. "They want to believe there's going to be this new revolution and their lives are going to be changed."Read the New York Times story here.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Dr. David Levy, Director of the Corcoran, responds today in the WaPo to Blake Gopnik's interesting and provocative idea (from last week) that the Corcoran ought to establish a separate identity by focusing (no pun intended) on photography.
Blake here and Levy's response here.
I am curious what people think about Gopnik's idea. I think that it has some merit and I agree that Philip Brookman has done an extraordinary job as the Corcoran's photography curator. And Gopnik is right in the fact that there are some excellent photography collections, both public and private, in our area; why not have a museum for the genre?
From a commercial perspective it makes sense too; at least half of our shows for the last couple of years have been photography shows. In fact this year, we probably had more like 75% photography shows. Our sales have consistently been at least 50% photography.
Email me your thoughts and comments on this subject and I'll publish them here.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
While at the Corcoran yesterday I ran into an interesting card announcing a "36 hour non-performance in front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art on the corner of 17th Street and New York Avenue in Washington, DC."
The non performance, by Corcoran student, actress, former WPA/C intern and dancer Melissa Ichiuji, is titled Stripped and asks the question "How much would you loose to appreciate what you have?"
Stripped will take place May 10 starting at 6AM and finish May 11 at 6PM. More info here.
Friday, May 06, 2005
There are a ton of great art openings and art parties going on all over town tonight! If you've got nothing to do, then you haven't been paying attention!
I'll be at the Warehouse Gallery party for artists who donated works for their fundraiser.
See ya there!
Thursday, May 05, 2005
In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews William Christenberry at Adamson.
In the WaPo, Jessica Dawson's Galleries column reviews a museum show as she writes about Tim Rollins + K.O.S. show at the Kreeger Museum.
In the Gazette, Chris Slattery reviews Elisabeth Lescault at Creative Partners.
I will be jurying the LRA Annual Juried Show this coming June. The deadline is May 31, 2005.
This annual Juried Exhibition will take place at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne's Jo Ann Rose Gallery in Reston, Virginia from June 6 – July 4, 2005.
The competition is open to all Washington, D.C. Greater metropolitan area artists working in all media and there is a $500 Jo Ann Rose Award and $1,000 in Equal Merit Awards.
Details, entry forms, etc. here.
In addition to the great opportunity first posted here, the newly renovated Arlington Arts Center has a couple more excellent opportunities for artists:
Art from Arlington: July 19 - August 27, 2005. Application Deadline May 25, 2005. All artists living or working in Arlington, Virginia are invited to apply for this group exhibition of artworks in all media. Prospectus may be downloaded at AAC's website.
2005 M.F.A Graduates Exhibition: July 19 - August 27, 2005. Application Deadline May 25, 2005. Open to 2005 M.F.A. Graduates studying in Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland. Artworks in all media will be considered. Floor plans and prospectus may be downloaded on AAC's website or call 703.248.6800, ext 12.
Shigeko Bork mu project will next showcase Jennifer Wen Ma's video installation and performance, "Flight and Cleansing Walk."
Wen Ma's work is like a one-person funerary procession. It is a quiet demonstration of loss and grief, and (at the same time), a personal ritualistic cleansing and purging. The opening reception for the artist will be on May 11 from 6 - 8pm.
The video installation will be on view from May 11 till May 27, 2005. Ms.Ma will perform "Cleansing Walk" in Washington, DC from May 6 - 9.
For the time and location of her performance, please call the gallery. Shigeko Bork mu project is located on 1521 Wisconsin Ave., N. W. No. 2, Washington, DC 20007. The phone number is 202.333.4119
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
This is the First Friday of the month... and of course that means that the galleries around the Dupont Circle area will have their extended openings. By the way... whoever maintains this website needs to really update it! Some of these galleries have closed while others have opened!
Anyway...Specially interesting will be the opening at Conner Contemporary, where Leigh will have Kehinde Wiley and Sabeen Raja. If you have time for only one show, go see this one.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
The DCist Tuesday Arts Agenda is here.
Alexandra Silverthorne's photography exhibition "No More Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!" (which is co-organized by the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area) opens this Thursday at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library located at 901 G Street, NW in Washington. The opening reception is on the 2nd Floor, goes from 6:30 to 8PM and refreshments will be served.
The exhibition runs through May 29, 2005. For more information visit her website.
Solo Exhibitions for 2006 in Arlington Arts Center
Deadline: Friday, July 01, 2005
Ten to fifteen artists will be selected for solo exhibitions to take place in 2006 in one of Arlington Arts Center's newly renovated galleries.
All artists living or working in Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania are invited to submit slides. Artworks in all media will be considered.
For more info visit this website or contact them at:
Arlington Arts Center
3550 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
I've been hearing some very good things about the current exhibition of paintings by Thomas Walsh at Nevin Kelly Gallery.
Walsh's show runs through May 8, and I certainly hope to be able to drop by and take a look before it closes.
One of the best watercolorists in our area is Chris Krupinski, and she'll be having a new exhibition at the Center for the Arts' Caton Merchant Gallery in Manassas.
The exhibition opens this Friday as part of the Manassas Gallery Walk from 6-9PM. The reception for the artist is next May 14 from 6-8PM. Free and open to the public, but RSVP requited to 703/330-2787.
Julia Rommel's thesis exhibition is opening at American University's Watkins Gallery this coming Thursday with an opening reception from 7-9PM.
Rommel's work has (so far) been my favorite from the MFA thesis shows exhibited at AU.
The exhibition closes on May 11, so hurry!
Samantha Wolov is putting on a one night erotic photo installation this coming Friday, May 6, from 6-9PM, at the Washington Gallery of Photography.
Its called "One Night Stand", and it is a one night-only installation and Wolov says about her work that
"Essentially, I wanted to create sexually arousing imagery without using the techniques used in modern pornographic magazines -- i.e., no posing, no acknowledgment of the camera, etc. Looking back at art history, the techniques used in Playboy, for example, actually had the opposite, more "sobering" effect.Wolov plans to set up an intimate viewing area, and her photos will then be projected onto the gallery walls.
I am hoping to make a form of "anti-porn" that was still arousing; no posing, complete disregard for the camera, very spur of the moment."
The installation is free and open to the public and for more information, please email Wolov here.
There's only one gallery in our area that concentrates exclusively on classical realism, and that's Century Gallery in Alexandria.
And Century is hosting a reception this Saturday May 7, 2005 from 6-9PM for four area artists who have achieved a lot of recognition for their classical work; they are: John Murray, Dan Thompson, Randy Melick and Rick Weaver.
Monday, May 02, 2005
The last great taboo barrier is apparently coming down as porn enters the rarified atmosphere of high art. The NYT has an interesting article on the latest and greatest here. You can get a password for the NYT site from Bugmenot here.
In 1997 I did an exhibition of my portraits of porn movie stars and starlets, and although it did really well (they all sold, and some are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Sex), it still received a rather prudish review in the Washington Post.
I wonder what the reaction would be now?
A new solo Art exhibition featuring the works of Afrika Midnight Asha Abney is currently on exhibition at Norton Kirby Advertising, 2410 18th St NW in Washington, DC.
Hours are Monday - Friday, 10am - 8pm, and weekends by appointments only. The show has been curated by Collin Klamper, Afrika Midnight Asha Abney and David Dyer of Art N Deed. For more information send an email to Aashawarrior@aol.com or call 202/538-3403.
While I was away, the City Paper's Lou Jacobson reviewed our current Andrzej Pluta photography show in our Bethesda gallery.
Read the review here.
One of the bennies you get by being an arts blogger is that we all read each others' BLOGs and thus everyone who is anyone in the BLOGsphere knows that my good friend J.T. Kirkland is opening his first ever solo show today.
What: "Studies in Organic Minimalism" -– J.T. Kirkland solo art exhibition
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
For directions, see the LRA's website.
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
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Just back from an exhausting (but successful weekend art fair), and just in time to catch another great episode of Deadwood. Have a few hundred emails and a ten days of the WaPo and others to catch up on.
And leave it to Bailey to help me out with my lack of recent posting and give us some good reading and excellent discussion points as he responds to Blake Gopnik's piece on Christian Marclay's video work (filed all the way from London).
"How About an Art Exhibit Inspired by an Art Critic Who’s Dragged Behind a Pickup Truck in Texas?"
By J.W. Bailey
One of the emblems of postmodern art is its insulated obsession with distilling unimaginable human tragedy down to a clever relativist art trick that is appropriate for display in the sanitized environment of the white cube space – and the larger the scale of the tragedy, the more the art trick seems to revolve around the distorted use of multi-media to convey the horrors of the deaths of the usually nameless and faceless victims that are symbolized through the art.
In his review of Christian Marclay’s seminal postmodern work, "Guitar Drag," Blake Gopnik takes the trouble to inform us that the video of the guitar being dragged behind a pickup truck for 14 minutes along a rural road echoes the death of James Byrd, Jr., at the hands of vicious racists in Texas (mind you that Gopnik doesn’t actually mention the vicious racists part, though).
Gopnik, a refined genteel member of the Washington, D.C., art elite, and a person we can safely assume has never spent more than three seconds riding in the back bed of a pickup truck in Texas with a perverted gang of drunken good ole’ boy racist rednecks looking for trouble, let alone ever being dragged behind that pickup as an African-American victim of their sick and monstrous joyride, tells us that watching Marclay’s stirring musical piece made him feel the pain of James Byrd, Jr.
Of course, the only important thing about Mr. Byrd’s actual life and death that Gopnik can muster to say in his review is that Mr. Byrd was "a black man dragged along a Texas road until his body fell apart."
Hopefully, postmodern art critics will never be licensed as forensic examiners – but I do have my doubts about that as they seem to be self-qualified to speak as experts on just about every other subject.
For the forensic art record, here’s just part of what happened to Mr. James Byrd, Jr.:
An African-American man, James Bryd, Jr., was brutally murdered by being kidnapped, beaten unconscious, spray-painted in the face with black paint, tied to the back of a pick-up truck, pants dropped down to his ankles, dragged 2.5 miles over pavement through a rural black community in Jasper County called Huff Creek, leaving his skin, blood, arms, head, genitalia, and other parts of his body strewn along the highway. His remains were dumped in front of a black cemetery.
Mr. Byrd was also member of a large family and had three sons. Following Mr. Byrd’s death, the Byrd family emerged as one of the nation's most powerful voices fighting for all people, including gay and lesbian Americans, against hate and intolerance. Mr.Byrd's sister, Louvon Harris, and his nephew, Darrell Verrett, who also serves as the executive director of the James Byrd Jr. Foundation, have been key advocates for both state and federal hate crime legislation. The family has spoken in support of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act at press conferences with HRC and appeared at Equality Rocks to promote their message of ending hate violence in America.
Marclay wants to present us with a trivial and stupid work of postmodern art that capitalizes on the death of another human being – that should come as no surprise as the world of high art loves touting this culture of death stuff. Gopnik wants to tell us about how painful that experience Byrd went through must have been after watching Marclay’s guitar fall apart – there’s no surprise there either as most art critics, no matter what their postmodern philosophical shortcomings, must at least appear to be somewhat human to their readers by giving lip service to a human disaster that is the supposed inspiration for a positively reviewed work of art.
Perhaps one day Christian Marclay will arrange for a private screening of "Guitar Drag" for all the friends and family members of Mr. James Byrd, Jr. – maybe Marclay will also invite Blake Gopnik to come back to the gallery and review that audience’s reactions to his masterpiece. And if Gopnik can sit still for long enough and actually listen to what they think and have to say about this piece of "art," there might not be enough column space in a lifetime’s supply of the Washington Post to review those reactions.
But that’s a big question – I think we would be lucky to have Gopnik sit for more than 14 minutes in the safety of the air-conditioned white cube space screening room surrounded by the traumatized emotions of people who knew and loved Mr. Byrd, Jr. (and who saw what his body really looked like after being dragged along that Texas back road) before he would get bored and have to move on to the next great piece of postmodern art to review.
A quick exit from the insensitive and manipulative "Guitar Drag" would certainly be understandable from those who personally knew Mr. Bryd, Jr. and could not stomach watching and listening to the excesses of its wretched and exploitative symbolism.
If only the world of high art could so easily exit itself from its self-created excesses by shallow artists that are propped up by an army of gullible critics that the rest of us can’t stomach from time to time, who refuse to break with the party line of postmodernism in their reviews no matter how outrageous the exploitation of the death of another human being through the art they are philosophically required to celebrate.
James W. Bailey
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