Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Conservative Berkeley and Rocky

Chris Gilbert, the former curator of art at the Baltimore Museum of Art (and a past Trawick Prize juror I believe), a while back resigned his position as a curator at the Berkeley Museum of Art & Pacific Film Archive and has now quit the "system."
Chris Gilbert (Wendy Edelstein photo)
Gilbert resigned over disagreements caused by the exhibition "Now-Time Venezuela: Media Along the Path of the Bolivarian Process".

In his statement Gilbert states:

"...they have said they wanted "neutrality" and "balance" whereas I have always said that instead my approach is about commitment, support, and alignment -- in brief, taking sides with and promoting revolution."
Gilbert then discusses
"...the fact that the museum, the bourgeois values it promotes via the institution of contemporary art (contemporary art of the past 30 years is really in most respects simply the cultural arm of upper-class power) are not really those of any class but its own. Importantly the museum and the bourgeoisie will always deny the role of class interests in this: they will always maintain that the kinds of cultural production they promote are more difficult, smarter, more sophisticated -- hence the lack of response to most contemporary art is, according to them, about differences in education and sophistication rather than class interest. That this kind of claim is obscurantist and absurd is something the present exhibitions make very clear: the work of Catia TVe, which is created by people in the popular (working-class) neighborhoods of Caracas, is far more sophisticated than what comes out of the contemporary art of the Global North."
So what this once "insider" offers to us is the opinion (backed by his experiences) that popular artwork is inherently better than most museum-level contemporary artwork, and that the reason that contemporary museum shows are not generally accepted by the public is then rationalized by the museums and art elitists as a result of the public not being educated and sophisticated enough to understand what the artwork is all about.

But this elitist operating mode of thinking will always be denied.

Interesting; Gilbert continues:
" is too weak to say that museums, like universities, are deeply corrupt. They are. (And in my view the key points to discuss regarding this corruption are (1) the museum's claim to represent the public's interests when in fact serving upper-class interests and parading a carefully constructed surrogate image of the public; (2) the presence of intra-institutional press and marketing departments that really operate to hold a political line through various control techniques, only one of which is censorship; finally (3) the presence of development departments that, in mostly hidden ways, favor and flatter rich funders, giving the lie to even the sham notion of public responsibility that the museum parades)."
Now take Rocky.

In the Greater Philadelphia area, and elsewhere through newscoverage and blogs, a lot of discussions and opinions have been aired about the public return of the Rocky Balboa statue to a new spot at the foot of Eakins Oval next to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The statue, which re-creates one of the most famous scenes from the original Rocky movie (and was introduced in Rocky III), was installed initially many years ago at the top of the museum steps, but was removed just a few months later when "museum officials and art aficionados argued that it was merely a movie prop and that its 'exaggerated proportions and caricature' would sully the internationally renowned museum's image."

And now the Philadelphia Arts Commission recently voted 6-2 to move the 2,000-pound, 8 foot, six inches bronze out of storage and install it permanently at the foot of Eakins Oval.

This decision has divided public opinion faster than Mrs. Clinton.

On one side of the public opinion, there's... ah... the public, which seems to me to like having its Rocky statue back as sort of a visual and touristy symbol of this blue collar, working class city.

"We're thrilled," said city Commerce Director Stephanie Naidoff. "What more wonderful a symbol of hard work and dedication is there than Rocky?"

On the other side are art academics and elitists and some art bloggers.

The two "no" votes from the Arts Commission came from Prof. Moe Brooker, an abstract painter from the Moore College of Art and Design and from Miguel Angel Corzo, the President of the University of the Arts.

"It's not a work of art and ... it doesn't belong there," said Brooker.

Corzo has suggested that he might resign from the commission over the vote, saying that "placing the pugilist near the museum goes against the commission's desire to 'raise the standards of the city.'"

I wonder what side Chris Gilbert would take: the side shuddering at the thought of the Italian Stallion sullying the image of the museum, or the masses, rushing up the 72 steps to the museum only to find that the statue is not there and then having to ask where the Eakins Oval is.

By the way, according to Google, the words "Conservative Berkeley" have been used together only just over 100 times in the billions and billions of pages that make up the web.

Yo Adrian!

New writer at the CP

From Erik Wemple (WCP editor):

Dear Colleagues:

Allow me to announce that Washington City Paper has hired a columnist for our S&T column. Her name is Jessica Gould, and she comes to us from the Northwest/Dupont/Georgetown Current.

She has a wonderful and direct writing style and her passion is arts reporting
[underlines are mine], which she's eager to do in a column format for Washington City Paper. She's used to writing up to five stories a week, so she can crank news copy like no one's biz.

She starts on Oct. 12.
We all welcome Jessica!