Saturday, January 06, 2007

Fred Ognibene's Top Ten DC Area Art Shows

Ubercollector Fred Ognibene is not only one of the DC area's best-known art collectors, but also a very generous donor to our area's museums. Herewith his list of the Top 10 11 DC area art shows, in alphabetical order:

1. Barlow Curates at Addison-Ripley, especially the amazing sculptures of Elizabeth-Lundberg Morrisette (actually an artist I discovered at the last Art-o-Matic).

2. Bellini-Giorgione-Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting at the National Gallery of Art-one of the most beautiful shows I have ever seen.

3. Christopher French: New Paintings: Contradictory Resemblances at Marsha Mateyka Gallery - a very complex show of color families painted on Braille paper with hypnotic results.

4. Kevin Kepple at Addison-Ripley - Kevin’s works have matured and are more complex; the new palette he is using resulted in beautiful paintings.

5. Dean Kessman: Plastic on Paper at Conner Contemporary - plastic shopping bags as art - beautiful and unexpected renderings from some horribly ugly satchels.

6. Jim Lambie: Directions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden -thanks for showing his work.

7. Maggie Michael: Open End at G Fine Art - her paintings keep getting better and stronger and more complex.

8. Ledelle Moe: Congregation at G Fine Art and storefront installation on 14th Street - a sculptor willing to push the limits and with a very strong future.

9. Vesna Pavlovic: Collections/Kolekcija at Fusebox-a wonderful collection of images from an artist now in the Columbia MFA program... I am glad I bought her work early!

10. Erik Sandberg: Contrary at Conner Contemporary -h e is/will be significant competition for John Currin!

11. Ian Whitmore: Little Lies at Fusebox - a VERY talented artist with a guaranteed successful future.


I really, really try to stay away from constantly poking fun at the Washington Post's erudite Chief Art Critic, Blake Gopnik's curiously academic and outdated views on contemporary art, which are still somehow stuck somewhere in the 1960s - I think - but the man is a never-ending source of astounding agendart verbosity.

So here's the latest:

According to this AP story a "North Carolina artist intrigued by the public obsession with celebrity has found herself feeding that obsession with a painting of actress Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary hovering over a Wal-Mart check-out line.

Kate Kretz has painted for 20 years but none of her previous work has garnered the attention given 'Blessed Art Thou,' showing this weekend at Art Miami, an annual exposition of modern and contemporary art."

Jollie painting by Kate Kretz

And so, this WaPo blogger asked Blake Gopnik for his opinion on the painting, and the Gopnikmeister delivered this brilliant Gopnikism:
"Kate Kretz's painting comes closer to magazine illustration than to the subtle fine art you'd expect to see in a major museum of contemporary art. It gets its messages across, alright. It presents Angelina Jolie as our nation's Madonna of Consumption. In a glory of siliconed breasts, collagened lips and foreign-adopted cherubs, Angelina reigns over Wal-Mart's banality -- its all-American brands, its all-American flag, it's all-American obesity. The problem with the picture, art-wise, is that its messages are way TOO clear. It's more like a puzzle-picture than a probing work of art: Once you've deciphered it, there's not much chance of giving it a second look. Its van-art technique, especially, is so generic that it hardly has a thing to say that hasn't been said a thousand times before -- often, much better. The crucial question, in our busy age: Why spend time with this work, when a 500-word Op Ed would do a better job expressing its opinions, and any number of Old Master paintings would mean more to an art-loving eye."
Let me decipher this a-la-Bailey; Gopnik is affirming that:

1. "Real" art must be subtle in order to be of museum quality.

2. "Real" art should never be TOO clear in its message (otherwise who'd need critics to interpret it for us?).

3. "Real" art should "say" something, but not too clearly, and that something shouldn't have been said too many times before.

4. Old Master paintings, because they're done by dead Old Masters, can say something in a heavy-handed way, and really clearly, but that's OK, because they're Old Masters and not some new painter who's clearly never gotten the memo that painting is dead.