Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wall Mountables at DCAC

Around DC, anytime that you have an open show (meaning a show without a juror or curator), the local critics tend to immediately savage it. This seems to be a predictable critical analysis somewhat unique to the capital area's visual arts and artists as viewed by most of DC area critics.

Once a year, the District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC), through a show called "Wall Mountables," allows any and all artists to hang anything they want, so long as it fits within a two square foot space. It's usually one of my favorite shows and a terrific opportunity for artists to exhibit and sell their work.

DCAC will be accepting and allowing artists to hang their work today July 19th 3-8pm, and tomorrow July 20th 3-6pm. Spaces are available on a first-come basis. Details here.

The opening reception is Friday, July 20th 7-9pm. This is a great opportunity to obtain original artwork at very affordable prices. The show runs through Friday, Sept. 7, 2007.

The Beat Goes On

This is what makes creating, editing and publishing a good art blog interesting. Intelligent voices discussing and treating a very difficult question: "What makes good art?"

Recap: On the air, at the Kojo Nnamdi show, WCP art critic Jeffry Cudlin offered a live, on-the-air opinion of what makes good art. A reader then emailed me and asked if I could get Jeffry to put his words into text and Cudlin expanded a bit on his off the cuff opinion here.

Then Mark Cameron Boyd responded with a view of his own, and now Jeffry in turn responds to the points raised by Mark, who teaches art theory at the Corcoran.

1) "The growing specialization of the arts is due chiefly not to the prevalence of the division of labor, but to our increasing faith in and taste for the immediate, the concrete, the irreducible. To met this taste... the various modernist artists try to confine themselves to that which is most positive and immediate in themselves, which consists in the unique attributes of their mediums. It follows that a modernist work of art must try, in principle, to avoid communication with any order of experience not inherent in the most literally and essentially construed nature of its medium."
- - Sculpture in Our Time, Clement Greenberg, from The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 4: Modernism with a Vengeance.

In any event, I mentioned Greenberg because obviously nobody buys this position anymore -- at least not the way it came to be framed. There's generally a consensus that Greenberg's arguments for art boiled everything down further and further -- until you reach the Minimalist art that Greenberg couldn't bring himself to accept, despite the fact that in so many ways it seemed like a perfected expression of his operating principles.

Here's the key point: I'm NOT saying that the HOW trumps the WHAT. Does the medium help or hinder? That's exactly the question I'm driving at. Apologies if I wasn't able to make that more clear.

2) Oh, the confusion over talent and creativity. Maybe it's the word "mastery" that's sending you into a tizzy: By quoting Ruskin, I'd hoped to avoid that -- thinking specifically here of On the Nature of Gothic, from The Stones of Venice.

3) As for the relation of the work to manifestos, the necessity of the critic to intervene --- Mark, you more than anyone should know that this is up for grabs.

We can describe how the mechanisms work, how the positions within the discourse seem to relate to one another -- but it's a fluid dynamic.

There's what the artist says in the work through representation, and what s/he says in the work through execution or style -- two kinds of content, in sympathy or not. The what and the how, as you say, and both are important.

There are also statements, and essays, and installations of the work.

The critic tries to determine both the content of the work by itself, and whether or not that can be reconciled with the rest.

It's imperfect; the critic is one voice among many, and s/he attempts to nudge the discourse as best s/he can. Doesn't mean the critic is the final arbiter, just one of many gatekeepers and interpreters -- fallible, human, making arguments rooted in a particular historical moment. So it goes. Doesn't mean that the job's not worth doing, or that it can't significantly add to -- or help sort out--this business of cultural production.

-- Jeffry Cudlin