Sunday, May 11, 2008

WGS Open Studios

The Washington Glass School is having their big annual open house and 7th Anniversary Party this coming Saturday. Tons of glass sculptures and bowls for sale as well as music, food, and class specials. This annual event is always a load of fun and a great way to grab some real fine art as well as some decorative bargains! Over two dozen artists in the area will be participating... so you don't want to miss this one - pencil it in now.

Saturday, May 17th from 12noon to 5pm. Details here.


Heather over at DCist has a terrific overview of Artomatic and one that gets it: it's not just about the art. Read it here.

It will take several visits to digest this massive show, but I am already hearing the usual mix of kudos and complaints about the show.

It is also easy to predict what the press and writers think: if you never liked AOM because it was free, open, unjuried and democratic, then you won't like it this time or 100 times from now, regardless of what the actual art or artists do. This is called being "close minded" and it is an integral part of being a human being. Some people prefer controlled, juried or curated exhibitions only, and that's OK, even though sometimes -- often times -- they can yield silly shows like the most recent Whitney Biennials. Others are OK with both environments.

Having been to and seen every single AOM since it started, for me the fun part -- other that breathing in all the artistic good karma and energy that it releases upon the Greater DC area -- is trying to figure out who the emerging new art stars will be.

The past AOMs have yielded artistic finds such as the Dumbacher brothers, Tim Tate, Frank Warren, Kelly Towles, Kathryn Cornelius, Laurel Lukaszewski and many others.

I look forward to visiting AOM and this year I will focus strictly on artists who are new to me.

More later...

On the other side of the coin

The Washington Post's chief art critic is dead on when he bashes the whole issue of:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the few undoubtedly, undilutedly great figures of the 20th century. Here's a radical idea for truly doing justice to the greatness of his memory: Give him a monument that might go down in history as an equally great work of art.

According to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the 28-foot-tall statue of King now being prepared on a work site in China, for eventual placement in a memorial on the Mall, doesn't fill that bill. As reported yesterday, the commission, which has final say in all such projects, recently concluded that the latest model for the sculpture evokes the socialist realist art of Stalin's Russia and Mao's China -- "a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries," as the commission's chairman put it in a letter to the foundation raising funds for the memorial.
Of course giving King, or anyone for that matter "a monument that might go down in history as an equally great work of art" is not an easy assignment, as the only judge and jury there is time, not contemporary artists, critics or intelligentsia.
Photo Credit Courtesy Lei Yixin

Gopnik makes it clear that "for the record, I'm not on board with those who complain that the King monument is being made by a foreigner. Americans have a great tradition of bringing in the best art from abroad and (eventually) making it their own: The Statue of Liberty was designed, engineered and financed by Frenchmen."

That is 98% correct, although a little research into how his example's seminal idea, construction and delivery was initially received by the American press and public does yield a few similarities with the King issue. With the passage of time, though, Gopnik's example eventually becomes a good one. But it's also not a good example in the sense that Liberty was a gift from the people of France, designed, built and paid by the French.

He's also disregarding the huge controversies and arguments raised at the time over his second example, the Viet Nam War Memorial.

In fact, it seems like the first thing that happens when a public memorial, any memorial, gets planned and discussed, is that huge chasms erupt as the various agendas, ideologies and issues arise.

Historically, huge differences of opinion and artistic controversy seems to be part of the process. It was for Lady Liberty, it was for Maya Lin's elegant wall, it was for the recent WWII Memorial, and it will be for Dr. King's statue.

Gopnik takes a stab at what would work and then backs out before making a striking observation:
What would a monument to King look like that was as forward-looking, as change-inspired as the man himself? I've no clear idea. It would probably be figurative, like most of today's best art. Abstraction has lost the power it once had to make us think in terms of big ideas; it's mostly come to have the feel of lobby decoration.
Insight into Gopnik: "figurative, like most of today's best art" - that was news to me, somewhat of a Gopnikphile... although I already knew that he thought that "Abstraction has lost the power it once had to make us think in terms of big ideas."

It will be a difficult process to select a statue for Dr. King; that much we already know, but the current Maoist-Stalinist piece of merde being constructed inside the Chinese BORG is not the answer.

Bravo Gopnik! Read the article here.

PS - What's with that "look" in King's face in the Lei Yixin statue anyway? And what's with the arms crossed and one hand holding a pen? (is it a pen?) - it's like Lei Yixin took Bob Dole's body and put a King head on it, where MLK is staring at the sun and squinting in discomfort?