Monday, March 09, 2009

Black and Italian and Beechcroftian

Brewing around for a couple of months...

Vanessa Beecroft had better prepare for some serious damage control, since director Pietra Brettkelly's documentary on Beecroft, The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins, opens at Sundance tonight. The doc cluster-bombs her faddish fascination with Sudanese orphans and paints Beecroft as a hypocritically self-aware, colossally colonial pomo narcissist. The film is brutally effective because it lets Beecroft hang herself with damaging quotes and appalling behavior.

The documentary explores Beecroft’s experiment in Sudan, in which she attempts to adopt two Sudanese orphans and use them as subjects in her work. Wise to theory, Beecroft says her adoption will be “not just fetishization of the blacks. It will be a beginning of a relationship with that country.” The film documents the significant gap between Beecroft's theory and her actions.

Upon her arrival in the Sudan, Beecroft hurries to set up a photo shoot, hiding the cameras from the orphanage's sisters, calling the babies “these poor creatures.” Which baby should she photograph? “Either one or the other,” she says, “it doesn’t matter.”

Repeatedly, Beecroft claims that she “loves this culture” — but, in the film’s most disturbing scene, sisters from the orphanage try to stop her from stripping the children nude inside their abbey for an elaborate photo shoot. Beecroft refuses, complains, starts shooting again, and eventually loses a physical confrontation with one of the sisters, who takes the children away from her, furious that Beecroft is stripping children naked inside a church. “Christ, these people,” Beecroft moans, as she barricades herself inside, pushing a pew up against the door to keep the sisters out of their own abbey.
Read the report in NY Magazine here and Black Cat Bone here and the WaPo here.

"Many people are enraged," Amnau Eele, head of the Black Artists Association, told Page Six. "She wants to be famous on the backs of poor black children."

Opportunity for Artists

Deadline: March 13, 2009

UNICEF is seeking artists of all levels (beginner to professional) to contribute artwork to promote the Tap Project — a campaign to provide clean drinking water to children around the world. All of the works submitted will be eligible for a $500 juried prize and exhibition during World Water Week, March 22-28, at the Pepco Edison Gallery located at 701 Ninth St., NW in DC. Submissions will also be considered for use in print and online advertising in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

During World Water Week participating restaurants will ask diners to voluntarily pay $1 for the tap water they would usually enjoy for free. For every dollar raised, a child will have clean drinking water for 40 days.

All artwork should pertain to drinking water. Due date is March 13. Details here.

At the D'Art Center in Norfolk

In the many years that I have been jurying or curating art exhibitions around the nation, I have never ceased to be impressed each and every time by the diversity of the human mind when putting pen to paper, or brush to canvas or chisel to stone, or eye to camera view finder.

And yet, after well over 300 exhibitions in which I have had a hand in orchestrating, I can say with an enthusiastic attitude that the recent exhibition for Norfolk's D’Art Center (which opened last Friday) provided me, the juror, with one of the most pleasant and interesting and intelligent juried competitions that it has been my honor to put together.

Hundreds of artists from 17 states submitted work for the competition, so the talent pool was diverse and geographically diverse.

My first pleasant surprise in jurying this exhibition was the high number of really good entries from which I was to select the exhibition, or better said, competition. Those artists which I selected really brought their best to the show and competed well. And having said that, there were at least a dozen more artists, had space allowed it, that could have been included.

My second surprise was the significant number of really good three dimensional entries in the pool of submissions. I express this as surprise because generally, most of these national level jury shows are comprised of 90% two-dimensional work and a handful of sculptures or other 3D pieces.

The 3D pieces competed well, also a pleasant change of pace for me and my experience on this subject. Super entries such as Lesley Hildreth’s “Hares, multiplying like rabbits while waiting for the Tortoise,” a remarkable clay piece with multiple sculptures which marry oddly zoomorphic imagery with intelligent composition and design and a superb title that would have made Barnett Newman proud of the often ignored art of titling art.

Or in an almost 180 degree artistic U-turn, Sarah Haven’s elegant and minimalist “Ideal,” a ceramic, glaze and decal sculpture which uses clues to have the viewer interpret her work, rather than forcing her ideas upon us.

Another unusual surprise came to me in the work of Virginia painter Mark Miltz, whose trompe l’oeil work is very familiar to me. In his sculptural installation “Game,” Miltz brings something new to me, and certainly sure to raise some eyebrows in Norfolk, or anywhere else for that matter.

Mark Miltz, The game

Mark Miltz. The Game. Sculptural Installation

Having said all that, the two dimensional artists represented themselves very well in this competition, from Chris Register’s superb “Vespa,” one of the best examples of how pen and ink can really flex its artistic muscles in the hands of a talented artist, to Art Werger’s flawless work, which really showcases what the art of printmaking can deliver in the gifted hands of a master printmaker.

In this postmodern world in which sometimes ideas and concepts receive more attention than the art itself, and where technical virtuosity is sometimes denigrated, Werger is a great example of how a real contemporary master can marry technical virtuosity with ideas, composition and creativity to deliver artwork of the highest caliber.

To those of you chosen for the exhibition, my congratulations on a well deserved accomplishment – it was a tough decision in a tough competition against your fellow artists. To those of you whose work did not make the show, I applaud your continued development as an artist and your desire to compete and show your work. It has been my honor and pleasure to look at all of your work.

Jury Duty

Deadline: March 27, 2009 (postmark).

I'm going to be jurying an art show for The Fine Arts League of Cary in North Carolina, and they are seeking entries for its 15th Annual Juried Art Exhibition to be held from May 8th to June 27th, 2009 in Cary/Raleigh, NC. Show awards and purchase awards will total over $5,000. Entries can only be mailed via CD. The postmark deadline for the mail-in registration is March 27, 2009.

Full details and a printable prospectus are available on the web here or call Kathryn Cook at 919-345-0681.