Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Maher on Obama

"What he needs in his personality is a little George Bush ... What we need to do is to marry the good ideas that Barack Obama has with a little bit of that Bush attitude and certitude."


Art magazines and art blogs are the journalistic equivalent of studio art, while an art review in a newspaper is like public art. Anyone from any background might happen upon it.

Where I write now does not exist in a generalized public sphere. A street sweeper on coffee break will not happen upon a leftover copy of this blog and be drawn into a review. A woman getting her heels buffed won't find it on the empty seat beside her and be motivated to see an exhibit of which she might otherwise not have heard.

For an art critic, the death of newspapers is the death of potential connection to wider worlds. Everyone who reads this blog has a preexisting condition, otherwise known as an interest in art.

On the other hand, there are notable benefits. Where I'm writing now, nobody tells me what to do and nobody derides my blog just because it's a blog.

- Regina Hackett
Read the whole thing here.


Sometime last month, DCArtNews hit 2 million page views.

Thank you.

Religious angle

At last night's Stimulus opening at the Nevin Kelly Gallery in DC I sold a drawing of a nun, a drawing of a Rabbi and a drawing of the Egyptian god Horus.

To steal NK's joke: "A nun, a Rabbi and Horus walk into a bar..."

Mellema on Billy Artsy

Kevin Mellema is the art critic for the Falls Church News Press newspaper and for that paper he is the author of the regular column Northern Virginia Art Beat. He responds to my post on Artomatic and art critics and proves that there are some ethics left out there and also makes me feel a little better and think that for every three Billy Artsies there's a Kevin Mellema.

I wanted to throw in my two cents worth into the fray on AOM and art critics.

This year I was able to run a review of just the 2nd floor and just the second floor filled one column.

Last year I apparently had a brain aneurysm and got the wild idea that I'd do the unthinkable and actually review the whole of Artomatic... really review it. Just the way I review other shows. Or as close to that as I could humanly come.

As I recall I reviewed two floors a week for three weeks. Starting at the bottom and working my way up. I saw the top two floors, but ran out of time to run the review for those two floors.

To negate the brain fade factor I photographed every single artist space in the whole show; every last one of them. Good artists got every individual piece photographed.

Why? some will ask...

Well, if you're going to write about it you need to know what's in the image, and somewhere along in the process I'm going to need a photo to run with it. As I start to view the show I have no idea where along in the process the best of the best image in print work is going to be. So I shot them all.

I think I ended up with something like 2,000 photos at the end of it all. And I reviewed every single one of those photos. I wanted to make sure everybody got a fair shake in the deal, and I did my best to be sure that it turned out that way.

Did I NEED to do that... yes and no. In most cases I knew what I was going to write about already, but in a couple of cases I found work in the photos that I should have given more time to, but for whatever reason didn't.

I'd say two or maybe three artists (tops) got into the reviews because I needed to fill the space, or I hadn't recalled their work when I saw it in person. All in all a very low percentage considering what we're talking about here.

It was an insane process, and a load of work... but I survived, and the reviews were run. I was sorry that the top two floors were missed, but I don't run reviews for shows that have already closed; that's just stupid. The whole point of writing art reviews is to flag good art for people to go see.

That I found good art there was of no surprise. Even a show of 750 kindergartners would produce some eye popping work. But just like AOM you'd have to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Which frankly is the same thing I do at the Phillips, the NGA, Corcoran, and all the rest. I can't ever recall seeing an art show where everything in it was a grand slam home run.

What surprised me most of all were artists that I'd seen in gallery shows before, that in this context didn't fair all that well. There is a trick to showing at AOM, and hanging everything you've done since second grade isn't it.

The other thing that floored me was how great the 10th floor ceramic group looked. It would be nice if there was a way to bring that level of display to the whole of AOM, but it seems the principals are against it.

One of the things that irks me most about AOM is about some of the better artists around town who refuse to be seen there. It's a self fulfilling prophesy where some of the better names won't show because they think that "good artists" don't show there. It's also a tad too cool for the room as well. Spare me your fabulousness.

AOM is the biggest DC show of the year, by far; nothing else even comes close. More people will see AOM in one day than the coolest gallery in town will draw all year long.

What you miss at AOM is the contemplative quiet and expansive depth that you can get in a gallery environment. You can miss the fact that some of these people really are thinking along with doing. That is, if you as a critic aren't thinking while viewing.

Nothing is spoon fed to you at AoM, you gotta go find it. At this point in time yet another "it's a lot of stuff" review of AOM is as tired and hackneyed as some of the worst art in the show.

Hope all is well with you,
- Kevin

Strictly Painting 7

MPA's eagerly awaited biennial juried painting exhibition, Strictly Painting, will run June 18 - August 1. This year's juror is well-known independent curator Vivienne Lassman who chose works by twenty-four artists from almost two-hundred entrants.

See the artists selected for Strictly Painting 7 here. Also opening in the Atrium and Ramp galleries is the McLean Project for the Arts/Corcoran Student Art Show featuring the works by adult students who take classes at MPA.

The opening reception and juror's talk is Thursday, June 18 from 7 - 9 pm. See my own experiences with Strictly Painting a few years ago here.

Laura Roulet's Top 10

DC area ubercurator Laura Roulet needs little introduction, she's one of the major freelance curators in the DMV region, whose curatorial hand has been part of the Hirshhorn, Museum of the Americas, to name a few off the top of my head. She responds to my AOM call and sends me her top 10 artists in this year's Artomatic:
- Tim Tate and the Washington Glass School artists
- The group of artists from Sunderland, UK are outstanding, particularly Andrew Livingstone, Midori Shinmura and Theresa Easton
- Laurel Lukaszewski
- Jessica Van Brakle
- Johanna Mueller
- Mike McDermott
- Mark Jude
- Corwin Levi
- Stephanie Booth
- "Space Between", a collaboration between John M. Adams, J.T. Kirkland and Matt Sargent