Thursday, July 29, 2010

When facts get in the way

There are so many disturbing issues with Kriston Capps snarky report on my 100 Washington Artists book that I don't know where to start other than by thanking the CP for giving this book, which is yet to be published, some advance publicity. As Warhol once said, "publicity, even bad publicity is better than no publicity." You can read that article here.

If you follow the DMV art scene, then you know that Capps' past includes some journalistic issues, and so when he expressed interest in doing a piece for the CP, I was fully prepared for the worst. I knew in advance that the piece would try to find the negative angle to the story, the "what's my angle?" the "what's in it for Campello?." This is because unfortunately the formation of some people is so ethically flawed, that they suspect all those around them as being like them.

That I'm doing these series of books because I think it would be good for the DC art scene must be a lie. There's got to be something wrong here; if not they can try to make something up or selectively highlight some issues while ignoring the ones which damage the focus that they're trying to achieve: a negative portrayal.

The first hint is the title: The C List: Will Lenny Campello’s 100 Washington Artists Serve Its Subjects or Its Author? The seed has been planted for "there's something smelly here."

By paragraph four he's already referring to my "ethical tics." The second negative seed has been planted.

Later he lists artists with whom I've had/have a commercial relationship and used to show at the Fraser Gallery, in the process he gets one name wrong but drops an end of sentence that implies that many others in the 100 list are artists that we represented at Fraser. This is a spectacular stretch of his imagination, but designed to leave the impression that I've stacked the list with Fraser Gallery artists. Technically, as of today, there are three artists out of the 100 that are represented by the Fraser Gallery today.

But what is even more shoddy journalism is that Capps knew well that I had put some ethical safety valves in the book to cover the ethical angle of artists with whom I've had or have a commercial relationship. The key one is that every artist in the book who is represented by a gallery or dealer is referred back to that gallery or dealer. In the case of artists associated with me, every single contact points back to another dealer who represents that artist. Not a single artist in this book is associated in the book with me. In fact, if any "business" is to be derived from this book, I am sending the business to everyone but me. Capps knows this, but conveniently avoids discussing that. The reason is simple: it demolishes his implied undercurrent about my ethical transgressions in having artists in the book that I'm associated with.

Then he errs and makes up a quote that I never said in the context that he puts it in the article. The "I have zero commercial relationship with them" quote was in the context of zero commercial relationship with the Fraser Gallery and the artists that they represent or represented when I was a co-owner. I then qualified that by listing for Kriston the artists that I do currently have a commercial relationship with, but instead of Capps writing: "I have zero commercial relationship with them, except for..." he starts a new paragraph with: "That’s not wholly true" and details facts that I told him about my current dealer relationships and my online art dealer enterprise (Alida Anderson Art Projects, which I've discussed here many times), but he writes it as if he "discovered" this and has caught me in a lie.

He then writes that "Through Alida Anderson Art Projects, he has taken work by Janis and Tate to a number of art fairs." It was me who told him about the art fairs, but I also told him that the last time that I took those guys to an art fair under Alida Anderson Art Projects was in 2008 and explained my current business relationships with them and others. This of course, is never mentioned. It would destroy his argument.

He does shoot himself in the foot by later acknowledging that I did tell him that I have current commercial interests in some artists. So the issue here is a quote which put out of place, as he does, serves a purpose best suited to sickening Republican political blogs that publish out-of-context video scenes or some of the garbage-spewing misinformation talking heads of MSNBC. Whereas those extreme right and extreme left wingers are rabid junkyard dogs for their extreme political dogmas, and their goal is to divide us, I am not sure what the goal of this Capps article is, other than to try to make something that I hope will be good for the DC art scene into a smelly conspiracy for me to gain... what?

He strangles the truth once more when he refers to the artists that I write about and "admire" in this blog. He writes: "As much can be ascertained from his blog, D.C. Art News, where he has written for years about artists he admires (and represents)."

What's the condemnation you ask?

That all artists that I write about and admire are only those that I represent. That is of course, completely wrong, and in fact probably numerically the opposite of the truth. But don't let facts get in the way... even though people like Amy Lin and many others, of whom I have gushed about in the past in my blog (get it, my blog) are represented by other galleries and have never been represented by me. But that little poison pill is now also a seed dropped in the article: "In Campello's blog he only gushes about artists that he represents." A damned lie.

See what the undercurrent here is?

Words count and are chosen for a purpose. Capps writes that "Not every Washington-based artist jumped at the opportunity. Artists Jim Sanborn and Sam Gilliam refused to participate." When we discussed this, I told him that Gilliam and Sanborn had "declined" to be in the book, and explained the reasons given to me as to why they didn't want to be in the book - both have private commercial flavors of other issues - but Capps instead uses the word "refused" with the implication offering a harsher reason for them not being in the book.

He then takes a swipe at the publisher, picking some weird titles from a selection of 100s of art books that this respected publisher has offered in the 50-plus years that they've been publishing art books. You see? everyone gets a little dose of negativity here.

At the end he almost closes with: "For this unflagging fanboy of Capital City artists, the fight for visibility trumps profit, or interests, or ethics." Even the snarky choice of words (I'm now a "fanboy") are picked to diminish and reduce and put me into "my place" - how dare this crab try to take 100 crabs out of the basket?

As a man I am nobody's "boy" of anything, and in fact I find this adjective not only offensive and insulting, but also insensitive in this era when we're so well aware of the sins of the past. Because he has failed to find the facts to back up a flawed and dishonest argument questioning my ethics, he attempts to reduce me at the end to a "boy."

And in the end what comes out is a snarky, dishonest, pick-out-of-context art scribe best suited for political blog poison-writing than someone with a pulpit to write about the Washington, DC art scene for anyone, much less the same paper which let him go earlier for whatever reasons.

And I'm much more of an ethical man, not boy, than he'll ever be.

And now that I'm finished with volume one, time to start volume two.