Friday, August 27, 2010

The Curious Case of Todd Crespi

Last week the New York Times had this article about the artwork of DC area artist Todd Crespi.

The article, by Adam Liptak, presents points of view on Crespi's art (he specializes in courtroom artwork), trying to figure out if Crespi crossed ethical lines in the way that he represented his artwork to his clients.

Essentially: did he create the artwork live and in the courtroom, or did he create later in his studio? The discussion extremes in the article range from:

Mr. Crespi has no Supreme Court press credentials, and artists who work at the court regularly say they never see him. It has been years, they say, since he sat in the alcove reserved for artists near the justices and advocates, the only place in the courtroom where art materials are allowed.

“Todd does not come to the court,” said William J. Hennessy Jr., a freelance artist whose work appears on several television networks. “I have not seen him at the court for at least five years.”

Another artist, Dana Verkouteren, agreed. “He’s never in the courtroom,” she said. Instead, she said, Mr. Crespi works from a standard background, adding images of the advocates based on photographs.
To quotes like:
But Art Lien, an artist who works for NBC, said he was “not very critical of Todd.”

“If they know what they’re getting,” he said of Mr. Crespi’s clients, “why not? Artists have been doing that forever.”

Ms. Verkouteren, another colleague, said of Mr. Crespi: “He might be a genius. He might be a wacky genius.”
Crespi responded yesterday with a Letter to the Editor clarifying that
In the absence of a specific media assignment, I attend the session (like any citizen willing to queue at 6 a.m.), then produce meticulously rendered paintings based on many years of experience as a court artist and portrait specialist.
So according to Crespi, he does attend the court cases; just not as a media assignment (and thus why he's not seated with his colleages). But in any event, is there a valid issue in Liptak's original argument? For the final product: does it make any difference if he produces the artwork right there in the courtroom or later in his studio?

Plein air artists have a valid distinction between a landscape painted on the spot and one painted later in the studio from photographs or sketches. But does this logic apply to courtroom artwork?.

I realize that the main issue with the Liptak article centers around what Crespi tells his clients - not necessarily the final product. But my question deals more with the process itself. I am also clear that creating and marketing the artwork under the impression that it was created on the spot inside the courtroom (as Liptak says Crespi is doing), when it's apparently created from a combination of both courtroom and studio work, does have ethical issues associated how the artwork is "marketed" to potential clients. No one will argue with that. My question is about the process itself, and only about the process.

By the way, Crespi is also an accomplished filmmaker and
Crespi’s film work in FUGAZI’S INSTRUMENT has been seen around the world at such venues as The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Kennedy Center, and the Whitney.
Todd Crespi currently has an exhibition of "New Beach Paintings" at Dupont Circle's Studio Gallery, although curiously there's nothing about the exhibition in the gallery's website.


John Gossage: The Pond

John Gossage's remarkable photographic series will be at the Smithsonian American Art Museum from Aug. 27 – Jan. 17, 2011.

“John Gossage: The Pond” celebrates the recent gift to the museum of this remarkable photographic series and the re-issue of one of the most influential photography books of the past three decades. John Gossage (b. 1946) photographed a small, unnamed pond between Washington, D.C., and Queenstown, Md., from 1981 to 1985. The title recalls Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, but Gossage advocated a more allembracing view of the landscape, exploring the less idealized spaces that border America’s cities and suburbs. Although many of the images in “The Pond” appear unruly or uncared for, Gossage found moments of grace and elegance in even the most mundane of places.

The complete portfolio of “The Pond” was acquired by the museum in 2007. This exhibition marks the first time the complete series of 52 gelatin silver prints has been on public display. Gossage lives and works in the Kalorama neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Toby Jurovics, curator of photography, is the curator of the installation.
A conversation between Gossage and Jurovics is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in the museum’s McEvoy Auditorium.

When bad dealers bite

Yet another lawsuit, this one filed in New York State Supreme Court in 2008 by the Daughters of Mary Mother of Our Savior, an order of nuns in Round Top, N.Y., alleges collusion between a local art appraiser and a Santa Fe, N.M., dealer in the sale of an 1889 painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau titled "Notre Dame D'Anges" for $450,000.

The painting, a gift from a parishioner, had hung in a chapel, and the buyer promptly resold it to another dealer for $2 million, splitting the profit with the appraiser, the suit alleges.
Read the WSJ piece (for some lamentable horror stories of the art world) here.

Lori Anne Boocks at Studio

Lori Anne Boocks and Jan Willem van der Vossen open at Studio Gallery with receptions on Friday 9/3 from 6-8pm (for the Dupont Circle galleries First Friday openings) and again on Saturday 9/11 from 4-6pm.

Peck & Elsner at BlackRock

Two immensely talented artists, Judith Peck and Rita Elsner, share the beautiful gallery space at the BlackRock Center with an exhibition that opens Friday, Sept. 3 from 6-8PM.