Monday, February 11, 2008

On Saturday, Joanna Shaw Eagle at the Washington Times wrote a nice piece on Collectors Select.

Unfortunately, she misquoted me a bit in the process: "'I wanted a show about collecting interests, not collectors,' Mr. Cudlin said."

What I actually said was, roughly: I wanted a show about collecting interests, not the specific contents of collectors' houses. I know this because I've been saying some variation of that sentence to any person who's passed into my orbit since the show was installed.

A minor thing, maybe, but it just doesn't make any sense as printed. Obviously the show is about collectors, and their position within the art discourse. Both forewords in the catalogue spell that out.

The only other issue I have with the piece is the author's assertion that "...the exhibit's art-jargon-filled descriptions tend to negate its considerable power..."

Jargon? Really? I'm sorry, but the wall text and catalogue for this show are virtually free of terms like "Lacanian," "deictic," or "postmodern allegorical impulse"--PAI, if you're looking for a handy acronym. See, that's the advantage of having a bunch of art collectors write essays for your show: The resulting pieces may be personal, thoughtful, and well-written, but they're also not particularly academic. Although I suppose intelligent artwriting is a rare enough thing that it sometimes might be mistaken for jargon.

Over at Thinking About Art, J. T. really digs Philip Barlow's room, and offers some nice installation shots...but apparently he really, really dislikes graffiti. So much so, in fact, that he encloses "art" in quotation marks when the two words appear near one another in a sentence. Ouch.

He also puts in a good word for Lisa McCarty, one of our talented new resident artists--and the designer for the Collectors Select catalogue. Obviously, I'll have to go along with that.

8 Comments:

Blogger hoogrrl said...

Joanne also misquoted me a little too! I didn't say graffiti art was fine art. I said I used graffiti art to raise questions about how we define what is fine art, in the same way that stained glass windows, no matter how beautiful, raise those same questions.

4:20 PM  
Blogger J.T. said...

Oops, I think you misread me a bit with the "art" comment in my post (or perhaps I wasn't clear). When trying to keep comments short the meaning often times doesn't come across how I mean it.

I don't care much for graffiti (though I've seen a few pieces that I really like) but I would never say it's not art. What I meant was to call out the "art-ness" of the individual canvas. Meaning, it captures a snippet of the overall pieces (i.e. the wall sized mural). If I am to assume the process the crew employed, it was to paint the wall and let the canvases catch what they may.

I wonder if the artist(s) thought critically about what each canvas might hold. It seems similar to someone taking a brick from the Berlin Wall and claiming to have the wall. They have a remnant of the wall, a keepsake or reminder of the wall. But it's not THE Wall.

By putting "art" in quotes I meant to highlight the unique nature of the canvases in this show. They were interesting keepsakes to remind one of the entire wall mural, but individually, none were very strong in my opinion. In other words, I'm trying to imagine one of the canvases on a white wall all alone. Sure, they are Art, but I wonder if they are a fraction of the Art on the wall.

Looks like I needed much more space to clarify! Sorry for the confusion.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Phillip Lynam said...

deictic is my favorite art jargon term...good old David Carrier.

6:04 PM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

J.T.--Ah, the quotation marks threw me off then, and I read too much into the comment.

As to the desirability of the canvases, I'll say a few things. First, the crew sketched their pieces out on the wall before they hung any of the canvases--if you lift one of them off the wall (which I don't recommend), in the place where the canvas was, you'll see a piece of the original underdrawing. So the artists were actually making decisions about where to place the canvases based on aesthetic interest.

I'm not going to argue that all of the canvases are fascinating, or that any of them really can carry the appeal of the whole piece, but there are definitely choice sections--the two canvases that sit at the transition point between one artist's piece and another's were both the most visually dynamic and the first two to sell.

Having said all of that, I wonder if the pieces wouldn't have been even more compelling if the canvases were distibuted randomly. If putting graffiti directly on gallery wall is supposed to be transgressive--which is a difficult argument to make, given how much mainstream acceptance there has been of graffiti art in gallery culture since at least the '80s--then picking the most attractive or best-composed sections of a rebellious act to buy and hang over your couch is a funny idea.

I don't know how many people who bought pieces from Kate Hardy's American Idolatry show were thinking how good the work would look in their living room. Mostly, I'm thinking they loved the concept and were excited about an opportunity to participate in an artwork.

Of course, it's not just one or the other, aesthetic interest or conceptual kick; it's a tangled-up mix of the two. The graffiti is sort of transgressive because it's in the Tiffany room--the space we occasionally rent out for weddings or private functions. Because the windows are so imposing, the tendency is to put things with them that won't compete--but Pippa and I were both excited about playing with that a bit.

But it's also familiar to a broader art audience...and because they're not precious, the canvases are priced low, to be purchased by people who maybe don't always think of themselves as art collectors--in a way, like Kate Hardy's piece, which had super-affordable components. Which is why we've sold so much of that room.

Anyway, thanks for coming out to Arlington to see the show, and taking the time to think and write about it!

6:14 PM  
Blogger J.T. said...

Jeffry,

Yeah, my apologies again for the confusion. It could have been worded better.

It's good to know that the canvases were placed specifically. And I agree... while some held more visual interest than others, I think it might have been more interesting had they been randomly dispersed. I had assumed that they were randomly placed (based on which canvases will fit where), and knowing that they were placed in specific locations reduces the impact. In other words, I imagine there were much better locations that canvases could have been hung on purpose.

This is the first show at AAC where the art even competes with the Tiffany windows. I still think the windows won out, but at least it was a fight.

I wonder if it could be possible to put some sort of clear film over the windows and then allow the graffiti artists to "tag" the windows. I imagine that there are some conservation and liability issues associated with that, but it would have made for quite the sight!

6:24 PM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

Really, no need to apologize! Sorry I read so much into it...

I don't know if there was any winner per se between the windows and the spray paint, but I would definitely like to put something in our next call for entries specifically about that room--asking artists to propose projects that will play with the way the windows look & the light passing through them. They define the space so much that I don't see how anybody could hang a show in there that doesn't address or exploit them somehow.

6:39 PM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

Philippa--Misquoted us both, eh? Maybe we just talk funny.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Lenny said...

Interesting to see the critic (Jeffry) seeing and reacting to other critics words and meanings about the exhibitions that Jeffry (the curator) now organizes!

Must give Jeffry (the critic) a whole new insight on how gallerists and artists and other curators have, or could have,r eacted to his own words!

Sounds like a good topic to discuss over a few beers...

3:11 PM  

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