Thursday, April 24, 2008

Richard Lacayo wrote a nice post reflecting on Gregor Schneider's call for a terminally ill person willing to die in front of a gallery audience. Pieces like this usually provoke the expected I-can't-believe-they-call-that-art response from the peanut gallery--see the comments under Kriston's piece defending Aliza Shvarts's right to pretend to give herself lots of miscarriages. One reader doubts that Kriston even exists (he does!), pointing out that his name is an anagram for "Crank Pisspot".

Lacayo points out two things worth thinking about in situations like this. First, the question of whether or not a particular performance in a gallery setting counts as art. It's a moot question: At this point, given the correct context (and perhaps a bit of explanation), any thing, action, or residue from an action can be presented as a work of contemporary art. The key question becomes: Is it any good?

Second, he points out how the emotion of art is a different thing from the emotion of life--something T.S. Eliot insisted. It can be as powerful, to be sure: He admits to tearing up in front of a piece by French video artist Sophie Calle that documents the moment of her mother's death...but then he shuffled on to see the next exhibit at the Venice Biennale. The event became art, and art is a different thing than life, no matter how much you blur the distinction. I know, this is an obvious point--but it doesn't make the phenomenon any less mysterious to me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

At this point, I'm pretty sure this is a non-controversy--and has quickly become a bit of a dead horse.

But in opening a forum to further discuss the issue, J.T. did make an interesting observation about curators for local shows who don't seem to do much curating.

I've seen this mostly at DCAC, where getting a curator seems to have less to do with putting a show together than with simply partnering an emerging artist with someone knowledgeable about the regional art world and fostering some kind of exchange. This seems like a smart, healthy, thoroughly desirable program to me.

But, again: Is it really curating if the artist already knows what handful of pre-existing pieces--say, a group of new paintings--will be in the show, and will install the show her or himself? If it's a group show, or a retrospective, or a project on which the curator's been consulting for awhile, then I get it...but otherwise, isn't the curator really just serving as an essayist? An important task, to be sure, but not curating per se.

But then in the comments on his post, J.T. turns around and suggests (as he has before) that maybe a curator doesn't need to write anything about the work s/he's presenting. Dave Hickey might agree, but I don't know that anyone else would.

A person who helps select artworks to go in a space and figures out how they should be installed--without offering analysis or argument to explain or contextualize the work--is called an exhibition designer, not a curator. Both are important jobs, and I certainly do as much or more of the former as I do of the latter in my current position. But I think there's definitely a difference.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I took the day off yesterday--from the job, the blog, and anything else I could think of. It felt good.

Went to a party on Friday and had a terrific conversation with Matthew Sutton, whose work I've always adored. Somehow I missed that this recent show at Meat Market was partly his baby. Makes perfect sense, of course.

Matt's approach to presenting his work seems antithetical to the conventional art school wisdom. Grad school taught me that in a critique, the artist needs to control the terms of the inquiry: You need to have the sort of conversation you intend to have about the work. Crits go badly when the faculty's attention veers unexpectedly toward issues the artist regards as peripheral. More than teaching artists how to make stuff, an academic environment persuades them that controlling the audience's perception is paramount. You must convince the viewer--or the critic--to accept a particular frame in which to understand what you do. Bad review or reception? Formal issues aside, you failed to make your argument.

Matt's less interested in his own sense of what his work is--which, as far as he's concerned, might not be the most interesting thing about it. His goal is clearing a space in his work for the active participation of the audience or other artists. Obviously a conceptual artist is more likely to think this way than, say, a painter, and this kind of open-ended, inclusive, collaboration-friendly attitude has been kicking around for a long while. But in this town, it's still refreshing to hear someone endorse it.

Elsewhere out there: Lenny gets his twitch on about Kriston's foray into curating at Project 4 (at least he also offers him a beer). And last week, there was this interesting back and forth between an artist and her ex-gallerist.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Last minute reminder: Go see Jason Horowitz talk about his work in the craigslist show at Civilian Art Projects.

You'll also hear from Jason Zimmerman and, uh, those guys.

Sadly, I may not make it--wedged as it is between drinks in one place and partying in another. A gruelling schedule!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kelly Rand wrote some nice things for DCist about SPRING SOLOS at the AAC.

Laure Drogoul's work in particular sent "shivers down her spin." (I'm assuming that final "e" was deliberately dropped in a nod toward mystery and the uncanny.)

A couple of overdue additions to the blogroll: Artcade Forum and There Were Ten Tigers--both of which came to my attention as a result of an informal crit night I participated in at AU a few weeks ago.

After that night, Rachel at Artcade posted what is quite possibly the least flattering picture I've ever seen of myself--and, yes, that includes this one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tyler posts about Amy Sillman today, and promises more to come. He describes her as a painter's painter, whose work refers to the history of abstraction...and not as a failed conceptual artist. Now there's a novel conceit.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the LACMA will be removing Jeff Koons's Tulips and Charles Ray's Firetruck due to wear and tear from museum visitors. Yes, visitors: Apparently a woman's bracelet scratched Tulips during a reception, and many people's hands and bodies have made their way past the rope stanchion in order to caress--or scuff--the piece.

This is something that's amazed me since I've started working at the AAC: Put a rope up and you can bet that people will lean--or step--right over it in order to try to lay their hands on an object that should really only be handled with white cotton gloves. And I'm not talking about kids, here; the majority of offenders are full grown adults. Since I've started working here, we've gotten security cameras...and after watching some of that footage, I've taken to posting volunteers near certain pieces at receptions. Their job: To stand by and say, "Hey! Don't do that!" over and over again.

Is this a lack of training? Or are people just biologically attracted, moth-like, to shiny objects?

Anyway, I'm off to MICA today for round two of grad crits. I swear I will do my best not to rub any of the art while I'm there.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thanks to all who came out for SPRING SOLOS at the AAC!

(Absent hockey fans, I forgive you.)

Elsewhere out there: So, did you think that Christian Viveros-Faune/Tyler Green dustup was over and done with? Think again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Below are installation shots of SPRING SOLOS 2008.

Twice a year, the AAC picks a half dozen or so of the best contemporary atists working in the Mid-Atlantic region and gives each of them her or his own gallery. This year's installment of SPRING SOLOS is the first in which I participated in picking the artists--along with Claire, the exhibitions committee, and guest panelists Philip Barlow and Angela Jerardi.

The reception is tonight--Friday, April 11, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. All of the artists will be on hand, as will the usual food and wine. Looks like we might have dodged the rain for this evening, so come by!

Erin Williams: View of the inventions (fictitious) of her 19th century alter ego, Minnie Eureka Young.

Edison may get all of the props for the gramophone, but Minnie invented her own version around the same time. History is indeed fickle.

Apparatus for Chronological and Anamnestic Aberration. That's a time machine to you, bub.

This humane hunting device fires a net made of waxed linen.

Photo of the artist dressed as her alter ego and bagging some bear.

Prisma-goggles. Don't ask me what they do. (Also: Please refrain from trying them on.)

A dancing dress for a legless lady.

View of Jennie Fleming's work in the main corridor.

Fleming makes photocollages using pictures of spectacularly un-scenic places--strip malls and convenience stores along Route 1, for example. She then reproduces those collages using all sorts of methods appropriate to the tourist trade--refrigerator magnets, flip books, postcards, vinyl banners. All unlimited editions.

View of one of her original modular collages.

Jeremy Drummond's ongoing project--includes steel panels, die-cut vinyl auto decals, photographic prints, and video.

View of the two channel video, This could Be Anywhere, This Could Be Everywhere, and the wall-filling installation, Drive By--consisting of blurry video stills taken while driving through suburban developments.

More of the Street Sign series. Yes, these are all real intersections--no doctored names here.

Jennifer Mattingly's tiny matchbox dioramas. Spend enough time with these, and your eyes may get a little taxed. It's a worthwhile sort of pain, though.

Downstairs is Jacklyn Brickman's installation, Flock. The piece consists of semiopaque sheets of plexi pierced at intervals by inset tiny magnifying lenses--surrounding thousands of grains of corn attached to thin wire armatures.

Brickman's work is all about invasive species, man's meddling with the natural order, and coupling unnatural materials with natural ones--in diorama-like settings that seem to mimic didactic science museum displays.

View through one of Brickman's lenses.

Laure Drogoul turns in a dramatic installation using vintage military uniforms and two channels of video--one depicting guards at Arlington Cemetary; the other showing white-gloved hands at a seance, performing motions that mimic those of the guards' precise ritualized movements.

A sound system in the space plays an excerpt from When You Wish Upon a Star in a continuous loop.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Busy, busy, busy.

Installation shots will be up soon. In the meantime, here's a link to an NPR story about Jagjaguwar, a record label founded by a guy who used to live down the street from me in Charlottesville, Virginia, back in the mid-'90s: Darius Van Arman--who also ever so briefly played guitar in one of the first bands in which I played drums.

That particular female-fronted brit-pop-ish band went on to...well, to not do so much, actually. But I'm glad that Darius is still out there.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Charlton Heston died this weekend at the age of 84.

Never mind Ben Hur, or even his role as a Mexican policeman (!) in Touch of Evil. Omega Man is the only movie to watch.

See Heston in that film below, clutching an automatic weapon as he mumbles along with the dialogue in Woodstock. Best last man on earth ever.
Everything will be fine by tomorrow.

Well, everything has to be fine by tomorrow.

That's when Spring Solos 2008 opens at the AAC. I've been in the building all weekend, climbing up and down ladders, quietly cursing intractable video projector mounts, and inhaling more sawdust and paint fumes than can possibly be good for me.

It's a strong bunch of shows. I can't wait for you to see them all. The reception's Friday, and you'd be foolish--foolish, I say!--not to come. Installation shots soon. And, oh yes, some non-AAC related posts, too.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Anyone who would like to see the differences between art in Baltimore and D.C. underlined need look no further than the fifth annual Transmodern Festival.

Tonight at Load of Fun you can see Virginia Warwick, an artist who will be included in our new performance art series this Fall at the AAC.

Virginia has a knack for confrontation and the absurd. In the past, she's donned a squirrel costume--yes, a squirrel costume--and has either tried to force-feed her audience pizza...or has physically attacked them. The results are typically both funny and uncomfortable.

Tonight Virginia hangs up the squirrel suit in favor of dressing as a sea turtle--presumably as part of the "undersea adventure" theme she's been pursuing lately.

Load of Fun Gallery is located at 120 W North Ave in Baltimore. Tickets are $10.00.

From what I understand, there's no schedule--things get started at 8:00 and all of the performers will be doing their respective stuff all over the building, simultaneously. How very Baltimorean.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I'll admit, Michael O'Sullivan's review of Amy Sillman's work at the Hirshhorn last week had me scratching my head a bit. Sillman's a conceptual artist? I don't care if it came straight from the horse's mouth: That's not helpful.

Tyler and Sharon had slightly stronger responses.

Today I'm off to the Mount Royal School of Art at MICA to talk to some graduate students--in the middle of our installation of SPRING SOLOS at the AAC, of course. So you know where I'll be this weekend.