The Hirshhorn acquired a recent Martha Rosler collage: The Grey Drape, 2008. I'm a big fan of Rosler and her work, so this makes me happy. It makes Tyler happy, too, and he has all of the details here.
There were more people in the Gagosian show than I saw at the Francis Bacon and Pictures Generation shows at the Met combined...I think the really interesting thing and only time will bear with me on this is that the show is a cultural bellwether. By that I mean if an art show will get as many folks attending as a museum and can sell the work to boot - what exactly is the allure of museums to the buyer or even the viewer? Clearly, and for some time now, "The Gallery" is more culturally relevant than "The Museum".
This statement is surprising to me, particularly at this moment, with the market in decline. For a few years there, I kept hearing how events like the Whitney Biennial were made irrelevant by art fairs, and how the market would lift all boats and cure all ills. Now that the market is in the toilet, the conventional wisdom would seem to be that it's time for a little introspection from the dealers, artists, and collectors, and that art going forward will suddenly become less market oriented, more thoughtful, capable of critique.
Okay, so that's a bit of a fantasy, even if predictable stories to that effect keep popping up on NPR and in daily newspapers. The answer is never that simple. Contemporary museums can't do what they do without the market, and without collectors who purchase and subsequently donate works. And donations for non-profit arts institutions drop off in a recession, making it harder for them to put together the kind of strong, challenging programming that they (hopefully) offer as a counterpoint or complement to commercial gallery culture.
So the idea of galleries without museums, or museums without galleries, seems silly to me. When a gallery like Gagosian, as Matt describes it, turns its back on the younger members of the stable, and assembles a show of established artists who are already in museum collections around the world...then, yes, I suppose they are putting together something akin to a museum show. What's the allure of the museum at that point, Matt asks?
Well, there's scholarship. There's also the fact that museums collecting contemporary art can be wrong about the works they bring into the collection. A gallery drops the artist who isn't selling, or who fades from the public eye for awhile. The museum hangs on, and the work remains available for research and reconsideration for the long term, hopefully.
As far as art investments go, museums are not in the business of short selling. This is why deaccessioning is usually contentious and ethically fraught. Galleries and dealers, meanwhile, have neither the luxury of being wrong nor the mandate to keep available for the future works of art that currently are of uncertain value, interest, or cachet.
My friend, onetime co-curator, and guest juror for the upcoming AAC SOLOS 2010, Henry L. Thaggert, picked out some art for the Obama White House in today's WSJ. Read all about it here.
Also today: Jessica Dawson talks about shows at Transformer and G Fine in today's WaPo here. Nicely done.
And if you haven't noticed by now, Jessica definitely likes to write about the ladies--try here, here, here, here, and here. Interesting to me is the fact that Dawson's brand of feminism is not of the third-wave variety at all--she comes across as resolutely, self-consciously old-school in her attitudes.
I usually stay the heck away from American Idol. Occasionally, in seasons past, I’ve watched the first episode or two just for the spectacle of folks auditioning who clearly have no perspective on the extent of their modest (or imagined) abilities. After those first auditions, the Idol idea of what the music industry is sets in, and I tune out.
To me, Idol offers a world that has no relation to actual musicians. The closest art world analog (this is an art blog, right?) I can think of is Thomas Kinkade. He’s an exhausted punching bag at this point, I know, but at one point, that guy moved millions of units—to people who didn’t actually like art. (In recent years, of course, Kinkade seems to have lost his mojo and his mind, as illustrated in a very unflattering 2006 LA Times piece by Kim Christensen, Dark Portrait of a Painter of Light. Typical highlight: "'This one's for you, Walt,' the artist quipped late one night as he urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure.")
Idol relies on a '70s ballad-singer conception of how the music industry ought to run: Get some dubious crooner, pair him with a committee of writers and producers, put them in front of an orchestra, and voila! Music, or something like it.
Anyway, I've been watching this season because my wife, Cassandra, has been rooting for one of the contestants: Adam Lambert, an androgynous rock’n’roll guy. Or I should say he presents himself as a rocker, despite the fact that his voice and sense of drama make him more likely to be singing in one of those contemporary Broadway musicals—with the songs that endlessly build and build, soaring ever-higher to no memorable melody, lyric, or purpose. Still, he clearly has a voice, and a range, and that jet-black cartoon hairdo going for him.
His competitor in the finale last night was Kris Allen, a short, skinny, former missionary and current college student with an acoustic guitar. Allen's notable accomplishments to date seem to be that 1) he can almost grow a moustache, and 2) he has nearly enough of the requisite skill to play a beer-soaked open mic night. Maybe.
Anyway, after two and a half hours of truly strange television—at one point featuring what appeared to be an extraterrestrial who had peeled off Lionel Richie’s face and stretched it over his own like a mask, singing a medley of Richie’s hits that, sadly, did not include “Dancing on the Ceiling”—the little demi-mustachioed guy won, for reasons that elude me.
His prize is the opportunity to record a song I could only describe as “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music, albeit rewritten for Celine Dion to perform it in a Las Vegas casino.
All of which makes me feel a bit like a curmudgeon, and reminds me of a cartoon by Drew and Josh Alan Friedman, depicting Frank Sinatra, Jr. glowering in his Atlantic City hotel room as he reads about rock concert grosses in the pages of Variety. "I do not understand this kind of commerce," Frank Jr. says. "I won't call it music."
Our studio artists have very affordable subsidized rents, schedule their own exhibitions in the Wyatt Gallery, conduct well attended open studios during our receptions and special programming...and, most importantly, form a growing creative community right here within this building.
Studio 360 had a nice piece this weekend on all of the upheavals that art critics, newspapers, and bloggers have been experiencing of late. See below, if you missed it. The story ends with the thought that everything we're discussing and/or wringing our hands over right now will seem unfamiliar and strange in a few short years. Why? Because we'll all be cyborgs! Blogging, twittering cyborgs. I sure do hope that's the reason, anyway.
I lost two weeks as I hunted for various things and tried to catch up with missed deadlines, as usual. Sorry to leave you hanging.
Thanks to everyone who came to my lecture at the Hirshhorn on Frank Stella! Unfortunately, it was not recorded, so if you missed it, you missed it.
The audience had plenty of questions, which was a relief. Some of our conversation had to do with the problem of late-career artists generally. Artists, of course, tend to arrive at a means of production or a set of formal devices early...and once they've gotten comfortable, keep working the same way for decades. I'm usually ambivalent about this. Artistic maturity isn't a bad thing; sometimes mining constrained territory continues to yield results. Other times, though, it just yields corporate sponsorship and big, ungainly objects that seem out of touch with the present moment.
In one way, Stella resisted that syndrome. His late work is undeniably very different from the paintings that made his reputation--the black paintings, the copper paintings, the polygons. Unfortunately, late Stella seems to be an unwitting self parody, someone who still talks about painting as a serious problem to be solved, but who busily crams his sculptural/architectural/painterly mashups with every tacky, dramatic spatial trick that comes to hand.
Still, it was good fun to stand in front of the day-glo bands and curves of Darabjerd III and think about Stella poised at the edge of a cliff, getting ready to jump--and to take his painting from pure presence to pure Disney.
Speaking of tacky things: At long last, Ian and Jan are on YouTube. See below.
This is the main video from my 2007 show with Meg Mitchell, divided into two parts, and featuring the talking heads of Sam Gilliam, Tyler Green, J.W. Mahoney, Andrea Pollan, and Josh Shannon. There are at least three additional Ian and Jan videos, featuring more preposterous lies from the mouths of usually serious people, and equally preposterous performance art. At some point, all of this will probably get trotted out.
I've always regretted that we didn't try to give this material another life after the initial exhibition. Mostly, it felt too tied to local history and to the specific occasion of the ColorField Remix. In retrospect, it was really just an inquiry into how the field of cultural production works; how there's a thin line between being a respectable arts professional and a quasi-employed flake; and how history really is a fluid, malleable thing--even though we were only pretending to change it here.
Hard to believe it's been two years since this show. Ian and Jan basically showed me the answer to what I wanted to be doing, art-wise, but it took me awhile to figure out how that could be sustained, or spun off into different ideas--particularly with the AAC gig taking so much of my time (it's been for a good cause, I like to think).
Well, I finally have a new project, and a show on the horizon--one year from now. More to announce soon, so stay tuned!
Jeffry Cudlin is an artist, curator, art critic, and musician living and working in Washington, D.C. He currently serves as Professor of Curatorial Studies and Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He formerly served as the Director of Exhibitions for the Arlington Arts Center. His reviews have appeared in the Washington City Paper, Sculpture Magazine, and the Washington Post.