coming soon: the ideal dc art show
Answer: I'm working on a show that will open at Flashpoint Gallery on June 25.
The show is called BY REQUEST. It's my first big art venture since 2007's Washington Body School project, which was created in collaboration with Jan--I mean, Meg Mitchell.
You may be wondering: When does Jeffry have time to go into the studio and make things? Well, I don't. Luckily, at this point, I don't have to: My art practice is all about satire, performance, positioning--and roping other artists, collectors, critics, and administrators into my delusions.
Below is my original show proposal for Flashpoint's 2009-2010 season. The project has actually morphed quite a bit since this proposal was written: Pieces are not limited to painting, and instead can be in any medium whatsoever. I didn't sample any students or professors. The actual poll questions aren't nearly as explicit as the sample ones provided. I decided creating ideal environments was a whole 'nother project, to be completed at a whole 'nother time. Other artists made all of the pieces--but I'm "in" every work.
I'll tell you more of the details going forward...in the meantime, you can see the text that set everything into motion here:
BY REQUEST will employ quasi-scientific methods to construct an exhibition exactly as good as the regional art scene it serves. Guaranteed sales and critical interest will be built into the exhibition prior to any physical work being commenced in the studio environment, and the interests and tastes of my peer group, potential patrons, and fellow exhibition organizers will be effectively and accurately expressed in a group of dynamic, dissimilar pieces and their attendant displays of data—recorded audio, video, and polling figures.
This project superficially resembles the 1994 – 1997 People’s Choice project by Komar and Melamid—in which the two artists used polling companies to determine archetypal most desirable and least desirable paintings for various countries. But whereas People’s Choice attempted to reveal something about national character, BY REQUEST simply aims for total transparency within the field of cultural production—collecting and evaluating the opinions of professionals in an attempt to thoroughly explain why D.C. gallery culture looks the way it currently does. Ultimately, if contemporary art is primarily relational/dialogic/dependent on the generation of consensus through discourse, then surely there must be a way to visually represent this fact.
First, a survey will be sent to key critics, gallerists, collectors, and artists in the D.C. region. (Students and professors from key area art studio and history programs will also be polled, and represented collectively.) Admittedly, I know most of these people (as do you—hello, panelist!), and this fact will undoubtedly provide both opportunities for access and difficulties in obtaining objective results.
Each person will be asked to fill out this survey. The answers participants provide will build an exhaustively detailed profile of said participant’s requested ideal painting.
Questions that will be asked include:
• What are your ideal painting’s dimensions?
• What substrate should be used—canvas, linen, wood panel, aluminum, plaster, other?
• What mediums and pigments should be used?
• What implements—brushes, knives, markers, sticks, body parts, ersatz objects?
• Should the paint film be constructed with underdrawing and glazing, thick, sturdy impasto, some mix of the two? Are colors primarily opaque or transparent? Are brush strokes expressive or coolly applied?
• What non-painterly elements (if any) would you like included—photo transfers, found objects, digital prints or projections…?
• What subject matter should be included—is your painting abstract? Does it employ a period style or styles? Does it emulate other specific paintings, films, or photographs? Does it appropriate imagery from said works? Does it document real or literary events?
• Where will your ideal painting be exhibited? Is this place real or imagined? Please be specific as to building type, wall height and color, architectural era, moldings or other wall ornaments, temperature, humidity, light, etc.
And so on. A painting will be produced to satisfy the conditions outlined in each survey. Once all works are completed, participants will be encouraged to appreciate, evaluate, and consume their respective pieces, as well as estimate the desirability of the entire resultant body of work. The degree to which the results are satisfactory will be determined by a telephone survey, performed by an outside agency.
The survey (and the exhibition) will provide a number of disclaimers. For example:
• The artist may choose not to execute some of these works himself, employing assistants or sub-contractors as needed.
• The artist reserves the right to creatively misinterpret vague, disagreeable, or outlandish instructions.
• The artist may provide digital renderings or scale models for works too massive, ethically or environmentally toxic, or outrageously expensive to execute. (For example: A participant might request a 500 foot tall canvas…made from diamond encrusted whale hides…coated with gold leaf, motor oil, and plutonium…to be exhibited in a hole dug thirty meters beneath the National Portrait Gallery.)
By the time the exhibition opens its doors, the critical establishment, collector base, community of artists, and assorted curators, gallerists, and academics already will have had their say. All that will remain is for the crowd at the reception to add their input—which will be invited at a web terminal placed in the front of the gallery. The opening night satisfaction index admittedly will be influenced by those opinions already tabulated and on display in the gallery, but it will be considered separately, and updated and announced live throughout the evening.
Even if every work turns out to be unsatisfactory and the show is determined to be a failure, at least it will have been thoroughly vetted and exhaustively autopsied by the time the first bottle of wine is uncorked. And the discourse will move on.