Friday, October 08, 2010

art is fear

In this week's WCP, Erin Petty contemplates Arlington's post-10/10/10 cultural landscape. That ominous-looking date, of course, marks the official opening of The Artisphere--or, as they should've named it: The Thunderdome. (Think about it: A logo with thunderbolts! The promise of post-apocalyptic chainsaw combat! Visions of a pre-drunk-racist-humiliation Mel Gibson!)

Read all about it here.

See a run-down of all of the PINK LINE/BYT pre-opening craziness (that's tomorrow night, starting @ 8:00 pm) here.

Erin asked me some questions about what effect this new cultural center in the heart of Arlington's business district will have on my own place of work...and as is usually the case with the press, my lengthy comments were reduced to one or two sentences that only indicate a little bit of my thinking: No, I'm not worried that AAC is the planet Alderaan to the Artisphere's Death Star.

The somewhat longer answer as to why I'm not worried about the Artisphere:

First, as long as
Cynthia Connolly and Lisa Marie Thalhammer are in charge of the galleries there, I know that they'll be presenting a view of contemporary art that I can support. Cynthia and Lisa Marie know what’s going on, and because of that, I’m pretty confident their programming will always complement ours.

Certainly this was true of the Ellipse--remember that place? From what I understand, the Artisphere’s Terrace gallery is 3000 square feet--the same size as the old Ellipse gallery. True, there are additional spaces for installations and special projects (the Mezz gallery; the Works In Progress space), and dedicated space for video, yes, yes…but in my mind, at least, this really just amounts to a return to the good old days--to having two good destinations for contemporary art in town instead of just one. (Except now you don’t have to walk through a silly hotel lobby to get to the art. And maybe parking is trickier.)

I also feel confident that the programming, while related to our mission, will reflect a different vision.

Over the last three years, I've been trying to carve out a distinct identity for the AAC's exhibitions, particularly with our themed, curated shows--see
here, or here, or here, or here--bringing in more national and international artists; tackling topics of the day with an eye toward challenging work and avante-garde practices; and all the while aiming both the exhibition design and any explanatory writing towards a general audience. (Smart cutting-edge art doesn’t have to be inscrutable, nor does it have to be dumbed down for people to enjoy or appreciate it. This is my mantra.)

Cynthia and Lisa Marie, I think, are way more attuned than I am to subcultures, to D.I.Y sensibilities, and to genre and boundary-busting, without necessarily feeling the need to bracket any or all of these within a rigid historical or theoretical frame. Their gallery practices are, I think, closely linked to their art practices, to their own personal relationships and varied professional experiences with the subjects and forms of production they tackle.

Note that the inaugural Artisphere show is about skateboards and skate culture. This, I think, is an awesome idea. It’s also an idea that would never occur to me--imagine me curating a show about skateboards. Hell, imagine me on a skateboard. (In a dress? Sure. On a skateboard? No.)

I think the
joint AAC/Artisphere show that opens here in November will underline this relationship a bit—and will also demonstrate that we can all play together quite nicely, thanks.

Pictured: The Rosslyn Death Star!

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