Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First, apologies if you read that block quote from yesterday's post and wondered where the heck it came from. (As one reader asked: "Is this from Colin Powell's speech? Why's he calling himself a liar?") The whole quote was supposed to link to the page on the artist's website from whence it came. Link is now fixed.

Second: In the CP on Friday, Kriston wrote about Collectors Select.

I think Kriston’s a great writer—and I don’t just say this because we work for the same mag. Frankly, at this point, as far as intelligent local artwriting in print media, he's the only game in town. So I'm pleased as punch that he made his way to the AAC to write about our show.

But of course I'm going to nit-pick a little:

1) There are six collectors, not five. (Seven if you count Heather and Tony separately.)

2) Kriston's complaint about Philippa's room is that it isn't avante-garde enough.

No, graffiti in a gallery isn’t groundbreaking or edgy, and hasn’t been for decades. But Philippa’s stated goal isn't to shock; it's to make visual art accessible to audiences that it might not traditionally reach--because graffiti's, y'know, so familiar.

Wreckfest tries to attract and involve a newer, younger crowd in gallery culture, and encourage them to try their hands at collecting affordably priced works by young artists. (Hence a reception later this week with a DJ, sponsored by a car company and a lite beer distributor.) Complaining that it isn't succeeding at something it doesn't set out to do just isn't productive.

2) The main argument of the article: Collector aren’t professional curators.

Whether you like the influence of the market or hate it, collectors play a major part in determining what art you do or don’t get to see in both galleries and major public institutions. So throwing a spotlight on their attempts to impose order on their respective corners of the art world is bound to be instructive--and not jut because it reveals that, no, none of them has an MA or a PhD in art history. Which we presumably already knew.

Read the whole article here. (You'll have to scroll down past the Phillips Collection stuff.)


Blogger Richard Gould said...

"graffiti in a gallery isn’t groundbreaking or edgy, and hasn’t been for decades" I can't help but to call you on this. What a sweeping and dismissive generality. All graffiti must look the same to you.

For me, the graffiti installation continues the dialog that questions the nature of art. I find it interesting that our region's municipalities will both embrace and decry graffiti, funding both its installation and removal.

9:15 AM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

Ack! I wasn't making a value judgement about street art at all, or talking about the formal merits of this specific piece.

I was just saying that graffiti in a contemporary art gallery is not a novel idea. The heyday of graffiti in galleries is a few generations ago.

But I am interested in how, say, the County government doesn't differentiate between an outdoor mural and tags by gangs. That's territory to be explored...but doesn't really play into the rationale behind the installation inside Tiffany.

I like the piece, and am pleased to have it...but it's not Street Art in the conventional sense. It's thoroughly enfranchised by the institution housing it, and thoroughly commodified--available for sale to any interested parties.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Richard Gould said...

Ah, but was the heyday of graffiti in galleries generations ago? I mean in Arlington, VA. Perhaps it was, and if so, I'd love to learn more.

I understand that you were responding to Kriston's comment. What's more puzzling is why Kriston chose to bring that to our attention - as if Philippa, "the least experienced collector" needed to be told.

Of course, it's Kriston's thesis that collectors should stick to their collecting and otherwise stay quiet.

"Street art in the conventional sense"? Must graffiti be illegal, thrown up at the risk of life and limb and arrest, to be considered legitimate? Or does it have to be outdoors? Or in an abandoned building? If graffiti in an art gallery isn't a novel idea, does that must make it conventional?

And must the graffiti artist resist commodification to remain true to his craft? By being available for purchase, the art is made accessible.

I should probably point out that I own a graffiti wall painted by Tim and have a small collection of street art - perhaps 40 pieces.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Armsmasher said...

This is a good conversation and I don't mean to interrupt (having said my piece!) but I wanted to note that the City Paper will run a correction for my counting error. I regret the mistake.

11:13 AM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

The history of graffiti art in galleries...in Arlington? Ha! Point taken.

11:29 AM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

Re: counting. It was probably bad form for me to mention it, anyway. So please don't squash me, Armsmasher! Ow!

12:03 PM  
Blogger SRP Harmel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:03 AM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

I’m only going to respond to part of your comment, and will leave the rest to Richard, or Philippa, or maybe Tim.

Re: Defacing. Before I arrived at the AAC, the strategy for dealing with the Tiffany gallery, often enough, was to hang black and white photography—or other unassuming 2-D work that wouldn’t try to compete with the windows, since they tend to dominate the room no matter what you do. The goal for Wreckfest was to do an about-face, and put in graphically bold floor-to-ceiling work that could actually offer some sort of counterpoint to the windows. To me, these pieces are too playful and decorative to be seriously associated with vandalism (whether you want to take that as a good thing or a bad thing).

11:37 AM  
Blogger Richard Gould said...

Wow, Vivian. At least we know the fire still burns within.

Time and money sadly always constain exhibits, be the in a national museum or a regional art center. Tim Conlon happens to have his work hanging at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery as part of "Recognize". Tim and his team, I understand, had very little time to throw the AAC works up. Given that constraint alone, I think the work stands up.

Those Tiffany windows! They are some of the most boring examples I've ever seen - and even then, they deserve a better installation. Have you ever seen Tiffany windows in the space they were designed for? They can be sublime in the right place. At AAC they are terrible.

Tim and his crew are traditionalists, I think, but that doesn't make their work cliche. For those who don't frequent train tunnels or drainage channels, this show is the closest that many people have been to large scale graff pieces. It's a chance to look at the craft up close. Why not present traditional graff? If anything, it presents the work of "vandals" as artists.

I'm not sure what your next argument is meant to convey. Yes, there's fabulous street art out there, though not much in DC. And yes, some of those people only show on the street, although there are many who do both. You didn't mention the context that informs so much work. But Philippa wasn't trying to exhibit graffiti and street art as all that it is and that it can be. So it's really unfair to heap all of that other stuff onto it.

I think that Philippa's exhibit simply states, "Graffiti is art, too". And it's an argument that needs to be made.

The state of Maryland recently considered a bill that would introduce significant penalties for graffiti. A proponent of the bill suggested that graff artists are not sufficiently evolved. In the District a bill was considered that severely fined property owners who didn't immediately buff graffiti or allow it to be removed. Graff needs to be recognized as art and Philippa's show presents that opinion. Your position that the work wasn't good enough, that it is a cliche, and therefore supports the "graff is vandalism" -- well, that's pretty harsh criticism. Yet you continue by suggesting that any art one choses to buy or exhibit must affirmatively answer the, "would it fly in NY, LA, or Miami?" question. That is simply preposterous.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Tim Con said...

I find it interesting that graffiti causes such a polarization; people either love it or hate it. I have rarely come across anyone in the middle. Those that hate graffiti I have often found do not have a complete understanding of the art side and lump it all into gang graffiti or generalized vandalism. Now that I am doing gallery shows, I’m encountering a new limited view on graff that I think stems from people not understanding it, because it’s a square peg in a round hole in a gallery setting or not wanting it encroaching on these spaces.

The negative comments and reviews that are quick to dismiss our work, show that either the commenter didn’t understand our approach or just didn’t take the time to ask questions or do any research. Our goal was to make accessible the purchase of graffiti works by real graffiti writers, not street artists. Considering this was a show about collectors, Philippa wanted to extend that idea and have work available to other collectors. Even in pricing the pieces, we aimed low so that it could be available to those that may have wanted to start collecting in the past but did not do so because it was out of their price range.

At no point did we say we were making any new statement or doing something that hadn’t been done before, by putting graffiti in a gallery. Again, that’s the dismissive assumption. Personal views on graff seem to have overshadowed that very basic idea of the show, which is collecting. I’ve had many conversations over the years when I’ve been out painting in public, where people expressed they would love to take a chunk away from the wall that my friends and I were doing. This seemed like an ideal time to try something like that in the gallery, in consideration of what Philippa wanted to do. Taking away a piece from a “piece”. Admittedly, some of the canvases are not as strong as others, but quite a few of them work well and sold. We accomplished our goal and it would be interesting to tally who was a collector and who was new to collecting.

Jeffry had also told us that the Tiffany Gallery in particular was often not an ideal space for work because of the competition from the windows. As beautiful as they are, they are definitely overbearing in size and the light they produce in the room during the day can be very distracting to artwork on the walls. Since our work is large by default, it was a perfect setting to encompass the room and actually use the color and design from the windows in an attempt to de-thrown them somewhat. This also provided a funny juxtaposition, but I guess some people didn’t get it or took offense to the humor in it. Regardless, our part in the show has garnered quite a bit of discussion from both sides of the love/hate relationship since the opening, so I can’t complain.

And for you vivianmaines…


I’m now slowly understanding gallery art is very serious business and almost as dangerous as the streets with some of you ‘critics’. I’d also love to see the crap that is on par with me and my crew, done by you and your crew. I’m sure we can all have a good laugh.

2:50 PM  
Blogger SRP Harmel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:50 PM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

Ah, yes, Vivian. You've noticed my sheltered, "classical", conservative tastes.

The AAC is a private non-profit housed in a County building.

People come to the AAC to see contemporary art. The Tiffany windows are popular with the folks who rent the building for weddings. I would trade them in a heartbeat for a decent freight elevator.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Armsmasher said...

1) There are six collectors, not five. (Seven if you count Heather and Tony separately.)

2) Kriston's complaint about Philippa's room is that it isn't avante-garde enough.

2) The main argument of the article: Collectors aren’t professional curators.

I'm counting three stones flying from that glass house of yours, Hatchets.

11:31 AM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

I wasn't quibbling with any of the judgements in the article about any particular piece or artist, just the places where I felt it ignored or misconstrued the show's stated intent. Which I consider fair game.

Glass houses? Pshaw. What fun is life without a little mess?

11:42 AM  
Blogger Armsmasher said...

I was merely pointing out that neither of us can count.

11:54 AM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

Oof. Got it.

Say, why's there a big, jagged-edged hole where my living room used to be?

12:06 PM  
Blogger Richard Gould said...

And why now is there a jagged hole in these comments? Vivianmaines deleted all of her comments earlier today! Buffed them out, one might say.

1:37 PM  

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