Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gosh, What Beautiful Art!

I just received a veritable packet in the mail, from the Smack Mellon studio program. Here is the stack of invitational postcards contained therein:

Man, how inspiring, and humbling at the same time. I just can't wait to see the shows. They're bound to be both aesthetically compelling and intellectually challenging, in ways I literally can't imagine.


Anonymous said...

I sense that you're being sarcastic, but not sure what the joke is. That the images on the postcards are lousy?

Pretty Lady said...

Perish the thought. Have you not eyes??? Can you not apprehend the depth, the originality, the sheer visual poetry of these postcards? Do they not convey something too complex, esoteric and mystical to be conveyed in mere words? Aren't you intrigued?

k said...

Okay. The postcards looked just like something a secretary would have put together for a little pic on the title page of the Agenda of a less-serious sort of business meeting, back in my day. So I figured maybe it wasn't the artists who did them.

Spying out the Smack Mellon link, I clicked. I read the printed thing describing the show until it was too boring to continue. That went fast. So then I looked at the 32 Opening Night Photos, which showed lots of fashionable-looking anxious-looking people, but little of the art.

So I clicked on the video. I always leave the sound on my computer muted, and I didn't un-mute it. I mean, if they have to explain it to me, then why is it supposed to be art? Surely we should only have to look at it, not listen to someone describing it when it's right in front of us.

I don't get it. I don't get what makes this art. They looked like a bunch of little kids playing house, using appropriate child-safe materials of no substance and no value, putting them together with little know-how. Junk that dad would have thrown out anyway, and paper and stuff from the recycle bins or trash cans.

I take it that this *installation art* thing is where instead of bringing pieces of sculpture, paintings, etc. from the studio and putting it in the gallery, they bring parts and assemble them there. Is this correct, please?

They seem to be using stuff that won't be missed after the show? Thus the cardboard etc.? They can just put it in the dumpster afterward and nobody has to worry about trying to get it back home without damaging it?

After a quick grin at how incredibly out of place I'd look there, sitting on my scooter, I couldn't find much to entertain me.

Excuse me. I have not been *Out in the World,* as the deaf say, for a very long time now. And I don't mean to insult the field in which your own endeavors should, I think, take some prominence. But I don't get why they're bothering.

I know my perception is distorted. I treasure my *windows,* the tiny windows of opportunity that only open for me here and there, giving me a brief and momentary piece of the healthy function needed to attend such a gathering.

I would not use one second of one precious window on something like this. Everything there, from the building with its artifices, to the people, to the, the *installations,* was utterly and dismally boring.

No wonder they all look so anxious.

Pretty Lady said...

Exactly, k. I apologize that my fit of frustrated irony caused you to waste your time. O and I went to the last Smack Mellon open studio, and it was exactly as you describe.

I don't get why they're bothering, either, except that it's a niche where some people with money and some people with more gall than talent can get together and make themselves feel special. I know there is interesting art happening in this world; I have no earthly idea why Smack Mellon can't seem to find any of it. They certainly burn through an awful lot of applications when selecting the dreck they finally choose to feature.

k said...

Waste my time? Oh goodness no. I virtually never waste my time. I'm pretty careful and lucky with that, overall.

I got to experience a dreary non-art art show from the comfort of my lovely home office chair, feet up, sound down. I spent all of a few minutes examining this thing, and learned a lot for my limited effort. Good heavens! Waste? Not at all.

Of course I figured it had to be an older show, since the invitational to the new one had just hit your mailbox. This way, though, I bet I can get most of the flavor of the new one, but without waiting for it to happen. Cool by me.

When a person or group consistently repeats a certain behavior, and when it's clear that behavior doesn't have to be repeated that way, it makes me wonder why.

What we have here is a series of galleries that try to put on exhibits of art. Correct?

Some seem to be hit or miss.

Some seem to consistently put on dreck.

Now: Just looking at the dreck folks here, and asking *why* once again - Are they doing it by accident or on purpose? If on purpose, it is because they want to do it this way?

Because those repeated behaviors usually have us wondering if it is indeed by choice. Even if the result seems contrary to what you'd expect. In other words, a negative outcome.

Why does a person or group desire a negative outcome? Why do they consistently achieve this?

Because *some people with money and some people with more gall than talent can get together and make themselves feel special* seems as likely an explaination as any.

Chris Rywalt said...

I have wondered many times at what's going on in the art world with all these galleries showing crud. We should keep in mind Sturgeon's Law, which states that 90 percent of everything is crud, but at the same time, don't we want gallery directors and curators to weed out the crud? Isn't that, like, you know, their job?

I've concluded that what's going on is one of two possibilities:

* Gallerists show what they think will sell.

* Gallerists show what they like.

Each of these has some sub-possibilities:

* If gallerists show what they think will sell, and it happens to be crud, does the crud actually sell or not?

* If gallerists show what they like, is it crud because they have lousy taste or because I have lousy taste? In other words, is it possible they're not selling crud?

And then, finally:

* If all this crud/non-crud isn't selling, how do these galleries stay open?

My current answers to all this add up to the following: I have no idea who has taste. It's possible I'm a complete idiot when it comes to art -- I've been and continue to be an idiot about too many things to have any faith in myself. But gallerists have no idea either. They also have no idea what will sell. And at least some galleries stay open because of alternate income (trust funds, inheritances, past successes, owners' day jobs).

So, basically, take a shotgun. Fill the barrel with paint and stuff you fished out of a dumpster. Point it at a wall and pull the trigger. That's the art world. Unless you're an artist, in which case take off your sock, point the gun at your face, and pull the trigger with your toe.

Pretty Lady said...

Chris, Smack Mellon isn't a gallery. They're a nonprofit arts organization, funded by grants, government, and private donors. They're also a big tax write-off for a real estate development corporation, which in turn can raise its rental property rates into the stratosphere, due to the presence of a hip, youthful Art Scene in its neighborhood.

Get it?

It's not about the art. It's about ego and money. Our culture uses artists as luxury-income generating forces, and hands us the driblets of their excessive profits in the form of small, patronizing grants to arts organizations.

The arts organizations then acquire, defend and maintain their status as cultural arbiters by holding competitions for free, temporary studio space and exhibitions such as this one.

I suspect that if they picked some actual visually powerful, culturally relevant work, the artists would gain too much personal power from the exposure, and thus be less dependent upon them, but then I've been feeling particularly cynical and paranoid lately. So strike that from the record.

Chris Rywalt said...

See, I tend to think of "non-profit arts organization" as being pretty much the same as "for-profit gallery" with the only difference being the former requires even less success to survive than the latter.

The power structure -- ego and money -- is basically inherent in any communal human endeavor to some degree. We've all got our branches on the tree, and we're all trying to climb up while making sure no one knocks us off our branch. The difference between monkeys and humans is that humans have the capacity to define their own tree, although most people stick with the trees they're born with.

So you've decided that your tree is the one where artists create art in spite of all the ego and money politics in those other trees. You've got a higher branch in your tree, you see, which keeps your ego from getting too uppity, as egos tend to do. Although I'm willing to bet your ego sometimes notices the leaves you've pulled over its eyes and starts thinking about other trees -- perhaps trees more people agree on, the ones with the temporal money and status at the top.

We're all like that.

Anyway, my point is that the ego and money thing are inherent in any communal enterprise. The question is whether anything useful gets done despite that.

My suspicion, with galleries and non-profit arts organizations, is that nothing useful is getting done.

Anonymous said...

the shows were actually pretty good. and i like the videos--i like hearing an artist talk about what drives them . I dont always get to meet the artists and so it nice to hear what the work is meant to be about.
you guys sound like rejected artists--lighten up.

Pretty Lady said...

No. Real artists have enough passion for what they do to state their opinions clearly, with supporting facts and analysis, and without apology. If you don't like those opinions, offer some genuine counterpoint (i.e. an explanation of exactly what made the shows 'pretty good,') or remain silent. Unsupported pejorations are not welcome.