There’s something exciting about art world controversy. Even in school, and getting angry about some sculpture or painting or exhibition I deemed “fake,” or “insincere,” or “pandering,” I still enjoyed the engagement those works provoked in me and in my fellow students.
So, anew, is the latest in back-and-forth arguments about the relative worth or meaning of a work. Heatherwick installed “Vessel,” a linked set of staircases, basically, in Manhattan, NYC.
For me, it most resembles one of those sets in sci-fi films where members of an alien tribunal gaze down on humans and condemn them to work in salt mines on some distant planet.
There are lots of sculptures to marvel over at Sailstorfer’s web site, and they range from static, pedestal-bound allegories to machines in motion to indoor-specific to outdoor manipulations. Expectations are twisted and new connections made in brilliant presentations that are simple on the surface but full of ingrained substance.
Take some time and poke around, Sailstorfer is masterfully repurposing things of contemporary society and rethinking their places.
This one, which is going to feature the work of newly-graduated MFA students, is something I’d like to see. But then, in the details, are things like the prestige of venue, and the million dollar cost.
I’m not sure it’s the direction I want to see. The art world is already so focused on sales, and this is more of the same system that pushes artists to structure work to market preferences.
I get the opportunity to the students, and congratulations to them for getting in on this. But I’d like to see a bigger push to strive for meaning and broad openness in both art and its exhibitions.
I’m always fascinated by artists who interact with the physical world in various ways. Especially when they turn the familiar upside down. Magda Sayeg does this sort of thing a lot, creating what I’d call interventions more than merely installations.
Using yarn as a medium has some deep connective salience. It’s familiar, but outside the context of a home or apparel, it brings a sometimes unnerving resonance to both natural and human made objects. Simultaneously, it adds touches of humor and cozy familiarity, drawing us in with bright color and warmth.
photo: work by Sanya Kantarovsky, Modern Art gallery booth, original photo by Mark Blower
It’s nice to see L.A. start to be ever more seriously considered a center for fine art, despite my reservations about art fairs in general. As the population giant of the West, it’s inevitable that thousands of artists make their homes and studios there, with plenty of innovative and alternative ways of seeing and making.
It deserves as much longer post, or a series of them, but the Frieze art fair debuts in L.A. this week. It’s long been staged in London and NYC, and I’m glad the west coast is being recognized by the organizers as a worthy art center, but still have major problems with the concept in general.
As with the secondary market (auctions and such, the phenomenal prices of which are what make headlines), small, lesser-known, and—let’s face it, because it’s practically a detriment—living artists are often paid less attention. It’s true lots of contemporary creators get to showcase through their galleries who pay a high entrance fee to exhibit, but the fairs are there to make money, primarily.
This is fine. But it leaves out a vast section of artists who may feel, well, frozen out. I don’t have a ready solution, except to say I think we should be thinking more about what art gives to humanity, and the capacity we all have to make it.
As related in this article about the current Tolkien exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, J.R.R. Tolkien thought of his drawings and paintings were of a piece with his writing. He didn’t do either as afterthought. They went together.
“As he was writing the story, he would draw the scenes to help him create the textual description…and, in turn, what he was writing would inform his illustrations.”
— John T. McQuillen, Ph.D.
There’s a place for these kinds of media combos, outside places where they work together, as in animation. There are worlds to explore, still, and genius that will spring up and give us new ways to work and explore. All art is remixing.
It’s been a while since I posted an artist link, but for Frances Bagley, I have to. She’s a counterargument to the idea that one should have a focus on a specific kind of work, since she does all kinds of wildly different things: installations in rooms, disturbing mixed media draped figures, abstract sculpture, video-centered works, public conceptual pieces, and all with a thoughtful and deft eye and hand.
One of my favorite art educators died on December 26th, leaving behind a rich and passionately devotional trove of videos and books about art behind.
Sister Wendy was a fascinating and amusing figure in her capacity as a guide and an insightful interpreter of art for millions who were enraptured by her tours through the history of art. She taught boldly and with grace. Below is a typically wry and studied segment, her description and explanation of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.