Luckily, I didn’t spot a single sweater in last night’s blistering heat which I believe spared me the nausea anticipated in the subject line of this post. My patience for drink lines lasted all of one gallery, as they reached all time lengths yesterday most of them spilling out onto the street. While I realize the fact that I had little to drink yesterday is probably not the most “riveting” read in the world, I do feel it is worth mentioning, since I doubt I was the only one who left Chelsea with more of a headache than when I arrived. I suppose we can view the fact that everyone leaves the city due to temperature as evidence that Chris Burden’s performances investigating the idea of personal harm have had little influence on the behavior of the gallery goer.
As I noted before, Ellen Altfest curated a show of women artists who painted men at I-20 gallery, predictably titled, Men. There’s nothing wrong with the show, but I didn’t come away feeling that there was anything right with it either, (other than a mildly interesting premise). If you feel like shrugging your shoulders after seeing a show, then definitely include this on your list of “must sees”.
Diamonds Cut Diamonds, RARE Gallery
Photo collage AFC
I stopped by RARE last night to check out what the first curatorial effort of artist Johnston Foster, Diamonds Cut Diamonds. It is nothing short of excellent. Every artist in this exhibition demonstrates a great dexterity with materials, and all of the work exudes personality. Frankly, I find it incredible that none of these artists have representation. Artist Dave Choi, Kate Horne and Morgan Herrin in particular have made great work, ranging from bizarre flowered fish, to animated wall mounted horse heads, to virtuoso carved classical figures in insulation.
The evening came to a close at Black and White Gallery’s new location in Chelsea, which is now hosting “The Sanctity and the Scrum”, a show of emerging artists, many of whom have no small presence in the Chelsea scene already. Much of the work in the show had a transitional feel to it, and while the exhibition was hung well, there didn’t seem to be much thought as to how the art might work together.
Curator David Hunt, whom you may know from his brilliant curatorial effort at Scope this year, seems to have an established track record of concept shows that do little to benefit the work of the artist, and this effort is no different. In fact, the press release clearly states that the idea behind this show, was to bring together diverse aesthetics and have the work “fight it out”. Beginning this train of thought,
“In an age of rampant* pluralism,“, writes Hunt, “instantly recognizable signature styles, and deeply personal autobiographical agendas, how is a curator to make a compelling case for a particular unifying theme or a totalizing commentary on our shared, though splintered zeitgeist?”
As a starting point for a show, this statement has problems on several levels. For one, exhibitions about the curator are not particularly engaging. I know it sounds old fashioned, but I don’t think problems of curation are interesting enough to warrant them becoming the driving force behind a of a show, especially when the result, is more or less “I give up – you guys fight it out“.
However poorly articulated (and executed) Hunt’s concept is, there is something to his thoughts that bears some reflection. Two things seem to be happening that are dividing the practice of curation. One, the importance of presorting is diminishing. For example, how many of us buy music compilations these days? Not so many. Thank you itunes music store. How many of us use search engines like Yahoo, that provide us with search categories? Again, not so many. Thank you google. Frustrated by the fact that you have to buy five cases of beer because you like five different varieties? Not any more – curate your own case of beer. Thank-you deli store owners.
The point is, the idea that the viewer/consumer has the best understanding of what they want is now taking precedent. So who needs a curator when you’ve got yourself right? Well, if the role of the curator is to be a filter, than it looks like they are still just as much in demand as they were before. Flavorpill has built an immensely successful business model based on this idea, and reblogging continues to impact online journalism, as it significantly effects what gets read. Clearly there is still great value to the practice of curation.
Hunt speculates that there is no hope to build a case for a “unifying theme”, and I would add, that broadly speaking, it no longer matters. The flaw in his logic however, is that in whatever ways lifestyles and modes of thinking have changed in the last couple of years, the functionality of a gallery space remains the same. You can’t throw a bunch of artists in a room and expect the viewer to make sense of it all. Curation requires a little more rigor than this.