As luck would have it, we tend to forget most of the bad art we see. For this reason, this year’s lists of the worst art remains shorter than the rest. It’s not that there’s less of it — in fact we know the opposite to be true — but I’ll be damned if I’m going to make a point to remember bad art, just so that I can compile it in a year end list.
THE WORST ART OF 2006
5. Steve Mumford at Postmasters, (October 21 – December 2 2006)
Generally speaking I’m not a fan of war art because it so often addresses the subject matter in a literal and didactic way. I’m particularly not pleased with work that lives up to this stereotype when reputable Chelsea Galleries exhibit it because it means the attachment of hefty tickets to art that if shown anywhere else would be worth a fraction of the price. Steve Mumford’s paintings at Postmasters this November depicting soldiers, insurgents, and tanks (etc.) are probably an improvement on his last show (which was also inspired by the Iraq war and can be seen here,) but exhibit at best average paint handling skills, and use little imagination. The most annoying aspect of this series and those like it though, comes from the fact that while the work fails to illicit an emotional response, the viewer is either supposed to feel like a bad a citizen for not reacting to it, or intellectualize the return as a desensitization to the subject matter, rather than just acknowledging that the paintings aren’t very good.
4. Scope NY, March 10-13, 2006
I have some guilt in listing Scope in the worst of 2006, having met the executive director Alexis Hubshman on several occasions, and genuinely liking him, but I just can’t ignore the physical reaction that Scope NY induced – that being to literally make me want to bolt the fair. There is just far too much bad-art-with-its-heart-in-the-right-place at that fair. You have to draw the line somewhere and mine is at Clusterfuck. They are an easy target, but make a lot of noise while driving a motorcycle that carries a scantily clad women around the fair, and you can be sure I’ll aim to take it down. Full review here.
3. Matthew Barney, Drawing Restraint 9, backed by Barbara Gladstone, Premiered March 28th at MoMA
I wrote about this movie in detail last winter, but the main points of the review are this: Barney’s endless Cremaster logos feel intensely ego gratifying this time around, his latest investigation of petroleum feels like a rehash of other work he’s done, casting Bjork in DR9 was a mistake because she’s too much of a pop star to play any one other than herself, and he should stay away from CGI because of his many great skills as an artist that isn’t one of them. 2 plus hours of boredom later, I suspect you too will come to the same conclusions I have.
2. The Whitney Biennial, Day for Night. (March 2 – May 28th)
You have to grant that curating the Biennial is a tough job, after all finding a lot of really good artists to fill a huge space can’t be all that easy. In fact, were it not for successful survey shows such as Frequency you might think the task is impossible. Why can’t the Biennial come up with a good mix of artists? I don’t know, but I suspect the answer is simpler than we think. I’d start by excluding feel good art from the mix. That means no more peace tower.
Image via The Museum of Moving Image
1. ArtStar, A reality TV show sponsored by Deitch Projects, Premiered May 12th 2006
Typifying everything I dislike about the art world, ArtStar pretends to be about artists, but in reality is no more than a vehicle to promote the wares of the gallery. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy that galleries sell art – they should keep doing that – they (Deitch Projects) shouldn’t however pretend that commerce has nothing to do with why ArtStar exists. I have no desire to listen to why Keith Haring would have approved of this show, when the only reason his name has relevance is because the gallery sells his work, nor do I find interest in the multitude of educational and self growth purposes that are attributed to the TV series retroactively. Personally, I’d be much more interested in watching an apprentice like show for the world of gallerina’s than I am the next art star search. Compete for the job of head sales director at Gagosian, Mary Boone, and David Zwirner, and illuminate the world on how full of sharks the art world really is. Now that’s a reality show worth watching. My full review of the series here.