What were the craziest presentations at this year’s Creative Capital retreat in Troy? In my first installment I provided a brief overview of the arts granting agency’s conference—it’s several days in an auditorium listening to amazing artists give seven minute presentations on their projects—and discussed the work of three stand out artists: Lorraine O’Grady, Brittany Nelson and Narcissister. This week I highlight three more. Let’s get this started.
What does millennial cultural tourism look like? From the institutional standpoint, it’s about making exhibition and outreach programming more “social” and appealing to younger audiences with stuff they think they’ll like: “late night” events, live music, food trucks, booze. Publicly funded outdoor summer music festivals now come with visual arts programming; at last month’s WayHome Festival outside of Barrie, Ontario, a curator was hired to oversee interactive art installations scattered through the grounds, providing the perfect backdrop for festival goer’s selfie stick snaps.
A new exhibition space, which bills itself as a “concept store”, opened last month in DUMBO. Usagi NY combines a gallery, cafe, and library in a crisp and surprisingly functional 2,800 sq ft space designed by Sou Fujimoto. The cafe and reading area are quietly tucked in the back, resulting in a gallery that isn’t too cluttered but still manages to feel more gregarious than the average white-box space. It’s a rare example of a multi-use space where the artwork doesn’t feel like an afterthought, which is an accomplishment. Their inaugural show is organized around the Japanese designer Kenya Hara’s theory that the color white inspires creativity—along with a unifying thread of projects that involve commerce, research, or technology.
Last Sunday afternoon, in front of the historic Ontario Legislative Building in Toronto’s Queen’s Park, the different sections of a street procession had gathered, waiting. Even though the atmosphere thrummed with an excitable confusion among its just over two hundred masqueraders in anticipation of undertaking a two-and-a-half kilometer parade route along University Avenue to City Hall, it all threatened to wilt under the blaze of the hot sun. Volunteers scurried back and forth down the line, spraying with water bottles those wearing outsized circular masks and seemingly precarious, ten-foot high netted sculptural wings.
Brooklyn-based Esther Ruiz waxes philosophical on art history, sci-fi, and mythology in her neon-filled solo exhibition The Whole is Other than the Sum of its Parts, now on view at Baltimore’s Platform Gallery.
The Creative Capital Retreat took place two weeks ago now, and I’m still thinking about it. Nearly every year the organization invites grantees from their latest grant cycles to give seven minute presentations on what they have or will do to a room full of professionals. This year, though, was more emotional than usual. Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital’s Founding President and Executive Director announced she would be retiring earlier in the year, and it’s her vision and guidance that has helped make Creative Capital so unique. With the help of the Warhol Foundation, a strong board and staff, and a robust philanthropic community, the granting agency has done more to help artists than almost any other I know. It’s not just that artists receive a $50,000 grant—though that’s certainly helpful—but that they get access to an incredible array of professional development programs. This retreat is their flagship event.
When art mingles with tech, there can be a rush to mass-market artsy/techy products; in the early days of new tech, those products can sound terribly goofy, and they often aim at self-improvement. Take, for example, from 1969, artist Thomas Tadlock’s “Archetron,” a color synthesizer that turned black-and-white signals on a TV into colorful psychedelic imagery. It ended up being sold as a “prophecy, meditation, and healing machine” at a new age center in New York. That product never really caught on; and we tend to remember Tadlock more for his art contribution than a commercial one.