First, an Exquisite Corpse update: The artist application window is now officially closed. Thank you to all who applied! The portfolios I’ve looked through so far are fantastic. I’m impressed not only by the quality of the art, but also by the variety of media (my inbox is filled with everything from animatronic sculpture to performance to guerilla art), themes (race, gender, sexuality, and class! death, decay, and the grotesque! beauty! freedom! promise I’m not just throwing out buzzwords!), and applicants (artists range from emerging and still in school to established and with work that can be found in collections around the world, from the local to as far from Chicago as you can get—hello, Australian creatives!). Hmm, I believe I just drafted part of the exhibition’s press release with those juxtapositions. Artists, I will be contacting you within the next couple of days.
I also enjoyed being addressed as a “respected sir” in one of the cover letters.
Second, here’s my latest Sixty Inches From Center article, in which I interviewed the gallery director of Western Exhibitions, as well as a few artists, for insight into People Don’t Like to Read Art, a group show. (For the record, I love reading art. And reading. And art. Look at that!)
All media, such as oil, are struggling with issues similar to those ink is facing. Today’s artists prefer to use multiple media rather than master a single medium. There is less need to grapple with challenging media because they are primarily interested in conceptual art; the medium of a work and its subject are mere tools for expressing an artist’s ideas.
I have my own opinions on the subject. As an artist myself, I try to strike a balance between technical skill (I can draw) and conceptual vision (for my thesis project at Columbia, I created hundreds of self-addressed and pre-stamped postcards, all blank save for the prompt, “Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die—use this card as your canvas,” marked each with a code, and placed the cards in public spaces throughout Manhattan, using the codes to record where I left them; when the postcards returned to me, I was able to pinpoint the exact location of where each had been found, and thus created a map of the city from New Yorkers’ dreams—no technical skill needed), in addition to making needlessly verbose parenthetical statements. But I won’t trouble you with mine [yet].
What are your thoughts? The most common reaction to much contemporary art, I’ve found, is “I can do that.” I’ve also found that the proper response to such a grievance is “But you didn’t.” Many people may indeed be technically capable of executing what can be seen in galleries and museums, but they weren’t the ones who conceived the ideas behind those pieces in the first place, and that’s what counts. Or is it?
Can we excuse mediocre (or downright poor) craftsmanship if the artwork communicates a groundbreaking idea (perhaps the piece possesses great sociopolitical significance) or, more simply, a clever idea? If an idea is good enough, exactly how “good” must that idea be? Is it necessary for contemporary artists to master a medium? Which do you hold in higher esteem: technique or concept? Or do you regard both equally?