Week 8 of Curatorial Practice

Hi everyone, I am a little behind on posting. Right now, class is less about learning the theories of curating and more about trial and error. We are in the midst of exhibition preparations (it is one month away!). Loan agreements, shipping costs, press releases, invitations, ….the list goes on.

Like.Comment.Share is the theme that we have chosen for our show. The title  mimics the comment options on your Facebook page because the exhibition is meant to make a statement about social media and its impact on the distribution of art. Many of my classmates and I discovered our artist for the show, through art blogs, twitter feeds, or other forms of social media. Technology is changing the way we are exposed to art–how we share it, distribute it, and comment on it. When you enter our art exhibition, we will ask you to keep your smartphone out. Comment on the artists through twitter or on our webpage. Check the show’s pinterest boards that feature additional works by each artist. Share your favorite artist with your friends on Facebook. Like it. Comment on it. Share it. 

What do you think? I am pretty jazzed about it. I think the exhibition is going to be a lot of fun. Our various social media pages are still under construction but be sure to take a peek if you are interested.

Facebook     Website   Twitter Name: LCSArtShow                                         Pinterest Name: Like.Comment.Share

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Hong Yi, Coffee Stains as Art

Last semester, I interviewed Jack Rasmussen, the director and curator of the Katzen Art Museum. He told me that, “Curating is kind of like painting if someone were to spill coffee on your painting every 15 minutes. You must adjust, be responsive to the outside world. The coffee may even help the painting. It is a giant collaboration.” 

Malaysian artist, Hong Yi, takes Jack’s philosophy to the next level. Coffee spills cannot disturb her art because it is her primary medium. Below, I have pasted a portrait of musician, Jay Chou, that Hong Yi formed with coffee stain rings from the base of her coffee cup. View Hong Yi’s entire process here.

Makes you think doesn’t it? What ordinary products can we be using more creatively? As curators, what we can we be doing with the coffee spills? 

Week 7, Exhibition Critique #2

The third floor of the National Portrait Gallery is my favorite floor because of its romantic architecture. I am in awe of the never-ending marble floors, grand doorways, and lofty ceilings. But what makes the floor even better is that the east wing is usually home to contemporary art. Last weekend, I left my boyfriend in the Twentieth-Century Americans exhibit and snuck over to the east wing. I stood in the center of the room trying to decide where to look first and noticed a small passage-way to the right of the wing entrance. The passage led to Snails-Space with Vari-lites, “Painting as Performance by David Hockney.  Of course, I had to investigate.

I heard a light crackling noise as I stepped into the dark entrance.  After blindly walking for about three feet, a large colorful painting gleamed before me. The Smithsonian describes the piece as “two attached canvases and floor piece to look like a tiny, tangled world blow up to preposterous size.” The three-dimensional piece consists of spirals, swirls, and dots that can be interpreted as a fantastical landscape. My curiosity was peaked. I decided to take a seat by the two viewers sitting on the bench to my right.

(This video is poor quality but it gives you an idea of the transformation of the exhibit. The red phase is my favorite part.)

A computer program uses various types of lighting to highlight certain aspects of the piece.  Over a period of nine minutes, valleys glow red and blue as specific dots light-up and then fade. Meanwhile, a slow crackling noise ripples at the “pace of a snail”. The couple left the room and I sat alone on the cushioned bench for one cycle of the piece, reveling in this beautiful meditation. At one point, the entire work smolders in a brilliant red light almost as if the painting is blushing. I could not help but smile-Hockney is a genius.

Eventually my solitude was broken by the presence of other visitors. Numerous visitors walked into the room and turned around after about 30 seconds while others sat for a minute and grew impatient before shuffling out.  Finally, one man came to sit by me for a few minutes. He seemed enthusiastic about the piece and only left in order to find his wife and son to bring them back. Unfortunately, his son was unable to appreciate the work. “When is something going to happen?” he asked. “And what is that noise? And when can we go to lunch?” The man undoubtedly regretted his attempt at sharing the piece.

The family forced me to consider the decisions made by the curator surrounding this piece. My first instinct was to believe that the curator needs to somehow get every viewer to stop for nine minutes in order to enjoy Snails Space. But after sitting through three cycles of the performance, I feel differently. The job of the curator is to create the best experience for viewers that want to appreciate and to protect them from disturbances by others. The fairly secretive location of the space in the far corner of the east wine was one advantage of the exhibit. Viewers must be truly interested in order to walk-in. Once they enter, they feel that they discovered something that others have missed. Also, the cushioned bench adds to the relaxing feel of the experience and invites the viewer to stay for a while. Finally, the minimal amount of description outside of the exhibit contributes to the mystery and permits the viewer to make their own assumptions.

While I really enjoy the enigmatic feel of the exhibition, I believe it lessens the protection offered to the interested viewer. If the exhibit boldly states that the performance requires nine minutes of your time, then impatient visitors may be deterred. Additionally, PLEASE BE QUIET signs would definitely obstruct the atmosphere of the exhibit, but they could stop viewers from chattering loudly as they enter the dark hallway. Noise distractions dilute the impact of the work and interrupt the meditative qualities of the piece.

The fact that Snails Space was the only piece shown by Hockney is another aspect of the exhibition that I have considered. Maintaining the individuality of the piece was advantageous because the viewer’s attention is not diverted to other works. I sat in the room fully concentrated on examining the performance and left feeling lighter and invigorated by the piece. I did not want to see anything else. Snails Space had filled my creative thirst for the day. However, it would be interesting to experiment with installing additional Hockney pieces in the east wing. The piece is an evolution of Hockney’s earlier works. “It grew out of his practice of arranging separate canvases around the studio, painting the floor, and inviting his visitors to step into the world of his paintings.” I would like to see an exhibition that tells the story of the evolution of Hockney’s work with Snails Space as the culmination.

My experience with Snails-Space with Vari-lites, “Painting as Performance” pushed me to expand my definition of curation. Curators not only put together exhibitions that tell a story and evoke the message of the artist, but they compose an entire experience for the viewer. The curator of Snails Space tried to develop an atmosphere in which the viewer would be able to receive the artist’s message. While the curator was successful in many ways, the exhibition could certainly be improved upon-and Snails Space is certainly worth the effort.

Week 6, Curatorial Practice

Lessons from Curatorial Practice Week 6. Do not get attached.

1) Do not get attached to your artist

I keep thinking about the movie, The Double. In the movie, a young FBI agent named Ben Geary becomes so engrossed in hunting a criminal that it becomes an obsession. Ben learns everything about the criminal; his political stance, his killing tactics, his list of victims…what he eats for breakfast. Ben desperately wants to understand the criminal’s thoughts and desires. He even begins to mimic some of the criminal’s habits. What does this have to do with curating? In a hyperbolic way, Ben and the criminal are a metaphor for a curator and the artist.

This week, each student in my class showed images from their artist’s work. While we are all impressed by the amazing collection of artists, it is evident that the 16 artists will not meld into a succinct show. This means that some of us must let go of our artists (a task more easily said than done). Like Ben Geary, we have been studying our artists for weeks. Viewing image after image. Reading about their artistic process. Researching the evolution of their work. Emailing back and forth with the artist to exchange ideas and negotiate terms.  Now we have to resign ourselves to the fact that our artist may not be part of the exhibition.While Ben Geary’s inability to find the criminal would mean a failed mission, this is simply the life of a curator. Curators develop deep relationships with artists and many times they are forced to let them go.

2) Do not get attached to a specific vision for your exhibition

I am currently on my 3rd set of images for the exhibition. What do I mean? First, Winston Wachter Gallery (the gallery that represents Ethan Murrow) offered 3 drawings from my the Zero Sum Pilot series of his work [my favorite series]. Unfortunately, the 3 pieces do not tell the complete story of the collection. I felt that Murrrow would be better represented by more works from a different series. This led me to 5 pieces from the series, Doppler Doppelganger. The gallery agreed to send them over. Perfect!…. not exactly. Murrow has become a great success and his works are selling left and right. The gallery has since rescinded the offer. So now I have been offered 3 original prints from some of his newest works. While I would rather display the drawings themselves, prints are not a bad option (and well…they are much cheaper to ship). Anyway, the moral of the story is to stay flexible.

3) Do not get attached to style

This lesson is  a fun side-note. On Thursday, I went to meet with Bruce Wick, the Katzen Arts Museum’s Chief Preparator and Registrar, to discuss the installation of Murrow’s works. Bruce was wearing what are probably the coolest set of glasses that I have seen in a while. When I think back, each time that I have met with Bruce he has been wearing a unique set of glasses. Therefore, lesson number 3 is to switch it up. Working in the art world allows you to reinvent yourself constantly. I think the key to Bruce’s reinvention is that the change of his frames is subtle. While other aspects of his style remain, his frames change in a drastic way. It is a small hint to the world that he is super creative and visual.