Monday, July 28, 2008

Sweet Revenge

I came out of a bout of depression earlier this year with the visceral understanding that there is not one art world – Gagosian’s - and that carving out your own niche is not only the most you can hope for, but the best you can hope for. This revelation released me from an extreme pressure I felt to make it down a very narrow path I had paved in my mind. Part of that path, for mostly random reasons, included getting into AIM hosted by the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The first four times I received my "unfortunately" letter kept me from the studio for weeks.

While I’ve become mostly casual about such programs – and even the rejections - , it was still with great and sick pleasure that I read Roberta Smith’s ruthless review of this year’s AIM exhibition.

Let it rip!

A few poignant goodies:

Perhaps an overfamiliarity with Conceptual Art and especially the theories it inspired can leave young artists with no sense of how to make an artwork that holds together as an experience. You can sense the lack of connection to either materials or self in their statements, which appear on the wall labels beside the work. They mix overblown, one-size-fits-all artspeak with quite a bit of wishful thinking about their work’s impact, as if they could control the meaning or effect of their work.
Not much else here will slow you down. It does gives me pause that 26 of the 36 artists have master’s degrees in fine arts from respected universities or art schools. I think most of them should ask for their money back. On the evidence here, at least, they have only a meager understanding of what being an artist entails.

“How Soon Is Now?” suggests that there is no point in spending time on “professional development” or learning how to advance one’s work in the marketplace if artistic development is not well under way. That requires lots of long, hard looking at all kinds of art, in all mediums, from all periods and cultures. Aspiring artists need to expose themselves to the sheer intensity and variety of art, to learn what they love, what they hate and if they are actually artists at all. New York’s galleries and especially its great museums offer ample opportunity for this kind of self-education, which leads to self-knowledge. Anything is possible when artists set to work knowing they have something they urgently need to say, in a way it hasn’t quite been said before.


Mike said...

That review caught my eye as well. I was bit surprised that Roberta Smith was so willing to cut down young, emerging artists, but having seen the exhibition myself, I have to say I mostly agree with her.

Having been rejected from the AIM program a few times myself, I tend to wonder how my work would have held up to similar scrutiny had I been accepted this year. After all I am one of those artists with a master's degree in fine arts, and I struggle in my work with some of the very issues Roberta Smith is critical of. It's a bit frightening.

On a positive note, one artist's work at the Bronx Museum really stood out to me: The video work of Luke Lamborn

Molly Stevens said...

I'm hoping that it's because we're not like the rest of them that we didn't get in. And now we have proof that it's a good thing we aren't.