Sunday, April 27, 2014

Peter Frank: The Art of Jurying, The Art of Curating - Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

by Patricia Frischer and Joe Nalven

"Judging an exhibition is not the same process as is curating one. In many ways, in fact, it is the opposite. A curator deduces an exhibition theme or subject from prior observation and then goes out into the field to search for and secure artists and artworks appropriate to the theme or subject. Curating is proactive. A judge is present[ed with] so many artworks submitted by so many artists and culls from that roster of submissions.... Judging is, at least initially, passive. But one process feeds the other:  curatorial experience enhances the ability to shape a competitive show from its givens, and judging exposes the judge to previously unknown artworks, and artists, a few of whom might be appropriate for down the line curated exhibitions."  Peter Frank  

[Read more of the juror statement and see the award winners and several of the accepted art at the online catalog for the San Diego Art Institute’s 2014 Southern California / Baja Norte Juried Exhibition.]

Peter Frank juried the San Diego Art Institute's 2014 Southern California / Baja Norte Exhibition. He gave a talk at SDAI - actually more of a Q & A that illuminated his decisions about curating and jurying generally and more specifically about jurying this exhibition. 

The overriding commentary was one of his openness to the range of entries - of artist styles, media, and the like, that had been viewed essentially as online jpegs. Jurying is becoming more and more of an online submission process, leaving room for concern regarding surface texture, scale and how accurate the digital representation of the actual artwork is (unless that artwork is digital). 

Peter Frank, An Explanation                                         Image Credit: Joe Nalven

Peter Frank touched on many topics during this exchange. The following is a summary of his responses:

1. He is fond of both curated and juried shows. They offer him different experiences.
2. He included one work only by each artist in order to have as many artists included and filled to the higher allotment of 103 works instead of at the low of 75.  He said he did not give a preference to artists who submitted one image versus one that might have submitted a dozen images, but he liked to see more than one work to help him make the decision.
3. He chooses work that surprised and stimulated him.
4. He purposely did not think of how the show would look.
5. He does not think of himself as a professional juror but instead uses his professional experience to make decisions about the quality of the work. There are always personal preferences, but he tries not to let that influence him.
6. He  is freelance and does not work in any one space.  He prefers to leave it to the director and  installers  to best hang the space for maximum effect.
7. Although size and texture are limitations of seeing work online, there were few surprises of images not looking as good as they did online, and several actually looked better than they did online.
8. He values and respects each artist and considers it a privilege to see the work.
9. He does not like to jury themed exhibits since artists often put in 'anything' when they couldn't find something that meshed with the theme. His approach is to dismiss the theme and continue to choose what he thinks are the best works.
10. He, at first, did not admit to much of a bias (perhaps a preference for line), but at the  end of the talk he spoke of preferring the cacophony of the art exhibit to the bass beat/cacophony of what was outside the gallery. Was he referring to the vast world of commercial imagery or to the chaos of imagery assaulting us from every direction in today's world?
12.  He said that he didn't see much difference in the type (or quality?) of art being shown in San Diego versus New York or elsewhere. He added that curated shows work to find 'schools or art'  or at least a commonality of works.
13. He said he was open to digital media which provided artists with new tools to explore their subjects.

Apropos of such experimentation, here is Joe's other favorite from last night. The lighting from above gave the image an eerie touch.

Peter Frank, A Second Explanation                             Image Credit:  Joe Nalven
One question that surfaced is whether you choose the best works; or do you qualify that selection in some way so that you choose the works that make the best show. To the extent that the difference is one of forcing a curatorial overlay, the result might be a better show, which would raise the reputation of the exhibiting venue in the community and thus get more viewers eager to see the exhibit. In effect: The needs of the many would outweigh the needs of the few.

Or, arguing the contrary, is any overlay beyond the best artworks too ambitious for a juror?

Bhavna Mehta / Losing is an Art                      (Juror's Choice)

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