Tuesday, October 29, 2013

OMA Art Auction and Landscapes from Doug Simay's Collection - Additional article by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Oceanside Museum of Art has a bumper crop of events in October. Two of those are The  Art Auction on October 26, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. with a chance to purchase works from Oct 5 when the exhibition opens features 115 work by over 80 southern CA and San Diego artists hand picked by Sandra Chanis former president of the board and the Art Auction Committee.  Outside: Selections from the collection of Doug Simay continues through January 5, 2014.

OMA Art Auction

I loved this introduction by Sandra Chanis and so using this as a intro to this blog entry:

What makes good art? What art should you collect?

In inviting artist to participate in the major Art Auction, I looked for artists who are honest, aware of self, who possess a clear, passionate and compelling message, and have been able to evolve and mature in their vision. 

My final goal is to give you the unique opportunity to own carefully selected art affordably with proceeds that benefit the artists, OMA and you, the collector. 

Let me explain how the process took place....

all medium were considered: furniture, sculpture, painting drawing, mixed media, ceramics, jewelry, photography, fabric and print making. After much searching, personal visit wer made over a 7 month period by members of the Art Auction Committee to each and every one of the artists displayed. During those visits, the artists generously opened their studios and showed us all their work both completed and in progress  Questions and answers followed regarding the vision and the meaning of the art. From the 20 or plus works that each artists showed us, pieces were selected paying careful attendtion to the message, quality and value of the work. 

The final product is an immense generous collaboration between the artists and OMA who opened it entire upstairs gallery for this 3 week exhibition/auction. 

I applaud not only the artists and the Art Auction Committee who volunteered their time, but also the staff that has given numerous hours of invaluable experience to this complex project. 

And we applaud Sandra Chanis for this wonderful show, beautifully displayed, which all together made for an energy filled evening with wonderful food and great support for OMA.
Ann Mudge

Cheryl Tall ceramics and Patricia Frischer Borders of Intimacy

Penquin by Patricia Frischer
Michelle Kurtis Cole

Jeff Irwin

Larry and Debby Kline

Matt Divine sculpture with proud new owner

Deanne Sabeck

Tom Driscol
David Tourje

Outside: Selections from the collection of Doug Simay continues through January 5, 2014. 
 Mr. Doug Simay has the eye of an artist and in this huge showing of just the landscapes from his private collection you get an idea of how dedicated he is to selecting  what is acquired. I have know this for a long time as I am an avid follower of his Picks from LA which we post on SDVAN. He is tireless and you could not do better than to use his eye to mentor you if you are a beginning, intermediate or even advanced collector. Doug Simay's LA Picks for Oct 2013

Dimetri Kozyrev

John Divoa

Richard Sidevy

Tom Jenkins
Stuart Burton

Doug Simay has spent more than half of his life collecting art. Now in his 60s, the longtime La Jollan bought his first artwork at 28, when he found that a piece he loved was actually affordable, and, for a mere month’s salary, he could own it.

Currently, 57 “Selections from the Doug Simay Collection” are on view at the Oceanside Museum of Art, part of a museum-wide exhibition of landscapes. Simay’s section is titled “Outside,” which he explains in an introduction: “For me, ‘landscape’ is the pictorial plane on which ‘portraits’ exist. Take away the creatures that represent a story and what is left is my concept of landscape. A close-up of a horse is a portrait. A group of horses in a pasture is a landscape. Landscape is what is outside a protagonist.”

To Simay, every picture tells a story. “I can look at a painting and read it,” he said. “It’s partly an acquired skill, from years of education, but it’s also hardwired in me; it’s how my brain operates.”

Born and raised in Indio, he had a “superb” art teacher in high school, and developed a taste for making and appreciating art. He also managed to develop a taste for scuba diving, so he and his buddies drove down to La Jolla on weekend dive trips, camping in the parking lot behind the Museum of Contemporary Art.

When it came time for college, he chose UC San Diego, where he could pursue a dual major in art and biology and live close to the ocean.

At UCSD, he decided he wasn’t meant to be an avant-garde artist, and found success in the field of sub-cellular biochemistry. He went on to medical school, and spent more than 25 years in family practice, with an office on Coast Boulevard.

It was as a young intern that he bought his first artwork, a drawing by Robert Bechtle. Like all of Simay’s pieces, there’s a backstory to this one: he had to fight the San Diego Museum of Art for his right to acquire it. “They wanted it for their permanent collection, but I was there first,” he said. “They finally let me have it, and I let them show it in 1983.”

From the start, Simay bought from living artists, and enjoyed cultivating relationships with them.
In the late 1970s, he met Mark Quint, who had a small gallery next to Margaret’s Dry Cleaners. “I used to buy art from Mark, and when he moved downtown in the early ‘80s, I joined him, and opened my own gallery space next to his,” Simay said. The Java Coffeehouse Gallery followed, then an art-centered bookstore, and finally one large gallery, under what he called his “visual arts moniker,” SimaySpace.
“We did a lot of shows by culturally significant artists and I was my best customer,” he said.

In 1998, with artist Stuart Burton, Simay opened a full-fledged Art Academy in a 15,000-square-foot space across from his gallery. Under Burton, the Academy still exists, in smaller quarters on 30th Street.

Simay is now officially retired, but not from the art-world. “I can think of no finer way to spend my day than to look at art,” he said.

For 40 years, he has lived in the same art-filled condo, with furniture by Dave Fobes, who designed all his gallery spaces. These days, he buys less, and travels more widely, posting photos and descriptions of his art-finds on simayspace.com

He also goes to Los Angeles every month, visiting 70-100 galleries in a whirlwind few days, and sharing his “Best Picks” on simayspace with hundreds of fans.

“I used to feel that art speaks for itself, but people have to be educated, and that comes with communication,” he said. “My favorite works always have a quality I would call beauty, but I also favor works that combine good and evil, hope and despair, creation and destruction.

“I tend to like figurative stuff because, for me, storytelling is a significant pleasure. I look at more art now, and reporting on what I see is a tremendous learning tool for me. My life has never been better!”

You can read an article about Doug Simay posted in our SmART Collector series - Meet the Collector section by Kinsee Morlan. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Public Art in San Diego: Going for Eternity

by Joe Nalven

I remember the controversy San Diego experienced with the large sculptural memory of The Kiss.

I was pleased to see San Diego deciding that it was all right to affirm an identity that echoed Warhol and the San Diego Comic Con. We are popular culture.

But where do we go from here? What's the next step? How do we avoid fawning over the public art of other cities?

I began thinking about Max Eternity. 

One of our distant Digital Art Guild [DAG] members had moved from Georgia to San Francisco - that's Max. And I had moved from Brooklyn to San Diego. We are a mobile society. But more and more we deal with that mobility with the internet; it helps to connect us — not only in our individual moves from there to here, but also in connecting our communities of interest across significant physical distance. DAG's exhibits plays off these connections to draw artists together in our San Diego exhibits. Most other Guilds and art groups are San Diego residents.

Eternity was part of a DAG exhibit, Homage. He paid homage to Andy Warhol. Important to note is Eternity's seeing himself as extending the Bauhaus spirit and design in his work; what Eternity describes as weaving together primitive symbolism, minimalistic modernism and digital design. (For a fuller portrait of Max Eternity, see Andrew Reach's interview: Autodidact Chat: Andrew Reach Interviews Max Eternity.)

Max Eternity   /    Mec de Mystery: LEGENDS - Andy Warhol

Max Eternity / Mec de Mystery:  Tribe
The simplicity of Eternity's concept multiplies in his vision of the tribe.

Eternity does not confine his interests to art and design. I again rely on Reach's summary of the various facets of this Eternity: "[He] is a painter, sculptor, inventor, architectural illustrator, industrial designer, dancer, graphic designer, musician, singer, poet, published writer and art theorist, whose many contributions in art, advocacy and education serves as a visionary model of entrepreneurship."

Eternity is also an art contributor to The Huffington Post, an ardent advocate of social issues for Truthout. And he reminds us of our past so that we can pay forward. He wrote the nomination for the Atlanta-Fulton Central Library, designed by Marcel Breuer, to become listed on the 2010 World Memorial Fund's Watch List. And Eternity is currently hosting an art competition to support young artists who are inspired by the significant art history associated with Black Mountain College.

Eternity's digital surreal techno art continues to evolve, both in print and soon-to-be sculpture.

Max Eternity / Van Goth Techno
But it is his sculptural designs that I envision as becoming part of the San Diego landscape.

Call them evolved Bauhaus, call them pop-modern, call them minimalist, call them digital mindfulness. Whatever it takes to call attention to some compelling designs for future sculptural objects.
I can imagine the Round and Round House being placed in the gentrification of San Diego's eastern area, near to our new central public library or outside Petco Park or the new Charger stadium (whenever that happens).

Max Eternity  /  Round and Round House

Max Eternity  /   Zykki 2012b.42 
The Zykki 2012b.42 could be placed at one or more of our freeway on ramps or at our evolving airport.  

Yes, a mobile cool pop culture. From San Diego to Eternity.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Exhibit Ambush Phase 2

Exhibit Ambush Phase 2 benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure, San Diego at the Port Pavillion (Broadway Pier) 1000 N. Harbor Drive, SD, 92101 on Oct 19, 2013, 5pm-9pm with a VIP Pre-Party 4pm-5pm. Doors open to the public at 5pm and a rocking After Party from 9:30pm-11:30pm For tickets now available $40 admission, VIP $100, VIP table for 6 $1000 or contact Antoinette Ransom 818.400.6308

Sarah Seiber

underwater inspiration

Antionette Ransom

Jesus and Antonio Estrada

Living large is what Antoinette Ransom has set out to do with her life. No quiet life of desperation for her. She goes big again this year with Exhibit Ambush Phase 2.. We were treated to artists and fashion designers, hard hitting krump hip hoppers, rap poets and black jack tables. The crowd whistled and hooted and fully acknowledged that this was all made possible by the spirit and determination of one lady. Antoinette just had her first baby this year and at the same time managed to bring all these creative folks together, to get them well documented with a slew of photographers and videographers and to remind us that, yes, you can sit at home alone but with only one life to live, we should make the most of it and join the tribe.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Juror's Talk: Art of Photography Show

Julia Dolan, this year's juror for the Art of Photography Show, delved into the photography selections she made some 200 out of a field of 13,000. 

The audience listens to Julia Dolan
Nearly 100 individuals attended the talk at the San Diego Art Institute. Following the talk, there was a lively Q&A session.

One early comment she made was the general reaction of curators towards HDR (high-dynamic-range photography)  —  that it is a technique that is overdone in presenting the photographic image.  Of course, that is a bias. I, too, tend to downplay an obvious HDR look in my own work, but I admit that it is my personal bias. I wouldn't keep artists out of a show I was curating but would take the image and presentation on its own merits.

But, have no fear about this reaction to HDR and other techniques. The glamour industry and hi-tech, hi-visual impact lovers will likely turn this sensibility into something that is admired. The history of photography itself suffered from a fairly similar bias when painters kept photography out of fine art exhibits.  (See postscript below.)

For perverse reasons, I am drawn to the following sentiment of the late 19th century:  "The French influential critic and poet Baudelaire believed that lazy and uncreative painters would turn to photography.

While the fine art community has largely gotten beyond that sentiment about photography, we encounter new ones like digital art is made by a machine (and therefore 'not art') or that HDR is visually loud and annoying (and is therefore 'not art.') Changes of attitude may be accelerated as the internet and cloud communities for showing art continue to expand as well as the sheer impact of digital technology over everything we see, hear and do.

Dolan did advise the audience that the fear of digital photography was out-of-place, given the ongoing experimentation within the field of photography.  One technology does not replace the other, but simply adds another approach. And she appeared to be open to some aspects of photo-shopped imagery.

When it came to substrate, she mentioned that sometimes an image will be put on metallic paper when it would have been 'better' to have been put on paper. She also noted that it is up to the photographer to decide what substrate works best.

I recalled another juror for AOPS a few years back saying much the same thing while pointing to an image that was on metal and said it would have been better if it had been presented on paper. 

Neither Dolan, nor the other juror, explicitly stated, "and yes, that image over there on paper would have worked better on metallic paper, or laminated to distressed metal."  I like hearing that the sentiment (it's up to the artist) be explicitly stated, with examples, of a two-way street if that is what is truly meant. I may be too harsh on the way Dolan expressed her openness to various substrates, noting that others in the audience believed this is what she meant. Reading between the lines is always an interesting way to work around a question.

The fault may not be so much of the juror's but of the jurying process. All images are viewed as jpegs projected onto a screen. No object —  no actual physical photograph  —  is seen until the juror arrives at the exhibit itself.  So, for photogaphers like myself who cross many lines in experimenting with substrates, the 'object' is flattened out into a jpeg. Perhaps that is only fair to other images being shown.  However, the jpegs on paper get a more favorable presentation (yes, they look better) that jpegs that capture images that provide depth through multiple layers (the image on mylar, the patinas and brushing distressing the metal, and the metal surface itself). These multiple-layered objects are one of a kind; they are unique like paintings. By contrast, images on paper can be made as editions.  But, one cannot expect perfection in any exhibiting process, which is why stand alone exhibits are required to show such alternative sides to photography.

Dolan noted that curators are reluctant to accept face-mounted plexi images since the plexiglass is subject to scratching. Archivists at museums might ask the artist for a back up print should the plexi-mounted image suffer from surface damage.
Julia Dolan at The Art of Photography Show
Although she spoke of imagery that could be placed into the familiar categories of people, places and things, I was caught up in portraiture, particularly one image that she dwelled on to a considerable extent:  Hossein Fatemi's  Landmine Legacy.

There is a history of dealing with war and its consequences in painting and in photography.  Is it a fascination with documenting those consequences? Can one draw out some sense of humanity, perhaps a residual humanity of the survivors?

And, does photography provide a different way of picturing that imagery in a way that painting does not? 

Hossein Fatemi, Landmine Legacy
(I might mention that I had taken my 'magic' camera in lieu of the standard high end DSLRs that many attendees had. My lowly camera, more often than not, came up with photos that looked like paintings. Forgive, the lack of photorealism in these images.)

Fatemi's image reminded of the first picture in James Elkins' The Object Stares Back (1996).  I was so taken with Elkins' premise that I titled one of my solo shows after his book (with his permission).

Elkins draws on a medical journal from a French hospital that was concerned with the appearance of patients: "[h]ow a hysterical person looks; . . . does a melancholic have an identifiable expression? . . . What does it look like to have a belly so fat it scrapes the floor?"

The first image is of a naked eunuch (1906). The doctor presents a cold, albeit sympathetic, description of the eunuch. But Elkins' reaction is unsettling:  "The photograph is the harshest of all: it penetrates his privacy with an insistent intense thrust that cannot be rejected. This is the violent side of seeing, where the mere act of looking . . . becomes so forceful that it turns a human being into a naked, shivering example of a medical condition."

Imagine the subject and object reversed — where the eunuch is looking at you, notices you, notices your staring at him. This is what Elkins' asks us to do when the 'object' stares back.

In Fatemi's image, the looking back does not draw on the inhumanity of the photographer or the audience; rather, it is quite the opposite. We identify with the survivor of the landmine and find ourselves wrapped in the plant (rebirth?) held by the individual.
But whether this image works better as a photograph than as a painting, I am undecided.
However, I do find that there are unexplored visual worlds that photography might explore in ways quite different than a painter might.  In my own work, I think of what the portrait might look like if the photographer used the digital medium to his advantage —
a portraiture of the 21st century.  I sense that this might be a world beyond those defined by most photography curators simply because these are not easily classifiable, not a painting and not a photograph.  Something hovering in between these realms of seeing.

The Art of Photography Show continues at the San Diego Art Institute/Museum of the Living Artist through November 17, 2013.
Hours: Tues-Sat 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun 12 noon to 4 p.m. Telephone:  619-236-0011


Barbarella has an interesting video interview  with Stephen Churchill, the producer of Art Of Photography Show on ArtPulseTV.

One comment made by Churchill is worth more discussion, namely, the use of image editing tools (like Photoshop) relative to the goodness of a photographic image.

What is not discussed are two things: 

(1) What is photography in the 21st century? Is it defined by the museum and gallery curators or is it far more flexible in what artists are actually doing in the medium? Does the AOPS exclude what falls over into 'digital art'?  Is that an artificial boundary since many photographers have moved into the room that also houses digital artists?

2) The straw man argument is that Photoshop (and other digital toolsets) add glitzy effects that can undermine the goodness of a photographic image.  Well, an artist in any medium can do the same thing, be it in sculpture, painting, glass making, etc. etc. The real issue is whether the image works and from what vantage point. If 'photography' is defined as X and the image looks like a Y, then the juror (or curator) draws a conclusion that Y images are not photography (or not 'good' photography).  To move beyond the abstract argument, I would challenge any curator to a mind-to-mind battle over what photography is and can be with digital toolsets.

Oh well, another disagreement in the sands of time. In my view of the future of art, tomorrow's photography will be far more digital art than either Dolan or Churchill realize.

From a recent exhibit catalog of work by the Digital Art Guild (2013):

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Innovation Incubator by Patricia Frischer

Nan Renner and Lynn Susholtz at the San Diego Air & Space Museum Pavilion Metaphorming Session

Judit Hersko

San Diego Incubator for Innovation held their first convening of the 100 artists and scientists for this two year project to promote creativity, collaboration, and innovation. The beginning session was a "metaphorming" workshop which is basically a way to use visual metaphors created out of a variety of collage materials to gain insights about a topic of choice. In this case it is water innovation in San Diego.

Ronnie Das  is one of these volunteers and he is an advocate who makes films in support of various environmental issues like the one on the greening of Balboa Park Institutes. He sees the arts as a way to communicate about these topics but we are hoping to see the artists as more than illustrators. By combining artists and scientist at the beginning of the project, the idea is to track the value that the arts bring to a project. There will be hard data gathered at the end of the project so that we can see how STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) is an economic driver. Ronnie is also interested in seeing how the art and science labs can be combined to accommodate both disciplines.

The first meeting was also a way to let all 100 “fellows” start to get to know each other. This is a unique cross-sector, multidisciplinary group of adventurous learners from both sides of the border, and of all age group including teens and professors eager to collaborate and innovate, targeting our regional challenge of water supply and demand.

It was a pleasure to see Judit Hersko from CSU San Marcos as a fellow working along side of those who may have never worked in this area. Shifting Baselines was an art and science project displayed at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido in 2006 which was one of her first forays into this area with her students.

Lynn Susholtz from Art Produce Gallery was present and she will be a future session teacher and perhaps host for a part of the project. Hamsa Thota will also be teaching a component based of his professional skills as an innovation performance manager. He told me the most amazing story of how he learned from a cultural experience in Africa how to empathize with his audience and make connections with them on a level he never experiences using just his linear thinking process.

 This San Diego group is one of three tackling problems chosen city by city. Chicago has picked food insecurity and will start in January and Wooster will begin about three months later.  Just as the DNA of Creativity project of SDVAN is nearing completion (showing results at the Oceanside Museum of Art starting in Feb 2014), this much larger project should assure San Diego’s reputation as a hub for collaboration between the arts and sciences.   

In an other project funded by BMW and shown at the Guggenheim Lab, featuring 100 city trends, the Water Bench was one creative solution for water shortage in Mumbai which has monsoons but then suffers from lack of water during other parts of the year.  What real products will the Innovation Incubators discover?  We shall see in the next few years. 

There will be a chance for the public to join future workshops on Dec 14. More information from Nan Renner, who is the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership coordinator and from Art of Science Learning, a program of funded by the National Science Foundation led by Harvey Seifter.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Marc Petrovic's 'Find and Seek' series at Madison Gallery, La Jolla, CA

by Cathy Breslaw

'Faith'  14" x 4"  glass, air

Marc Petrovic is a hot glass sculptor whose work at its core is driven by ideas. His current series of works are called “Find and Seek”. Air bubbles in the shape of letters trapped inside glass spheres spell out hidden words. Peering through clear highly crafted tall glass bottles, the viewer takes on the role of ‘finder and seeker’, literally reading into the piece.  Each bottle work includes several clear glass spheres that together form a word. It is the romantic notion of a ‘message in a bottle’ that draws us in to an otherwise straightforward pristine and simply designed hand crafted glass bottle. It is often the colorful transparencies and sometimes organically formed glass that we think of as ‘art glass’ – but in Petrovic’swork, he has provided us with a timeless quiet elegance and meaning -  having created glass in the form of a familiar object – the bottle.  Hand cut brass stamps are created to embed letters inside of individual small clear glass spheres during the painstaking craftsmanship of these works. The words formed and ultimately placed within the bottles are messages like ship, hope, courage, faith and love –things that bear universal meaning and value. There is an additional large wall work that is Petrovic’s version of the word search game. A large grid of the small clear spheres with letters embedded challenge the viewer to locate words. His accompanying wall information gives us the clues – words Petrovic has carefully chosen for us to find. As he states in comments about his work “ (the works) simply serve as a way to contain and continue a dialogue”.

MOCA, downtown San Diego, Liza Lou's 'Color Field' Installation

by Cathy Breslaw

'Color Field'   20' x 20' floor piece  steel rods, glass beads,particle board
As you walk into the MOCA building, your eye is drawn to a floor art piece in the distant atrium. Liza Lou’s “Color Field” is a richly hued carpet – it is reminiscent of what you might see from an airplane flying low over a field of grasslands, divided by various crop ‘colors’.  This 20 by 20 foot work sits in an open space that visitors can view from any angle.  Created from thousands of same-sized steel rods and thousands of multi-colored beads of same shapes and sizes, they all fit neatly into equally spaced small holes drilled into white particle board. Once you get past the sheer beauty and brilliance of the color combinations as they sit neatly in various sized square, rectangular and L-shaped forms, it is mind-boggling to realize the time, focus and tedious journey it must have been to create it. Lou’s piece was not created alone – her studio in Durban South Africa where she has worked since 2005, has allowed her the opportunity to work with 30 Zulu artisans in a non-profit center to both create work as well as developing her economically sustainable projects. On the San Diego end, Lou had a large group of volunteers who helped put the installation/sculpture together. ‘Color Field’ is also experiential – as the viewer walks around it, the colors shimmer and follow a mesmerizing and reflective pattern that blurs with the movements and pace of the viewer. This floor canvas pays homage to color field painting and pop art of the 60’s with a highly meticulous attention to craft.

Luiz Gonzalez Palma's 'Anonimo, Heros and Performers', jdc Fine Art, San Diego,CA

By Cathy Breslaw

El Circo folio, 10" x 10" platinum print

Luis Gonzalez Palma’s photographic works pull on our heart-strings. These sepia tinted photographs feel cinematic in the drama that each conveys to the viewer. The gaze on faces and demeanor of his subjects share a particular tragic longing, haunting and sadness. Among them are subjects depicting ballerinas, and masked and crowned figures. Some are created with handpainted silver print and collage while others use a gold leaf, red paper and kodalith process.  The unique and varied processes by which Palma creates his work add a critical dimension and depth to the strong presence of his subjects. The signature large piece “Heroes” is an early work - a collage of red and blue painted blocks intermixed with repeated photographic images of a young Guatemalan boy with masks and cultural symbols. This piece may refer back to Palma himself who was raised in Guatemala, reflecting the cultural and political issues of that time. ‘Variation 10’ and ‘Variation 11’ are round photographic works joined by their time and place – in one, a young dark haired beautifully dressed woman sits alone in a dark theater looking toward the viewer while the other appears to be the same location, with only a few sets of pearl necklaces hanging over one of the theater seats. These and other works tell stories about our humanity and the performance that is our lives.
Heroes   collage  

Variation 11
Variation 10

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Art of Photography Show: The State of Photography in 2013?

by Joe Nalven

When talking about art exhibits, especially contemporary art, there is the everpresent question:  Is this what art is about today? Or is this about the juror's thoughts about what art is today?

There is a difference and it is an important difference.

Simon Mulvaney (Upper) United Kingdom;

Jacek Konieczny (lower) Poland


First, there are millions, perhaps billions of photos taken every day.  There are thousands of online galleries (mostly by the photographers themselves), there are numerous museums and galleries that exhibit photography, and there are magazines which claim to represent the current sensibility and, of course, there are many books, magazines, movies, TV shows and the like that rely on interesting and novel photos.

1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 236-0011
FAX: (619) 236-1974

Exhibition dates: October 12 – November 17, 2013
Opening Reception: October 12th at 6:00 pm

Judge: Julia Dolan
Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum

Julia Dolan's Lecture: Sunday, October 13th at 11:00 am

So, it really is a challenge to figure out what 'good' photography is and 'why' one would bother to use a label about quality. All photos are just dots (or pixels) on a piece of paper (or monitor or screen). What makes one groups of dots better than another set of dots?

If we consider the paired images above by Mulvaney and Konieczny in the Art of Photography Show (2013), one photographer from the United Kingdom and the other from Poland, we see lopped off heads.  That's a bit literal and perhaps not what the photographer or the juror thought important. And yes, there is a meta comment in the foreground and background of each image. Even the swimmer with the missing head has his head revealed as a shadow. And so on .  .  .  We can describe similarities and differences, we can note activity and location, compositional tactics and the other aspects of an image (lighting, perspective, etc.). 

I don't know whether these are 'good' photographs but they were picked for this exhibit by Julia Dolan, the Minor White Curator of Photography the Portland Art Museum.  Dolan will speak about her decisions on the morning after the reception (on October 13th); it will be interesting to hear what she considered decisive for meriting placement in this exhibition.

So, now comes the second consideration - the use of museum curators as jurors for this exhibit (and many other exhibits as well, perhaps most).

Danielle Austen (Upper) United States;
Clint Backlawski (Lower) United States
The quibble is not whether the curator at the photographic museum or gallery is competent in art history or dealing with issues and techniques common to the field, but whether there is a gestalt that focuses the evaluation of this-versus-that photograph in a too narrow frame of reference: The curator tunnel vision syndrome. 

Perhaps a panel of judges?  A curator, a photographer and a painter?  But then there would be a conflict in melding the ratings of the individual panelists.  So, for the sake of efficiency, one juror is probably best and why not a curator of photography. 

Before we get to an "answer," let us add one more influential factor: the $$$ factor.  Here, the question is not about any one curator who becomes a juror, but rather about how collectors and curators feed each other as to what art gets considered as collectable/saleable. The curator looks to the collecting, while the collector looks to appreciation and saleabililty. Not always but enough to ring some bells.

Here is a telling piece of news (for those who have been unaware of this connection):

Investor Launches Attack on Sotheby's
Loeb Seeks CEO's Ouster, Says He Fails to Grasp Importance of Modern Art

Mr. Loeb's letter continued, "It is apparent to us from our meeting that you do not fully grasp the central importance of contemporary and modern art to the company's growth strategy, which is highly problematic since these are the categories expanding most rapidly among new collectors." . . .

Mr. Loeb, who has an extensive personal collection of contemporary art, is a member of the board of trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

He is one of the big art collectors from Wall Street, along with Steven A. Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors LP; Leon Black of Apollo Global Management APO +2.66%LLC; and Jeffrey Gundlach of DoubleLine Capital LP.

Mr. Loeb's $45 million penthouse in Manhattan's Upper West Side is filled with major examples by postwar artists including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Mike Kelley and Martin Kippenberger.

So, who validates the importance of an art work? It is not mere money, but a sense among those who run galleries and museums about what has value about what to buy, about what to exhibit.

This is not a conspiracy, but just one of those background factors that color what we ought to appreciate.

If Mr. Loeb sits on the Board of a well known museum in Los Angeles and if Mr. Loeb buys art and if Mr. Loeb wants to instruct Sotheby's (the sales end of art) about what modern art really is for new collectors (yes, there are newbies for the loosely structured but still a pyramid scheme art world), then what are we to conclude about 'good' art getting defined in terms of the association of members of the Board of an art institution (and yes, I am one of those), the curators, and the auctioneers?

In passing, can anyone tell me when the next Biennale is? And who will be positioning what art to install there?

Is there a way out of this multi-faceted conundrum?

Yes, there is. At least a partial way out. 

Steven Churchill, the producer of this exhibit, has set up a number of talks with several of the photographers in the exhibit as well as with the juror. These are opportunities to ask the question that bothers one about the resulting selection. (And, no, Mr. Loeb to my knowledge will not be in attendance.) 

The answers may not satisfy, but these talks advance the more important question:  How do we define ourselves as artists (photographers and other media)? whether or not we fit into the niches crafted by the curator/collector mindset.

Ariana Drehsler (Upper) Egypt;
Mark Esper (Lower) United Kingsom
In this regard, the Art of Photography Show brings a welcome exhibit and dialogue to San Diego. 

We can look, see and evaluate for ourselves; we can listen and ask; we can evaluate for ourselves about the state of photography in 2013 and how we see ourselves a part of, or apart from, the prevailing view(s).

The Art of Photography Show provides us with over 100 images selected from approximately 13,000 submissions from 85 countries. The exhibit takes place at the San Diego Art Institute in San Diego's Balboa Park.

Hope to see you there .  .  .