Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Tucson Museum of Art panel discussion: What curators seek~

Current exhibition thru June 12th, 2011 at the Tucson Museum of Art,
Tom Philabaum: Precarious Rocks

Lawrence Gipe, No. 7 from 1962 (Manchester), 2010, oil on canvas, 65” x 80”
Approved Images: Lawrence Gipe, currently exhibiting at the Tucson Museum of Art thru June 5th, 2011

Robert and I attended a talk this past Thursday evening at the Tucson Museum of Art: curators Anne Ellegood, Hammer Museum (who has just curated the Arizona Biennial 2011), Lauren Rabb, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Brooke Grucella, Joseph Gross Gallery (UA). Chief Curator Julie Sasse of Tucson Museum of Art led the panel discussion which investigated how curators make their selections for exhibitions and museum collections.

It was interesting to note the differences in curatorial approach between that of a university museum curator and an economic based gallery director.

In response to questions posed by Sasse, the participating panel corroborated on almost every point. They maintain lists of artist names which they may track for years. Anne Ellegood of the Hammer includes artists whose work "troubled or confused" her, images that strike her and make her think. When creating a new idea for a show and considering the juxtaposition of particular artists, Ellegood examines and asks, "What are they doing that resonates with each other?"

The Hammer Museum is part of UCLA and Senior Curator Anne Ellegood is particularly moved and excited by their current show entitled All of This And Nothing, the sixth in the Hammer Museum’s biennial invitational exhibition series.

"All of This And Nothing" exhibition installation. In the foreground:
Evan Holloway

Emperor Ideal
2010, Brass diptych. 41 x 39 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. and 102 x 96 x 60 in.

In the Hammer Museum's publicity about the exhibition they write:
"The first major exhibition at the Hammer to be curated jointly by the museum’s chief curator, Douglas Fogle and senior curator Anne Ellegood, this exhibition presents a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, sound, performance, and the moving image. The artists explore fundamental questions about our experiences of existing in the world and in the potential for art to reveal the mysterious and the magical. Reaching beyond exclusively visual references, many works incorporate aspects of music, literature, science, mathematics, sound, or time into their subject matter or structure. This group of inter-generational artists closely considers the process of art-making in their work by playing with scale, the ephemeral quality of their materials, the nature of time and language, and the relationships between the objects that they create. Their work explores ideas of disappearance and reemergence, of shifting visibilities, as well as the beauty found in the everyday. These artists resist notions of autonomy and completeness in favor of openness to multiple interpretations over time. For them the value of the work resides more in the process of its making than in the resulting objects. "
Ellegood goes on 4-5 studio visits every Friday to see new work and have conversations directly, striving to create a relationship with an artist over time, and considers herself to be an artist advocate. Ellegood claims that art fairs have gotten more homogenized lately and, although she still attends numerous fairs, she finds them tedious and overwhelming, preferring a more direct approach through the studio visits. It is "impossible to get on [her] private list" through just a cold call so to speak: Ellegood finds new artists via recommendations from other artists and colleagues in the curatorial field.

All three panelists agreed that they consistently look at shows in alternative and gallery spaces, stating that to be considered for a museum show, an artist has to have a proven track record. They all felt it was vital for an artist to have a currently updated web site.

Lauren Rabb of the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) consistently peruses the ads from Art News and Art Forum in her search for new artists and for inspiration for exhibition ideas. Discussing the UAMA exhibition that just closed, The Aesthetic Code: Unraveling the Secrets of Art, Rabb emphasized that she curates specifically for the University of Arizona audience, creating exhibitions that tie into curriculum in varied departments on campus.

LA based artist Melanie Stimmell, who co-founded the Street Painting Society and the Street Painting Academy, creating Cream and Crumpets with Marie as part of the UAMA's The Aesthetic Code.

Certainly, exhibiting within a university gallery or museum offers an artist an opportunity to express ideas that explore a deeper resonance, creating with a unique non-monetary influence.

Brooke Grucella, curator for the UA's Joseph Gross Gallery, is
particularly proud of a recent show she curated of Gregory Euclide's, entitled real, unnatural and unsustainable. Euclide utilized the entire gallery space to create an installation that explored Tucson's populous growth in a landscape that lacks abundant water resources. Check out Euclide's site for great shots of this pertinent work. "Euclide’s work physically references the tension between our wants and our need to preserve the natural world.

Gregory Euclide, installation 2010
real, natural and unsustainable
Joseph Gross Gallery, University of Arizona

Etiquette for submitting exhibition proposals was discussed: Include a thorough description that refers to the site specific; Consider utilizing Google SketchUp to create a 3d mock up; Include a realistic budget as well as the to-be expected résumé, artist statement and images.

The Hammer Museum regularly works with artists through
Hammer Projects, "a series of exhibitions that focuses primarily on the work of emerging artists, and reflect the Museum’s commitment to contemporary art by providing international and local artists a laboratory-like environment to create new work, or to present existing work in a new context."

Perhaps most interesting to Robert and I, were the final garnered bits of information that came from Julie Sasse at the end of the panel discussion. She paraphrased from a lecture by David Pagel, a critic. This generated more additions from the panelists. Here is a list of attributes that an artist whose work catches their eye embodies. The work is:
  • insightful
  • sincere/passionate
  • skeptical/dark/probing
  • not necessarily about craftsmanship
  • visually compelling
  • investigation with materials
  • experimentation with play
  • does it "play well with others"? [curatorially]
  • does it move me?
  • does it make me think?
  • does it make me dig deeper?
The more I have thought about it, the more I feel that for my personal list of attributes, I would have to add that a work must embody:
  • craftsmanship seamlessly merged with content
  • beauty
Beauty as in the Japanese aesthetic shibui - a beauty with inner implications, as described by Soetsu Yanagi in The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty: shibui " not a beauty displayed before the viewer by its creator; creation here means, rather, making a piece that will lead the viewer to draw beauty out of it for that makes an artist of the viewer."

In our discussion afterwards, Robert and I agreed that some beginning artists don't realize that the creating of art that resonates deeply can take years of deep investigation and output. A focused inner search and a finding a personal vision evolves over a long period of time. Rather than trying to make works that fit with current trends or for a specific curator's aesthetic, an artist should
be seeking and excavating personal imagery. I also think we all need to come up with our own list of attributes that art that magnetizes must embody.

Creating with an authentic voice.

[Every year, we offer workshops in our Tucson studio that assist in developing a personal body of work. Catherine teaches
Expressing Your Authentic Voice: Making Art with a Personal Vision and Robert teaches photographers Finding your Personal Vision.]