Art Review's 'The Power 100'

Okay, I’m just going to get on my soap box so please feel free to move on if you’re not interested, I totally understand and won’t be offended. To forewarn you, this is a rant. At least I’m my own number one fan, eh?

Here it goes…

Having committed myself to writing everyday, I’m finding the Bay Area art world rife with events and happenings worth writing about. There’s so much going on and all types of genres within the arts and so many different venues. I’d like to think the West Coast knows how to take a space the size of a modest one bedroom apartment bathroom and turn that into a gallery AND have performance art in the space. Or, turning a garage into a space that becomes fertile ground for cultures and sub-cultures to interface and question art – together. Only in San Francisco. There, I said it AND we’re (I’m talking about the Bay Area) is great at establishing a sense of community in the arts. I may feel differently if San Francisco suddenly became the prima ballerina on the world stage (yes, I watched Black Swan and it was wonderfully intense, thank you for humoring my metaphor) but here’s when I start to get a bit disheartened.  I start looking outside my environment…

Los Angeles. Chicago. New York. France. England. Italy. China (yes, they’ve got some crazy amazing art AND they make almost everything we wear or use – shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they are creating a lot of art).

Sigh. Big huge defeated sigh.

Aspiring to be a professor in the arts? Talk about swimming upstream! All the meditation in the world doesn’t ease the fact I have so far to go with my aspirations especially since I counted about 6 people of color in Art Review’s The Power 100. Also, the #1 spot, typically, doesn’t even go to an artist, historically, it has gone to a gallerist! Larry Gagosian was #1 for 2010 (I know he’s been #1 quite a few times). I need to do a bit more research but the Power 100 solidifies that art really has to be part of a market, a trade, and survive as a business. Joking aside, someone who grew up poor and struggling isn’t exactly going to go out of their way to find out who Marina Abramovic (#35 – love her work, by the way) or Okwui Enwezor (#42 – was a Dean at the San Francisco Art Institute) are. I guess that’s where I want to do my part. Somehow. As much as I hate going through that list, I have to do it. I have to. I wonder how many of those individuals did NOT come from affluent families or didn’t have much opposition to pursue their passions? I know, I know. In the arts, you can’t compare yourself and you just have to work hard (like anything else).

Art takes time. Being a part of that larger dialogue takes time. I’m starting to understand and be patient. 

My point: As much as I have a passion for the arts and would love to affect change through teaching it, I feel that I have to encourage people to go looking for the art that resonates with them. Engage people (friends, family, strangers, bloggers, artists, whoever) in the conversation. Most importantly, to not be afraid to write what’s on my mind and from the gut even if someone is offended, dismayed, disturbed, or in direct opposition with what I say. The conversation is what ends up being the most imperative part. 

After getting this off my chest, I’m feeling a lot better. I mean, Art Forum did start out in San Francisco! Many great things do come from this little (but mighty) City by the Bay. 🙂

With the artist’s reception in a large Budget rental truck, accompanied by a performance piece involving libations and black lights, “Proliferations Part 2” was both provocative and engaging. Viewing the show itself meant being escorted by minivan through a security gate to a roll-up-door storage unit, which was brought down once participants had entered. Viewing works in close proximity not only invoked a strong sense of anticipation, but a participatory aspect to the actual exhibition. “Proliferations Part 2” comes from the curatorial collective OFF Space, which is composed of artist-curators Kathrine Worel, Elyse Hochstadt, and Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov. The exhibition included works by Alexis Arnold, Alicia Escott, Michael J. Ryan, and Erica Gagsei. The pieces exhibited were constructed from man-made objects, transformed into organic shapes and forms that were then deliberately set against a wooden backdrop.

With their technologically based pieces, artists David Stein and Peter Foucault utilized this confined location to illustrate the dichotomous nature of excess and lack within a space. Michael Kerbow’s Meat Map simulated a pull-down wall map, thus creating a simulacra of memory based on grammar school geography classes.

In comparison, a viewing of “Proliferations Part 1” at Rhodes & Fletcher Wealth Management offices congruently emphasized the various ways in which environment plays a role in our perception and reading of art. Although no special code was needed, “Part 1” required permission in the form of an appointment to view the works. In “Part 1,” there was a clear distinction between art and venue, whereas “Part 2” drew heavily from the environment to provide the viewer context. Artists from “Part 2” palpably incorporated the environment to have each piece function and become experiential. Although extremely different settings, both sites obligated the viewer to engage in a process of perception and valuation. This engaging was as much a part of the exhibition as the work itself, though that might not have been the original intention. Overall, it would be difficult for a viewer to ignore the environment in these exhibitions, as they are so different from the typical gallery setting we have become so accustomed to.

Originally published to Art Practical for Shotgun Reviews March 2010

Photos from Proliferations-Part 2

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