'State of the Art': Giving artists a national stage | Rock Candy

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

'State of the Art': Giving artists a national stage

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 10:55 AM

click to enlarge Details of Vanessa German's work in "State of the Art"
  • Details of Vanessa German's work in "State of the Art"

An article on the Huff Post website
 by Mallika Rao is a nice recounting of the work that went into creating "State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now" at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The Arkansas Times' Art Bus rides again Nov. 8 to Crystal Bridges to see this show, which President Don Bacigalupi refers to in the article as "a truer image of the country" than, say, the Whitney Biennial (the art press has given the exhibit the nickname the "anti-Whitney."). The work in the show is by American artists who've not shown outside their region. The article names four artists in the show to illustrate that:

Justin Favela, a Las Vegas artist, mines his Chicano heritage, as well as the high-low culture of Sin City, to produce outsized piñatas that wouldn’t look out of place in a photo shoot by David LaChapelle. In Florida, Hiromi Moneyhun uses only an X-Acto knife and memories of the paper-cut illustrations she loved as a girl in Japan to turn out large, mind-bendingly intricate structures. Twin Cities artist Andy DuCett turns the old trope of “Minnesota nice” into performance art, with a cast of actual moms. And Vanessa L. German makes "power figures" from trash for the children in the depressed Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where she lives.

Find four separate profiles of the artists at this link.
click to enlarge artist_demographics_in_state_of_the_art.jpg

Accompanying Rao's overview is audio of an interview with Bacigalupi talking about the work in the show and the "demographic" shown at right.

An earlier review in the Huff Post by Blair Schulman had a few criticisms of the show. In "Crystal Bridges Exhibition Reveals Curatorial Missteps" Schulman also refers to Ducett's piece:

... the very first piece visitors encounter is Mom Booth, an interactive installation from Andy Ducett (Minnesota). A life-size booth staffed with volunteer mothers ready to dispense advice, along with tissues, chicken soup and other maternal comforts. It's cute, it's silly, but also sets a tone that there is going to be very little controversy within.

(DuCett spells his name in the French manner on his Twitter account.) But Schulman has praise for German as well as others: 

There are two artists whom I would vote Best in Show. Vincent Valdez's (Texas) The Strangest Fruit presents chilling depictions of men known by Valdez illuminating the lynching of Latinos — a metaphor for the persecution and oppression felt by contemporary Latinos in the United States. The ropes that bind the men are no longer visible and the subjects appear to be floating in an almost-embryonic state that is cold and clinical, making it all the more powerful. There is also a series of hand-crafted objects from Vanessa German (Pennsylvania). Made at her ARThouse from re-purposed items to engage the community in her Pittsburgh neighborhood, sculptural "power figures" act as talismans to protect the children of her neighborhood. Their craftsmanship and provenance are the essence of socially engaged arts activism.

And he concludes that "relevant ideas that in a smaller exhibition would stand out are lost amongst the scale of this shows' inability to reconcile their placement." Which I guess means he thinks there's a whole lot of art to take in.

See for yourself. We are taking reservations for the bus, which this time includes another stop: At George Dombek's studio/gallery in Fayetteville to see his watercolors and sculpture by Robyn Horn. We'll have an early lunch there and then proceed to Crystal Bridges. After we've taken in the enormous "State of the Art" exhibition, we'll refresh with dinner. Call 375-2985 and ask for Kelly to reserve a seat ($109). More info here.

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