ARC Salon: 2008
What's an un-temporary art lover to do?
(i.e. contemporary --but also timeless)
The art museums won't show our kind of work.
(unless it's earlier than 1900)
If you've got money, you buy the stuff yourself and put it on your own walls.
you're at the mercy
of temporary shows at commercial galleries, or whatever can be found on the internet,
which is something like searching for the needle in a haystack.
Which is why so much depends on
A.R.C.'s annual salon ,
that offers enough prize money ($35,000)
to get a broad response
ranging from big names
My counter-critical colleague,
Miles Mathis ,
also reviewed this show,
and disagreeable as we are,
we agree that
the show attracted some pretty good painters
"the judges have presented us with a hierarchy
that is standing on its head.
Once again, the best works score the lowest
and the worst score the highest."
So.... each of us has taken the liberty of
appointing ourselves as judges of this contest,
I would encourage everyone who has an interest
to do the same, and publish it
on that vast sea of un-vetted opinion
known as the internet.
the big winner in this show was the above painter,
(or --perhaps I should say that the show was a big winner
for having him in it)
The ARC founder, Chairman Fred, has declared that
"the distinction between art and illustration is artificial, and perhaps basically meaningless."
And so it can be seen --that the paintings and sculptures in this show (indeed, on the entire ARC website) have been judged for how well they perform the limited functions of illustration.
While my favorites, like Lipking, seem to enable a broader experience.
(and satisfy the wild longings that I bring to a picture show!)
As in the above painting,
that creates it's own mood
beyond just being mimetic.
or like this water-logged painting
by Diana Desantis
which, more than a seascape,
seems to be a hexagram from the I-Ching:
and really makes me feel I'm in a particular moment/place
which is the special quality
of plein air painting
same this with this chilly scene
by Peter Fiore.
I love the back-and-forth feeling of balance
where so much depends
on one little fence post
(and my hands are turning blue
just looking at it)
is one of the more distinguished artists
to have entered the show
(and he's a few generations older than Lipking)
...another great Chinese painting.
You have to ask ... why does a distinguished artist,
at the age of 70,
enter a contest like this one ?
(only to, in his case, not even make it to the winners' circle)
This is an artist
who would have been
in the annual
"American Painting and Sculpture"
shows that the Art Institute of Chicago used to sponsor.
Back when art museums
were art museums.
among the landscapes,
I liked this eerie little puzzle
by Marion Hylton
Kind of intensely midwest, isn't it ?
(she grew up in Wisconsin, lives in Minnesota)
Maybe some of the colors are just a little annoying,
but life on these small farms is not always idyllic.
That's it for the
landscape category in the show.
I didn't care for any of the prize-winners ,
which were much more complex, ambitious paintings
unlike an Olympic judge,
I don't give points for difficulty,
only for how much I enjoy the results.
Moving on to the still-life category ,
I'd only give two awards,
the top one goes to Lipking.
Not that everyone else
doesn't deserve some credit
for the incredible craftsmanship required
to paint an orange that looks like an orange.
But this is not a hobby show,
and I don't care how the sailor
got the ship to fit into the whiskey bottle.
I want joy !
And that's what Lipking gives me,
in one painting after another.
Every other still-life in this show
feels cluttered or small, and of course they do ...
making small objects in a small space feel grand and convincing
is fiendishly difficult.
It's beyond difficult...
it's nearly impossible.
I'd also give an award here to Ning Lee,
and if you go to his website,
you can see several modest,
but delicious still lifes.
(but don't look at his portrait commissions -- ouch!)
Here's my picks from the
portion of the show,
and even if you disagree with my choices for first place,
at least I'm being consistent !
The #1 problem in contemporary figure drawing
is relating the figure to the space it's in,
and all the blather about anatomy
just serves to kill that relationship.
The #2 problem -- is making black into a color.
And I believe Jeremy is the only one here who
has triumphed in both areas.
comes close -- but the overall effect here
So - Ok -- let's give him an "A" in figure drawing,
but what else does it offer ?
(note: I'd be really interested to see what else this artist has done,
but there are so many Michael Hall artists on the internet,
I can't find his site)
this one is far tastier,
but there's also a precious quality of fragility
(rather than delicacy)
that just leaves me cold.
And there's smallness here --
so rather than an enticing female figure on a bed,
I'm seeing cold oysters at the end of a spoon.
And speaking of enticing female figures on a bed....
in order to remain consistent,
I've given the top prize to Lipking, yet again!
(but.. I did have to cheat... since he never entered this
fabulous painting in the contest...
and I don't especially care for the one he did enter)
I really think she nailed
the drama of this moment
(and it could hang beside
some similar paintings
done by some very famous Americans
about 100 years ago)
Something about the color bothers me,
but I swear
that I can see her hand moving
as she combs her hair
The shock of beauty.
(that's what made her fall from the sky)
Not quite Roger Van Der Weyden,
but getting closer
Han Wu Shen
I'm just enough Chinese by now,
to recognize this as nostalgia for the early sixties,
and that's a record of Russian dance music.
(Nothing that I've seen by him on line
comes even close to this painting)
What a charming double portrait,
I'm sure the parents were blown away
Hey... I was once that kid on the floor.
I wish him all the best.
(and this is designed to be such a tribute to
expanding mind of the child
Is it just my imagination,
or do Americans paint the best portraits of children ?
I'm partial to this scene
because this is a gallery in my local museum.
There's a nice feeling of space in the room,
so I'll almost forgive the poor drawing of the sculpture.
Looks like we're entering
the Odd Nerdrum school of fantasy.
There's something creepy about it,
but still I'm finding it enjoyable.
O.K., I've procrastinated long enough.
I finally have to confess
that I really hated all the
in the exhibit,
including the dismal grand-prize-winner
that smells of formaldehyde.
Though it's not the fault of ARC that
contemporary American figure sculpture is
such a disaster.
Here for example is a gallery full of the stuff.
The energy pushes out
with a wispy Romantic flair,
but it never pulls back,
so there's no tension,
no sense of volume,
no sense of interior movement.
Some of these pieces,
like the one by Van Nielsen,
feel like they're watercolors, not sculptures.
In 6000 years of art history,
there has never been a style of sculpture this bad!
Even including the late 19th Century,
when Lorado Taft
"the puerile effronteries of these harlequins,
delighting through their very ineptitude a public avid of new sensations."
A disaster, pure a simple,
the result of the demise of American art education
The only exception in this show,
being the above piece by a septuagenarian
who was trained in Russia 50 years ago.
(and there are many other Russian trained sculptors
much more interesting than him,
some of which are shown here )
So... enough of the ranting,
what are the conclusions ?
We need more shows like this one !
Only bigger and better.
Cultural leaders with deep pockets
need to organize themselves
just as they did in the late 19th C.
to establish our public art museums.
(which have now abandoned this kind of exhibit)
The judges need to be identified,
for written opinions
as well as final judgments.
And, as Miles Mathis noted,
it would really be nice
if the work could be seen
on a wall
instead just a computer screen.