Visual Art News - Criticism: February 2007 Archives
Art reflecting local culture: A collector of post-1960s American prints told the Capital Times in Madison, Wisc., that Madison's sophisticated counter-cultural character is more suited to his collection than a city like Atlanta, whose museums chafed at the word "stoned" being used in the art.
The result is a gift to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art of three prints: Andy Warhol's 1982 portfolio of six colorful silk-screened dollar signs called "$1"; Robert Rauschenberg's 1989 color photogravure entitled "Soviet/American Array III"; and James Rosenquist's 1987 black-and-white aquatint and etching called "The Prickly Dark."
The benefactor is Stephen Dull (pronounced DOOL), a high-powered corporate executive for the VF Corp., a company based in Greensboro, N.C., whose brand names include Wrangler and Lee blue jeans, North Face outerwear and Nautica clothing. Dull is looking for an institution to give his entire collection to in future years. His collection includes works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Kiki Smith. Will this gift inspire others to donate large collections to musueums in the American Outback?
"Absolutely," Dull told the newspaper. "I've been attracted to what the museum is doing for a long time. I've seen many other museums, and this is a really tremendous institution. The new building is just a manifestation of the commitment to and support from the community to contemporary art. To me, this is about finding a place where art has the place in other people's lives that it has had in mine."
Call it the curse of topicality. The week that North Carolina's Council of State is forced to vote on changes in lethal injection protocols, a regional company stages Dead Man Walking. Read about how this all came together, here.
There's a fun interview with poet Andrei Codrescu at the Idaho Statesman site; check it out here.
Apparently Monet plays well in the outback: the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors bureau announced that "the Monet in Normandy exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Art injected almost $24.3 million dollars in tourism revenue into the Wake County economy - more than double the initial projection." Just think....with all that money, maybe they could buy a Monet of their own! Anyway, read about it here.
Arts advocates in Kansas were relieved to learn that Gov. Matt Blunt has included money for the arts -- a little over $8 million -- in his annual budget recommendation. Though it's a pitance, some had feared the gov was going to stiff the arts completely. Read more here.
Floridians, apparently, love Florida -- Richard Florida, that is: "The Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has picked Tallahassee and two other communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers, Charlotte, N.C., and Duluth, Minn./Superior, Wisc., as the launch sites of the new Knight Creative Communities Initiative. It's a partnership with social theorist Richard Florida, author of 'The Rise of the Creative Class,' and Leon County's business, education and government leaders to enhance the area's economic base beyond government and education." Read more about it here.
Finally, at risk of self-promo, here is a review I wrote of the most recent performance by the Missoula Symphony Orchestra. I've gotten notes of thanks and praise from members of the chorus and the audience; I've also gotten angry letters telling me I need to show "fealty" (!?!?) to the orchestra and that reviews like this "will shut down this valued institution." So I guess a mixed-bag performance inspired a mixed-bag review which resulted in mixed responses!
Curt Holman, a 2005 fellow of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at the University of Southern California and writer for Creative Loafing in Atlanta, has thoughtfully pointed out a cover story, published in Time Out New York in December, that turns the tables on Big Apple critics. Anyone who reads Art.Rox ought to check it out. The book critics section is particularly interesting.
What's also interesting is the thinking expressed in the introduction. Writer Nathan Huang cleverly notes that critics give readers a lot to talk about, even if readers have no intention of experiencing the theater, concert or performance in question. One purpose of criticism, in other words, is providing readers with information with which to take action. But isn't another purpose to contribute to the ongoing dialogue of a community?
As Huang writes: "We live in a city that churns out massive amounts of art and entertainment, then proceeds to talk about it endlessly. At times it doesn't even matter if you haven't seen, read or heard something, as long as you can gab about it--and our local critics provide the handiest cheat sheets."
Even if a city doesn't churn out as much culture as New York (and let's face it, name one that does), culture still plays an important role in the lives of everyday people, even if they themselves don't know it. Here in Savannah, where I'm the arts and culture reporter for the Savannah Morning News, people love -- and I mean love -- high school and college football.
There is an Southern adage worth remembering -- you don't get married in the fall, you don't die in the fall, you don't do anything in the fall except watch football. The result is people are gabbing about football endlessly come autumn. But why can't they also gab about the arts? Their children are involved in all sorts of cultural activities, in school and in other organizations. I suspect parents don't talk about the arts at least in part because such talk would be considered haughty and highfalutin.
Case in point, I was reading the New York Times while waiting for my lunch yesterday. The waitress came by with my order and patiently waited while I moved by newspaper. She said: "I don't want to put this on your New York Times," with a tone of voice that suggested I was some fancy-pants Yankee doing something regular folk, like her, don't do.
But when it comes to the arts, people in reality are very engaged; they just don't talk about it. In my view, that's where we as arts journalists can play a critical role -- by normalizing what they already experience and giving them the vocabulary to use in talking about it. Perhaps someday even a place like Savannah will talk about the arts as endlessly as we do about sports.