An ordinary/extraordinary thing happened last night. Three artists and a moderator/interlocutor sat down on folding chairs in a funky, large space with peeling paint and mottled stained cork floor at the NY Studio School and talked about their art with each other, with him, and eventually with us. They sat with a mini slideshow that read Tell Me Something Good.
Miles away from trickster artists letting their paintings explode, fancy gallery shows and auctions where artists do not generally participate except through their work, it was just three guys and a girl sitting around talking.
It was not contentious. It was not invasive. The artists got to talk a little about their own practice and what other work inspired them. They got to ask questions and interact with each other. People were respectful and listened to each other at non CNN/Fox/MSNBC decibel levels. It was everything that the world, not only the art world, is mostly not these days. It was a real pleasure.
Nominally also hosted by The Brooklyn Rail (still free, a commercial publication would never let its writers run on so…) moderator Jarrett Earnest and artists Rikrit Tiravanija, Matvey Levenstein and Dana Schutz revealed something of what made them get up in the morning and work. All of them have taught, or are teaching, but they were not professorial. They are just worker bees.
There were references made to Pontormo and angels, Caspar David Friedrich, Philip Guston, Rudolph Schindler, Ned Kelly, Sidney Nolan, the Vienna Secession, Expressonism, religion, Utopia, dystopia, certainly an eclectic set, and we were an eclectic audience: young, younger, old, older, male, female, students, artists and I don’t know what else. Politics, blessedly, was mostly not present. It was a good break from all the #Toos.
We first looked at Pontormo’s Visitation (now at the Morgan Library)
We looked at Levenstein’s Peonies
We looked at Schutz’s Self Exam
We looked at Tiravanaja’s Performance Structure
Among other things.
Only Schutz is US born. The others privileged their immigrant status as both adding and subtracting to their experience here as artists. They talked about meaning in art. Should art have to mean anything? Does it by default? No conclusions were reached. That was ok.
Schutz was brave enough to ask about the impact of social media. The elephant in the room was of course her own experience with its vicious onslaught last year. But the others did not push her to revisit this terrible time.
Do artists need to be in NY? Not really, it was agreed for the nth time, NY has changed. I wanted to tell them they are asking the same thing in LA, London, Paris, Rome, et al. Artists, and all creative people, by definition, are always wondering if they are in the right place to receive the magic and also sleep and eat reasonably well. The grass is always greener, or in the case of LA, browner.
The evening did almost end however on a bit of down note. It was generally agreed: There is too much art. There is too much art writing. Nobody has time to see (or presumably, read) anything except her or his favorites anymore.
Earnest ended by telling us just to go have fun.
I hopped on the subway and read the latest issue of the Rail on the way home. Really there is too much art and writing about art. But it’s fun.