Thursday, July 08, 2010

An Introduction to Conceptual Art

A few days ago we (here in the States, anyway) celebrated the birth of our nation 234 years ago.

Though, there is one fact we tend to overlook. July 5th, 1776, most of the citizens in the United States awoke as subjects of the crown. Only a handful of guys, who were present in the room during the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, awoke with hearts lightened with the murky vision of what America might look like (as well as a lump in their throat for the potential penalty worthy of treason: beheading).

Actual independence as a nation state did not come until the Treaty of Paris in September of 1783. Or, some might argue it didn't come until January of 1784, when our Continental Congress was able to ratify it, or April of 1784 when the British King did the same. But, as true Americans, we celebrate our initiatives, not the initiatives of those aided by the French (thanks during the Revolution, BTW), or the blessings and acceptance of foreign kings. It's like celebrating budget surpluses (which are projected).

We celebrate the idea.

But, my question is, if it is possible to unify 300 million people around July 4th, 1776 as the birth of our nation, why is it so difficult to get even 1/10th that number of Americans to embrace some of the simplest conceptual works of art as "works of art."

Perhaps we should take up arms and fight it out for seven years. Though, as F.T. Marinetti discovered after his Futurist Manifesto, artists make lousy soldiers.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

An Interview with Chuck Close

As June has become July, with projects in various stages of wax and wane, and with the knowledge that I will remain only a semi-finalist for the Trawick Prize (i.e. I was not selected as a finalist), I began writing for Washington City Paper as their new art critic. I use the term "art critic" loosely since it is difficult to be overly critical of anything in 150 words, which is the ballpark figure I have been given for writing one gallery pick a week for the print edition (plus a few more for the on line version).

I started writing for City Paper in mid June, and have managed to churn out about 10 pieces since then. But, to my surprise one week into the gig, I was asked by my editor if I would be interested in interviewing Chuck Close. Uhm... SURE!

The Corcoran and Close had arranged for a handful of press to come and receive individual 20-30 minute tours of the show with Mr. Close as guide. At least, that was the idea. The result was a little different. Most members of the press requested to walk through the show prior to their appointed times, and as a result, Mr. Close was barraged for over an hour starting at 9:00.

When 10:30 rolled around, and it was my official turn to meet and speak with Chuck Close, I almost did not get a chance to do so. He was clearly fatigued, and concerned about his lecture later that evening. He agreed to a few more questions, and Janet Anderson (no relation, writing for Washington Print Club Quarterly) and I began firing away.

Prior to interviewing Mr. Close, Janet and I had been going over some questions we had in mind, and discussing our research leading up to the interview. Both of us wanted to avoid the answers we had heard repeated, so we quickly abandoned questions about abstract painting (he didn't have any angst), his process (golf and inverse Pollock metaphors), and so on.

The net result of my interviews with Chuck Close, and later with curator Terrie Sultan, can be found at Washington City Paper's Arts Desk Blog. These were trimmed down from a 4200 word piece, and a couple things got removed in the process (for instance, Close laughed when I said his work is indirectly a record of aging, and he offered that his birthday was "next Monday" (July 5))

And, unfortunately, the net result also yields nothing new, as I have learned from watching his interview with Charlie Rose, and reading an interview with his biographer, Christopher Finch, on Guernica.

Oh well. Below is a list of links of most of those who had a chance to speak with Chuck Close and Terrie Sultan.

Sophie Gilbert at The Washingtonian
Brendan Smith at Pinkline Project
Philippa Hughes at Pinkline Project
Frances Chung at Brightest Young Things
Jordan at Ready Set DC
Max Cook at We Love DC