Monday, August 31, 2009
I’m trying to determine who should be the most embarrassed about the University of South Carolina art department exhibition. There's the McKissick Museum, where the show is on display; the art department which isn’t very engaged in this excellent exhibition opportunity; and the university which should be chagrined at is being represented in such an unflattering and public manner.
That said, both the museum and the art department are in a tough spot with this every- two-year show. The museum has little control over what’s submitted. And while it doesn’t appear that the artists spent much time considering what they would put in the show, why should they when they can only have one piece in the show and have no control over what the other artists submit?
The generically-title “Biennial Department of Art Faculty Exhibition” consists of about 20 fairly recent pieces most in traditional mediums of painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture along with two videos.
Given that the museum and art department have two years to create this exhibition, it’s hard to understand why it is so pedestrian. Shouldn’t the museum come up with some unified theme for the show? Shouldn’t the artists create specific pieces for this show? And shouldn’t there be a range of work that shows everything the department is about?
By and large the art is fine, but nothing to get excited about or worth making a special trip to see.
A few works rise above the rest such as Pam Bower’s funny and disturbing painting of a pig head and Marius Valdes’ laugh-out-loud image of colored eggs held captive. (Upper left) Ann
Hubbard’s abstract oil stick paintings are always well crafted and the one in this show, “Time Channel,” is particularly good. The surface is thick and slick and the imagery blends the abstract, and rather otherworldly, with a landscape reference. You’d be hard-pressed not to be impressed and slightly disturbed by David Voros’ “Icarus,” (left) a nearly-life sized man flying horizontally across a black background. (The museum was unable to provide images of all but one of these works. It also has the incorrect dates for the show listed on its website.)
It’s not often you get to wear 3-D glasses in an art gallery, but that’s what Simon Tarr’s intentionally-disorienting film asks you to do. But 3D movies have the same problem they did when “Bwana Devil” hit the big screen back in 1952 – you have to wear those stupid glasses and it still doesn’t look that good. The other cinematic experience is the public-service documentary “Why We Smoke” by Susan Hogue. It’s unimaginative, providing no new information or unique viewpoints and is poorly constructed in every sense.
Several artists have managed to sneak in more than one piece by saying a group of works is actually one piece. I don’t buy it, but I’m glad to see more than one piece by an artist.
With only one work per artist it’s hard to get a real sense of the artist’ overall quality or concerns. I’ve seen many pieces and shows by a lot of these artists over a long period – but that doesn’t do a normal museum visitor much good. These artists are better than this exhibition shows. I’m assuming that any art department faculty member who wants to be in the show can, but four or five are missing.
One has to sympathize with the museum staff. This is a show that somewhere along the line the museum agreed to do as a service to the art department, but isn’t a priority. For the artists it looks like both an entitlement and an obligation. Considering that, everyone does about as well as they can, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. (Although in the case of Bowers’ painting, a sow’s ear is much nicer than a silk purse.)
This exhibition should be THE showcase for the art department and the university – the place where people can see the best the department has to offer. Someone – the museum, the art department, the university- needs to make this show a priority or make it disappear.
But it won't soon disappear - it's up until Jan. 9.
at 9:11 PM Posted by Carolina Culture by Jeffrey Day