COMMERCIALLY UNAPPEALING

The Art Truth in Memphis
When Fredric Koeppel tries to tell us that “beauty is not an important issue in Minimalism and most certainly not for Conceptualism.”

When Fredric Koeppel tries to tell us that “beauty is not an important issue in Minimalism and most certainly not for Conceptualism.”

When someone reminds us that Material is closing.

Anonymous asked: What’s your take on the Price is Right? And not just about the concept of inexpensive art, but in terms of how it affects the dynamic of the Memphis Art Scene each year.

Seems pretty ok to us.  We’re not sure how much it impacts the scene - it’s just a commercial gallery doing what it does well, which is selling stuff.  We like that they include some art babies alongside the heavy hitters.  Some of those kids can probably pay their rent now and buy another pitcher of PBR, which impacts the scene indirectly. The opening was a circus but it seemed like things were selling, which was the point. Money in artists’ pockets is a good thing. 

No?

Anonymous asked: Is anyone else uncomfortable with the slightly sexist undercurrent of Circuitous Succession? The curator’s description of Valia Oliver’s work on the Facebook invitation begins with the fact that she is married to Jed Jackson. As the first listed fact (besides that she is a watercolor painter), perhaps the implication that this is her defining attribute as an artist sensitized me to the title of the third installment of Circuitous Succession: “I’m Like a Pretty Girl - I Can Go Anywhere."

We’ll reserve judgement on the title of the third installment until we can see the show…maybe it’s more subversive than misogynist?

Mentioning who Oliver is married to does seem a bit odd, and it’s definitely something that happens more often with female artists than with males. But the writer is attempting to emphasize the fact that Oliver comes from an art-saturated context, so maybe it’s justifiable in relationship to that point?

We’re more perplexed by the emphasis on the curator, Jason Miller. Literally every sentence in the description of Oliver’s exhibition except for one contains his name. Four sentences in a row start with his name. Are we meant to read these exhibitions as curator-artist collaborations, or as exercises in curator-as-artist? The emphasis on his presence is strange. Coupled with the context comment we mentioned above, it has the effect of de-emphasizing Oliver’s agency in her own work which - oh crap. Did we argue ourselves back into a sexism conversation?

Clearly there’s a lot to talk about here. Kudos to Gasoline for taking on a project this ambitious and injecting a little energy into the summer art scene.

We we think about whatever is happening at the Dixon right now.

We we think about whatever is happening at the Dixon right now.

Anonymous asks: Can an artist in Memphis conjure up their own MFA?

Bean Gilsdorf over at Help Desk at Daily Serving says, “You need three basic components in order to replicate the work of an MFA: looking at art, reading about art, and talking about art. ” She then goes on to explain how to get these without actually going to school. Do you agree? Do you think that Memphis does a good job of providing these three components outside of the education system?

We think most people would agree (so why are we even pointing it out?) that there are as many ways to be/come an artist as there are artists. You can certainly read about, look at, and talk about art without paying money to do it. But we would think that the benefit of doing these things in grad school is in the intensity of the experience, and in being surrounded by peers and mentors who are also intensely living the art life with you. Ideally these peers and mentors would then become a lasting, supportive network, possibly in a economic way, but also in a perpetual-conversation/interpersonal development way.

The list of reasons to not go to grad school is long. It’s expensive, it churns out a sanitized, uniform kind of art, etc., etc., etc. These conversations are well-trod ground and it always seems like the people who want to justify the fact that they didn’t go to grad school will find the whole idea of grad school repugnant and people with a lot of student loan debt with desperately cling to the idea that it’s worth it.

As to your second question, if you want a grad school experience, Memphis isn’t a good place to do this on one’s own. The art scene here (which we love, mind you) is too shallow to be immersive. The ideas aren’t terribly fresh and the conversation isn’t critical. It’s hard to find someone to tell you how shitty you are, which is a huge part of grad school. Of course, we’re speaking in broad generalizations, and there are certainly pockets of greatness and bitches with chips on their shoulders (hello!), but on the whole, we’re a bit slow and really nice. 

As to Bean Gilsdorf, that’s an amazing name.




Purple Prose, Purple Prose

We are so confused about Circuitous Succession, opening this Friday at Gasoline Gallery. This run-on sentence, quoted in Visual Memphis, is supposed to be a description of the project:

The title for the entire series of exhibitions is Circuitous Succession, meaning that the mental and visual route obtained through the ever-changing course of works of the artists featured in this series forms a unique path wherein each show stands on its own while simultaneously drawing off the quiet left by the previous in a domino effect array of diverse imagery that ranges from oil paint to acrylic paint to print work to photography, from objects collected by an artist in his studio to films that helped form his vision, and yet further into forms of the mind that take on actual shape in sculpture…this series of divers shows becomes a collective. 

Seriously. That is ONE SENTENCE.

We’re trying really hard to understand what’s going on. Here’s what we think: there are a lot of short shows in a row and they’re connected in some way that hasn’t been explained (so just trust the curator).

And that’s it.

Oh wait:

Each solo show will feature a unique title with didactic content describing the work on view.

So…it’ll be an exhibition? With a title? And a statement of intent?

If this is news in the Memphis art scene, this is a sorry state of affairs.

But we’re feeling generous (drunk) so we’ll say that this could be interesting. We could get behind the idea of rapid-fire exhibitions that build into something greater than themselves, although why not just make a good group show and condense all that time into one space? Why make it so hard for your audience? (We prefer the idea of exhibitions that last and develop, allowing for critical discourse to grow up around them, but that’s another story). We’d like a little more rigor in the development of the series on the front end and a lot more editing when it comes to expressing the concept, but this *could* be good. We’ll report back, but we also want to hear how you fine folks are receiving this series. Does it make sense to you? What do you make of the purple prose surrounding the exhibitions? Are the connections really there? Where the hell is Gasoline Gallery?

Overheard, 1:00 am at the Buc, after the opening of the Material Anthology last weekend.

Overheard, 1:00 am at the Buc, after the opening of the Material Anthology last weekend.

Anonymous asked: If you were to explain to an outsider why you find it necessary to host an arts blog in Memphis anonymously what would you say?Also, if you find it easier to speak truth without your name attached to it should Memphis host a show where all of the artists present anonymously?

We’re anonymous because the Memphis art scene doesn’t have a critical dialogue and we hope a little anonymous blogging can kick start it. People here don’t generally talk about art in open and honest ways, and most published “criticism” is praise and description. There’s not an understanding in Memphis that what we say about what we do as a community of artists can be separate from how we feel about who we are as a community of individual people. Maybe it’s a Southern politeness thing. Maybe it’s because we’re a relatively small group. We all see each other at lectures and openings. We all work together at schools or on shows. A pen name allows us to take one step back and get enough space to let honesty creep in.  It’s a device that allows for critical distance.

We’re also anonymous because it gives us flexibility. By not attaching this project to one person’s personality we can withstand the ebbs and flows that characterize the art world here. We can incorporate several perspectives and check each other on our biases. We can absorb ideas from people who might not be comfortable putting their name out there as a critic, for whatever reason. Until we have a critical mass of conversation and an understanding of the value of criticism, this any-means-neccessary voice-gathering is important.

We’re also anonymous because Batman is fucking awesome and we have a complex.

So, if any of you Nancy Drews out there want to crack the case, we understand. Putting all this stuff out in public but doing it behind a mask is tantalizing. But please understand this - as long as this project continues, we’ll respect the work that you do. We’ll respect it by thinking about it, talking about it, shining a light on it, trying to understand it. We’re on the side of art in Memphis. But once the case is cracked, the Commercially Unappealing project has to end. If you’re really that interested in what we’re up to, don’t ask who we are. Join the conversation. We’d rather be talking about art. 

When people put their work in pay-to-play “art” shows (looking at you, RAW: Memphis).

When people put their work in pay-to-play “art” shows (looking at you, RAW: Memphis).