Friday, July 30, 2010

Bravo's Work of Art 2

In this latest episode of Bravo's new , art inspired reality show, Work of Art, the photographer Mark Velasquez was eliminated.  Being the only photographer of this show I was hoping his work would be better and he would last. Photography has always been the step child of the fine art world and unfortunately, Mark didn't help the cause.

With a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts focusing on drawing, sculpture and performance art, I expected his work to be more "artistic" and less commercial and obvious. He taught himself photography and by looking at his portfolio on Bravo's site his work is good but not inspired.
He is the perfect example of what I said about this show from the start, there is  no heart in the artwork.

Ross Bleckner fromInfo  the website The Daily Beast said the show "Brought back many memories.
Unfortunately, they were all memories of my junior and senior year in high school."
 I have to agree, it is so contrived and formulated that it really gives the art world a black eye. Most artists create to express some inner desire or demon they need to expose to the world. Well at least that is true in my case. But, art is passion, it is desire, it is showing the world something it has never seen or in a way that it has never seen. Not this, "here is your assignment for today, take $100 and do to it" approach.

Bleckner puts it like this, "The show doesn't make you want to be an artist because "making it," according to this formula, requires competitiveness and pandering to a small cabal of teacher-judges, the so-called experts, who bark "time's up!"

Just in case you are thinking that he is just some critic busting on the show, Ross Bleckner is a well-known artist whose works have been shown in several institutions throughout the world, including MoMA, MoCA, Astrup Fearnley, Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is also recognized as the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

I think this show will actually hurt museum patronage becasue of all the art bullshit.
Listen to how the artists explain their work, or how the judges talk about it. It's all bullshit to make normal people afraid to try and express themselves artistically or try and view art in museums. This is the reason so many people don't go to art galleries. They feel they are not "getting" the work so why bother. But if people would go and experience the works in our galleries and museums they will find that they will appreciate them on their own level, whatever that may be.

Don't let shows like this stop you from going to your local art museum or gallery. Here, in Philadelphia, we are lucky to have one of the countries foremost museums and a few areas loaded with smaller art galleries.

So where does the show go from here? The final challenge is coming up and I am curious to see what art speak will come out of Mile's mouth and if Jaclyn will take her clothes off again. But of course she is really shy about her body.  And what about Peregrine, I wonder what bizarre outfit she'll wear to show she is an artist.

I know I am slamming this show as I feel it really doesn't help bring art to the masses. It's one thing to do a competition about making a dress, it's another to create a real work of art. 

Only a few episodes left in season 1, I wonder if there will be a season 2?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Press Release

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2010

Encore Exhibition Just Announced

ArtHouse Lounge curator Jason Piper has just announced the encore exhibition of last year’s critically and publicly acclaimed exhibition Censor This!

Piper has invited back photographic artist, Michael Barone of Perkasie, Bucks County, for another solo exhibition to open on the anniversary of his previously successful exhibition. "Censor This II, fetish and fantasy" is scheduled to open on August 14, 2010 at the ArtHouse lounge in Harrisburg, PA.

According to Piper, “Michael received an overwhelming response right here in Harrisburg, that's why we're hosting Censor This II, Fetish & Fantasy! Most nude photographers and artists use filters and props to blur, hide, color or distort areas to make the works more appealing and less controversial, but Barone does not. He is a true artist which is what drew me to the idea of working with him.”According to Barone’s artist statement, “With these works, I have deliberately pushed the boundaries, forcing the viewer to the position of voyeur, glimpsing into the private, intimate fetishes and fantasies of others. By doing so, the viewer is forced to confront his or her own raw feelings about sex. Whether these feelings leave the viewer moved by the beauty of the images or revolted by their own prejudices against human sexuality does not matter to me. I am simply interested in evoking strong emotional responses.”

Piper said. “I am an artist myself and I strive to uphold the First Amendment. There is no reason for me to have a gallery if it is going to be censored.”

Barone holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Delaware and over the last 25 years has been shown in numerous galleries and websites both national and internationally.

The opening artist’s reception of Censor This II is August 14, 2010 from 6 to 10 pm featuring live models serving champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The exhibition runs through September 11, 2010.

For information about this exhibition visit  ArtHouse Lounge  or Barone PhotoArt
The gallery is located at 217 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg, PA

Friday, July 16, 2010

Moscow Curators Fined.

Almost three years ago an exhibition opened in Moscow called “Forbidden Art” at the Sakharov Museum.  And this month the museum curators were convicted Monday of inciting religious hatred and fined. The 2007 exhibit was part of an effort to fight censorship of the arts, but the Russian Orthodox Church was horrified and brought the lawsuit against the curators. 

The exhibit featured several paintings with images of Jesus Christ. In one, Christ appeared to his disciples as Mickey Mouse. In another, of the crucifixion, the head of Christ was replaced by the Order of Lenin medal, the highest award of the Soviet Union.

The Russian Orthodox Church is very conservative and politically powerful in Russia and pushed prosecutors to bring charges in 2008 and then kept up their pressure on the two curators throughout the trial.

Artists and human rights activists have appealed to the Kremlin to put a stop to the prosecution of Yury Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, warning of censorship that was very prevalent during the days of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union. The prosecutors refused to back down under pressure from the church and last week the curators were ordered only to pay fines of up to 200,000 rubles, (about $6500) but they could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison. 

Yerofeyev said the aim of the “Forbidden Art” exhibit, which showed works that had been banned from shows at major museums and galleries in 2006, was to show the reality of censorship. Religion was not the intended theme, he said. The Mickey Mouse as Jesus painting was intended to show the mixing up of facts in a child’s mind. A child hears about the Bible from his parents while watching Mickey Mouse cartoons and gets confused. 
The Russian orthodox Church is a very powerful presence in Russia today. “The church has become an instrument of censorship like it was during czarist times,” said Gleb Yakunin, 76, a priest and Soviet-era dissident who has broken with the church. “It wants to control culture.”

Like the US court case in Cincinnati 20 years ago, when Dennis Barrie and the Contemporary Arts Center were indicted for pandering obscenity just hours after the opening of the photography exhibit, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, this case can have a serious ripple effect on not only the art world in Russia but throughout the world.  

How many curators and artist with now take a risk and show work that could land them in jail and be forced to endure a trial and public scorn and ridicule? 
 Leonid Bazhanov, director of the National Contemporary Art Center, said a guilty verdict would make Russia less competitive in the world art market. Foreign artists would be wary of bringing their works to Russia, while more Russian artists would leave the country, he said. Maybe this is what the church wants.

This censorship battle maybe taking place in Russia, but as an artist I feel the heat right here in our country. What is happening in Russia is actually happening in the US today. The right-winged Christian conservatives are pushing their morality on the judicial system. They are using their voice and power to dictate their small minded agenda on the art world, persecuting artists who show work that in their eye is obscene.

In all the advertising hype over us being in a war they always talk about the soldiers are fighting for our freedoms,but this type of censorship slaps the face of those freedoms. We have soldiers dying every day to protect our way of life but the conservative cancer is eating it away from the inside.

Sometimes when I write this blog I feel like I am waging an unwinnable war with very few people supporting this cause. Show your support, visit an art gallery or chime in on a social networking site or my blog.

(Photo credit and comment - Yury Samodurov gestures as he and other human rights activists gather outside a Moscow courthouse during a court hearing of Samodurov's case. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reality TV hits art world

I have recently started to watch the newest reality TV show from Bravo, "Work of Art; The Next Great Artist". Bravo brought together the production company of Sarah Jessica Parker, Pretty Matches, together with the Emmy-nominated Magical Elves who produces "Top Chef" and "Project Runway" This hour long contest pits artists against each other to produce artwork alla Project Runway. The format is almost exactly the same but instead of clothing these artists are supposed to be making works of art. The winner of the competition gets a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn  Museum and a cash award. The casting of course was picked to get some variety so you have the older fine artist, the whacked performance artist and everything in between.

I think I am enjoying  the show, but as an artist myself I find most of these artists missing the mark on the assignments.  What I see lacking in the work so far is heart. To me an artist is someone who visualizes what is in their heart and soul. There is no heart or soul in the artwork shown so far.

This last episode was really bad as the artist were to make "shocking art" but then Bravo censored the images on the broadcast, Huh? Why even have the episode if you are going to censor it. And besides, not a single piece was shocking. The winner of the competition was according to the judges,  the most shocking but really missed. His concept was wonderful but execution failed. It really felt as if  this episode was a promotion for photographer Andres Serrano. If you don't know his name you'll know one of his pieces. His most famous is "Piss Christ", a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of his own urine. This caused great controversy when first exhibited. The work was sold for $162,000 in December 1999 in London.
(An aside here, Andres Serrano needs to come to my exhibit in August and see where the cucifix is submerged!)

Anyway, I digress. The show is supposed to push the artist to create works of art on a budget and on a time schedule. The budget part shouldn't be a problem for most artists becasue, lets face it, artwork isn't selling like it used to. The time crunch is interesting but for an artist with an idea and who can work smart, it shouldn't be a problem.

My problem with the show is not only the censorship by Bravo TV, but the lack of any real substance in the artwork so far produced and also the serious, TV attitude of the judges. There comments are rehearsed and practiced and really are meant only to keep the TV audience watching not to be a constructive critique of the artwork. From Bravo's website, the judges are as follow:
Hosting this new series is art enthusiast China Chow. She will serve on the judging panel alongside art luminaries Bill Powers, a New York Gallery owner and literary art contributor, Jerry Saltz, current art critic for New York Magazine, and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, esteemed curator and owner of Salon94 gallery. World-renowned art auctioneer Simon de Pury adds his voice of experience as a mentor to the contestants.
So I am very curious to see how this reality show progresses and to see the impact, if any on the art world.

I am checking out Work of Art's website waiting for the application for the next season if there is one.
It might be time I put my camera where my mouth is, oh wait, I already do that.
August 14th, Censor This II, fetish and fantasy" opens at the ArtHouse Lounge in Harrisburg!

Looking to see you there!

Photograph above ©Bravo TV