Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Morning Art Curmudgeon

If this weren't so true, it would be funny. Those aware of art history are always afraid that they will be pointed out, in future, as the crass philistines who didn't "get" the genius. At this point, I don't care. After umpty umpty years in retirement, devoted to making and viewing art, I have gone beyond wanting to be "that prescient art critic."

Life is too short. I am not one of those who say that "I don't know much about art but I know what I like." No. I know a hell of a lot about art and while I continue to try and keep an open mind, the poorly executed, badly painted and boring installation, popular du jour have worn out my patience. I DO get it. It's all about the text, about the career, about impressing the the potential buyer and only incidentally about making art.

"You know what? I'm sick of pretending. I went to art school, wrote a dissertation called "The Elevation of Art Through Commerce: An Analysis of Charles Saatchi's Approach to the Machinery of Art Production Using Pierre Bourdieu's Theories of Distinction", have attended art openings at least once a month for the last five years, even fucking purchased pieces of it, but the other night, after attending the opening of the new Tracey Emin retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, I'm finally ready to come out and say it: I just don't think I "get" art. [Although, after this article was written, I did try to get an art student to explain it to me.] "

 "Sandro Botticelli: Venus Pudica" (2013), archival pigment print, wood, epoxy, by Wolfgang Ganter. Photo: Unknown

Hard to say who is more clueless here; the critic or the artist. These epoxied boxes are not a tribute to Botticelli. They attempt to rip off his genius, but fail miserably. But I guess that I am not surprised that our official art critic likes. them. The artist is German and male and writes an artist statement that hits all the right buttons.

"Wolfgang Ganter’s artworks present ever-new correspondences between idea, reality, and illusion. The artist thematically deals in the compulsion to engage with – and work through – processes of decay, in an effort to see source materials in new ways. Capturing moments and sculptural artifacts as visionary as they are apocalyptic, as filled with beauty as they are horror, Ganter makes work that functions to carry history through the act of rewriting. Aided by intentionally controlled processes, the artists films and installations are the relics of unknown biographies."

Absolutely worth going out of your way to see: Joe Blum and the Bridge Builders.

The SFAC Galleries Art at City Hall Program presents The Bridge Builders, a photography exhibition featuring more than 80 of Blum’s large-format color photographs that give viewers an all-access look at the making of the new bridge.
Twenty-five years as a boilermaker, shipfitter, and welder, have provided Blum with an informed eye, an expansive mechanical vocabulary, and a unique ability to focus on the important human component of the bridge’s construction.

While the artist has photographed all aspects of the structure’s erection, the people who labor to build the new bridge hold the greatest interest for Blum. He explains, “In so far as possible, I have attempted to photograph the building of this bridge from their perspective and I think that the public should get to see their work from that point of view and hopefully honor and celebrate it, as I do.”

Blum’s images capture the sheer physicality necessary to work in the midst of rebar cages and tower cranes. Men and women are documented in rapt attention as they leverage their weight against steel and concrete, muscles taut and eyes focused.

Blum states, “There would not be a bridge without the men and women who are building it. They are the ones who have transformed the ideas of the bridge designers, architects and engineers from blueprints and drawings into a living structure of steel and concrete.”

Exhibition Dates: June 24 through September 27, 2013
San Francisco City Hall, ground floor.1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA  94102. Free and open to the public.

Make sure to visit Joe Blum’s website to view all the images, as well as some excellent interviews and reviews:

Upcoming: A View from the Bridge: Black and White Photographs by Joseph A. Blum. This exhibition, opening August 3 at the Harvey Milk Photo Center, offers another opportunity to see Blum’s work, this time in black and white.

Harvey Milk Photo Center. 50 Scott Street at Duboce. 415-554-9522 Opening reception August 3 from 1-4pm. Viewing hours Tuesday-Thursday 6-9pm, Saturday 11am-4pm.
Following the show at San Francisco City Hall, Blum’s photos will hang at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

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