This week, downtown performance insularity, best photographers in Asia, the value of arts education, charting the flight path of birds, a gay Russian response to Zhukova’s racist chair photo, street style, and more.
… the frequently navel-gazing and self-referential perspective of artists and presenters alike … have combined to create a performance culture that is aggressively insular and proudly uninterested in the public at large, or really anyone other than themselves. “Downtown” dance/performance seems to delight in its small audiences and irrelevance, wearing as a badge of honor its insularity while clinging to an outmoded victim mentality that is as depressing as it is ubiquitous.
I have yet to determine whether this insularity is an effect of a bunker mentality stemming from the scarcity of material support and the widespread cultural indifference to the form or whether this inwardness and irrelevance is the cause of the public’s indifference, but in either case the facts on the ground remain the same. And it is truly tragic.
The fact that artists are now minted by universities (and degree-granting art schools modeled on the university) may have done wonders for their social standing, but it’s also been a source of worry to many critics and artists, who think something of great value might be lost by the professionalization of the artist. In 1969, Harold Rosenberg reported in his art column in The New Yorker: “My mere citing of some figures—for example, only one of ten leading artists of the generation of Pollock and de Kooning had a degree (and not in art), while of ‘thirty artists under thirty-five’ shown in ‘Young America 1965’ at the Whitney Museum the majority had B.A.s or B.F.A.s—was taken by a prominent younger painter as implying that he and his age group were academic. ‘Academic’ is still a bad word, even though no one knows any longer exactly what it means.” Notice that in illo tempore it was still notable that artists had suddenly become armed with bachelor’s degrees. Today it almost goes without saying that an artist has an MFA, and poor old Rosenberg, sanguine though he was about the credentialization of art, is probably rolling over in his grave now that some universities are launching PhD programs for artists.
There are lots of things that Dia did not do well under Vergne’s leadership. It mishandled its stewardship of its greatest masterpiece, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. After a 2009 announcement that it would return to New York City, Dia has been slow to re-emerge as a significant contemporary art presence there. (In 2012, Dia told the NYT that construction would begin in the spring of 2014.) But perhaps worst of all, Vergne spearheaded the 2013 deaccessioning of contemporary art masterpieces from Dia’s collection. That jettisoning of the sort of major artworks that should define a collecting institution such as Dia was a destructive, self-inflicted error.
As recounted in curator Leah Dickerman’s new book, Rauschenberg: Canyon, in 1959 Robert Rauschenberg received a call from a friend, the artist Sari Dienes, who wanted to offer him a taxidermied bald eagle she had fished out from the junk heap of a recently deceased neighbor, one of the last of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Rauschenberg had recently become famous for incorporating all types of found materials into his art, so this kind of offer from friends was not unusual. He didn’t hesitate to turn down objects that weren’t quite right, but in this case, he said yes at once
Today, the fashion that appears in “street style” imagery too closely resembles the constructs found on the catwalk and in magazine editorials, and no longer reflects true personal style, argues Max Berlinger.
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