Worst.Press.Release.Ever: A Plea for Sanity at Marianne Boesky

Editor’s Note: It has been a while since we’ve added to our Worst.Press.Release.Ever. column. Thankfully (or is that unfortunately), Emily Colucci finds a worthy (unworthy?) addition.

Allison Hester, “Michael Lorenzo Urie 1980” (2011), pen on Arches (all photos by author)

Walking into the Marianne Boesky Gallery’s summer exhibition I Bleed Black, the first work I saw was a small drawing of actor Michael Urie, best-known for his role in the television series Ugly Betty. I knew I was in trouble.

However, the art was not even the most worrisome part of the exhibition. The bizarrely academic language in the gallery press release made me want to tear up the sheet of paper in front of the sweet-looking gallery assistant.

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like recently there has been a rash of press releases from galleries that are so academic that they are barely comprehensible. I think galleries need to reevaluate what they want visitors to get out of their press releases.

Made up of mostly Marianne Boesky employees from art handlers to registrars, I Bleed Black features a range of artistic mediums and focuses such Elizabeth Miseo’s ceramics and Nicholas Brooks’s installation of a video of a woman masturbating that is housed in a black plastic tent inside the gallery with a sign “Adults Only.”

I was at first curious about the origin of the seemingly goth title “I Bleed Black.”  Some googling led me to a song by the LA doom metal band Saint Vitus. It also led me to countless sites declaring “I Bleed Black and Gold,” which being Pittsburgh-born and-raised made me wish the show was about Pittsburgh sports fanaticism.

Ted Riederer, “The Collectors” (installation shot) (2011), oil on canvas

Even though it was not about bleeding black and gold, I’m still not sure what “bleeding black” has to do with any of the works in the show. The press release is no help, reading as one of the most confusingly academic press releases I’ve ever come across.

Originally, I was supposed to review the actual art in the I Bleed Black exhibition but being fairly unremarkable, the totally irritating press release overtook the show.

Having spent two years in an interdiscplinary Master’s program, I can recognize when the writer is using terms like “societal pressure” and “societal norms” to cover the fact that they’re not saying much of anything. The press release reads:

Emphasizing the power of the individual, I Bleed Black suggests the working artist’s struggle to overcome or transcend the outside factors inherent in society, religion and politics. The individual, steadily seeking an evolved state of being, attempts to create only for himself and deny the influences of the outside components that are inherent in the duties or responsibilities of the day to day.

Um … what?

Stating nothing about the art itself or the artists involved, the press release has paragraph after paragraph repeating the same thing about the artist’s struggle between personal expression and everyday social norms.

Having written a few press releases in various internships, I question who this is written for. The collectors? Art historians? Art critics? I have no idea.

Ethan Minsker, “Rich Boy Cries for Momma” (2010)

As shown in other articles I’ve written, I don’t particularly like when the art in the exhibit can’t back up the lofty language in the press release but this is just absurd, considering I’m not exactly sure I understand what is meant by “steered by an ambition that manifests itself in the routine of the everyday.” I’m also not sure what it has to do with Ethan Minsker’s book Rich Boy Cries for Momma.

In the end, I became so frustrated with trying to figure out the meaning of the show that I walked out of the gallery and began to explore the street art surrounding the closed Chelsea galleries.

Works by street artist RAE on 22nd Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

One work that caught my eye were these works by RAE on 22nd Street, reminding me of two-dimensional drawings of Alexander Calder’s wire sculptures of faces. More exciting and even more art historically relevant than the works in I Bleed Black, RAE’s multiple drawings did not need an unintelligible press release to promote their worth.

So to all the gallery press release writers, please stop the overly academic language that sounds like you are trying to up your word count for a college essay.

Marianne Boesky Gallery’s I Bleed Black closed on September 1, 2011. Lucky you.



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