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Wednesday 02.21.18

« Josh Smith at Northview Gallery | Main | Travelogue look back at 2017 »

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Jerry Saltz skewers the "woke" biennial. I agree with all of this (and am preparing a response, curatorially). To cut the bull... "liberal elites" still are smelling their own curatorial farts and the more radical segments of Portland's art scene all sneer at academicians and curators who use the word "woke". Despite these being very interesting times (too interesting) is this not a great period of institutional perceptual acuity... and the main problem is one of "chasing the parade." Strong curation in times like these can still follow "issues" but they need to curate against form to keep from coming off like pious careerists. Part of the problem is sytematic since curators have lost their backbone as directors need for "outrage mitigation" have supplanted much of the very pointed curatorial expertise that was in force until recently. Overall, the best ideas right now have deeper roots that are rife with tension, treason and a need to disagree together in the same room. The best ideas dont claim understanding and lack smugness... that pax curatora age is over but most major museums dont understand this. The parts of the art world who get annoyed with Jerry and other real critics miss the message... the art world is not the court illustrator for the liberal elite or an asset class. Art is not the pet of the rich. It is an instrument panel that measures various systems within human civilization... and a lot of things that have been red lining are being ignored (though some venues are wising up like the Art Institute of Chicago's Leigh Ledare show, hint "uncertainty" is the true subject of the day). This whole institutional dampening effect mitigates subtlety... we live in messy times so group shows like the New Museum's Triennial should be a heightened version of that mess... rather than a tip toe tap dance through the tulips. In other words... toughen up and buckle up, this is a bumpy ride age... yet somehow museums are in full ingratiation mode. Curators used to be like great surfers, good at reading and riding risk like the big surf that breaks on the beach. Lately they have become more like lawyers (risk mitigators) concerned with career (hopefully becoming directors) over culture. True some directors are excellent curators but its a hard edged to keep sharp. Museums everywhere are in trouble as the front lines between the haves and have nots and by and large they have an attitude problem... irrespective of them being left or right leaning politically. Overall, it is good that the New Museum engages in this exercise but it is in danger of becoming just like the Whitney Biennial... something that serves an institution more than the culture it supposedly serves. Hyperallegic presents another view... with photos.

The single brightest human being I have ever encountered is Robert Irwin and he has new work up in LA.

Overall, I agree that institutional curators really are not where the action is at anymore... it just seems like a broken system. Independent ones can be a force still though. In particular Id argue that artist/curator/critic combos have always held the greatest fulcrum of leverage on culture. Artists like Kandinsky, Judd, Murakami etc... aren't just measured by their own works. They articulated and presented things that reach farther while their works ground and reaffirm their principles. Its kinda like having a legislature (curatorial) , court (criticiism) and executive branches (artist). Most major institutions have difficulty with multi-modal individuals in the arts and just deal with them 1 element at a time... credit to the Portland Art Museum for doing the John Yeon show last year, which was decent. The David Bowie show that was touring was even better... hopefully I'll get to see it in Brooklyn but I have a feeling it will annoy me, but museum shows arent supposed to be about satisfaction and they arent supposed to be the earliest of adopters. I do know that calling Bowie "woke" seems extra trite and laughable.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on February 21, 2018 at 9:40 | Comments (0)


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