Boca Raton Museum of Art
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|Tuesday, July 27, 2010|
|Museum Renovation and Spotlight on Artist Joan Fontcuberta|
Hopefully you are aware, the Museum will be closed for renovations from August 8th to October 12th. We are going to highlight 40 of our most outstanding artworks from the Museum’s permanent collection in a virtual gallery. One is pictured above, the Oceanic Skull Rack. Visitors will be able to peruse these images and get a good sense of the overall collection. This new virtual exhibition will open on August 9th, 2010 and be viewable on the Current Exhibitions page of our website.
Horizontal Suspension Hook (Skull Rack) New Guinea, Iatmul peoples, Middle Sepik River, first quarter of 20th century, wood, human hair, fiber, shells and traces of red pigment, 7 feet 6 inches long. Permanent Collection 1990.019. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stephan Lion.
Executive Director George Bolge personally chose what would be included in this exhibition – no easy task. With more than 5,000 pieces in our collection, one could spend months combing through everything. In my day-to-day work, I constantly see things in storage for which I have an affinity, and find myself wishing for more wall space in the galleries. Alas, the renovations are not to expand the museum’s square footage but rather to improve upon the existing structure.
Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born in Barcelona, 1955 - ), Science and Friction (landscape), 1990, b/w photograph, 14 ½ x 11 ¼ inches. Permanent Collection 1993.037. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Steinman.
In any event, I would like to highlight an artwork I find quite intriguing by contemporary photographer Joan Fontcuberta. Fontcuberta considers himself a conceptual artist who uses the photographic medium. His work often incorporates aspects of satire and mystery into its display, often by presenting fantastical things as though they were hard fact.
An excellent example would be his 1988 exhibition in conjunction with Pere Formiguera, “Fauna” at the Museum of Modern Art. Fontcuberta and Formiguera created a massive index of historical information to support the concept of the exhibition. They displayed photographs that showed hybrids of animals (see: winged monkey with unicorn horn, or, Centaurus Neandertalensis) like those pictured at natural history museums. To further prove their existence, Fontcuberta and Formiguera displayed field notes, scientific drawings, X-rays of the animals’ bodies and finally the “real deal” taxidermy mount.
Joan Fontcuberta, Solenoglypha Polipodida, b/w photograph, image from Presentation House Gallery
Roberta Smith, New York Times art critic reviewed the show and writes, “The photographs are sepia-colored, and mysteriously murky. The field notes are written in cramped script with faded brown ink. Questions abound: where, when and by whom were these creatures sighted? We read on, and it gradually emerges that the material under scrutiny purports to be from the recently rediscovered archives of a Dr. Peter Ameisenhaufen, a German zoologist, active in the 1930's and 40's, who devoted his life to tracking down and recording the exceptions to nature's grand evolutionary scheme.”
Read the entire New York Times review, A Furry-Footed Fish and Other Gallery Rogues
The Fontcuberta photograph from our collection, a dinosaur leg propped against a wall, also evokes freakish and unsettling images. His choice of subject matter – dinosaur parts, snakes with legs and other evolutionary oddities – reveals his interest in origin theory. One is never quite sure if he is poking fun at established evolutionary and religious tropes or if he is appealing to his audience in a serious manner.
Besides questioning the many theories of our collective origins, Fontcuberta also asks us to question the veracity of the photographic medium. To be sure, all his photographs appear real, as sepia-toned vestiges of a past to which we haven’t yet been privy. Fontcuberta constructs an alternative version of the past through seemingly genuine bits of history which is at turns both vexatious and persuasive.
Related Posts: Social Change Through Art
|Thursday, July 15, 2010|
|Vasari and Winckelmann: Godfathers of Art History|
Portraits of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (left) and Giorgio Vasari (right).
As an almost 10-year-long devotee of the visual arts, I take it for granted that they are worthy of study. The Western art world as a whole (and art historians in particular) owe a debt of gratitude to those who paved the way for arts scholarship. In the 1500s, Giorgio Vasari, and in the 1700s, Johann Joachim Winckelmann both initiated their own types of study for the visual arts. Their respective outputs are exhaustive and include both archaeology (Winckelmann) and connoisseurship (Vasari) in addition to formalist art critique.
In general, how did art historical study begin? Well, with Vasari, it began with an interest in promoting his own populace, the Florentines. Yes, Vasari was very patriotic and one of his primary aims was to establish Florence as superior to other cities in terms of art. Although Florence was no slouch when it came to churning out master artists in the 16th century, Vasari’s interest in promoting primarily Florence is one of the drawbacks to his scholarship. The ability to know and work around this bias is one of the duties of the modern-day art historian. Besides just doing the research to get the facts from the past, we also need to be aware of distinctive cultural biases as well as any other factors that may color the interpretation of an event.
One of the most important things about Vasari’s research is his focus on connoisseurship. For instance, he focused very intently on tiny details. Like, tiny details. He claimed to be able to identify the hand of the same artist in two artworks because the thumbnails were painted in the same manner. An anecdote to be sure, but reflective of Vasari’s emphasis on empirical evidence just the same.
Venus de Milo, circa 130-100 B.C., Parisian marble, height 80 inches, photograph by Johann H. Addicks, Cc.
Winckelmann, on the other hand, loved Antiquity. Loved it. He preferred the “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of the Greeks to any other type of art, most especially the art of his own time, Baroque. He covered Roman and Greco-Roman art in his writings, too, but Greece had his heart. He believed we should measure ourselves against the Ancients because they stressed proportion and perfection. Idealized art. Beautiful bodies. He felt nature is too varied, too prone to chance and deviation to model fine art after.
In sum, both Vasari and Winckelmann were interested in the look of things, the aesthetics of a work of art. They did not dabble in philosophical debate. They did not despair over the conceptual precursors of a physical piece of art. So, the beginnings of art history were written. These were some progressive men. Not to confuse progressive with experimental or avant-garde. Winckelmann and Vasari simply began something which we are continually redefining to this day – the discipline of art history.
|Friday, July 2, 2010|
|59th Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition|
| Kerry Phillips, Chairs, Found and Fixed, 2010, chairs, zip ties, duct tape, vinyl, string, rope, wood and paper, 144 x 144 x 48 inches
This year’s 59th Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition was quite a bit larger than last year’s. Last year, we had 47 artists represented and this year it was 80. That translates to roughly 1/3 more artworks in the show. If you visited the exhibition both years, perhaps you noticed that it is divided into smaller “rooms” this year as opposed to the larger, sweeping gallery space we set up last year.
On Thursday and Friday, June 13th and 14th, the juror, Linda Norden, flew down to Boca to judge the works in situ. Each juror has their own set of criteria by which they judge a show.
Norden explains hers as such, “In my case, the priority was to identify work that seemed intensely rooted in some personal experience or observation, and as free as possible from predictable pictorial ticks or tricks of the trade. . . Whatever the medium, I want to feel that the content is urgent and close to the heart and soul of the artist, and that the aesthetic decisions do justice to that content.”
Norden selected Kerry Phillips’ Chairs, Found and Fixed as the Best in Show. She gave out 3 Merit Awards to Melissa Marrero , Roberta Schofield, and Noelle Mason for their respective bodies of work included in the show. She clarifies her choices by saying, “I’m partial to direct, clear, expression – painterly, structural, but also things that are hyper-real...” Norden indicated that she felt a strong personal statement in each woman’s work.
An exhibition like the All Florida can teach us about the Floridian arts community. For instance, there was a marked lack of artwork that dealt with war or Iraq. Norden commented on how this is not the case for New York City’s emerging artists – the city from which she hails. On the other hand, there was a “preponderance of work that made the landscape, environment, or varied population its subject.” This is especially poignant right now, considering the environmental problems occurring on the west side of the state. If I had to guess at next year’s submissions, I would expect even more environmentally-themed works and those submitted will probably have a more political bent to them.
Some suggestions for artists considering applying next year:
- Upload the highest-quality digital photos that you have
When you upload high-quality digital images, it makes it easier for us to include your work in our promotional materials. 300 dpi is the standard for a good, print-quality image
- Submit work that can both stand alone and be considered as representative of your body of work
Your artwork should be able to stand alone because just that one image might be picked. If it makes sense only when considering all 3 submitted artworks, chances of acceptance are reduced. We have limited space for the exhibition, and judges don’t like feeling railroaded into accepting 3 works from 1 artist. Odds are, if a person can’t appreciate or “get” one submission without considering the other two, none will get chosen.
However, it is in your best interest for your submissions to work well together because all 3 works could get accepted. Both years I acted as curator of this exhibition an artist had all 3 submissions accepted. Judges like to see a well-rounded body of work that also (usually) shows some growth or development as an artist. Your chances of acceptance are increased if each of your pieces can stand alone but also work well grouped together as a whole.
- Read all of the instructions on the application carefully
This last piece of advice seems pretty obvious but many people ignore it outright.
Most questions can be answered by reading the rules in totality. Things like: weight restrictions, size restrictions, drop-off and pick-up times, acceptable media, ad infinitum. If there is something we missed, I will happily tack it on to the end of the rules. True, they do look long and boring to read, but it is really worth the time you take.
Any suggestions can be either posted in the comments section or emailed to myself directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
The 59th Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition will run through August 8th in the downstairs galleries, alongside the Boca Museum Artists’ Guild Biennial Exhibition.
|Tuesday, June 15, 2010|
|"Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" Season 1: Episode 1 In Retrospect|
Cast of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist"
Since reality television has virtually taken over most cable programming, I think it is about time the visual artists got their shot at it. Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" premiered this past Wednesday at 11 p.m. (EST) with the requisite cast of hopeful, starry-eyed emerging artists, overly confident professionals and a sprinkling of mid-career folks. The show hit the ground running and challenges didn't take long to get underway.
In the first episode, we're introduced to each artist (14 total) with just a short bio and clips from their application videos. We meet an assistant of Jeff Koons (Jaclyn), a guy who has never shown his work outside of his parents' home (Erik) and a woman who already has had her work accepted into the Whitney Museum of American Art (Peregrine).
Right at the outset, performance artist Nao announces that she is too established for the competition and its promise of a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum with prize money purse of $100,000, Miles labels himself an OCD sufferer, and the rest actually seem pretty affable. For reality TV artists, anyway.
I'm going to put my neck on the line and choose my winner right now. Trong has a diverse background as a curator, visual artist, writer, lecturer and editor (ArtSlant). To top it all off, he doesn't seem to have a huge ego to work around (ahem Nao). I think his experience in multiple areas of the art world will help him to navigate the purposely rocky terrain of a competitive reality TV show. As we have seen in other, talent-based shows (American Idol, Top Chef, Last Comic Standing) the judges tend to have a high regard for inherent technical ability but always expect someone to be flexible.
Check out Bravo's information page for "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist."
The highlight of the show for me will be getting to see Jerry Saltz in action. As you may remember, I wrote a blog, "Where are all the women artists?" about Jerry Saltz and his Facebook campaign against the Museum of Modern Art. I would hazard a guess to say that he may be the best-known face on the judges panel because of his Facebook exposé.
Read the original story about Saltz's investigation and public condemnation of the MOMA's lack of women artists on display.
I truly respect Mr. Saltz's opinion and expect him to lend some curatorial and critical credence to the show. Not that Simon de Pury, Bill Powers and Jeane Greenberg Rohatyn are just some bums off the street.
Read their bios on Bravo.
In Work of Art, my bet is that Saltz will be the Tom Colicchio, or Simon Cowell, of the judging team. Basically, the mean one. But I expect more constructive critique instead of acerbic one-liners.
So, what shall the upcoming season of "Work of Art" bring? The level of cattiness is approaching mid-to-high levels already, so I'll vote for some epic verbal battles. In the clips shown from the upcoming season, we see Jaclyn inform Erik that he "doesn't belong here" which suggests there will be some entitlement issues between the established artists and the newbies. I personally do not like to watch violence so I will hope for no fisticuffs. Probably a love interest will develop. As long as they don't take a trip to the Jersey Shore, however, I'll be happy.
|Tuesday, June 8, 2010|
|What is an Art Museum's Purpose?|
Many define the museum an educational tool, a historical preserve that collects and displays artwork from our collective past. On the whole, people everywhere construct architecture to symbolize and preserve their cultural beliefs. We like to gather up bits of the world so that we may reflect on what they mean and where we stand in relation to them.
But a visit to a museum does not mean just staring at old stuff. There is another feeling that accompanies the museum visit, one could say an expectancy, a hope and a trust that once one enters the building, they will experience something great. An epiphany, some sort of cultural nourishment.
In "Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums," renowned art historian Carol Duncan posits the idea that a visit to a museum is a liminal experience. Anthropologist Victor Turner explains liminal as "a mode of consciousness outside of or betwixt-and-between the normal, day-to-day cultural and social states and processes of getting and spending."
Here again is the idea that when you visit a museum you can stop time and escape. You are expected to consider your essence and how it relates to the things around you. It's a time to engage in contemplative thought, the antithesis of the distracted lifestyle most of us live.
A recent article on NPR.org questions whether people involve themselves less in deep thought on one subject and more in a myriad of activities because of increased internet use. It takes a huge feat of will to avoid distraction on the internet and this is where most of us spend both our work and play time.
Read the NPR article and learn about "Your Brain Online."
I can honestly say that I view my museum visits as liminal experiences, as acts that bring me closer to an understanding of my own essence. I felt this way when I attended my first Whitney Biennial. I felt it in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I felt it the recreation of Henry Darger's room at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago. But is this the purpose of a museum? What other functions does it provide for you?
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