Boca Museum of Art
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL 33432
In Mizner Park
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|Thursday, September 24, 2009|
|ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mich. turns city upside-down|
After months of anticipation and preparation, ArtPrize, a citywide art competition in Grand Rapids, Mich., opened its polls on Sept. 23. The colossal undertaking includes 1,262 pieces of art displayed in 159 venues around the city, including restaurants, storefronts, vacant warehouses, parking lots, pedestrian bridges and parks.
Unlike a juried art competition, ArtPrize - a new endeavor for the city - is entirely democratic. Entry was open to all, provided an artist could secure a Grand Rapids venue, and the winners (who receive generous cash awards) will be chosen by popular crowd vote. And, yeah, ArtPrize has drawn plenty of comparisons to American Idol.
The competition drew entries from around the world, with the heaviest concentration naturally coming from Michigan. I've been casually monitoring the contest's progression since its announcement early this spring and a cursory glance reveals that quite a few Florida residents are participating in the competition, including Liesa Robarge of Big Pine Key, Robert Lebron of Viera and Eric Elliot of Naples, among others.
Full disclosure: I first heard about ArtPrize because I lived in Grand Rapids for six years before moving to South Florida this past January. The project interests me, in part, because it has utterly transformed and overtaken my former hometown, but primarily because it has started a massive conversation about art.
It's also worth noting - in light of Kelli Bodle's recent Perspectives entry about the decline in mainstream and traditional resources for arts journalism - that ArtPrize and art have consistently made headlines in West Michigan in the months leading up to the implementation of this project. Does this coverage focus more on the "hype," than scholarly critique? Sure. But how else would a (mostly) positive story about the state-of-the-arts get such press coverage?
Without seeing the execution of ArtPrize in person, it's difficult, if not impossible, to formulate a fair and accurate judgment of the success of the event or of the overall quality of the entries. Regardless, one can certainly contemplate the larger, more universal questions raised by the project, such as:
What qualifies someone to be an artist? What constitutes art?
Is the general public capable of choosing "the best" entry from the hundreds of options?
Does such a contest - in which voters can cast votes via Twitter and the like - cheapen art, or does it serve to heighten the importance of art in everyday life?
I can see why the event has attracted some naysayers, but it's hard to look down on something that has the power to motivate lots of people to create, look at, experience, talk about and think about art. Granted, the quality of the individual entries might be all over the place, but would people's time be better spent at home, with the latest episode of Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami instead of exploring a city and viewing lots of art?
What are your thoughts on an open art competition of this nature? Please feel free to leave comments below. We're especially curious to hear what artists have to say about ArtPrize and the notion of voting for the "best" piece.
Watch a video of last minute preparations for ArtPrize
An easily digested, firsthand synopsis of the event
Scenes from ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mich. Both images belong to Plounsbury. Use of these photographs does not, in any way, constitute an endoresment by the artist, who retains full rights of these images.
|Friday, September 18, 2009|
|Don't kill the messenger|
As Jonah Weiner of Slate Magazine notes, we've seen a sharp decrease in journalism dedicated to arts criticism, of the
non-blogging variety. Mr. Weiner writes specifically about why music mags are
fading from view, which, I sheepishly admit, I hadn't really noticed. Like many
others, I let my subscriptions to Spin
and Rolling Stone lapse, content to
pay the stand price if I saw a particularly interesting story advertised on the
front cover. The folding of Vibe and Blender are echoes of the larger state
of arts journalism as a whole; musical, visual and otherwise.
Which is why The National Arts Journalism Summit is so important.
On October 2, art writers from around the world will meet at
UCLA to develop new and sustainable models of arts journalism. New business
models and innovative practices will be presented and explained so that the
writing community as a whole may review and consider implementing them. This is
the first time that the Summit will meet and I have high hopes for the results.
It gives me great pleasure to see those in the arts community banding together
to keep a very necessary part of the art world - reflection and writing about
current events and practices - alive.
One of my very favorite writers, András Szántó, who until
recently led the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, wrote
an article for the Art Newspaper called, "With Newspapers in Terminal Decline, What Future for
He very succinctly outlines some exciting options for the
future of arts journalism and ends his incisive essay with this:
Amid the gloom and doom about arts journalism,
innovations offer a glimmer of hope.
There is no going back to the
cultural and advertising dominance that newspapers once
enjoyed. We should be mindful that the emerging
landscape offers asymmetrical
odds for art criticism (which
can survive by the labour of individual writers) and
arts reporting (which requires institutional
firepower and protections). Writers
will struggle to reclaim the
access and influence they achieved with the backing of
brands. Even so, the faint outlines of a
new system are starting
While I will mourn
the slow death of the printed word, I look forward to the future of the
|Wednesday, September 16, 2009|
|Inside the artists' mind|
One of the bonuses of working at, or being involved with, an art institution, is the opportunity to meet artists and talk to them about motivation, technique and inspiration - ideally without resorting to the dreaded "But what does it all mean?"
When the Boca Raton Museum of Art hosts exhibition openings for living artists, we often are privileged with the presence of those artists at the Member and Patron receptions. This gives the Museum Members, guests and staff a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the artists' works and to put a face with the work, so to speak.
Two of the three featured artists - photographer Stephen Althouse and painter Gary T. Erbe - attended the September opening reception for the Museum's fall exhibitions. Clyde Butcher, a renowned, Florida-based landscape photographer, was hosting his annual swamp walk that night and was unable to attend the opening reception. He will, however, visit the Museum on October 3 for a seminar and book-signing.
The day after the opening reception, Althouse and Erbe returned to the Museum for a morning talk with Museum docents. These docent tours provide "inside information" for Museum docents, who in turn, pass along the knowledge to Museum guests.
(L-R: Photographer Stephen Althouse talks to Museum Docents; painter Gary T. Erbe during a morning Docent tour)
Below are a few notes from the docent tours:
Stephen Althouse: Tools and Shrouds
Althouse discussed the large black-and-white images of Stephen Althouse: Tools and Shrouds. The images are stunning, stark compositions of cold steel implements juxtaposed with textured cloth. In explanation of his work, Althouse emphasized that he doesn't strive to assign "religious dogma, story or social commentary" to his photographs, but concedes that the viewer might ascribe such a meaning based upon his or her own interpretations.
Althouse also said of the images that "(they are) contrived and controlled work...(They represent) personal thoughts and emotions, expressed in a private way." Althouse said there is "no real overt story or message for these photographs."
A close look at some of the pieces in Tools and Shrouds reveals subtle details such as a Braille inscription on the handle of a tool. Althouse declined to give the translation for the letters, as well as a translation of a German inscription on another photograph, saying that the revelation of such literary details is very nearly always a disappointment to the viewer. Althouse chooses to protect "the power and mystery of not knowing" the literal translations of symbols within a work.
Erbe, who attended Althouse's tour with the docents, said of Althouse's technique; "it elevates (the works) to Abstract."
Painter Gary T. Erbe comments during Stephen Althouse's docent tour.
Gary T. Erbe: Forty-Year Retrospective
After Althouse's presentation, the docents and various Museum staff were treated to a tour with Erbe, a self-taught artist who initially had an exhibition at the Museum when it was at its original location on Palmetto Park (now the site of the Art School of the Boca Raton Museum of Art).
Erbe is known for his trompe l'oeil paintings of pop culture artifacts and assemblages. He taught himself how to paint at a young age, by looking at his work, analyzing it and seeing what could be improved. After four years of honing his craft, he became self-employed as a painter.
Early in his career, Erbe developed his own method of painting, which he dubbed "levitational realism." The style "removes objects from their settings" to create a new idea. Erbe had great success with this unique style.
The artist also shared the story of his first significant sale to a collector. Erbe was stationed at an outdoor art show. At literally the eleventh hour of the show, Erbe was approached - as he said, "on the street" - by a collector, who bought a painting for $4000, a somewhat arbitrary figure that Erbe plucked from the air. The collector, clearly a fan of Erbe, bought the painting and approximately 40 more throughout the years. Erbe incidentally never again worked at an outdoor art show.
As we move along in the 2009-2010 season, we are anticipating more educational events with artists, such as Clyde Butcher and Enrique Martinez Celaya, whose exhibition will be unveiled on November 17, 2009.
What artist(s) living or dead, would you want to listen to talk about his or her art? What kinds of questions would you ask?
|Monday, August 10, 2009|
|Art world connections: Smithsonian, BRMA and Isadora Duncan|
On June 4, 2009 the Smithsonian art blog Eye Level posted an entry, "Isadora Duncan," written by Howard Kaplan. I found that some items in the Smithsonian - which incidentally celebrates its 163rd birthday today - collection dovetail with those in ours. The combination of items and the histories behind them help to recreate a microcosm of the art world from the early twentieth century. Let's consider:
First, Kaplan describes some sketches created by Abraham Walkowitz of American ballet dancer/modern dance icon Isadora Duncan. The featured image on Eye Level shows a figure in a red tunic gaily dancing across a stage, her hair flowing behind her jubilant body.
We have in our collection, a watercolor of Isadora Duncan by Walkowitz titled Isadora Duncan (Yellow Toga). She stands, back curved in towards her body with arms out and yellow fabric draped and falling to the floor.
Abraham Walkowitz (American, born Tyumen, Siberia 1878 - 1965), Isadora Duncan (Yellow Toga), 1909, watercolor on paper, 9 ľ x 8 inches. Permanent Collection 2002.095. Gift of Mr. Sid Deutsch.
I imagine if one were to see a whole suite of these watercolors together they would create a series dedicated to dance poses and costuming. Howard goes on to explain that the Grecian tunic was Duncan's clothing of choice and that Edward Steichen had photographed her in Greece wearing said tunics during the 1920s.
Currently on exhibit in Camera Work: Photography from the Permanent Collection, we have an array of photographs by Edward Steichen, and one striking photograph in particular, of Auguste Rodin from 1903. The photogravure (pictured below) demonstrates Steichen's Pictorialist period, showing Rodin's dark silhouette posed in sober meditation, similar to his sculpture The Thinker (Le Penseur), against the half-tones of the plaster cast Hugo statue in the background.
Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg 1879 - 1973), Rodin, 1903, gum photogravure, 18 3/8 x 6 3/8 inches. Permanent Collection 2007.5.113. Bequest of Isadore and Kelly Friedman
This photograph was featured in Volume Two of Alfred Stieglitz's magazine Camera Work, for which our exhibit is titled. Edward Steichen was quite a prolific photographer during the start of the century and busied himself both before and after World War I with photographing prominent people in the art and fashion worlds (in addition to the straight style of photography centered around city life).
Which brings us to another interesting point; Steichen's photograph of Rodin solidifies the link that Eye Level's Kaplan made about the circle of people that gathered at Alfred Stieglitz's studio, 291 Gallery in Manhattan. Kaplan goes on to explain that Walkowitz met Duncan at Rodin's studio in Paris and went on to create the colorful watercolors, two of which are in our and the Smithsonian's collections.
A tight little coterie has emerged through the study of both art and history, as demonstrated by the items collected and studied at both the Smithsonian and the Boca Museum. It seems that Rodin was the common link between Steichen, Duncan and Walkowitz for some time during the early 1900s.
I'm always intrigued when people whom I admire were all acquaintances. It sets me to wondering about the amazing experiences and conversations they must have had.
|Friday, July 17, 2009|
|Hurricane preparation at the Boca Raton Museum of Art|
As some of you may be aware, hurricane season is upon us in South Florida and we are readying our sculpture garden for the possibility of storms. To start, we are taking down the hanging sculpture Celestial Presence by Dorothy Gillespie. Although the individual pieces are made of sturdy aluminum and can be bent easily back into shape if a strong wind hit them, they are strung up next to the windows with fishing line which could create any number of problems with tangling or colliding with the glass.
Dorothy Gillespie, Celestial Presence, 2007, polychrome painted and shaped-cut aluminum, 25 x 20 x 12 feet. Permanent Collection 2007.20. Gift of the Dorothy Gillespie Foundation, Inc.
How do we safely store these works of art? First, the fishing line that is strung horizontally between the hanging columns of sculptural elements is cut. The placement of the horizontal fishing line is needed so that the individual pieces hang in straight columns and do not get tangled with one another.
After that, the Facilities staff, Robin Archible and John Finewood, take down one hanging column of the shaped aluminum pieces at a time and wrap each piece separately. John is raised up in the boom lift and slowly lowers the line so that Archie can receive and wrap each piece in bubble wrap. They are then placed in large storage crates to await reinstallation in the fall. It takes about three days to complete the process.
John releasing the line.
John lowering the sculpture to Archie, waiting with roll of bubble wrap.
Final product: wrapped pieces ready for storage.
Once a hurricane warning is announced for the Boca Raton area, we take additional measures to ensure the safety of the sculptures in the garden. Depending on how the season shapes up, you may see more entries dedicated to hurricane preparedness but we will keep our fingers crossed that you won't!
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