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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Elizabeth King and Barbara Tisserat - Reviews

Elizabeth King and Barbara Tisserat reviews. Elizabeth's for her show at Kent Gallery in NYC and Barbara for her show here in Richmond at the Hand. I visited that Barbara Tisserat show, at least twice, and am pissed at myself for not ever posting on it. It was excellent.

That happens more than I would like, especially with shows at the Hand. Just realized that the Judith Schaecter and Jack Wax shows have closed, and before that was Carrie Mae Weems. I visited all of these shows more than once, and they were all good!

I know it is not called the Hand Workshop anymore, I just don't like typing out the long and bland not-so-new anymore name - The Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Don't let my strange Hand block keep you away, Ashley Kistler consistently organizes some of the best shows in town.

Elizabeth King at Kent
Elizabeth King reviewed by Nancy Princenthal, Art in America, May 2006. CLICK HERE to read it.

Barbara Tisserat
Barbara Tisserat reviewed by Paul Ryan, Art Papers, May/June 2006. This is the first part, CLICK HERE to read the rest.

I wish it wasn't Paul Ryan. One painting department faculty member reviewing another is... not good.

a) The editors will not consider submissions in which a writer: writes about his/her work, the work of someone with whom the writer has a personal relationship, the work of someone with whom the writer has a financial relationship, any gallery that represents his/her work, any relative, any gallery institutionally related to the organization employing the writer or a colleague in the institution employing the writer.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Paul Ryan is a full time professor at Mary Baldwin College.

martin said...

hi anonymous - paul ryan is employed by vcu. he took over for morris yarowsky.

http://search.vcu.edu/cgi-bin/directall.pl?TYPE=All&NAME=paul+ryan

S.L. Jones said...

Martin:

This conflict of interest issue recurs frequently in your blog. I agree that it's bad form to review an artist with whom you have a personal or professional relationship. But I think you mis-characterize the ubiquity of the situation as evidence of a plot to forward the careers of friends, when in actuality it has more to do with the dearth of writers covering Richmond art.

I write for the magazine in question. For three years I wrote for Style Weekly. It is virtually impossible in a town this size to find writers who are literate, informed, and articulate enough to cover local art who don't have personal and professional ties with many of its artists, and who are willing to write for the substandard pay offered by such periodicals. I wrote for Style before, during, and after my tenure as a VCU grad student. It was a constant ethical juggling act to find shows to review that I felt sufficiently distanced from to maintain objectivity. Often I failed. When Reynolds Gallery started showing my work I felt too compromised to continue so I quit. I still write for Art Papers and other magazines, and I'm hired to do so, in part, because I know Richmond art and artists.

My point is: as you know all too well yourself, it is hard to make a living as an artist. One of the few money-making options available to us is to write about what we know. In a small art community this will always be problematic. But don't jump to the conclusion that a nefarious scheme exists to forward the careers of some while thwarting the careers of others.
Sometimes a relationship is truly suspect -I find the tradition where last year's Pollak Award winner essentially chooses this year's winner dubious, for instance, and I was a juror for the prize two years ago. But I don't think Paul wrote about Barbara's work because they're friends or colleagues - I think he wrote about her because she rarely shows and deserves coverage, and nobody covers Richmond art for Art Papers who doesn't know her.

The grim truth is there really aren't that many of us who give a rat's ass about art. As a result the pool of writers in an art community like Richmond's will always be small and its integrity, to some degree, compromised. Blogs like yours can play an important role in maintaining the community's health by offering a forum for all of its members, wherein art criticism takes the vital form of a conversation rather than a monologue.

Banzai!
Steve J.

martin said...

Steve - Those are Art Papers own rules cited, not something I invented. I've made no claim that "a nefarious scheme exists to forward the careers of some while thwarting the careers of others"; most of it is merely SELF-serving, if anything.
Just slimey.

Ask those reviewers how many consecutive shows at Chop Suey, Nonesuch, Reynolds Gallery, and Gallery5 they have visited in the past six months. Maybe six times to Reynolds and for the other three maybe... zero? I don't know but am very curious.

How about you? You say that you are writing for Art Papers? What is your tally for those places?

I would LOVE for this blog to be more of a dialogue, it would be nice if the hundreds of people who visit each day would leave more comments like yours.

s.l. jones said...

I don't disagree with you, Martin. The potential conflicts of interest you mention do exist and can compromise the integrity of writers and publications. And yes, Art Papers seems to be in violation of its own rules. But hey - the US Constitution prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures" yet the NSA are in my hard-drive and listening to me chat on the phone with my Great-Aunt Vera from her trailor in rural Kentucky. The difference is that the NSA ARE part of a nefarious scheme to undermine that document. I think Art Papers is just strapped for writers, time, and money, and bends its rules in order to get its product out.

Paul and Dinah have full-time jobs away from their editorial duties. They also have children. Art Papers comes out a few times a year and Richmond gets covered a handful of times. Because it's a national magazine, their focus is going to be on artists with track records and reputations rather than young turks who might have only one show in them. Is this situtaion troubling and less than satisfactory? Of course. I just think you too readily default to an adversarial position when the reality is less Manichaen than banal.

As for me, well, since you brought it up - I made a concerted effort during my entire tenure with Style to AVOID tried and true artists and venues. My very first piece was on Orange Door Gallery, and I also covered Three Mile Gallery, Polkadots Art Center, Marsh Gallery, Locker 50B, the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center (!) and the Black History Museum, twice. Richmond is 60% black and, to my knowledge, I was the first Style writer to ever review an exhibit there. If I remember correctly, I reviewed exactly one show each at Reynolds and 1708 during that time. As for Chop Suey, ADA, etc., they were fledgling during my stint there but I kept an eye on them and tried to synchronize my publication deadlines with their shows. This is more difficult than you might think. I was generally alloted two articles per month at Style and my #1 consideration when selecting a show to cover was whether it would still be up when the review came out. As a result I think I covered about half the shows I wanted to. Art Papers doesn't have this scheduling requirement, but they only cover a handful of Richmond exhibits per year. That means if an established artist shows they're generally going to be covered, which allows even less space for new talent. When they asked me to write something for the next issue I chose Bob Paris - because I thought his work was interesting, because he doesn't have much of a track record, and - frankly - because I don't know him or anything about him and could therefore avoid ethically questionable territory.

This is a problem you don't have because you can blog your thoughts and recommendations EVERY DAY if you feel like it. Like most freelance writers, I only get occasional chances to cover something and have to choose carefully. And I don't have time to go see every single show in Richmond when making up my mind. I make most of my meager living by teaching. I'm also an artist, a husband, a concerned citizen, and a normal human being who needs to rent videos and watch Comedy Central. Unless you're in the Peter Schjeldahl or Robert Hughes realm, this holds true for most art writers. So we're highly dependant on word of mouth, what people send us in the mail, and resources like your blog to find out what's interesting.

What I'm trying to say is that the situation you describe - at least at the Richmond level, where there's little money at stake - is less slimy than inefficient. By all means, be critical of it. But don't mischaracterize the mortal failings of folks like the Ryans as moral failings. I would love to find solutions to these issues and think your blog is a perfect forum for such a discussion. As with everything in this world the problem is getting people to care and to invest the necessary time and labor. I wish you luck.

Sincerely,
Donald Rumsfeld

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