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Texas Biennial 2009: reactions and graphs so far


[UPDATED, a couple of times…]
There have been surprisingly few blog hits regarding the 2009 Texas
selected artists list. As far as a cursory 7-page Google
results search can tell me (and I already knew because of salvo
cheque’s sleuthing
), there’s only been three reactions, all from the
usual suspects: ezimmerman, ‘Bout What I Sees, b.s. Houston Art Blog and yours truly. Are three days not enough for the internet to behave sharks in a feeding frenzy?
I thought the reaction would be closer to this.

Up to now, only ezimmerman has expressed an opinion. He links to an
article by Barbara Pollack called "The New Visionaries"
published in Artnews in December of 2003. In it, 2009 Texas Biennial
curator Michael Duncan talks about the cynicism and calculated effect
in what he calls "deliberate primitivism," which is probably best
defined by collecting all the other terms used pretty much
interchangeably in the article to describe the same sort of aesthetic:
"faux naïve," "professional folk," "Mission School," "new naïve." The
article is pretty sensationalist, in the perpetual crisis style so
favored by committed art historians desperately trying to make sense of
contemporary cultural landscapes in rapid flux.  ezimmerman invokes
that problematic expression to try to understand the choices made by
Duncan and then questions the "deliberate" part of "deliberate

Since I am on the list of selected artists, I won’t comment on this any
more than I already have because it gets a little too close to a
conflict of interest and I’m not very comfortable with that. I will, however,
present some quantitative analysis, some pretty numerics, to make up
for the lack of qualitative blogging.

Texas Biennial 2009 Artists by City (version 3)


Behold, a pie chart (click here for larger version), showing the geographical breakdown of artists on
the list. Notice the +/- 20 artist margin of error caused by the lack
of Google-able web presence a third of the artists suffer from.
And if
you are one of the artists that still lives in Net obscurity, I invite
you to join the 21st Century and get a website. I know they can be
scary, so here is a great resource to simplify the process: icompendium.
Based on that chart, one of the main complaints levied against previous editions of the Texas Biennial still holds: there is a surplus of artists from Austin. This, however, is a difficult thing to solve if people in other towns are not submitting in the same numbers as the home city, which is my guess as to why so many of us Austinites are on the list. With that gigantic gap in geolocation my list suffers from, it’s still anybody’s guess as to what the final breakdown is. All 20 mystery artists could very well be from Lubbock, for all I know.  

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5 Responses

  1. salvo cheque

    Am I gonna have to school you on how to stalk artists?

    A quick look at your missing info reveals that Paul Valadez is in Edinburg, one can assume that Kana Harada is in the D-FW area and last Biennial, Tom Matthews was actually in Lubbock.
    More as time becomes available.
    : ]

  2. Ivan L

    I THOUGHT I was good at internet stalking, but I guess I’ve been shown up… I added info to the previous post’s list and will be remaking the graph ASAP.

  3. ezimmerman

    Sensationalist? Crisis? Really? The article struck me as the most un-sensational, almost journalistic attempt to characterize an aesthetic i have ever seen in an art magazine. Aside from Duncan’s paragraph, and the quotes from other artists and curators, there is almost no judgment or accusations made on the part of Pollock. If anything it provides a small sliver of historical context for itself in 2003, and now us in 2008. If any discussion of historical or contemporary aesthetics is automatically written off, or mis-characterized, as the sensational products of desperate art historians than we are in big trouble.

    I cited the term “deliberate primitivism” as i think it provides an interesting lens through which to view this kind of work, and Duncan’s Biennial choices. Especially because he himself was skeptical of the term, yet made so many choices that can be seen as fitting into aspects of it. I don’t disagree that the term is problematic, of course it is. I think that its important, more-so for artists than historians, to objectively ask why this aesthetic has contemporary significance, and how we distinguish between that which is deliberately adopting it as simply a “style” and that which is not. The problems should continue to unfold from here.

  4. Ivan L

    Yeah, the article seems sensationalist to me. The crisis mode comes from the severely broad generalizations, lumping artists as aesthetically, conceptually and materially as David Shrigley, Paul Chan or Margaret Killgalen in pretty much the same breath. it’s a completely manufactured aesthetic, a shapeless mass created by hype. It served its purpose for collectors and gallerists and certain artists for a second, but it’s a total invention. I read a lot of anxiety in between the lines. It reminds me of music journalism, how the NME invents microgenres, like new rave, or how the New York Times sometimes features “genres” that everybody’s already over and declares them some sort of cultural shift (eg. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/18/arts/music/18herm.html).

    I really disagree with your assertion that it’s especially important for artists to “objectively ask why this aesthetic has contemporary significance.” I don’t think that artists need to give a damn about things like these. Obviously there is no harm done if they do, but not everyone is interested in becoming an artist that leaves behind tomes of criticism and academic texts. I would dare to say most artists don’t care and don’t need to care.

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