‘Mark Making’ me a little nauseous

My legion of die-hard readers – hey now, save your snickering and allow a vociferous blogger at least one fantasy, all right? -  may very well remember my premiere red carpet strut in this fine art criticism racket.  It came in the form of a review of a Lora Reynolds Gallery exhibit entitled “Lucid” (Irish artist and educator Tom Molloy’s most recent collection) of which I was considerably underwhelmed. 

Well, let’s face facts – everybody should get a second chance, because we all have our cringe-inducing missteps.  For every dinger Mr. October launched out of ballyards in the major leagues in the late ‘70s, Reggie Jackson went down swinging at third strikes.  A lot.  Neil Young released “Trans,” for crying out loud.  After burning so brightly with The Police , Sting – well, he became Sting.  Closer to home, Houston Astros ace reliever Brad Lidge lost his menacing, fastball mojo and became a dud until being traded to the Phillies.  Sick and tired of rock and roll and sports parallels, are you?  Well…even though they’re in the opposite direction, George Lucas made “Howard The Duck” after “American Graffitti”, “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and Michael Cimino followed “The Deer Hunter” with “Heaven’s Gate”.    Hell, in another direction…the Coca-Cola Company saw fit to muck around with its million-dollar sugar water formula in the ‘80s and release New Coke (later to be deemed Coke II before being jerked violently from grocery story shelves and henceforth pulled from the market completely).

And so on.  The short of the long being, even the most graceful of ballerinas should be allowed to fall on her ass once or twice with diehard spectators turning a blind eye to her rare clumsiness, so as to preserve the crazy notion of infallible excellence that we silly humans seem to desperately crave. 

It was with this construct in mind that I decided to return to Ms. Reynolds’ gallery, giving this woman of, as I’ve stated before, remarkable pedigree in her chosen field, another swing of the figurative Louisville Slugger (yeah, at this point, I’ll admit it – I’m wearing the tread of the athletic analogy thin in this blog, ‘cause I like the thought of art snobs rolling their eyes at the doofus and his adherence to simian pastimes like sports).

So, I trotted my undercaffeinated bones downtown on a Thursday morning to experience the gallery’s latest showing, “Mark Making: Dots, Lines and Curves,” hoping to be the only individual in Ms. Reynolds’ beautiful space on Nueces to peruse the gallery’s contents, undisturbed. 

When I arrived, summer hours were posted on the door.  Noon to six.  Hmm.  How terribly unfortunate, seeing as the only other place to procure the business hours is on the website, of which there’s absolutely no mention of summer hours.  The website says 11 to 6.  I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket.  11:10.  Other appointments throughout the day starting at noon.  Oh well, screw it.  I’ll just come back another time.

I carried on with my busy day and arrived home later that evening to review the exhibit’s content online as some sorta primer for the future.  And in doing so, realized that I might as well have viewed the pieces while standing on the street, outside the closed gallery, because this kind of work isn’t being made for me.  This work is being made for artists and their in-crowd alone.

Here’s the second paragraph of the press release:

“This exhibition brings together works that are concerned with the act of mark-making, including drawing, sculpture, video, cut paper, and painted wood. The show considers the primacy of how the pen or pencil hit the page, how the artists have controlled and exploited the possibilities of their mark, and how a line or curve can 
occupy a space.”

I’m having difficulty breathing, as I’m almost certain I’m choking on pretense.  In other words, this exhibit is a bunch of artists making art that is consumed with the notion of making art.  Well, if you’ll pardon my lack of academic refinement, whoop-dee-damn-doo.

And while the remainder of press release is equally chuckleworthy, my favorite part is right here:

“Dan Fischer takes his subject matter from art 
history, using ‘Xerox Realism’ – drawing from photocopies of photographs. His laborious process of working in a grid and meticulously copying the copy of the photographs is a 
conceptual tribute to the image itself.”

Seriously?  Yeah, seriously.  Please keep in mind that Mr. Fischer is being lauded in New York art circles as a visionary talent.  Yes, a dude who has basically created a high-brow version of WHAT MY NIECE DOES IN HER ROOM WITH TRACING PAPER AND CRAYONS is being heralded by a community of reputable critics.  Why?  Well, in my opinion, it’s because he’s been savvy enough to pick famous artists as his subjects.  So, while I can kind of celebrate what I perceive to be Mr. Fischer’s ruthless self-promotional angle (I’d cut him entirely loose if he was laughing all the way to the bank with all that sucker money…perhaps he’ll blow the roof off of his cynical strategy in ArtForum twenty years from now, if that rag still exists after the Death of Print ), I still think the work itself is nothing short of ludicrous, having not even seen it.  What the hey – I’ll go so far as to say my niece Harper’s drawings have more validity, because, at the very least, I know they come from a place of unfiltered innocence.

Baby, my biscuit is so just burnt about this nonsense.  Why should anyone give one red-hot damn about some guy meticulously tracing a photograph of Chuck Close or Man Ray ?  Is the high-art community so completely full of itself, so insistently fixated on its own process and players, that it’s wholly disinterested in works that, oh, I don’t know, might have something to say about the world that exists beyond gallery walls?  I know that subject matter is running really light in the post-modern world these days, what with there being NO WARS GOING ON, NO ECONOMIC DOWNTURN, ALL ISSUES OF RACE, CLASS AND GENDER BEING SOLVED IN THE WAKE OF GETTING W. OUT OF OFFICE, etc…

I mean, really – what better way for the fine art world to roll its old bones down a path of irrelevance – or, even worse, obsolescence – by choosing to celebrate work that smugly celebrates its own culture?  In my opinion, it’s just the kind of elitism that keeps the general public from even wanting to consume fine art.

I’ll sum it up by saying what I occasionally say at the ballpark when I’m displeased.  Boo.

also by CCGrady

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