Last Sunday there was an art bloggers summit organized by Sharon Butler of Two Coats of Paint and hosted by Pocket Utopia in Bushwick. The topic of the evening was the influence of Obama and how artists and curators interpret hope in forms of art and curating. There was also the discussion of bloggers and the question of whether or not art bloggers, specifically, should want to gain more legitimacy as a form of criticism via creating a union of sorts or to maintain their outsider status within common accepted forms of criticism via magazines, journals, and academia.
I saw many faces that I thought I’d never see in person, and under one roof: Matthew Langley, Hrag Vartanian, Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City, James Wagner, Barry Hoggard, and Sharon Butler herself. The evening reaffirmed my childish self-consciousness and my inability to participate in group discussions such as these. Truth be told, I don’t feel I have anything worthy of everyone’s attention and feel I am too newbie juvenile to say my say. Admittedly, everyone was older and more experienced, but also they just were not afraid to share and exchange thoughts and ideas, and why would they be? This is just me rambling and practicing my learned self-help steps in the social awkwardness recovery program. There were many big heavy topics covered in the evening and many too abstract for me to fully comprehend without tripping over my naivete but here is my interpretation, observation and fascination of it all.
At many points in the evening the conversation seemed to be going off in tangents with not enough responses to specific questions that arose. Sharon started off wondering how images such as the campaign image by Shepard Fairey affects how we signify and determine its influence as a form of art. When does it stop becoming art and start being recognized as propaganda? Does it become less valid once it is embraced into popular political culture? Surely this is not the first time an artwork has been used as a symbol and representation of a nation’s pride in their country, or any form of expression whether a grievance, a victory, or suffering as a result of devastating war or any form of disaster. The Fairey image is an extension, a continuation of a long line of traditions, using an image to work as a representation for a mass that started off as one artist’s mode of expression. By projecting his concerns for the presidential campaign and an itch to participate in a historic affair he saw the portrait as an opportunity to contribute to not just the campaign but to a society that was in need of change and a hopeful future.
Speaking of hope, Sharon also mentioned how the idea of hope affects and influences artmaking and the general population, if the artwork breathes hope into culture or if culture breathes hope into an artwork? I think it arbitrary to put emphasis the influence of one sensation such as hope over the significance of another such as desperation, despair, suffering, etc. I think what we do sense that is different than the past, at least the recent past, is the unifying factor that Obama offers and this energy that is used to create all forms of images and statements that makes the community inclusive and offers that common denominator that’s been missing and caused a confusion, ambivalence and haphazard directionlessness that’s been insecuring individuals and mass communities for the last several years. I think it completely valid to consider the Fairey image as a work of art, because it is in the same vain of previous works in his practice and although his intentions were to have this image used for the campaign, hence propaganda, it carries validity as an artistic creation with a symbol that reaches out to a particular.
Now as a result of this image, Fairey is a nationally known figure now and is the lone creator of a cascading overwhelming amount of memorabilia from pins, figurines, matchbooks, paintings, clothing, etc. This should not make an artist feel compelled to work in a more politically supportive agenda. This is merely one artist’s take to current events. I work for an artist that is not in the least bit political or in any way related to real physical images. This does not make her work any less valid. Whether they are working in the abstract, the social, the historical, the political, the personal, they all gain equal status as a valid form of art. But perhaps I am projecting?
As for blogs, blogs will be valid even if self-referential if it opens new portals and differing opinions to a reader. I think it a smart idea for art bloggers to come together and extend their knowledge and services and work as a multi-person force to bring snarky, opinionated and witty criticism about art in a way that would be unique and outside of norm. There are so many good art blogs out there that bring the viewing experience to a wider audience turning a local venue into an international scene and offering a voice that is personal, faulty and opinionated. I will admit the Friday NYT art reviews written by Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith are often very surface level and rarely leaves me wondering and questioning the depth and significance of a show. Art blogs come in all shapes and sizes, from a gallery business perspective as in Winkleman‘s blog that also functions as an instructive guide to artists looking to launch their professional career, to the informatively opinionated reviews by Art Fag City, to the personal fascination often encountered by Heart as Arena, to the formal more theoretical as in Art 21, to the institutional gossip that floats around Modern Art Notes and Culture Grrl. I can’t fathom what my understanding and knowledge of art would be without these blogs. The limitlessness in the variety of perspectives that is offered to me via the blogs is incomparable and unsurpassable to accepted forms of magazines and textbooks. I wonder how my blog will manifest and influence art viewers…
I don’t think anything I just wrote about was mentioned during the summit, but this is what I got from it.