Dear Atlanta, WTF?

How many monster themed art shows are really necessary in a given season? (It's not even Halloween) If you are not offended by the prospects of endless exhibitions of random artists depicting monsters, then feel free to click any of the following links:
Monster Mayhem at East Atlanta Tatoo
The Monster Show at Eyedrum
Murky Depths at MINT Gallery this Saturday, May 10th with music from Swamp Ape


Ben Grad said...

The MINT Gallery thing is worth seeing just for a chance to hear Swamp Ape play in a really small room.

Is a monster themed show better than a zombie/robot/ninja themed show, or just less specialized version?

DJ said...

i suppose the same could be said for skateboard deck shows, though certainly some interesting art peaks through the conceit occasionally.

Rabbit said...

and pirate shows.

mike said...

Wow. Quick responses. I just think that a monster themed art show is the easiest thing in the world to come up with. There are a thousand different ways to add intelligent context to it but I don't think that's what we are going to get. At MINT you will get a show that is built around having Swamp Ape play at the Gallery. At East Atlanta you will get their stock artists doing the same thing they always do. And I'm still holding out for the Eyedrum show, there is no telling what that will be like.

Jeremy said...

I just want to throw my two cents here. That Skull Fuck show, for instance, was fun, but it also really annoyed me. There's just something predictable...

On "zombie[]s/robot[s]/ninja[s]" - I think I've mentioned before but Yoshimitsu from Tekken embodies all three of these categories. He's a freaking undead robot ninja. And he's a badass. Here's proof.


Jimmy Squats said...

Haha Jeremy. I'm not sure how, but I found where I commented on themed group shows in 2006: http://thoughtmarker.blogspot.com/2006/12/on-nature-of-group-shows.html

I still stand by most of that, but am guilty (as I foresaw) of the same thing: http://www.beepbeepgallery.com//index.php?option=com_easygallery&act=categories&cid=53&Itemid=53

I think however, that there are varing degrees of triteness when it comes to these types of show. Also if there are more specific ideas relayed to the artists (rather then just giving them a one word title) then the show can have slightly more dimension. I guess I'm just stressing more curatorial involvement to make these things more compelling. (wankwankwank!)

They did the mash (they did the monster mash)!


Cinque said...

@ jimmy squats:

I'm glad you brought this up and I couldn't agree more. I'd even go so far as to say the local model of "give the artists a word and let 'em run with it" generally produces bad, unfelt, opportunistic art, and moreover cheapens the very notion of curating.

It used to work this way: a curator would visit lots of artists' studios. a LOT. Then they would notice certain organic trends, as in: "oh, wow, it seems like a lot of artists are reinterpreting the portrait, or responding to that big color field show at the High, or working in miniature," or whatever. Then the curator would make a show based on that, and you'd get a kick-ass group show that was tapping into something REAL going on in the actual artist community.

Nowadays, that's considered too hard I guess, so they basically treat artists like they're all still in school, give them an assignment and say, "Ok, now go make me one of these..."

p.s. fund raisers are, to my mind, an acceptable exception.

mike said...

Example: "Make art of the scariest monster that you can paint." vs. "Make art that explores the traditional monster archetype in the context of current social issues in America."
Given this second situation, I would make a piece that related Frankenstien's Monster to an art show comprised of spare parts. Or a creature called the Castleberry Hill Art Troll.

Cinque said...

It at least looks like 1 or possibly 2 of the monster shows are artist-motivated. That bumps it up a notch in my estimation.

I just frankly don't favor giving assignments of any kind to artists, no matter how subtly worded. I favor finding out what they are already interested in, what they are already doing and then being a steward of the work to bring it to a wider public. It's not the curator's job to put ideas in the artists' heads; it's the curator's job to connect the dots of the ideas that are already there.

Ben Grad said...

If a question/"assignment" is good enough, it can be helpful for an artist. (Not that I've seen this happen in Atlanta recently)

The standard understanding of criticism (and curators) is that it's not the critic or curator's job to put ideas in artists' heads, but I think both those job titles have outside perspectives which can be useful resources for artists.

Cinque writes here, "it's the curator's job to connect the dots of the ideas that are already there."

which is a bit at odds with his post at influxhouse, "I was surprised to find out that I am in the 1 or 2 percent minority that thinks it's okay for critics to talk to artists about their art in an advisory sort of way--a practice roundly condemned by pretty much everyone."


Perhaps I'm mistaken in assigning almost identical roles to curators and critics, but I think both castes are justified in attempting to explore concepts which interest them by prompting artists to discuss those topics.

(just as artists are justified in telling curators and critics to go fuck themselves)

Ponyboy said...

At East Atlanta you will get their stock artists doing the same thing they always do.

Which sounds like…

I do however recognize their names from previous Alcove excursions, so for better or worse, we still know what to expect at that space.

That's like saying that once you've had bar-b-que chicken, you know what to expect from chicken cordon bleu or chicken noodle soup. At least the guys and gals from East Atlanta and the Alcove are doing the thing they enjoy doing and exploring their methods and ideas as an artist from that foundation. What gives you the right to be so bored with any artist's style? And how does your boredom create the line too which the efforts of the artists and the curators are measured?

Example: "Make art of the scariest monster that you can paint." vs. "Make art that explores the traditional monster archetype in the context of current social issues in America."
Given this second situation, I would make a piece that related Frankenstien's Monster to an art show comprised of spare parts. Or a creature called the Castleberry Hill Art Troll

And as an artist, that would be an awesome idea for a submission for a "make art that explores the traditional monster archetype in the context of blah blah blah..". But talk about treating artists like they are in school. In my experience as an artist, I enjoy producing work for and viewing the work of others in shows with a very loose concept. With a concept of "Monster Mayhem" or "the Monster Show" or "Bananas Foster" a gallery opens itself up to subjects laden with social commentary, subjects built from childhood memories, or subjects dealing with the fears of the artist, or just something the artist wants to have fun with. After all, it is art. And art is in the eye of the beholder. And any beholder who claims to "get it" usually has no idea.

Cinque said...

Well, yes and no, Ben. You're right there's some psychic dissonance there between my 2 comments, but I do think the role of the critic is quite different from the role of the curator. Curators typically hold the reigns of access and audience in a way the critics (fortunately) do not. Critics are judicial, curators are executive. (The market is legislative.)

In all of this discussion though, the role of curator is getting weirdly perverted. I still think a curator should develop a theme after s/he has seen a shitload of what artists are producing and seeing what's important to them, not before. In other words, an art exhibition should reflect what's important to the artists, not be a collection of made-to-order materials to satisfy some idiosyncratic intellectual query on the part of the curator.

Ironically, at least one of the shows that initially sparked this discussion actually does fit that mold since it appears to be curated by the artists themselves.

Jonathan said...

Cinque- I agree with your summation of the curator's role but this is almost never the way curators in Atlanta approach creating shows. Too often they are "Call for Entries" which for me means they are not curated at all, but simply juried. The Contemporary's "Talent Show" Biennial in '07 comes immediatly to mind. It was a show much more about the curator's own vision than that of the artists involved.

Ben Grad said...

Cinque - That's an awesome analogy. I'll try not to get too carried away with it.

I do think, with smaller art scenes, the role of critic, curator, and artist are forced closer together. (Miss Darrow's a good example of this)

mike said...

Ponyboy, In my previous comments I meant no disrespect to the artists or talent involved at East Atlanta Tattoo or Alcove Gallery. Both of these are galleries that I frequent because of the talent that is more than evident at these exhibitions. It just seems to me that the majority of the shows at these galleries feature art by mostly the same artists that have generally similar styles.

For people that love the work of these artists and their styles, these shows can be very enjoyable, and do often feature work that delves into some sort of social commentary. However, I think for the most part, artists that participate don't take the opportunity to push the work conceptually. In my mind, so much more can be explored and accomplished in a well conceived, cohesive show. I don't think that their isn't a place for broad group exhibitions. Cinque mentioned fund raisers as an obvious exception, but I think that these shows are great tools for artists to practice new techniques and generally take risks that would prepare them for more advanced work in the future.

Don't get me wrong, I was as excited as anyone to go see a "Planet of the Apes" art show, but this type of show is becoming too prevalent in Atlanta's alternative galleries. I think that some of the galleries that rely on the group shows can do themselves and Atlanta's artists a favor by rethinking the way that they put shows together and OCCASIONALLY try to push intelligence and concept a little more than aesthetics and trends.

Again, the goal of my blog is too promote and I love what everybody involved in Atlanta's art scenes are doing.

Cinque said...

@ Jonathan

Yeah, "juried." That's the word. And Talent Show was really an unfortunate miscalculation. With all the great work happening in this city, a show as important as that should not have been handed over essentially to chance.

@ Mike

I don't think you should be so apologetic. Your devotion to the scene is beyond question. As I've said elsewhere, nobody goes through all the trouble of maintaining an arts blog for the glory and money and free sex. Your opinion is a valid one; more people should speak up so eloquently.

Ashley Anderson said...

I am certainly attracted and intrigued by the idea of curators visiting artists and getting a feel for the arts-climate of the city/region and then bringing work together from that pool for a show. It certainly has a greater potential to present the actual state of affairs for artists than a themed show, which often requires the creation of new work, creation which is often much more forced than the unique and original work which artists create in and of themselves.

For example, the Planet of the Apes show at East Atlanta was rife with excellent work, but the subject is not at the fore of most given artists' consciousnesses, whether personal, political, spiritual, etc. Any themed, "call for entries"-style show will not accurately present a cross-section of the minds of Atlanta's artists. Only a show composed of independently-driven work will allow that.

Also, as an artist who works with his heart more in the tradition of painters like Philip Guston, Wayne Thiebaud, and other fine artists, but who still has some lesser-yet significant-interest in "lowbrow" artists like Saiman Chow, I find it hard to fit into the Atlanta artscene as I understand it. I feel as if I'm caught between two kinds of galleries and spaces: really "uppercrust", nationally known, fine-art galleries like Bill Lowe and Marcia Wood, who show artwork that for the most part comes off as self-important and stilted and too obtuse to be intelligible, and the underground "lowbrow" spaces that show work that is too much the same, usually (but not always, to be fair) not pushing the envelope or willing to branch out thematically or stylistically, stuck in the current Juxtapoz-ish style of artwork, and is, yet in a different way, self important.

I find it hard to relate to this art scene I've described because while I'm passionate about fine art I am confronted with fine art galleries that likely wouldn't accept my personal style and choice of imagery and on the other end I'm confronted with spaces that would be too fascinated with cliche themes and imagery for my work to fit in, plus the lowbrow galleries never charge enough for the work.

This is why I'm so attracted to the method of curation I cited at the beginning: because the work I make is not for themed shows, it is for me, so the only kind of show that my work is really meant for is a survey of work by artists working in a personal vein that is not fascinated with lucrative but forgettable trends but also not interested in obfuscation for the sake of appearing hifalutin.

What in the hell do I do when I feel like this? I work in an apartment filled with decent art that seemingly has nowhere to go, for now.

My God, I hope I'm not coming off as too much of a sourpuss here. I'm just frustrated because noone seems to care enough about art in the face of looking cool or hip, whether on the high end or the low end.