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Re: WOID BULLETIN: Review
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Re: WOID BULLETIN: Review
- From: Barbara Valenta <bvalenta@MINDSPRING.COM>
- Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 23:58:41 -0400
- Message-Id: <199904290355.UAA18460@palimpsest.Stanford.EDU>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: READ THE FAQ at http://www.dreamscape.com/pdverhey" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
Dear Paul, I sympathize. Many years ago, when I was living in New Mexico, I
received word that one of my canvas and wood wall constructions was to be
included in a group show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I
was of course thrilled. Near the end of the show I was able to get to New
York only to find that the work had been hung upside down and was not in
good condition. My feeling is that it is very difficult for most artists to
get their work shown. When it finally is shown, it's often the end of a
long process and life-commitment. Most artists do take their work
seriously. Why else would we sacrifice for it, build our lives around it?
Therefore whether another likes the work or not, it deserves the greatest
respect. Although curators are very key and very important, their job is to
support and illumine the vision of the artist-not to pit their artistic
vision against that of the artist. So I think-don't feel in the least
apologetic for caring about having your work hung right side up. You
deserve it.-Barbara Valenta
At 12:41 PM 4/28/1999 -0400, you wrote:
>Review: Paul Werner at the Donnell Library. (53rd Street between Fifth and
>Sixth Avenues, opposite the Museum of Modern Art, until May 6)
>"Art," as Hegel put it, "is born of the spirit, and born again." I decided
>to show with the Society of Scribes, at the Donnell Library in New York
>City. Dropped off my artwork, of course. Then I found out my work had
>been hung upside-down. So I circulated an e-mail notice, telling
>everybody how flattered I was to be in the company of Matisse, whose work
>also had been hung upside-down.
>Well, you wouldn't believe the reaction. I had "embarrassed" the Society
>of Scribes. I was "dishonest," and why didn't I grow up? My note was
>"dripping with irony" - a telling malaprop. A few people e-mailed me
>privately to tell me that they knew what I was up to. I asked them to tell
>me what that was, since I wasn't sure myself, but I never got a response.
>"The artist," as Alfred North Whitehead once put it, "doesn't know what he
>knows..." oh, never mind...
>Finally, last night I met with Jon Cory, the artist responsible for
>hanging the show. Was this an embarassing accident? No? Was it a malicious
>act? No. Jon simply felt that my work looked better upside-down within the
>over-all "look" of the show, so he went ahead and hung it that way.
>Now I was in a quandary. The "right" thing would be to storm and stress,
>but that would just put me up against an artist's decision, and back on
>the side of the artcrats, the whiners and the manipulators, those equipped
>with what Henry James once called "the perpetual droop of the
>misunderstood." Jon's decision was puerile, callous, and very, very
>silly; in other words: sophomoric. Also, I wonder why he only put MY
>work upside-down. Wouldn't it have been more interesting to put a
>perfectly legible piece of calligraphy upside-down instead, or as well? Or
>to put every work but mine upside-down?
>And yet, his was an ARTISTIC decision. Dada may be passe, hanging artworks
>upside-down is not so much anarchist as nihilist, especially when it
>erases content for a pure reactionary formalism; but Jon, too, is entitled
>to not "grow up." And after all, isn't my own art involved with
>heteroglossia? Hadn't I organized a show at the Donnell about ten years
>ago in which, precisely, the artist's voice (including mine), was
>countered by the clamor of other voices? And wasn't I better off than Mark
>di Suvero, whose friends once threw one of his sculptures into the Hudson
>because "it looked better that way?"
>The only possible solution: Jon and I decided to leave my piece
>upside-down. I am deeply flattered (and mostly amused), to share in the
>same ego-pricking enterprise that affected Matisse. And to prove it, I'm
>mailing out the following which is, of course, the original message:
>Sincere thanks to the Hanging Committee for the Society of Scribes, at the
>Donnell Library in New York City.
>Thanks for hanging my work upside-down! This is an honor previously
>bestowed on Matisse (notably at the Guggenheim Museum in the 'sixties).
>Now at last I have something in common with that great artist.
>Keep it up, folks (or down)!
>Paul Werner, New York City
> DRAGONSBLOOD AND ASHES: a project to research and teach the
>techniques of the Medieval scribe and artist.
> THE ORANGE PRESS: most recent titles: "Vellum Preparation:
>History and Technique," and "Dragonsblood and Ashes: the Beta
> WOID: a journal of visual language in New York, including reviews,
>listings and resources.
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