The Laws of Nature

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Work in the Exhibit

Andy Warhol, 1977

Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond
Chapter 3: "Life Support"
section 6: "The Work in the Exhibit"

This chapter of Richmond's book is increasingly centered upon her teaching experiences at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and this section is no different. Luckily, there are many gems to be mined here. An important aspect of her graduate course is the student exhibition, which they are responsible for planning and installing. An important goal is to show a completed body of work and to create an exhibition that equally supports the efforts of all the students in the best light. Because most of my readers are solo artists, so I'll skip the details and get to the part that applies to us.

There are three thoughts I'd like to pursue:
1. creating a quality exhibit
2. learning from the audience reaction to our work
3. deadlines

1. Creating a quality exhibit that best shows our work is essential. I've seen far too many artists relinquish control over how their work is exhibited to their detriment. Poor lighting, incorrect placement, crowding of work, improper labeling, etc. are among the many problems that mar the appearance of an exhibit. I remember dropping off a painting to a gallery director once, and was appalled to see that work that she had received from another artist was stacked willy-nilly, one on top of the other, so that the plexiglass glazing was being scratched by the paintings on top. When I pointed this out to her and asked her to treat my work with more care, she seemed both uncomprehending and offended. However, if I don't concern myself with these details, it affects both my income and artistic reputation.

2. Frequently, I inconspicuously stand where I can hear and see people's reaction to my work. I don't mind the criticisms and harsh reactions as much as I mind it when someone quickly strolls past giving my work only a glance. Whether or not someone likes my work isn't nearly as important than the ability of my painting to evoke a reaction from the audience. To me, that's a success. If there are too many passers-by, then I know it's time to improve my paintings.

3. Deadlines. I love them! They keep me on track and make me work harder. If I don't have a deadline coming up, then I look for opportunities to find a project with a deadline. If I can't find one, then I create artifical deadlines. Maybe this makes me crazy, but I need it to stay energetic in my work.

What are your experiences and thoughts??


Margaret Ryall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret Ryall said...

Sorry for the deletion above. here's the revised one. Too anxious to get to the studio...

I found this chapter very applicable with my show looming on the horizon.

Artists have to be advocates for their work and how it is treated. I may come across as a pain when my work goes to my gallery but it is my work and I want to have it seen in the best light possible. If I have suggestions for a hanging sequence, I prepare an illustrated sheet. I've had to draw attention to the fact that another work is laid on top of mine without the protection of the bubble wrap bag I provide. I've had to initiate title changes. In short I like to be a full participant in the process. This is easy when you live in the same city and can be there to see what is happening. If not, I still make every effort and call the gallery for progress reports- using a friendly and hopefully supportive approach. I get more with a smile than anything else.

2. The best part of creating work is sharing it with viewers. I feel that creating art is a form of communication and for the cycle to be complete there has to be a "receiver". Sometimes you hear things you might not want to hear but every comment is valuable as you prepare for your next work. My best comment overheard was "She doesn't look like a Newfoundland artist." -- meaning my work wasn't landscape and didn't contain predictable island content. I was pleased because my work was seen as different, thus standing out.

Deadlines cause me to fret but they also create huge bursts of creativity. My favourite pieces always occur at the end of a series when I create what I often consider as response pieces or complements to the first work. There is usually a change in style or materials when I do this but somehow in the end it all ties together. I'm having a creative burst as I write. Off to the studio that doesn't look quite so ordered these days. When I'm on a roll I don't clean up until the very end.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hwfarber said...

Deadlines--I hate them. Sometimes they are necessary and sometimes they actually make me more productive.

Sheila said...

Great tips to remember when I ever have a solo show. I swear Katharine this info would be swell complied in a book.

Kathy said...

Hi Margaret - I appreciate all that you wrote about your concernsa and process. It's a feast of information, and I've read it a couple of times now and will read it again! Thank you.

Hi Pam - it would be totally cool if you made that video and post it on your blog!!!

Hi Hallie - perhaps a necessary evil??

Hi Sheila - it IS all in a book - Wendy Richmond's :-)

Stan Kurth said...

I have a solo exhibit coming up in May and one of my concerns is my work might not be cohesive. People say they recognize my style but sometimes I change so quickly I feel the painting I finished today is not even close to the last one. And even though I can see the progression I wonder if others do or will, or does it even make a difference? In the final analysis, I don't think it does make a difference since this exhibit is not a series and each painting is an entity with its own meaning and representation.

Celeste Bergin said...

My favorite way to deliver is in boxes and recently I went a round with someone who wanted me to take the paintings out of the boxes, remove the boxes and leave the paintings in a room crowded with other paintings. I went to the car (with my empty boxes) but then returned and said.."you know, I have reconsidered... I'm going to put my paintings back into boxes..these frames are too expensive for me to have them knocking together". The woman kind of shrugged at me, but I was glad I asserted myself about it.

Kathy said...

Hi Stan - I've seen all the work you have posted on the web, and it looks cohesive to me. You have distinctive style that I could recognize anywhere!

Hi Celeste - good for you!! I have done the same thing and gotten the same response.

Mark Sheeky said...

I love deadlines. As a few of you know I'll be setting up a solo show tomorrow and I've paid lots of detail to some parts while being happy to delgate the bits that other people can help me with. The framing, lighting and location is part of an artwork itself.

Stan perhaps you could group by periods or styles if it concerns you? If it's good enough for Picasso..! And Pam you're advice is more than possible, it's exactly right! It's better to have impressive goals than oppressive ones though.

Kathy said...

Hi Mark - I hope your show is an astounding success!!

Stan Kurth said...

Thanks Mark, that's good advice and that's what I'm going to do. I think a grouping of periods will make the most sense in this exhibit.