Saturday, April 10, 2010

Picking On Posers

Art Tourist
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Art exhibit openings remind me of going to church—to paraphrase the words of Holden Caulfield (the main character of Catcher in the Rye), “…many of its attendees are a bunch of phonies.” And like many church-goers, I attend because there is a certain guilt I take on when I consider not attending. As a fellow artist myself (a questionable declaration), this guilt is rooted in that my non-attendance could be interpreted as not supporting the artist and, in general, the arts. Fortunately, any guilt experienced is not unbearable, but certainly aggravating.

I just attended an exhibit opening last night and walked away with the same disdain I had the last time I attended one—thinking to myself that I’ll never attend another.

Yet, as I sit here and think about it, attending an art exhibit opening is something akin to attending a high school football game—something I can definitely relate to and enjoy. Like a football game, many people attending an art exhibit opening could care less about the art that is on the walls; they are simply there to socialize and discuss anything with the various individuals they seldom see in attendance. Further, there are others who surely attend for the sole purpose of “being seen.” So, why does the insincere motives of an “art-going” crowd get under my skin unlike the insincere motives of the “football-going” crowd?

Added to my consternation for such settings, when I queried a colleague (also an artist) about his thoughts on exhibit openings last night, he concurred with me, but followed up with a reference to the food and drink provided in saying, “Well, this is a pretty good spread here.”

I will confess that in my attendance last night, I did get to visit with a few individuals that I haven’t seen in a spell, but nothing prevents me from calling them up and inviting them to join me over a cup of coffee either. Now that I think about it, attending an art exhibit opening is a material-world version of signing on to Facebook—nothing more than a backdrop for humdrum socializing.

As an aspiring artist myself, the question of whether or not to attend an art exhibit opening is a true conundrum. If given an “opening” for my own exhibit, I’d just assume not have one, but that’s pretty anti-social. Which (as far as I’m concerned) is OK, because being anti-social has nothing to do with an art exhibit.

Perhaps I would feel better about attending art exhibits (whether my own or those of others) if I knew for certain that the conversations by those attending were limited to topics of the exhibited artwork or art in general.

My solution from here on: stop attending art exhibit openings, but visit the exhibits during regular viewing hours while attempting to leave a fairly intelligent or thought-provoking comment in the guest book. Hopefully the artist will appreciate this approach more than me swooping down on the complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine while participating in the listless conversations in the presence of their works.


Anonymous said...

In general I love your ability to make an astute point. This time, not so much. It's a ritual. No one can nor should be expected to absorb the art at an opening. The real "show" on display is the one of support for the person. Period. The art will stand or fall given time but certainly can't nor should be quantified based on the opening's success (however you define it). Think about how many things get opened or revealed, yet require some time to be understood. I have been to more reverent openings, much like a church, and those are fine too. But why nix those, who in this case, like the artist, wanted to just pound down a few free drinks and cracker in "celebration" of a great body of work? She had a blast and I'll be posting evidence of all the stuff, good and bad that you may have missed. This is one case where I'd say, just relax and be happy.

mdt1960 said...

Yeah, yeah, nothing here I can dispute. I'll just add to your ending advice, "just relax, be happy and stay home."

Anonymous said...

The only conversations that you can truly call "listliss" are ones that you actually heard and/or were a part of. Otherwise, you're just making an assumption about what others were talking about without really knowing for sure. If assumption and speculation are what you're basing your conclusions on (that people have "insincere motives") but you don't really know because you weren't a part of them, then there may be a news reporting job waiting for you at FOX where you can "presume" things without having real facts.
The conversations that I had last night involved the work; particularly the lighting quality and direction, the composition placement and use of the square, and one you would have really liked - the different settings one might need to use for shadow and highlights when choosing to print on conventional paper versus canvas (George and I were talking about this). Personally, I don't know what others were talking about because if I wasn't directly involved in their conversations. I would have to make a supposition and that could lead to a faulty conclusion devoid of facts (and also possibly lead to a job offer from FOX).
So I think we should leave perception to those who prefer to play loosely with facts. Rather try to draw our conclusions based upon first hand experience. If the conversations that you were directly involved in WERE ones that were shallow and superficial and you were unable to steer them into something more substantial, then I understand your point and frustrations. But don't assume that the majority of the discussions taking place were lacking in meaningfulness if you really aren't certain.
I think this time my friend, I agree with Mr. Quarters.


Pat said...

Lighten up Morgan. Support the artist at the opening and know that he is thinking the same thing … WTF do these yahoos think they know?

haiku curmudgeon said...

Life is suffering -
Suffering is caused by cravings -
Craving can be overcome -
Follow the eightfold path.

And breathe, breathe, breathe. If more calm is needed find a zenQuaker and drink good coffee together.

Scott Feyhl said...

My art friends will attest to my discomfort at the presentations often accompanying art openings. Sorry Marty and John, but here I go again. It has always been one of my "dark spots" to mouth off about the incomprehensible art speak I hear at many openings (not all openings). I struggle for words to express this feeling but am comforted by the material I find on-line when I google the term "incomprehensible art speak." For a sampling follow this link:]

Sorry I'm not savvy enough to make this link hot. Perhaps someone else in the world of incomprehensible computer speak could help me out here.

mdt1960 said...

Anthony: Who has facts on anything of this nature? I do not assume that you are certain the majority of the discussions were meaningful—as it pertains to the artist or art in general. That said, I never reached any conclusions about every conversation or even "the majority" of them. Simply put, there's enough "fluff" in any art opening I've ever attended to make it feel like just another party/social.

Surely meaningful dialog was taking place in some circles last night... especially those where you and Dave were contributing.

Apparently the parade was sunnier than I saw it and so, I'm guilty of raining on it.

Renee Claire Tafoya said...

I wasn't at that particular reception, yet I've felt the same shallow gloss at many art openings ... if small talk is difficult for you (as it is for me), then openings are difficult for you (and me). But I agree with all the previous comments - The opening is the only chance you have to ask the artist "what in the heck were you thinking & how did you make that stuff?"

Also, it's a show of solidarity - you would hate for nobody to show up at your opening, si?

And, Sean said Good for Morgan. He tells the truth