Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ARC Salon: 2008

Jeremy Lipking

What's an un-temporary art lover to do?

(i.e. contemporary --but also timeless)

The art museums won't show our kind of work.
(unless it's earlier than 1900)

If you've got money, you buy the stuff yourself and put it on your own walls.


you're at the mercy

of temporary shows at commercial galleries, or whatever can be found on the internet,
which is something like searching for the needle in a haystack.

Which is why so much depends on

A.R.C.'s annual salon ,

that offers enough prize money ($35,000)
to get a broad response
(650 artists)
ranging from big names
to unknowns.

My counter-critical colleague,
Miles Mathis ,
also reviewed this show,
and disagreeable as we are,
we agree that
the show attracted some pretty good painters
but :

"the judges have presented us with a hierarchy
that is standing on its head.
Once again, the best works score the lowest
and the worst score the highest."

So.... each of us has taken the liberty of
appointing ourselves as judges of this contest,
and actually,
I would encourage everyone who has an interest
to do the same, and publish it
on that vast sea of un-vetted opinion
known as the internet.


For me,
the big winner in this show was the above painter,
Jeremy Lipking.
(or --perhaps I should say that the show was a big winner
for having him in it)

The ARC founder, Chairman Fred, has declared that

"the distinction between art and illustration is artificial, and perhaps basically meaningless."

And so it can be seen --that the paintings and sculptures in this show (indeed, on the entire ARC website) have been judged for how well they perform the limited functions of illustration.

While my favorites, like Lipking, seem to enable a broader experience.
(and satisfy the wild longings that I bring to a picture show!)

As in the above painting,
that creates it's own mood
beyond just being mimetic.

or like this water-logged painting
by Diana Desantis
which, more than a seascape,
seems to be a hexagram from the I-Ching:



and really makes me feel I'm in a particular moment/place
which is the special quality
of plein air painting

same this with this chilly scene
by Peter Fiore.

I love the back-and-forth feeling of balance
where so much depends
on one little fence post
(and my hands are turning blue
just looking at it)

Albert Handell

is one of the more distinguished artists
to have entered the show
(and he's a few generations older than Lipking)


...another great Chinese painting.

You have to ask ... why does a distinguished artist,
at the age of 70,
enter a contest like this one ?
(only to, in his case, not even make it to the winners' circle)

This is an artist
who would have been
in the annual
"American Painting and Sculpture"
shows that the Art Institute of Chicago used to sponsor.

Back when art museums
were art museums.

and finally,
among the landscapes,
I liked this eerie little puzzle
by Marion Hylton

Kind of intensely midwest, isn't it ?
(she grew up in Wisconsin, lives in Minnesota)

Maybe some of the colors are just a little annoying,
but life on these small farms is not always idyllic.


That's it for the
landscape category in the show.

I didn't care for any of the prize-winners ,
which were much more complex, ambitious paintings
but then
unlike an Olympic judge,
I don't give points for difficulty,
only for how much I enjoy the results.


Jeremy Lipking

Moving on to the still-life category ,
I'd only give two awards,
and again,
the top one goes to Lipking.

Not that everyone else
doesn't deserve some credit
for the incredible craftsmanship required
to paint an orange that looks like an orange.

But this is not a hobby show,
and I don't care how the sailor
got the ship to fit into the whiskey bottle.

I want joy !
And that's what Lipking gives me,
in one painting after another.

Every other still-life in this show
feels cluttered or small, and of course they do ...
making small objects in a small space feel grand and convincing
is fiendishly difficult.

It's beyond difficult...
it's nearly impossible.

Ning Lee

I'd also give an award here to Ning Lee,
and if you go to his website,
you can see several modest,
but delicious still lifes.

(but don't look at his portrait commissions -- ouch!)


Jeremy Lipking

Here's my picks from the
Figure Drawing
portion of the show,
and even if you disagree with my choices for first place,
at least I'm being consistent !

The #1 problem in contemporary figure drawing
is relating the figure to the space it's in,
and all the blather about anatomy
just serves to kill that relationship.

The #2 problem -- is making black into a color.

And I believe Jeremy is the only one here who
has triumphed in both areas.

Michael Hall

comes close -- but the overall effect here
just says
"studio pose"

So - Ok -- let's give him an "A" in figure drawing,
but what else does it offer ?

(note: I'd be really interested to see what else this artist has done,
but there are so many Michael Hall artists on the internet,
I can't find his site)

Andrew Lattimore

this one is far tastier,
but there's also a precious quality of fragility
(rather than delicacy)
that just leaves me cold.

And there's smallness here --
so rather than an enticing female figure on a bed,
I'm seeing cold oysters at the end of a spoon.


Jeremy Lipking

And speaking of enticing female figures on a bed....
in order to remain consistent,
I've given the top prize to Lipking, yet again!

(but.. I did have to cheat... since he never entered this
fabulous painting in the contest...
and I don't especially care for the one he did enter)

Alexandra Tyng

I really think she nailed
the drama of this moment

(and it could hang beside
some similar paintings
done by some very famous Americans
about 100 years ago)

Benjamin Wu

Something about the color bothers me,
but I swear
that I can see her hand moving
as she combs her hair

Evan Wilson

The shock of beauty.
(that's what made her fall from the sky)

Not quite Roger Van Der Weyden,
but getting closer

Han Wu Shen

I'm just enough Chinese by now,
to recognize this as nostalgia for the early sixties,
and that's a record of Russian dance music.

(Nothing that I've seen by him on line
comes even close to this painting)

William Bartlett

What a charming double portrait,
I'm sure the parents were blown away

Warren Chang

Hey... I was once that kid on the floor.
I wish him all the best.

(and this is designed to be such a tribute to
expanding mind of the child

Mary Minifie

Is it just my imagination,
or do Americans paint the best portraits of children ?

David Tutwiler

I'm partial to this scene
because this is a gallery in my local museum.

There's a nice feeling of space in the room,
so I'll almost forgive the poor drawing of the sculpture.

Aron Wiesenfeld

Looks like we're entering
the Odd Nerdrum school of fantasy.

There's something creepy about it,
but still I'm finding it enjoyable.


Valentin Okorokov

O.K., I've procrastinated long enough.

I finally have to confess
that I really hated all the
in the exhibit,
including the dismal grand-prize-winner
that smells of formaldehyde.

Though it's not the fault of ARC that
contemporary American figure sculpture is
such a disaster.

Here for example is a gallery full of the stuff.

The energy pushes out
with a wispy Romantic flair,
but it never pulls back,
so there's no tension,
no sense of volume,
no sense of interior movement.

Some of these pieces,
like the one by Van Nielsen,
feel like they're watercolors, not sculptures.

In 6000 years of art history,
there has never been a style of sculpture this bad!

Even including the late 19th Century,
when Lorado Taft

wrote about

"the puerile effronteries of these harlequins,
delighting through their very ineptitude a public avid of new sensations."

A disaster, pure a simple,
the result of the demise of American art education
after 1950.


The only exception in this show,
being the above piece by a septuagenarian
who was trained in Russia 50 years ago.
(and there are many other Russian trained sculptors
much more interesting than him,
some of which are shown here )


So... enough of the ranting,
what are the conclusions ?

We need more shows like this one !
Only bigger and better.

Cultural leaders with deep pockets
need to organize themselves
just as they did in the late 19th C.
to establish our public art museums.
(which have now abandoned this kind of exhibit)

The judges need to be identified,
and solicited
for written opinions
as well as final judgments.

And, as Miles Mathis noted,
it would really be nice
if the work could be seen
on a wall
instead just a computer screen.


Blogger Bill said...

Of course I didn't see the show, but, nice picks!

February 20, 2008  
Anonymous Amanda J. Sisk said...

Some of the winning paintings induced nausea on this end. Thanks for covering some of the others.

February 22, 2008  
Blogger GEM said...

I don't understand why ARC insists on giving prizes to images of excesses of sentimentality - the bourgeois aesthetic of Bougereau makes me gag
It is fine to applaud skill as worthy of attaining, but where skill sucks the life out of expression, or where skill becomes an end in itself it calls attention to the artist ( see,love, admire, envy, pedestal ME) rather than the epression something fundamental is lost. G and GEM

February 22, 2008  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Chris, I like your favorites--I can imagine living with them, drifting by and pausing to look without ever getting tired.

I also like your summation of what's wrong with figure drawing--and the examples that show what's right.

February 22, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

In response to GEM -- ARC gives awards to sentimentality because Fred Ross is a sentimental kind of guy -- and more power to him !

I like your comment about art that calls attention to the artist -- instead of something a bit more profound.

February 23, 2008  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Hi Chris,

Came back and looked at these with R, my daughter of 16. She liked many, but her very favorite was the Alexandra Tyng.

She found something a bit cheesy about the artificiality of the nudes... "So completely posed."

February 24, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

Alexandra Tyng really makes you feel like you're among good musicians, doesn't she ?

Regarding 'cheesiness' -- I probably have a much higher tolerance of it than your daughter has -- but if a scene just says "model plunked into a studio" -- I do feel disappointed.

February 24, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Before I read these comments here I placed this on my blog for you:

Chris Miller is “on about” the ARC again. I am very glad for the ARC it is essential. The submissions to the competition of 2007 are perhaps not up to some of the best of the past years. Miles has done a noble job in his critique. I am less enthusiastic but he has made some very good points;
• Judging by photo?
As Miles says; “you can do wonders with Photoshop”. And cunning lighting
• Need to be a little bit prettier (please read in context)
In an oil painting you can include eyes with colour, eyelashes and a twinkle, this is difficult in a bronze or marble. “Pretty” is difficult in sculpture without eyelashes and a twinkle, but not impossible!
There is a little bit of chocolate box stuff there which is always the danger with realist art, but my biggest disappointment is in subject matter.
Now please do not think that I am doing a Hockney here on today’s “Masters” because I am not. Photoshop and cunning lighting must however be taken into account and all works at this level should be judged in the flesh.
I do not necessarily agree with all of Miles’ opinions, but I want to recommend you to visit both and make up your own mind.
Chris’ opinions are always worth a read too, but do not agree with him at your peril! (This time, in the main, I agree with him!)
A disappointing year, 2007.


I have now read the comments and am pleased I am not alone!

February 26, 2008  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

I enjoyed your montage of visuals and poetics from the art show. Especially liked the hexagram and painting. It is a difficult thing to be an artist as most of them are under appreciated during their life span.

February 28, 2008  
Anonymous marly said...

Yes, while everything is well rendered, there's some spark between them... I can see why that was her first pick, and it is one of my favorites as well.

As for the models, I think it is probably quite natural for a young girl to feel some distaste for the idea of old dudes painting naked young girls--a thing that inevitably leads to young and old dudes looking at naked young girls!

February 29, 2008  
Anonymous artiseternal said...

I liked the landscapes best of all the examples you posted here. I admire the pyrotechnical abilities of the realists to recreate a scene as if it were touchable, alive, and I agree there needs to be a forum for the best of this kind of work, so three cheers for the show.
I find many of these still lives and figure drawings very still, static perhaps. That's fine for a meditation, but I enjoy more challenging, more abstract work where the viewer has to work at reassembling the visual ideas to echo his/her own experiences; where the looseness of the drawing/painting gives some room for imagination and emotion.
As always, I enjoy your selections for a refreshing view of what's out there whether (given a lottery win) I would take them home and live with them or not.

March 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody know when the 2008 ARC Salon deadline is? I can't find any info on the site.

April 01, 2008  
Anonymous herself, again said...

Hey, Chris--

I'm back here again, just to say that I'm glad you talked about Miles Mathis. I've been reading his irascible and thoughtful and sometimes hilarious essays...

September 18, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

Miles and I hardly ever agree - but I'm so glad he's out there to disagree with!

Most traditional painters have been browbeaten into accepting the intellectual inferiority of their work.

September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved your insights into the artworks on show, and agree Lipking is a young master. Look across the ocean at the tip of Africa if you want to see sculpture...Dylan Lewis and painting.....Kerri Evans.

June 07, 2009  
Anonymous Andres Rueda said...

felicidades por el blog es magnifico y muy bien elegidos los trabajos

un cordial saludo

Andres rueda

December 16, 2009  

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