Friday, September 19, 2014

Christina Rees on "State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now" at Crystal Bridges Art Museum


Art reviewer Christina Rees has a generally positive though occasionally snarky review - and even some rather nasty remarks -- in her article, "State of the Art at Crystal Bridges: Pure Pop for Now People" (Glasstire, September 12th, 2014). First, the positive:
This is real art by real working artists. The populist bent was a considered choice. The exhibition's curators, museum president Don Bacigalupi and staff curator Chad Alligood, traveled the country for nearly two years and visited about 1000 artist studios, and mostly avoided any truly challenging art; nothing here is willfully ambivalent or too subtle or dark. Almost every piece is turned up to eleven in terms of being engaging. Good examples this are the Mom booth, by Andy DuCett of Minneapolis, which will be staffed by real volunteer moms throughout the show's run, or the knitted cave-like hallway that opens the show, by Brooklyn-based Jeila Gueramian.
Generally positive, as I said, and though she might be disappointed at the absence of 'challenging' art - that "nothing . . . is willfully ambivalent or too subtle or dark" - she accepts that the "populist bent was a considered choice." But she can't restrain some snark:
[E]verything is instantly gettable . . . . Get it? Yes. Yes you do.
Maybe these comments weren't meant to be snarky, but the tone strikes me that way. Here's the nasty stuff - not about art, but about the region:
The museum's home of Bentonville, high in the Ozarks (the region is undeniably beautiful), is also home to the Walmart Corporation, and it's a semi-charming town, but the region feels a little spooky. Its stubborn ruralness has a whiff of meth hillbilly. As I walked and drove around town and dealt with my hotel's front-desk people and gas-station cashiers and the like, I could sometimes hear the sinister banjo playing in my head.
The "sinister banjo" is a reference to a scene in the movie Deliverance, a famous scene showing an inbred young hillbilly playing a banjo in a musical duel with a city slicker: "Dueling Banjos." While they're both playing, the hillbilly seems friendly, but turns unfriendly immediately after they finish - even though he won the duel - and refuses to shake the city slicker's hand.

As for the "whiff of meth hillbilly," that's simply gratuitous insult, unless Ms. Rees has some reason better than "stubborn ruralness."

Nevertheless, the review has some interesting things to say about the art, so go read it in its entirety for the positive remarks and a few photos of images from the exhibit - or see even more on the museum's own website: "State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now."

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At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You probably guessed I would respond to this blog. I did read the entire article and felt it was primarily positive regarding the exhibit. As I sit in my office less than a half mile from Crystal Bridges, I am not sure why Ms. Rees felt it necessary to throw in the one off-setting paragraph about our region of the country. I have been in NYC and Dallas numerous times, her two listed places of residence in her bio, and all I can think of is Ms. Rees has little to no understanding of life outside a big city, or she does not like the "down home" friendliness of those who served and waited on her while in our area.

Regardless, the article was basically positive and the art is definitely interesting.


At 10:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I left a snarky comment at the website that has her article. Perhaps you saw it?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha! I did not read through the comment before. Liked yours and left one myself.


At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi ya'll. (Let the antisnark begin.) There's no doubt that the American fine-art establishment (= over-privileged overpaid underfed NYC nitwits) has held a very dim view indeed of CB, what with its near-instant perfection, Walmart ties, and Rosie the Riveter (stone-cold masterpiece) and such . I've got a kid (John, last-and-final child) who's likely headed into this sad realm; it'll be interesting to see if he can avoid killing anybody (with a banjo perhaps), etc. Meanwhile by the way, assuming she was able to stay her frayed nerves sufficiently to actually sleep in the vicinity, dollars-to-donuts she stayed at 21C on the NYT's card. Nice place, that.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll take a look, Jay.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Meanwhile by the way, assuming she was able to stay her frayed nerves sufficiently to actually sleep in the vicinity, dollars-to-donuts she stayed at 21C on the NYT's card."

Pete, if you mean Ms. Rees, I believe she's based in Texas these days.

Jeffery Hodges

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