Tag Archives: postcolonial thoughts

Postcolonial Thoughts: Notes on Ellen Gallagher, Part 1

by Christopher Hutchinson

 

The American artist Ellen Gallagher is admired to the point of reverence on the other side of the Atlantic. Her distinctive combination of politics and prettiness has been catnip for collectors and critics alike these last 20 years. For the latter, there is always so much to talk about – her range of references from Moby Dick and Sol LeWitt to Black Power and Detroit techno, her trademark restyling of 50s ads and 60s sci-fi movies, her evident if excessively elusive intellectualism – all appealingly couched, to collectors, in the delicate aesthetic of her paintings and prints.

It is worth knowing about this high regard when visiting Gallagher’s retrospective at Tate Modern. It helps to explain the sheer scale of the event: almost 100 works, many of them multi-part, accompanied by a catalogue of eulogies by some of America’s finest art writers, and all kicked off by a gigantic blown-up reprise of Man Ray’s famous photograph of Matisse sketching an odalisque in harem pants on a couch with Gallagher’s own face pasted on to the model and Sigmund Freud in the role of Matisse.https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/may/05/ellen-gallagher-axme-tate-review

 

 

Note1-Painter & Videographer

This investigation comes about after an Atlanta,GA based non-profit Smoke School of Art’s weekly homework assignment and is primarily based on the “Brilliant Ideas” video and the well written review of her retrospective by Laura Cummings. Cummings does an excellent job of sifting through the multiple layers of sentiment and projections heaped unto this mediocre artist that validates Gallagher as the “most recognized African American painter since the nineties”. These notes take the well-articulated points by Cummings and the fodder present in Gallagher’s dialogue and points out the inadequacies that are consistent through Gallagher’s career.

Gallagher’s work makes one think fondly on the kitsch-laiden work of Romare Bearden. Once again this cut and paste mediocre practice of collage is proven to be the breeding ground of knick knack collectibles.

The gridded, collaged canvases of Gallagher’s ’90s works deal in eyes and lips borrowed from American minstrelsy, repeated as patterns across canvas http://waaaat.welovead.com/upload/rss_download/20130622/600_0/201306220003272123.jpg

 

The gridded collage above, Gallagher’s breakthrough piece, is an indicator of her true interest which has nothing to do with painting. No painter’s painter would be satisfied with this attempt at painting. Collage does not operate on the interest of painters who enjoy painting. So why does Gallagher retain “reverence” status as a painter? Cummings answers this question with nods to minimalist artists such as Agnes Martin’s still abstract grid paintings. It is a stretch of the imagination to include this comparison as valid because the success of Martin’s work is due to the primacy of paint. Martin would never cut and paste these transitions.

That distinction may not seem like much of a distinction but Martin never felt the need to move to the violent act of cutting a canvas to apply such a coarse transition as Gallagher. When an artist feels the need to abandon the primacy of a medium to plop down texture it is an indicator of lack of mastery. It is an indicator of an obvious inadequacy. This inadequacy then begs to be overlooked relying heavily on sentiment and the projection of others to overcome it. Without mentioning “minstrels” are these paintings good? No.

 

Minimalism

  1. A school of abstract painting and sculpture that emphasizes extreme simplification of form, as by the use of basic shapes and monochromatic palettes of primary colors, objectivity, and anonymity of style. Also called ABC art, minimal art, reductivism, rejective art.
  2. Use of the fewest and barest essentials or elements, as in the arts, literature, or design.
  3. Music A style of music marked by extreme simplification of rhythms, patterns, and harmonies, prolonged chordal or melodic repetitions, and often a trancelike effect. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Minimalist+art

Gallagher’s rough application is an aversion to minimalist practice, an aversion to Martin, Lewitt, and many others. Again, this comparison to these amount to nothing more than name dropping to force a conversation that is not there. Minimalist seeks to reduce and subtract mediums and ideas to its purest form. Gallagher’s laborious, often clumsy steps, amount to a contrived additive process where emphasis is placed on the quantity of labor not an interest in a stringent pursuit in her praxis.

Note 2.5-sentiment

Prior knowledge for this show. An entire gallery, for instance, is hung with numerous editions of what appear to be pretty much the same work: sheets of lined exercise paper glued to canvases, sometimes lacquered, sometimes painted fetching colours and sometimes featuring racial caricatures of big lips and bug-eyes. These mouths and eyes are always tiny and sometimes so faint as to be spectral, which carries its own meaning. Gallagher describes them as “the disembodied ephemera of minstrelsy”.https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/may/05/ellen-gallagher-axme-tate-review

Cumming’s articulates the above observation of Gallagher’s well. If Gallagher’s work requires prior knowledge of all sorts turns out to be a requisite to be received, then how can she be a great artist? A great resource maybe, like the Dewey decimal system–a way to access library books on several unrelated topics that have minute correlations to each other. Research should be a prominent part of every artist’s practice, but if it is a requirement for the viewer to do the same then that artist has not communicated properly, or it so generic and populous that everyone can create their own narrative. The sprinkling of buzzwords that are racially charged with advertising amounts those unimaginative juxtapositions of surrealists who exploited the indigenous primitive imagery to access their subconscious. This type of practice is just lazy.

 

This essay continues next month with “Postcolonial Thoughts: Notes on Ellen Gallagher, Part 2.”

 

Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

 

Postcolonial Thoughts: Romare Bearden & Kitsch

by Christopher Hutchinson

Romare Bearden is considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. He depicted aspects of black culture in a Cubist style….Born in North Carolina, he landed in New York City and studied with George Grosz. His early paintings were realistic with religous themes. Later, his works depict aspects of family culture in a semiabstract collage and Cubist style. He was also a songwriter and designed sets for the Alvin Ailey Company. http://www.biography.com/people/romare-bearden-40540#synopsis

 

Collage

col·lage noun 1. a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing. https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

Romare Bearden has left a significant mark on the African American art community many years after he has gone. He is the most prolific semi-abstract collage artist to be recognized in the realm of art. His influence cannot be easily dismissed. This article will attempt to do just that.

Being the most prolific semi-abstract artist means absolutely nothing in the pursuit of art. Anyone can manufacture a ton of crap, but production is not the sum of what makes a great artist. If production alone were the criteria to be successful many artists would have met and exceed Bearden’s position in the “Black canon.” This article questions his status as the major influencer he is to the African American art community.

There is an argument that Bearden is in many ways the first abstract art introduced to the African American art community. That is simply not the case. Harlem Renaissance artists like Aaron Douglas’ s cubism preceded Bearden by decades and is certainly more an artist. The collage practice period is a gross attempt at creativity. To cut and paste imagery is an ugly mode of praxis.

Any artist who likes the foundation of the arts (drawing, painting, and 3-D works) could never appreciate such a practice void of artistry. Collage as a medium is an offense to these foundations. If this is an artist’s entry point these artists eventually will need to return to those foundations. Bearden’s accomplishment is the fact that he produced this collage farce for his entire career repeatedly with little to no change. The fact that he could dredge through this monotonous cutting and gluing speaks to a kind of attrition that has not to do with art, rather a kind of masochism.

 

Kitsch

Kitsch noun 1. art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way: “the lava lamp is an example of sixties kitsch” adjective 1. considered to be in poor taste but appreciated in an ironic or knowing way: “the front room is stuffed with kitsch knickknacks, little glass and gilt ornaments”https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

Kitsch is a more appropriate discussion for Bearden’s prolific production. Knickknacks of African American culture scrapbooked on a large rectangle for consumption. The Harlem renaissance was not Kitsch. They were interested in realism. They used analytic and synthetic cubism to access an abstract realism. Those artists used their art to literally build a vernacular of tangible African American history not to be scrapbooked, rather a present lived moment. Bearden’s work subverts and erases the very foundation the Harlem renaissance built and reduced it to a postcard.

 

Bearden is used as a model for many artists to aspire to, and many artists succumb to his success as the rubric of their own practice. Many “Black galleries” are saturated with this dated knickknack art that only succeeds as a poor copy of an original consumable. These artists that choose to pick up the mantle of Bearden waste their lives never developing work for themselves. Why do “Black galleries” and collectors support this obvious cliché as the pinnacle of African American contribution? Especially when Bearden himself credits European study as his major source of influence, not the “Black canon.”

 

Collections
By Maynard Eaton

Jerry Thomas Jr. and Alan Avery may have engineered Atlanta’s single most significant black art exhibition ever this past weekend. Their unprecedented collaboration produced an historic cultural event for dozens of the city’s Who’s Who art aristocrats to admire and purchase rare original works by Romare Bearden, America’s preeminent African American artist.

The Lamp, by Romare Bearden

The Lamp, by Romare Bearden

“We are the first two art dealers – regardless of color – that have collaborated,” says Alan Avery, owner of the Alan Avery Art Company in Buckhead. “It doesn’t happen in Atlanta. But, I think it is even more significant that we are from different races and that we come from different backgrounds, but that we are collaborating for the strength of Atlanta, the Atlanta art scene and the Atlanta collector base.”

“Bearden is one of the all-time great artists,” adds Jerry Thomas, the owner and highly regarded impresario of Jerry Thomas Arts. “He would not only enjoy the prices that his works are bringing but also the mixed audience of both blacks and whites. I think that would have been very important to him. What makes it ever more significant is the collaboration between me and Alan Avery. Hopefully this will not only be the beginning of such collaborations, but will set a new mold for the country in terms of blacks and whites working together to produce more shows.”

Bearden’s work now commands a hefty price tag, with the pieces on display at Alan Avery’s gallery ranging from $40,000 to $400,000. It was an uptown show for an upscale cross-section of Atlanta’s elite, and the metro area’s sophisticated art connoisseurs. They didn’t blink at the prices. Six of Bearden’s prize pieces were sold the first day, and the exhibition continues through January. http://saportareport.com/romare-bearden-exhibition-the-tipping-point-of-atlantas-black-arts-renaissance/

From a financial standpoint $400,000 is a great investment, but at what cost. To train the next generation to replicate this means of production is appalling. An artist in 2017 doing a copy of Bearden, believing it to be a true representation of the African American community is beyond delusional yet many Black artists are doing just that. The stagnation located in the African American art community can be placed squarely at the feet of these collectors and galleries that praise the romanticized kitsch element present in all of Bearden’s production. There are many artists within the “Black canon” which would be more suitable as an entry point for African American artists.

 

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

 

Postcolonial Thoughts: Basel 2016 Pilgrimage

by Christopher Hutchinson

Art Basel in America is a 4 days art fair that is being held from 01 December 2016, Thursday to 04 December 2016, Sunday. This art fair is being organized by M. C. H. Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Limited. The venue of this event is Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) which is situated in Miami Beach, Florida, United States of America. Art Basel in America 2016 will showcase a wide range of products and services related to art and collectibles sectors from the leading exhibitors, for example, premier paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, prints, photography, film, video, and digital art. Over 250 exhibitors are expected at this event to showcase their products and services. Over 70,000 visitors are expected at this art fair. Visitor profile of this event includes collectors, artists, dealers, curators, critics and art enthusiasts. The recurrence of Art Basel in America is annual. The first year of this art fair is 2002. https://tradeshowz.com/art-basel-miami-beach

 

Reaffirmation

 

It’s always good to go to Art Basel Miami. The first time one goes as an artist one is simply overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of the works only experienced before in books. The first year your feet hurt from actually trying to see everything. You come in contact with real artworks that had a profound influence on you and are curious to see if they still have the same impact.

The art fan comes out and you are transported back to when you were purely in love with every aspect of being an artist. While you are having these spiritual encounters, thousands of people are mobbing through these spaces and they are just as zealous as you to reaffirm and acquire the impact of these art works. And while your favorite pieces are bringing back that nostalgia, two feet away is a gaudy monstrosity that has a completely jarring effect that breaks nostalgia–until two seconds later when you fall again for another piece.

 

Confirmation

 

You could spend everyday for a week just at the main Art Basel convention center. But there is literally tons more art to see. At the satellite fairs like SCOPE, CONTEXT, ART MIAMI etc.

 

 

These Satellite fairs are where you actually begin to see your and your peers’ work and in whose galleries. These fairs also include many of the same works at the main Basel but, for example, may contain the drawings and paintings of Richard Serra versus an actual full-scale sculpture. There is a sense of confirmation that you are on the right path. You also see the total and complete embrace of technology and art. There is a lot of 3d printed work, super-slick experimental materials, and florescent colors. This also confirms that you don’t need any of that either.

 

Wynwood Walls

The Wynwood Walls was conceived by the renowned community revitalizor and placemaker Tony Goldman in 2009. He was looking for something big to transform the warehouse district of Wynwood, and he arrived at a simple idea: “Wynwood’s large stock of warehouse buildings, all with no windows, would be my giant canvases to bring to them the greatest street art ever seen in one place.” Starting with the 25th–26th Street complex of six separate buildings, his goal was to create a center where people could gravitate to and explore, and to develop the area’s pedestrian potential.

The Wynwood Walls became a major art statement with Tony’s commitment to graffiti and street art, a genre that he believes is under appreciated [sic] and not respected historically. He wanted to give the movement more attention and more respect: “By presenting it in a way that has not been done before, I was able to expose the public to something they had only seen peripherally.” Murals by renowned street artists have covered the walls of the Wynwood Walls complex since 2009, and to create more canvases and bring more artists to the project, Tony opened the Wynwood Doors in 2010 with 176 feet of roll-up storefront gates. The painted exteriors and interiors of the doors reveal a portrait gallery. Murals have also been commissioned for Outside the Walls through 2011, in key locations outside the park itself. http://wynwoodmiami.com/listing_details.php?id=82

 

The Wynwood Walls have changed in 2016. A couple years ago it was bouncing with grimy street/graffiti artists and the walls stayed open all night. This year there is evidence that commercialism has spread. The scene is much more conservative than years past. While you can still find graffiti artists still there doing work, it was more curated, as opposed to other years.

The Wynwood basel is on the other side, across the water from South beach. There is a definite push going all the way to little Haiti, Miami.

 

Prizm Art Fair

WESLEY CLARK My Big Black America 84” x 144” x 14” salvaged and stained wood 2011 http://www.prizmartfair.com/prizm-program

WESLEY CLARK
My Big Black America
84” x 144” x 14”
salvaged and stained wood
2011
http://www.prizmartfair.com/prizm-program

Curated by Mikhaile Solomon

 Prizm Art Fair presents the work of international emerging artists with a select focus on solo presentations by artists from the Global African Diaspora. The theme for the fourth edition will explore the global impact of Africa’s cultural DNA.

Alexandra Smith, Alexis Peskine, Allison Janae Hamilton, Alonzo Davis, Amber Robles-Gordon, Ariston Jacks, Asser Saint Val, Cleveland Dean, Cosmo Whyte, Deborah Jack, Duhirwe, Ezra Wube, Felandus Thames, Francks Deceus, Ify Chiejina, Jamal Ince, James A Rush, Jayson Keeling, LaToya Hobbs, MahlOt Sansosa, Morel Doucet, Marvin Toure, Maya Amina, Musa Hixson,  Nadia Huggins, Nyugen Smith, Olalekan Jeyifous, Sharon Norwood, Shaunte Gates, Shawn Theodore, Sheena Rose, T. Eliott Mansa, Terry Boddie, Vickie Pierre, Wesley Clark, Wole Lagunju http://www.prizmartfair.com/2016-schedule-of-events

 

Little Haiti is where you find the Prizm Art Fair 2016. Prizm is where you have to go to see your global African and African-American contemporaries in the same space. This means one has to travel from South Beach across the water to Wynwood and a few miles more. This still illustrates the gap between the Global African diaspora and the Western art canon. African art is still in the basement of many museums. This fact is a sobering reminder.

It was worth traveling across the water, through Wynwood, and a few miles more to see a common visual aesthetic shared by many African diaspora countries working in the same vein. The work could have been presented better but was worth it. The William Cordova curated space was especially interesting.

The most worthwhile were the panel discussions that got a little rowdy with opposing views on the actual state of the black arts movement, and a generational gap or lack there of, in that movement.

 

Rubell Family Collection

High Anxiety: New Acquisitions
November 30, 2016 — August 25, 2017

High Anxiety: New Acquisitions presents selections of artworks from 32 artists acquired since 2014, many of whom explore polarizing social and political concerns through a broad spectrum of contemporary artistic practices. In gauging the output and energies of these artists we find creative currents that speak to our shared state of uncertainty, nervousness and pessimism. “Artists help us comprehend and grapple with the critical issues in our lives,” says Mera Rubell. https://rfc.museum/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/high-anxiety

 

The Rubell Family Collection consistently provides a challenging and pointed view every year. It’s a great space to cleanse the palette and reset after seeing so much art at Basel. The space and lighting are ideal to view the work. And the mob isn’t quite as pushy. Of all the artworks you remember in a year at Basel, the ones from RFC will be amongst them.

Basel is great to recharge your theory and practice. You get a chance to engage with your art inspirations as well as recognize what the current trends are. It’s a gathering of thousands of art minds. At Basel, art dialogue and methodology is the majority. Art lectures and talks are filled with genuine interest and responses. It is the equivalent of attending 50 museums and 20 artist talks in four days. You are able see trends from Denmark to Canada. That can be overwhelming so you learn to pace yourself the next year. Making the Basel pilgrimage is a mandatory.

 

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

Postcolonial Thoughts: Thoughts on Pedagogy-the Apprentice

by Christopher Hutchinson

Note 8- the foundations are the foundations

 

Many students start off with a foundation course with the wrong intentions, perfection being one of them. This idea of being a perfectionist actually slows the learning process and sometimes renders that foundation course useless. The “perfectionist” student is having a philosophical debate about something that actually has linear steps to grow in art pedagogy. The steps of the foundation course cannot be skipped without proper understanding of the previous lesson.

The foundations are repetitive exercises to build the individual artist’s tool bag. Questioning these foundation steps confuses the “perfectionist” student, not the professor. The professor already knows how to accomplish these steps. The foundations are the foundations. These courses are arranged to crescendo based on the previous lessons learned. Foundation courses work much like learning your addition and subtraction math facts. Imagine trying to learn addition and they constantly challenge the previous fact learned. That is the difficulty with challenging the foundation classes, especially when there are so many facts to be learned before a true challenge to the art-making practice can be articulated. In the foundation courses you get the tips and tricks to make the steps easier and gain actual repeatable knowledge that becomes second nature.

 

 

Many of these “perfectionist” students may grasp one lesson and then have a hard time getting the next lesson. The classes crescendo. The stopping and starting, coming late, setup time, and flow of the class have a lot to do with grasping all the facts necessary to move on effectively. These students complete the course and move on to another art class only to run into the same “art facts” skipped in the previous course. These students are choosing to accept only the lessons they feel suit them. This then breeds an incomplete artist with limited experience and low-confidence to attempt things they feel to be too difficult. This person ends up not challenging anything, becomes super sensitive during critique, and ends up quitting or changing majors. Confidence begins with knowing as many foundation art facts as possible. Develop the patience and drive to achieve and exceed every lesson—that is the “perfectionist” that is a joy to teach.

 

Note 9-The Apprentice

apprentice

[uhpren-tis]

noun

1.a person who works for another in order to learn a trade: an apprentice to a plumber.
2.History/Historical. a person legally bound through indenture to amaster craftsman in order to learn a trade.
3.a learner; novice; tyro.
4.U.S. Navy. an enlisted person receiving specialized training.
5.a jockey with less than one year’s experience who has won fewer than40 races.verb (used with object), apprenticed, apprenticing.
6.to bind to or place with an employer, master craftsman, or the like, forinstruction in a trade.verb (used without object), apprenticed, apprenticing.
7.to serve as an apprentice: He apprenticed for 14 years under a master silversmith.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/apprentice

 

Today’s lack of work ethic, required of an apprentice, may derive from the success of postmodern ideals. Ideals that advocate the erasure of craft and praise celebrity rather than grueling art practice. This generation of students wants to completely skip the foundation process and go directly to postmodern conceptual practice.  A real artist would enjoy every bit of every mundane exercise presented in foundation courses.  Only in going through and mastering those exercises will the artist begin to develop a vocabulary that could articulate a postmodern discussion. Postmodernism and conceptual art are only two movements in the history of art already dated.

Once again one may want to have a discussion on postmodernism and conceptual practice but run into the same issues that were not mastered in their foundation.  If students do not achieve smooth transitions in their compositions of still lifes, their postmodern and conceptual ideas will certainly be rough as well.  An artist has to have had exhausted the foundations to begin their art theory practice.  One has to learn multiplication and division before being ready to solve for x or do calculus.  One has to practice communicating successfully before achieving the subtlety of irony.

 

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

 

Postcolonial Thoughts: Thoughts on Pedagogy of the Visual Artist Continued (Color)

by Christopher Hutchinson

“Postcolonial Thoughts: Thoughts on Pedagogy of the Visual Artist Continued (Color)” is a followup to “Postcolonial Thoughts: Thoughts on Pedagogy of the Visual Artist.”

 

Note 5-It is not a style and it is not new

(noun) – A tint is a color to which white has been added to make it lighter. Take pink, for instance. Pink is a color, but it’s also a tint of red. Sometimes tints are referred to as “pastels.” While this is technically inaccurate (pastels are a type of crayon), it’s such a common phrase that it’s worth noting here. http://arthistory.about.com/cs/glossaries/g/t_tint.htm

The bad habits developed by so-called illustrators filter into the model for every other pursuit in art. Usually these poor traits, when challenged by a professor, yield a common response: “its just my style.” The harsh reality is that it is not a style and it is not. It is just lazy. The poor understanding of value gray scaling in drawing has been transferred to color. Where color has an even more demand for tint and shade.

Many of these illustrators employ a “style” of the easiest, laziest color palette possible: primary colors squeezed straight out of the tube. This is readily identifiable by artists as remedial, nowhere close to being an original style. Using colors straight out of the tube is not an artistic choice and it does not lead to a personal expression. The only possible outcome is mass marketed expression. For the non-artist all one has to do to see the proof of this is look at the difference between Ford company white versus a Mercedes Benz white. They are not the same. Using a manufactured color off the shelf is the equivalent of identifying with Walmart as an expression of “my personal style.” The most generic as special. This may be the point for instance in Pop art, but if that is not the point, then you have actually achieved a banal, mundane expression about something you care about.

(noun) – A shade is what one ends up with when black (or some other dark color) is added to a pure hue. Suppose you had some green paint and mixed a bit of dark gray paint into it. The resulting paint would be darker than (also known as a shade of) the original green. Think of a dazzlingly sunny day with intense color all around, then picture the way the light and colors change when you place yourself under the leafy shade of a tree.

The opposite of shade is tint. http://arthistory.about.com/cs/glossaries/g/s_shade.htm

The first painting does not use shade, tint, value, or any formal element to suggest a reason for the viewer to entertain this image for longer than a millisecond and then move on. Yet somehow this artist/non-artist is content to present this image as something other than generic.

 

Note 6- Ugly color

It is a misconception that complimentary colors are harmonious. They are actually the violent. All one needs to do to confirm this is look at nature. The most vibrant complimentary colors reside in all the poisonous animals as a warning not to proceed further. Complimentary colors in abundance are actually violent and should be used with the utmost care to make sure your concept is not overshadowed by violence. That violence is ugly.

The attraction to the highly contrasting and violent color schemes by these “artists/non-artists” are directly related to the lack of patience required to master the many levels of gradients skipped over in their drawing practice.

Pedagogy 3

Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue
In traditional color theory (used in paint and pigments), primary colors are the 3 pigment colors that can not be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors. All other colors are derived from these 3 hues. 

Secondary Colors: Green, orange and purple
These are the colors formed by mixing the primary colors.

Tertiary Colors: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green
These are the colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color. That’s why the hue is a two word name, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange. http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-design/basic-color-theory

 

Note 7- Still flat

A plane surface is a flat surface, and any distinct flat surface within a painting or sculpture can be referred to as a plane http://en.mimi.hu/finearts/plane.html

The flatness achieved by the painting above is also achieved by the way the color is applied. Certainly the lack of tint and shade also attributed to its flatness. Here the focus is on application. This flatness can be attributed to the mechanical pencil and the sharpie. The mechanical pencil to pen to sharpie is rough.

If the upper right hand corner and the lower right hand corner of a painting has the same color and color value it might as well be a solid sharpie line around the image. You have successfully flattened the image. If every color is also evenly distributed through the piece from top to bottom you may as well have the background blank, because you have now suggested the entire piece was completed at the same time. Same time equals flat.

 

Pedagogy

 

Many of these students are allowed to keep their bad habits while passing through the high school years and are confused why they have difficulty on the collegiate level. Artists calling themselves artists without ever hearing the term “formal elements of art.” Considering all the formal elements of art are the very basic understanding needed to actually begin to understand your identity, pallet, and purpose as an artist.

 
Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

Postcolonial Thoughts: Thoughts on Pedagogy of the Visual Artist

by Christopher Hutchinson

Pedagogy

noun, plural pedagogies.

1.the function or work of a teacher; teaching.

2.the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/pedagogy

 

This opinion has developed from years of experience teaching visual art on the collegiate level and recognizing that there are an increasing number of  students that want to be art majors–and the majority consider themselves illustrators.   Most of these students come to introduction art classes ill-equipped and advised.  This article is an exploratory investigation into such a student’s attitude and pedagogy.

This trend was confirmed recently during a visiting lecture to a mixed media classroom of high school students that overwhelmingly wanted to be illustrators.  The classroom of students had their portfolios and every student had the same bad habits that they will have to unlearn to become successful in the average college visual art foundation courses.

Note 1-Illustrators struggle in drawing class

 

Many of these high school students believe that illustration is an easier, freer, and cooler path to eventually produce their own cartoon/manga. In the very beginning of a student’s visual art journey, one should be open to many mediums and processes.  Elementary  through undergrad should be a fertile ground of experimentation with everything visual.  Each medium and field has its champion or interest that leads to further development, a development that cannot be fulfilled with just illustration. Any young artist that has not explored these with the same lust for creating is missing out.  Settling on illustration/animation in 9th grade is the equivalent of saying “hotdogs are the best food ever and there is nothing you can say to change my mind.” In the high school years students should become a fan of art and other processes.  They should be open to receive and consume all aspects of art to eventually make informed decisions.  Experiment with everything such as watercolor, etching, oil paint, drawing–especially drawing.

Note 2- Doodles are not drawing studies

In art, a study is a drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece, or as visual notes. Studies are often used to understand the problems involved in rendering subjects and to plan the elements to be used in finished works, such as light, color, form, perspective and composition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Study_(art)

Many of these self-proclaimed illustrators/animators cannot draw and have a very difficult time in introductory drawing classes on the collegiate level. These students often do not perform as well as students who are taking the course as a elective.  The elective students have not built up years of bad habits.  Elective students have not built up years of ego so they have the patience to receive proper information.

 

By focusing on illustration/animation as a student’s initial point of interest, bad habits get ingrained and affirmed for years.  Students are actually training themselves to have extreme contrast as a form of reality, but in reality contrast is not nearly so common.  They end up using super black sharpie markers and mechanical pencils, with no understanding of the many levels of gradation and value there are.

Sharpies and mechanical pencils are not the tools of someone interested in drawing. This problem is evident when these students attempt a a simple value scale.

 

At best, the years of copying their favorite X-Men characters leads to lineweight.  But surprisingly, many of these students’ linework also lacking.

Lineweight is a term that describes the relative ‘weight’ – strength, heaviness, or darkness – of the line against the background or support. It is governed by the pressure on your drawing tool as you make your line – whether this is decreasing or increasing the pressure on the tip so that it leaves behind more or less medium – or altering the angle so that more of the tip is in contact with the paper. http://drawsketch.about.com/od/drawingglossary/g/lineweight.htm

These doodles might as well be scribbles due to the fact that learning the nuances are not learned, rather they are crude lines void of aesthetic.  The doodles of these students are not learning when the majority of what they are practicing is copying a flat image, not looking at life. Those doodles are not studies.

These students’ doodles represent another major problem on the collegiate level: not being able to finish a work of art.  They have many sketchbooks of doodles without a portfolio of large complete pieces.  The work for years without ever completing anything. The point of the study is to learn to finish.  These students end up with a huge ego and years of unfinished work.  Ego comes from completion, not hype.

Note 3- Copying a style is not creative or unique

Students that claim to be interested in illustration/animation are not actually interested in drawing or art making.  They are interested in developing a “style unique to themselves.”  This usually means they want to copy a specific type of style and change the accessories of the character to make it “unique.” Most of these students come with this in mind as a valid pursuit of a career.  This is a huge mistake.  Copying a style is not a creative or artistic choice and definitely not unique.

Note 4-Pedagogy

After a little critique and probing of the high school classroom portfolios, the real reasons began to emerge as to the motivation behind wanting to become an illustrator.  What came up was excitement about the narrative, the movement, and the color of illustration.  Here is where pedagogy can have a huge effect with some additional probing, some additional recommendations, and support.  If a student is more interested in narrative, they need to be more equipped as a writer.  If a student is more interested in movement, then what kind of movement–physical movement or illustrated movement? If color–interested in what kind of color–muted, saturated, color application?

This new crop of self-proclaimed illustrators and teachers have to explore and challenge what illustration really means.  Many of these students, when they come to to the collegiate level, end up changing majors due to being ill-equipped artists that believe the skill of copying is an art form. They are very impatient students and expect quick results. There is a reason art classes are 3-5 hours long. Artmaking is not for the someone interested in quick results.

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Martin Puryear “Passing through the color line” Part III

by Christopher Hutchinson

The current exhibition at the Rubell Family Collection is made up of work by 31 African American artists. It shows more than 200 works of art, occupying the entire 45,000-square-foot exhibition space of the Rubell Family Collection. The show is called “30 Americans” and is a portrait of contemporary African-American art.

The artists presented are: Nina Chanel Abney, John Bankston, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Iona Rozeal Brown, Nick Cave, Robert Colescott, Noah Davis, Leonardo Drew, Ren?e Green, David Hammons, Barkley I. Hendricks, Rashid Johnson, Glenn Ligon, Kalup Linzy, Kerry James Marschall, Rodney McMillian, Wangechi Mutu, William Pope.L, Gary Simmons, Xaviera Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Shinique Smith, Jeff Sonhouse, Henry Taylor, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, Purvis Young.
30 Americans. Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Impressions from the Private View on December 4, 2008

The Rubell Family collection “30 Americans” is a very impressive collection of  Black artists.  This exhibition creates a forceful statement by placing African-American artists side by side, precept upon precept, academic and folk as a collective and as individuals.  Names such as Purvis Young, William Pope.L, and Wengchi Mutu are usually separated by a selfish collective taste.  In this exhibition there is a new automatic and organic dialogue that occurs between the vast range of Blackness and its contribution to the Western canon with those typically outside of it.  This exhibition is a huge statement to the fact that Black contribution is not only relegated to Basquiat; rather, Black/African has participated and contributed to a necessary American modern art dialogue.

Many collections of Black/African art are so specific that these obvious relationships are not present and are often seen as opposing points.  The success of this exhibit lies with the over 200 pieces in one place dialoging with each other, even though some of these artists capitalize on the victimhood of Blackness.  The dialogue is more important.  This exhibition can and should be used as a jumping off point young artists/collectors/and critics.

Martin Puryear, Deadeye, detail, 2002, Pine, 58-¼ x 68-1/16 x 13-3/8”, Private collection, Image courtesy McKee Gallery, New York, Photo: Michael Korol, New York © 2007 Martin Puryear. http://arttattler.com/archivepuryear.html

Martin Puryear, Deadeye, detail, 2002, Pine, 58-¼ x 68-1/16 x 13-3/8”, Private collection, Image courtesy McKee Gallery, New York, Photo: Michael Korol, New York © 2007 Martin Puryear. http://arttattler.com/archivepuryear.html

 

This begs the question.  Why Martin Puryear was not included in this exhibition. Did Puryear’s successful transition into Western academic dialogue exclude him from this dialogue past and present of Blackness?  The Rubells would definitely know of the Yale graduate with numerous accolades.  The quote below by Rubell Family answers the previous questions.

We decided to call [the exhibition] “30 Americans.” “Americans,” rather than “African Americans” or “Black Americans” because nationality is a statement of fact, while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all. And the number 30 because we acknowledge, even as it is happening, that this show does not include everyone who could be in it. The truth is, because we do collect right up to the last minute before a show, there are actually 31 artists in “30 Americans.”
—Rubell Family, November, 2008 – See more at: http://www2.corcoran.org/30americans/artists#sthash.g6ewfeOD.DXC4nVKi.dpuf

Collections

The RFC (Rubell Family Collection) signals a change where it is no longer acceptable to constantly reiterate and validate a collection by acquiring the mandatory Basquiat to be contemporary and acquire a Bearden as the crowning achievement of Black/African authenticity.  The RFC frees the tried and trodden “Black art” rubric to include artists present today.  Many African-American institutional collections are littered with board members that are stuck promoting antiquated notions of what encompasses the Black/African authenticity and forcing new artists to abide by developed Harlem renaissance, never truly surpassing Ernie Barnes’s “J.J” sugar shack.  That “J.J” rubric points to the main problem with those type of collections. They are mostly referential, never actually contemporary—rather, they are doomed to be dated, working backwards in a romanticized Black vocabulary.  At the time the sugar shack was created it was already dated.  The RFC proves this is unacceptable in 2016.

 

Globalism & the Universal

“The dominant propaganda systems have appropriated the term ‘globalization’ to refer to the specific version of international economic integration that they favor, which privileges the rights of investors and lenders, those of people being incidental.

In accord with this usage, those who favor a different form of international integration, which privileges the rights of human beings, become ‘anti-globalist.’

This is simply vulgar propaganda, like the term ‘anti-Soviet’ used by the most disgusting commissars to refer to dissidents. It is not only vulgar, but idiotic. Take the World Social Forum, called ‘anti-globalization’ in the propaganda system—which happens to include the media, the educated classes, etc., with rare exceptions.

The WSF is a paradigm example of globalization. It is a gathering of huge numbers of people from all over the world, from just about every corner of life one can think of, apart from the extremely narrow highly privileged elites who meet at the competing World Economic Forum, and are called ‘pro-globalization’ by the propaganda system.

An observer watching this farce from Mars would collapse in hysterical laughter at the antics of the educated classes.”—Noam Chomsky http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2016/04/wef-world-economic-forum-3340968.html

How the RFC differs from a typical globalist/universal exhibition is while globalism/universal exhibitions claim to present an inclusive art theory and methodology, they often do not, rather they accomplish the subjugation of indigenous peoples under the Western rubric of formal investigation.  If the formal rubric cannot be imposed then another artist is chosen that has indigenous qualities that can still qualify as new “discovery” under the formal elements. This “discovery” paints a “savior” view of the indigenous people in where the native is still dependent on the “discovery” of the West to be valid.

Global exhibitions are filled with artists like Martin Puryear where the indigenous aesthetic is suppressed to connect the visual language of the formal.  Globalism allows the stagnation of Western academia mastered in graduate school to spread to the globe under the pretense of advocating for the indigenous.  It is in this deceit that Puryear is muddled.

African-Americans should not edit their work to “Pass” into a Western vernacular that relies heavily on the African aesthetic.  The cost of “Passing” is too high, so high it too becomes just as dead as the West.  Do not entertain these calculated stipulations that Puryear subscribes to that has made him successful.  “Passing” constantly needs validation.

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

Postcolonial Thoughts: Martin Puryear “Passing through the color line” Part II

by Christopher Hutchinson

There is a simplistic, minimal aesthetic present in Puryear’s work that is undeniably beautiful. He uses the material organically to create semi abstract pieces that have figurative quality and yet not limited by the figure itself. The figure being manipulated and molded is Africa.

To credit these objects for their aesthetic minimal qualities means one should immediately correlate African wood working practice as intelligent design, and it is unfortunate it does not. If Puryear’s work is received as Western mastery and African woodworking is his teacher, then a deeper look into African aesthetics should be noted in Africa’s contribution to modern art. Labeling of his work as post minimalist is insufficient.

The mining of Africa’s aesthetic and ritual that began with Picasso has become a standard practice in Western academia to the point where the visual language of Africa is considered Western. It is not. This pilfering of Africa still has no recompense or tax. This tax free appropriation used over and over again to make the West relevant once more. This can be seen in cubism, surrealism, and arte povera.

Arte Povera

Ar·te Po·ver·a

a style and movement in art originating in Italy in the 1960s combining aspects of conceptual, minimalist, and performance art, and making use of worthless or common materials such as stones or newspapers, in the hope of subverting the commercialization of art.- 1960s: Italian, literally ‘impoverished art,’ from arte ‘art’ + povera (feminine of povero‘needy’) https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=art%20povera

To be a true ecologist today, one must re-establish the aesthetics of beauty within the realm of human trash and material waste. –Slavoj Žižek

http://www.escapeintolife.com/art-reviews/michelangelo-pistoletto-venus-of-rags/

Arte Povera once again acknowledges the stagnation of western academia and proposes a rail against this limit by including trash/outsider as a point of inspiration. The Zizek quote points to the inauthentic intellectual guise wrapped up in this movement. Michaelangelo Pistoletto’s Venus of rags would seem to fulfill the hope to “re-establish the aesthetics of beauty” of Zizek. Does Venus of rags accomplish this re-establishment? It does not.

Like most movements that attempt to redefine Western academia based on the established aesthetic, all that is accomplished is an affirmation of the binary. Pistolletto’s Venus accomplishes that binary where it is clear that Venus is still Venus, even if she is turned and looking at trash, and the trash is still trash. The binary is reinforced not swayed. Povera’s illustration of the binary has now become the definition of commercial or the new rubric to an acceptable commercialism.

The West’s constant search to appropriate and inject new life in the dead lineage of its academia poses a primary concern for all those wishing to gain acceptance and validation of their work from the same. Those validated by the West breathe life back into the lingering notions of aesthetics.

Black, White & Gray

This systemic issue is problematic when considering the success and politics of art makers. At times it may seem that there is no other way but to accept the terms of academia but that is simply not true. There is a way to retain ones artistic integrity and aesthetic.

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1961. He received a BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Bradford transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall-size collages and installations that respond to the impromptu networks—underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public space—that emerge within a city. Drawing from the diverse cultural and geographic makeup of his southern Californian community, Bradford’s work is as informed by his personal background as a third-generation merchant there as it is by the tradition of abstract painting developed worldwide in the twentieth century. Bradford’s videos and map-like, multilayered paper collages refer not only to the organization of streets and buildings in downtown Los Angeles, but also to images of crowds, ranging from civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s to contemporary protests concerning immigration issues. http://www.art21.org/artists/mark-bradford

Mark Bradford amongst others exist in black & white and fear the gray. Bradford exists with integrity and aesthetic. Both Bradford and Puryear have received have been featured on Art21. Bradford differs from Puryear in his clarity of and honesty of material which is then manipulated aesthetically.

Bradford uses found material from his community, not out of pity or sentiment, but an investigation of the language promoted in the community. He uses it as fuel for his artistic practice and does not shy away from its origin. Bradford’s work is also not limited by its origin, nor has it become a spectacle of Blackness. His work achieves a critique of the West without illustrating the binary and upholding its rubric.

Bradford uses found material from his community, not out of pity or sentiment, but an investigation of the language promoted in the community. He uses it as fuel for his artistic practice and does not shy away from its origin. Bradford’s work is also not limited by its origin, nor has it become a spectacle of Blackness. His work achieves a critique of the West without illustrating the binary and upholding its rubric.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Martin Puryear “Passing through the color line” continues next month with Part III.

 

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

 

Postcolonial Thoughts: Martin Puryear “Passing through the color line” Part 1

by Christopher Hutchinson

Puryear

PBSArt21

The Museum of Modern Art presents a major exhibition of the sculpture of the acclaimed American artist Martin Puryear (b. 1941). The retrospective will feature approximately forty-five sculptures, following the development of Puryear’s artistic career over the last thirty years, from his first solo museum show in 1977 to the present day. Puryear began his career in the 1970s alongside other members of the Post-Minimalist generation. Working primarily in wood, he has maintained an unwavering commitment to manual skill and traditional building methods. His sculptures are rich with psychological and intellectual references, examining issues of identity, culture, and history. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication illustrating all works in the exhibition, with additional reference illustrations of the artist’s works and other comparative material. http://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/28?locale=en

Western Bloodline

Without question Martin Puryear has secured his space in Western art as a master sculptor. He has been regarded by many as being among elite sculptors of any nationality. He has successfully transcended “race” and his work is received as purely art. Not art with an asterisk. Puryear achieved this without the implementation of overt ethnicity, sympathy and propaganda.

Puryear has lead by example the proof of how to be successful as an African American artist within the Western art rubric. Puryear is fully accepted into the Western art vernacular as if there was and is no difference between Africa and the West at all. He is neatly included in the “Post-Minimalist generation”. This is the smoothest transition into the Western academia by an African American artist to date. This rarity of smooth transition deserves an inquiry.

Martin Puryear Bower

Martin Puryear. Bower. 1980. Sitka spruce and pine, 64″ x 7′ 10 3/4″ x 26 5/8″ (162.6 x 240.7 x 67.6 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.Chttp://www.moma.org/d/assets/W1siZiIsIjIwMTUvMTAvMTQvMm80ZjF2dHg0b18xMzU2MS5qcGciXSxbInAiLCJjb252ZXJ0IiwiLXJlc2l6ZSAyMDAweDIwMDBcdTAwM0UiXV0/13561.jpg?sha=aa0796293d9d8397

Passing as an Artist

Passing: African Americans and other minorities were historically discriminated against in the U.S., so the fair-skinned offspring of whites and people of color often pretended to be white to take advantage of the opportunities that would’ve otherwise been denied to them. This practice is known as passing or passing for white. It often required individuals to leave their hometowns and family members behind to ensure that they’d never come across anyone who knew their true racial origins. http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/g/Definition-Of-Passing.htm

Many young minority artists wish for the anonymity of Whiteness when it comes to their work. These artists crave a world where the artwork comes first before skin tone. Many of these artists will inevitably hatch a plan to make a beautiful exhibition and hire a White person to pretend to be them during the exhibition to attempt to get an honest response to the artwork, not skin tone then response and then eventually assumptions.

Many of these artists that begin down this path end up with work that no longer reflects them. They end up ghosts that produce pretty objects, objects that are manufactured by IKEA. Only focused on commercial success. Wanting to “pass” is a dangerous proposition that could consume your entire artistic practice.

Puryear’s work begins at an authentic African place and has succeeded in “passing”-Why and how? YALE’s Master of Fine Art department along with an impeccable mastery of craftsmanship go a long way in that smooth transition into the Western credence. Puryear’s new canon’s first stipulation is to educate yourself. You must know where your work fits in the analogs of history. The second order is to make the work impeccable. These mandates immediately remove your artwork from the category of folk, primitive, street, naïve and outsider art-outside of Western academia.

Contemporary artist Martin Puryear carefully considered the site requirements before designing and fabricating That Profile , the large-scale sculpture commissioned for and installated on the Getty Center’s Tram Arrival Plaza. In this video, Puryear’s comments about the design process accompany footage of the sculpture being made, transported, and installed.

Avoidance of Africa

African Mende carved wooden Janus mask, Sierra Leone. Double sided figural visages. 17"H.http://antiquehelper.rfcsystems.com/Full/217/70217.jpg

African Mende carved wooden Janus mask, Sierra Leone. Double sided figural visages. 17″H.http://antiquehelper.rfcsystems.com/Full/217/70217.jpg

Mr. Puryear’s experience with wood, his signature material, has a long history. His father was an amateur carpenter, and he made guitars while in college. As a member of the Peace Corps, he learned “old world joinery” from local woodworkers in Sierra Leone. While attending the Swedish Royal Academy, Mr. Puryear spent three weeks in the studio of furniture maker James Krenov https://mnaves.wordpress.com/tag/contemporary-sculpture/

Stipulation number three, avoid directly addressing Africa, race, ritual, and identity. To do so would pull the work back into the realm of folk. This avoidance is crucial to the commercial longevity of an artist that has “passed”. The need to distance oneself from Africa preserves the Western rubric. This reasoning leads to this acceptance of Puryear’s work as Minimalism and Formalism first primarily. These mandates allow his clearly African practice to be in a visual limbo.

This visual limbo presents itself as the “universal” or “global” aesthetic where any quasi-indigenous people could possibly make it. In this global/universal dialogue the work can and could be applied and credited to many different art movements, all of which use Africa as a springboard to become Avant guard or relevant again while Africa remains primitive. It is easy to see how could be linked to post-minimalism.

Often associated with both Minimalism and Formalist sculpture, Puryear rejects that his work is ever non-referential or objective. The pure and direct imagistic forms born from his use of traditional craft are allusive and poetic, as well as deeply personal. Visually, they encounter the history of objects and the history of their making, suggesting public and private narratives including those of the artist, race, ritual, and identity. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Martin-Puryear-Catalog-from-show-Art-Institute-of-Chicago-Neal-Benezra-/252222144694

This inquiry leads us to this topic. If Puryear is only using Africa as a point of appropriation and inspiration, then how is he any different than Picasso? And if he is acting like Picasso, operating from a colonial view of Africa then he should also be held accountable for that as he continues subjugation of Africa to exalt the West. Herein lays a major problem with attending any institution. If during the process of receiving your desired degree one actually reinforces the Western canon.

Some may say Puryear is not actually avoiding anything; rather he is very subtly and subversively handling such divisive topics as race, identity, and ritual. Those who entertain this thought should be reminded of Puryear’s other stipulation…every opportunity one has to speak about his/her work, make as many references to iconic Western art history. He is not subtle about the West.

 

Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Wendy Red Star’s Native Spectacle & Satire

by Christopher Hutchinson

Satire

There is a persistent problem that emerges amongst marginalized artists. The attempt to use satire as a clever way to expose the inadequacies of systematic colonialism often only succeeds in proving the accuracy of the colonial structure. The Harlem Renaissance artists and thinkers were accused of assimilating and practicing the traits of the same colonial regime they tried to separate themselves from. This problem is present in the work of Wendy Red Star. The satire she employs simply does not exceed the status quo native propaganda proposed by the Western depictions.

Wendy Red Star’s socially critical installation draws inspiration and employs imagery from growing up on the Crow Indian Reservation in south-central Montana. Historic photographs and regalia are juxtaposed with tapestries, text, and objects she has constructed to re-humanize a past tribal leader whose image has been appropriated for commercial use. Photographs of Chief Medicine Crow (c. 1848-1920) were taken in Washington, D.C., when he and four other tribal leaders were coerced into signing a treaty ceding a portion of tribal lands to the United States Government. His image has frequently been used to represent a stereotypical, nameless, Indian “brave.” Red Star’s newest installation is an extension of her earlier work, which employed gender-focused, political self-imagery, not unlike the art of Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, and Frida Kahlo, to draw attention to the marginalization of Native Americans.-http://portlandartmuseum.org/exhibitions/apex-wendy-red-star/

“In APEX, by replicating a historical museum diorama, she names and honors Medicine Crow, and revises the white man’s historical paradigm.” http://portlandartmuseum.org/exhibitions/apex-wendy-red-star/

Red Star’s naming of chief Medicine Crow is a lateral move from artifact to artifact. She wants to reclaim the image but has reprinted the image, which has notes in red scribbled all over the image. This is the same complaint with which she convicts Whites–the use and over use of the image of Medicine Crow. Red Star’s use of this image, while she intends it to be different, is no different than the sea of generalized depictions of Natives.

This points to another major factor that affects marginalized artists, the process of academia. Natives that attend art programs without peers in their nationality often feel the need for their counterparts to understand and communicate in Western language while receiving no feedback within their own language. That process often produces a native artist which has successfully communicated in a colonial way with very little of their own language present in the work. Academia should clarify one’s own language, not assimilate to the norm. Red Star is a self-proclaimed research artist and ends up with the same conclusions anyone else would from any google search about Crow Native. Nothing is added here except for the fact that she is a Native Crow. Her work is generic.

Spectacle

Wendy Red Star’s satire of White Squaw is a reinforcement of Native iconography as spectacle rather than a critique of the colonial. Many artists who deal with identity art only succeed at a reinforcement, not a critique. Red Star fulfills the directive of the original White Squaw novel narrative. Squaw being the half White and half Native that infiltrated and coerced Natives to acquiesce to the Whites.

Once again the clever trick in role playing here is not successful in surpassing the original intent of Western propaganda. The original novel has a White woman pretending to be an authentic Native. Red Star is an authentic Native assuming the role. That is a problem because it gives validation to the original novel, not an investigation to actual relations between Whites and Natives. Marginalized artists must be careful not to have so much of the colonial in their dialogue that it overshadows the dialogue of the indigenous.

Authority to name primitive

August 29, 2009–January 10, 2010

The objects featured in this exhibit, ones seen publicly for the first time, are drawn from a private collection developed over the past 30 years by an adventuresome couple from Ten­nes­see. What started as a simple memento of the Southwest—a pair of small kachina dolls purchased in Santa Fe, New Mexico—eventually led to a remarkably rich and diverse collection of items produced by Indian peoples throughout all culture areas of Native North America. http://mcclungmuseum.utk.edu/exhibits/american-indian-art/

As well-intentioned as the McClung museum in Tennessee may be, the mere fact that contemporary Native exhibitions still are attempting to “discover” the Natives is a problem. This leads to the most disturbing aspect of Red Star, the documentary at the McClung museum is actually more thorough than Red Star’s own accounts.

The West has long held the power to name a culture as primitive. This is the problem of the “Other.” How can “Others,” including Native Americans, name and control their own dialogue? –Not with Satire & Spectacle.

 

Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

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