I meant to write this up for Lynne (aka theartmonkey on artdc.org) for a DCist piece she was doing, but travel preparations got in the way.
Basically, it’s great. Opening night was the fist time I’ve been to an art opening where I felt relaxed, amused, was around friendly and happy people, felt the show was well run, and really liked the art – all at the same time. Other events have been fun, but stressful, Some have had great art but made me want to pull my teeth out and use them to self-mutilate my skin out of raging boredom.
When Flux happened, it was called an Art Sensory Overload – and it was! It was fantastic. The in your face flood of input was perfect and was what most shows lack. But it was in a big space. There were big pieces. There were bands. This is all great and I freaking love it, but those types of salon events aren’t –relaxing-. And the Wall Mountables show definitely is.
Just in case you doubt the objectivity of my own reactions to it, though (I mean, I am participating in it), I bring to your attention my 16 year old sister. Previously, we had brought this 4.x GPA local soccer star to the Modernism exhibit at the Corcoran. She had little to say to that and actually ended up falling asleep. Her friends took her to the Air and Space museum, but they couldn’t take it and ended up spending most of their time in the café there. When, however, she walked into the DCAC show, she positively beamed. And it didn’t stop there. As more and more people came in twice, three, even four times her age, the smile got even larger. She slowly walked the room, taking in each artist’s pieces one by one – individually. A number of times, I caught her staring intently at pieces with her mouth slightly open. It took her a good 30 minutes to make it through the entire room. By way of comparison, it only took us an hour to go through the entire Modernism exhibit. The difference was night and day. Later on, shes surprised me with some remarkable answers when I asked her which pieces she enjoyed the most.
What was different? What caused this…this…honest enjoyment of an art show? Obviously, the artists deserve a lot of the credit. Much of the work at the show is fun to look at and really well done. But, let’s be honest – “Bodies”, this is not. There was little “cutting edge” material (whether you define that in content, technique, or process terms). The DCAC also were a large part of the enjoyable atmosphere and overall experience – they really seemed to have their shit together. What I also think contributed (and Im showing my biases here) was the small venue with floor to ceiling art. If they had tripled or doubles the size of the venue, but kept the same amount of art, the effect just wouldn’t be the same. This is a concept I often have trouble communicating to others. I believe that an art show/opening is a production. It’s a piece of art in and of itself. I honestly don’t remember the names of any of the artists there whom I didn’t already know (including the participant who really loved my work), but I remember the feel of the whole show as a single experience. And venue selection is a huge, huge part of making that work.
Some will say that to really get a good art experience, it needs to be curated. I disagree. If you create the appropriate presentation vehicle (building feel, size, locations, advertising, artists’ callouts, press), then a salon-style art event like Wall Mountables will always catch the soul and human joy of art that constantly seems to get lost at more…clinically designed shows. In one case, you make 16 year old girls smile and laugh and talk about art. In the other, you attract commodities traders and inspire kids to be accountants.