Saturday, December 15, 2018

What It Means

By Alan Singer

Jarrett Earnest
David Zwirner Books, New York City

In the evening I am deep into a new book that has been recently published through David Zwirner Books by the author and art critic Jarrett Earnest.  I have read his work before in "The Brooklyn Rail" but  this new book ( above ) is a collection of interviews with other writers who specialize in their opinions about contemporary art.  At my home I have book shelves devoted to art and art history but this is the first time I have purchased a volume where the author is interested in why the writers he interviews write art criticism and what their take-away is from this contemporary enterprise.

Recently published by Jarrett Earnest

My own curiosity about art critics was sparked many years ago - as I read the weekly news from John Russell and Hilton Kramer in the New York Times, and later Gary Indiana in the Village Voice.  When I was a student at The Cooper Union, I lived next door to the art critic Dore Ashton - whom I later studied with as well as the TV personality and Art in America editor, Brian O'Doherty.

I began my own art writing in the 1980's, first publishing in a local Brooklyn Newspaper ( Prospect Press ) and then in Arts Magazine and then in American Artist Magazine.  I used to get paid to interview artists, so it was a way of broadening my own scope as a painter and printmaker to go and see art and write about what I found.  If you are reading this blog, you can see that I am still doing what I love.  Coming back to the book of interviews - I really enjoy knowing more about some of the critics whose work I follow like Barry Schwabsky ( in the Nation ), Peter Schjeldahl ( in The New Yorker ) and Jed Perl, but here I am also introduced to several names that are new to me.  If you are interested in knowing more about why they write, look for this book and enjoy!

Rochester Contemporary Art Center
December, 2018

While we are talking about what it all means, take some time to go and view the new Member's Exhibition at RoCo.  I was over there for a while looking over the largest show they have had - with over 350 entries, hung salon style.  At first the show is a bit bewildering - so many interesting individuals, and then I found myself drawn closer to inspect the art on view - sometimes you have to kneel to get a better look.  There were several awards given out and then there are the yellow labels that indicate a popular vote is in progress.

Sometimes you have too kneel... to see a work by
Charles Baldwin & Becca Heurtley

Sometimes you have to kneel down to get a better look at a work, but I really have a problem with the art that is hung way on high.  Even with the new space at RoCo, this show is crowded.  Like many group shows the weaker works just get overlooked.  Still, there is great diversity on view and I suggest that you go with no preconceived notions for what you find -  it is like a treasure hunt!

"Hand Over Foot" by Tom Lightfoot

Since I have been in this area for a while I know many of the artists represented here, yet I am always surprised by what I did find in the show.  For example, there is a strong piece from my old colleague at R.I.T. - Tom Lightfoot which is all about human forms and  how they can be collaged together to create something very dynamic.  My student Melissa Mance has a very delicate black and white bird skull right above a peaceful landscape by Phil Bliss.

A wall of works:  Melissa Mance and Phil Bliss

It helps to have a sense of humor looking over all the art especially some of the table-top pieces.
There is fun to behold in a little work like: "Hope Springs Eternal" by Susan Mandl.  There are more than a few artworks in this show that have a Pop sensibility.

"Hope Springs Eternal" by Susan Mandl

Another popular teacher, Todd Stahl is featured here with a different kind of collage that has a different kind of Pop feeling. Several works in this show have a Wow! factor - like this.

Todd Stahl:  " Liberation"

There are famous artists like Robert Marx in the present show and many emerging artists. Like many group shows that are the focus for the holiday season, there is usually something for everyone, just take the time and go see for yourself.

Robert Marx at RoCo

To top it all off, I have some artworks on view in a different venue along with some other artists who you may know, and we have our exhibition on at The Axom Gallery, 176 Anderson, in the heart of the arts district of Rochester.  Come out and see the art and support your local artist and art scene, it is very vibrant at this moment!

Axom Gallery,  176 Anderson, Rochester, New York