Last night I attended the ArtPrize Critical Discourse, Battle for the Top Ten. I attended the same event last year and had been looking forward to this year's discussion. There were 10 minutes to discuss each piece with the first two minutes belonging to a member of the assembled artist/scholar panel and the remaining eight minutes belonging to any members of the audience who had something to contribute to the discussion.
With some of the art included in the Top Ten, there was potential for chaos, but I was impressed at the level of respect and decorum maintained during the discussion! Think constructive criticism, not cable news rant-fest. People were able to air their critiques good and bad within a framework that looked at each piece from an artistic standpoint - making judgements on things like space, context and execution. It was fun to hear what everyone thinks, share my own thought (about David Sprigg's piece Vision) and have quiet side conversations about the pieces with my friend M!
Interesting points that were brought up:
Someone wished Chris LaPorte's piece Cavalry, while technically stunning, would have had more relevance to today's world or would have had some emotional connection. Someone else argued that anyone who has been through a war could connect with the piece.
The subject of self-promotion by the artist was brought up during the discussion of a couple pieces. Mia Tavonatti, the artist behind Svelata, your name was mentioned in particular! Elephant Walk dude, Fredrick Prescott with the stickers, we also talked about you! People felt it was distracting and took away from the overall experience one could have with the piece if there was a sales element present - I used the phrase carnival barker in a side conversation. Let the work speak for itself!
Svelata, Mia Tavonatti
Speaking of letting the art speak for itself, artist's statements were discussed. If the story behind the piece is bigger or more interesting than the piece itself, maybe you chose the wrong medium. Maybe a book might be in order? Many of the Top Ten pieces could fall into this category. One person said that if we knew the full story behind Wander Martich's Helping Mom one Penny at a Time it makes the piece more powerful. I heard the artist's story and I still see a penny. Sorry.
SteamPig, SteamPig Experiment
Dances with Lions, Bill Secunda
Elephant Walk, Fredrick Prescott
In discussing the different animal pieces within the Top Ten - Dancing with Lions, Steam Pigand Elephant Walk - the draw they have with children and how children love to interact with them, playing on them at times was brought up as a plus for the pieces in question. Another commenter basically said, we're supposed to be judging art, not playground equipment. That was an oh, snap moment! Also, what if any is the story these animal pieces tell. Someone called them "craft" or "feats of engineering".
Someone made the point in talking about the Beili Liu's Lure/Wave, Lure/Forest piece that a work of art should transport you somewhere else. It seemed that this piece was a crowd favorite for being able to do so. You don't focus so much on "how'd the artist do that?" The artist's statement didn't tell the story of how many yards of thread or how many hours it took to create the piece. It simply told of an ancient legend and how the piece was her interpretation of it. I personally love this piece. It captivated me when I saw it. I could stand on the corner of Division & Fulton just peering through the windows at it for a long, long time.
Lure/Wave Lure/Forest, Beili Liu
David Sprigg's Vision had the same effect on me. Other's weren't so sure about it. A couple people mentioned that they had seen images online before seeing it in person and they weren't blown away by it because it didn't match their expectation. I was lucky enough to experience the piece the first night of ArtPrize, without any prior knowledge and it drew me in. Commenters wanted to know what Spriggs was trying to convey though. I don't think there has to be a specific message to every piece - especially if it's beautifully executed and it draws you in, yet allows you the space to create your own understanding of it.
Vision, David Spriggs
Wish you could have been there! What are you thinking about the Top Ten? Have you voted yet or are you trying to decide between a few pieces? If you are lucky enough to be in town, spend some time with each piece and ask some hard questions about each one. Your vote matters, so be an informed voter!! Have an amazing day and enjoy ArtPrize Day Eleven!