Thursday, May 21, 2015

a personally laden theoretical preface to a non-review

In my experience, most gallery owners stand by their aesthetics. If they happen to represent and sell only work that almost all art critics would regard as embarrassingly decorative, they do it because they believe in the value of the decorative to the point of extending a specific type of it from tableware to sculpture and paintings. (Hint: A good many critics would prefer other styles and genres of decoration, too.) Other galleries are at the opposite end of the spectrum, and dead set against giving visual pleasure if it means making concepts secondary, and sometimes even if it means rendering unpleasant or difficult concepts in visually pleasing forms.

Most galleries, though, are somewhere in between, tacking a bit to meet audience sensibilities, but not dishonestly so. Pondering the question this morning of how a gallery’s inventory might reflect the diverse tastes of an owner, I was reminded that the limited body of work that I myself make reflects my tastes as well as my capacities: it alternates between mischievously conceptual, usually word-oriented pieces and conceptually grounded tiny paintings devoted to subtle gradations of color and brush strokes. I don’t own very many works by others in either category; I would hope that our favorite types of work by others would be the stuff we could never hope to make for ourselves, and a broad range of it, at that.

And as suits someone who came to visual art by way of Asian aesthetics, one of my current favorite pieces (they vary month by month) is a text-only birthday greeting from Ruth Laxson eight years ago in which the sublime imbalance of lettering seems as delectably perfect in its imperfection as any piece of cloud writing by a Zen monastic master.

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