Art Is A Flag Flying Above A Smoking Battlefield
12th National Juried Exhibition
August 4th – August 27th, 2017
Second Saturday Reception: August 12th, 6 - 9pm
There is a circuit of juried shows and a circuit of judges for them and this ritualistic gravy train has come for me many times over the past twenty years or so. The tropes come and never go. The predictability sets in with what is submitted. Judges dilemma: Does one reward an artist for making an adequate version of a popular, established (maybe even a favorite) painter? If you go into one of these with the philosophical questioning of what originality is, well you’re gonna walk out hoping there isn’t such a thing, because the truly, truly original stuff submitted to these contests scalds your eyballs… (Jack Nicholson voice): You can’t handle originality!
For the first time in my memory, this exhibit brought overt political art, and not just a little bit of it. If art is the pulse, looking at all the work submitted tells me the pulse is moving on and the world we once knew has ended. 2014 has more in common with 1999 than it does 2017. The great artists from just a few months ago are sealed up on display in acrylic boxes (haven’t you heard?) …neutered. Where does that leave us? Well it basically leaves us lost. But that is good, because without a map or destination we are free. Free to fight the wars of our choice. A phrase on a FaceBook friend’s page caught my eye: “Art is a flag flying above a smoking battlefield” (Andrew Auten, 2017). That is 2017. This is my curation of that flag.
This show was curated, not juried. A juried show reveals how guilty a juror feels for their taste. The whole act of jurying is compromises made to compensate for none of the sculptors submitting being Louise Nevelson and none of the abstract painters being Robert Motherwell and none of the hummingbird painters being interesting and so on. A curated show is an exhibition. This show was approached as a curated art show. There is a theme to this show: Art Is A Flag Flying Above A Smoking Battlefield.
Basically, and unapologetically, this is an exhibition of flags flying above a smoking battlefield; it is meant to be personable and weird, icky in some places and exalted in others. It is 2017. Put this in a drawer or a box and see how weird it really was, how separated it was from the first half of the decade. Think about it when you look back on 2017 in 2030, okay? Some of these images mean something to me. Some of the art here would have made the “just jurying” cut, picking the little categories off with my jurying BB gun to make sure everything antiseptic and safe about art was assured. But with this curator you aren’t getting academic jargon meant to dissuade you from standing up. The work in this show was chosen as something for you to look up at thru the smoke of where you are in your mind and life right now.
The universal truth in which the curator is just some objective lout in the corner with his or her arms folded is gone. It was born in the salons of pre-modernity and it maybe made it to 2014… but since then a universe has come and gone, objectivity and the pretenses toward it are at best now fake theory. It is 2017, a new world, a smoking battlefield, and there is NO neutrality. None. You say something, you mean it. You post something, you believe it. The wars abound and there is no irony in picking a side (it could be a matter of life or death). We are erasing a binary while the chiaroscuro of the mundane sharpens. Breathe deep, for, as Devo sang, we’re going under. I fly the work in this show above our smoking battlefield.
—Mat Gleason, June 2017
Founder of the highly controversial Coagula Art Journal, Mat Gleason is an internationally recognized art critic and curator of contemporary art. Coagula, his brainchild, was the pioneer of institutional critique aimed at the myriad centers of power in the art world. The success of the publication was based on its irresistible skewering of fine art sacred cows. As David Bowie himself raved in a 1999 review of the Coagula anthology “Most Art Sucks”, the magazine… “is cruel, insensitive, unfair and thoroughly readable from cover to cover.”
Gleason’s sharp analytical tongue and ability to articulate aesthetics served him well in analyzing and critiquing competitive body painting in the Ru Paul-hosted “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint”, the television series where he sat as one of the regular judges in its lone season on network television. He has lost count of the number of exhibitions he has curated and while blogging, writing about art and continuing to publish a milder print version of his magazine, operates Coagula Curatorial, his gallery of contemporary art on Chung King Road in L.A.’s Chinatown. A southern California native who hates all of the Bay Area’s sports teams, especially the A’s, he lives with his wife (artist Leigh Salgado) and dog (Aybar) near the city of Vernon, just south of Downtown L.A.
12th National Juried Exhibition Artists
Kadie Sue Anderson
Mayra Ramos Chavez