@JackSkelley read and get back to me #KeepArtElite RT @LAWeekly Hammer Museum's experiment in art-world democracy http://t.co/cA88Bbdm
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Then the jury saw the show. One juror, Rita Gonzalez of LACMA, was from L.A. The other three were curators from New York — a balance determined with the theory that New Yorkers would have fewer ingrained biases about L.A. artists, though during the discussions, Gonzalez was crucial in providing context. The jury was told not to consider demographics, financial need or anything besides the art.
Philbin helped mediate but couldn't give her opinion. Only one finalist selection was unanimous from the beginning. There were some trade-offs and compromises, although in the end all the jurors had to agree on all five.
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When the finalists were announced, in late June, the Mohn Games' players seemed to be on the right track: Liz Glynn was on the list. She got the call while eating lunch with her gallerist. "It was exciting for five minutes," she says. Then she remembered: "What's the state of the website?"
The finalists use a range of media. They also span all three of the exhibit's locations — Glynn and Erika Vogt's multimedia installations and Meleko Mokgosi's walls of paintings are at the Hammer, while performance artist Simone Forti's exhibit is at Barnsdall Art Center in Hollywood, and the art collective Slanguage took over LAXART in Culver City. (These satellite venues are less traveled than the Hammer, creating anxiety that the playing field would be imbalanced.)
With the finalists in place, it was natural to wonder who had the leg up. But knowing what art the public likes is harder than it seems.
"No one can predict what the public will like," Cranston says. "It's like predicting what collectors will buy."
In the three years of Michigan's ArtPrize, voters have picked works that are realistic and benign: a painting of ocean waves, a large drawing of American cavalry officers, a glass mosaic of Jesus on the cross. This doesn't worry ArtPrize creator Rick DeVos, a 30-year-old web entrepreneur and grandson of the co-founder of Amway. "The goal is not to find better art through voting," he told the Grand Rapids Press. "I just want to see crazy crap all over Grand Rapids, and I think we've achieved that."
The outcome in Michigan fits the stereotype. In the play Red, now at the Mark Taper Forum, painter Mark Rothko (played by Alfred Molina) says dismissively, "You know what people like? Happy, bright colors. They want things to be pretty."
That perception would seem to favor the only pure painter in the group of Mohn finalists. Meleko Mokgosi, 30, grew up in Botswana, surrounded by artwork like reed baskets sold to tourists on safari, and learned to draw using graphite and charcoal. A high school teacher gave him paint, introduced him to German expressionism and sent him on a journey to Williams College in Massachusetts and UCLA's MFA program.
Mokgosi's large paintings wrap around three walls, showing a series of snapshots. The starting point is an incident in South Africa in the 1850s, when the Xhosa people killed their cattle in order to try to drive away the colonists and resurrect their ancestors. But the work extends to today. "It's trying to figure out how people in Southern Africa try to make themselves bulletproof, or immune to the colonial legacy," he says.
Some parts are realistic, like the faces of an affluent black couple dancing together in contemporary South Africa, or the rumpled skin of the dead cows lying in the burnt-orange sand. But other aspects are more metaphorical. Eras are jumbled. Large white expanses are left on the canvas, with ghostly sketches of incomplete doorways or mountains in the background. Shadowy soldiers stand behind the cows with spears, their legs a single brushstroke.
Mokgosi is influenced by psychoanalytic theory, and by cinema. The wall of paintings is the size of a screen. The white spaces are silences. "This kind of space or silence [is] to allow the viewer to come into installation, become part of installation," he says.
"I like the blank," says Andy, from West Hollywood, who was walking past the work one evening. "It's like skin," making the painting "like a tattoo." He found it hard to compare it to multimedia installations like Glynn's. "You're looking at this one like you would normally view art," he says of Mokgosi's paintings. "The other one you can play with — you can create your own piece."
Some evidence suggests the public is more comfortable with abstract work than one might think. Ivy Ross, the chief marketing officer at Art.com, which sells more than a million different images for your walls, says that photography and Old Masters are the site's top categories, but recently it has seen a rise in abstract art, especially mid- to late 20th–century artists: Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter and Richard Diebenkorn. Landscapes are still popular but the less literal versions have seen a sharp increase.
Ross pins the trend on the glut of photography, thanks to smartphones and the Internet. "You can find literal images of things in Flickr," she says. "People are resonating with art that takes that idea to an abstraction."
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