My generous host in London, curator and artist Rico Reyes, posed a thought-provoking question. We were visiting galleries, and I had something like an allergic reaction to psychedelic self-portrait videos at a gallery in London’s chi-chi West End (think: garish tie-dye animation superimposed on a bodysuit, with an Enya-like house music soundtrack, and hideous picture quality). I couldn’t hang, so I waited for Rico outside.
He asked: Do you look at art that is similiar to yours, or dissimilar?
Clearly my estimation of art is influenced by my tastes, and of course any artist would be happy to discover art that resonates with one’s own. So I admitted I usually look longest at art that is similar to mine. For example, I tend to spend less time with photographs and videos.
But I don’t feel that this is too limiting, because Jordan Kantor, a professor of mine in grad school, pointed out that art can look or think like one’s own. So while I headed out to the V&A just to see Simon Perriton’s installation just because its medium is papercuts, I’ll also happily perform actions with built-in futility in Jon Brumit‘s Vendetta Clinic, which was on view in Yerba Buena Center for the Arts earlier this year.
Which is not to mean that I don’t appreciate art that’s dissimilar to my own. I was recently surprised and impressed with a short video by Michelle Blade. Her work is on display in “I’m OK, You’re OK” (a group show I’m also in) at Playspace, the graduate gallery at CCA. (While our work can be tied together curatorially, I find her work different than mine because it seems uniformly optimistic.)
Michelle’s video consisted of a single shot of a gathering at Golden Gate Park. In the video, dozens of people, organized as a color spectrum of brightly hued shirts, hold hands and run in a winding spiral until they form a tightly knit column. And then they disperse. If you view the work as an abstraction, the colors advance in an orderly, quick pace, slow to a graceful endpoint, and then re-animate in disorderly joy. Colors overlap, the action reveals itself, and the activity disperses. It’s utopic — like the previously mentioned video — but Michelle’s is simple, short, endearing, unpretentious and pleasingly self-contained. While the video employs simple parameters, the social sculpture depicted in it is a fertile catalyst for ideas about art, painting, abstraction and social actions.
Though I tend to look for work that is similar to my own, I’m most interested in the elegant conveyance of complex ideas.