Art Letter (5/8/09)
The ArtChicago and NEXT fairs revealed some changing trends in the art world. Yes, there were fewer high caliber galleries and correspondingly less high-priced, less high quality, less kickass art on view, but that makes sense.
It is easy and satisfying to be unequivocal in my respect and admiration for the Hyde Park Art Center. Thatís because we share an agenda; showcasing what is good about art in Chicago and trying to get more artists more attention right here at home.
I travel a lot and Iím always looking at and for art wherever I go. I believe there is a unique phenomenon that occurs in Chicago - the preponderance and proliferation of apartment galleries and artist run spaces. This happens for a few reason, More artists graduate from the several art schools here than can be absorbed by the system. Chicago galleries are doing an insufficient job of responding to the needs of the community. The artworld is evolving, becoming broader, more democratic, more internet savvy and the existing and arcane support structure remains old school.
Given the existing deficiencies here, it is important that alternative galleries have risen fill the void. Often barely legal, they donít focus on sales, or bigger-is-better or even on perpetuating themselves. They focus on the quality of their relationships with artists and on presenting art that fits their vision. They are performing a wonderful, invariably fun, service to a too small audience.
To honor their existence, to inform us, and to acknowledge the growth of Chicagoís art community the Hyde Park Art Center opens Artists Run Chicago this Sunday. This is a fabulous, original, well-conceived presentation that shines a light on a significant sampling of artist run spaces that have come and gone over the years. I can remember many that are not included, but there are a lot of inclusions that I wasnít familiar with during the time they were here. This is a show jam-packed with content where those who ran the spaces were invited to present a sampling of the art they showed. Itís a satisfying trip down memory lane as well as an eye-opener. Wonderful.
I want to see artists take responsibility for their careers and not just the next work of art theyíre about to create. Too many artists resemble lap dogs thinking that once they have a gallery relationship their travails will be over. Hell, it is imperative that once in a relationship with a gallery the artist persists in taking responsibility for how they are treated by the gallery and what the gallery does for them. An artist would be very foolish to assume that a galleryís interest equals their own.
Iím particularly impressed when I see a young artist completely blow off the gallery system. Such is the case with Jason Brammer who, as far as I can tell, has never had a gallery experience, yet makes solid art, sells most of it and has an opening at the Star Lounge Coffee Bar this Saturday evening. Galleries certainly arenít the only way to go, especially in a compromised economy when so many other opportunities exist. Itís always good to see an artist succeeding on his or her own terms.
Almost exclusively these ArtLetters are previews, but thereís such a fine exhibition at the Smart Museum that Iíve got to include it. Titled Your Pal, Cliff: Selections from the H.C. Westermann Study Collection, the show includes a lot of material that Westermann was reluctant to reveal during his lifetime, feeling that it compromised the integrity of his art. But for many his art was enigmatic and the threads that tied it together were often quite difficult to see. When his wife died (years after him) she left his artifacts to the Smart Museum and enabled it to be seen realizing that it more fully revealed the genius that Westermann was. There are many preparatory drawings and lots of fascinating letters full of sketches that make this is a glorious, slow exhibition that warrants a lot of reading and contemplation. This show is a unique joy!
Thatís it for now. Iím out of opinions.