Cruising for Chicks at the Modern Wing

June 8, 2009 · Print This Article

6039_762426How much does gender equality matter when it comes to museum permanent collections? How much is ‘good enough’?

I’ve been mulling these and other questions over the past week while following the discussion that’s been taking place on Jerry Saltz’s Facebook page and on a few art blogs that posted in response.

On Facebook, Saltz charged The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) with practicing a form of “gender-based apartheid,” based on the paucity of work by women artists hanging on the walls of the 4th and 5th floors of the Museum (the pre-1970 galleries). Here’s what he wrote:

Of the 383 works currently installed on the 4th and 5th floors of the permanent collection, only 19 are by women; that’s 4%. There are 135 different artists installed on these floors; only nine of them are women; that’s 6%. MoMA is telling a story of modernism that only it believes. MoMA has declared itself a hostile witness. Why?

The subsequent discussions that take place in the comments are really interesting and if you aren’t already aware of this whole brouhaha and want to be, I recommend you skim through it all and join in.

I have to admit I have mixed responses to the issue, as a post-post feminist or whatever the hell it is that I am. I think what I am, actually, is the lazy type of feminist who never thinks to count how many works by women artists are hanging on the walls of the museum shows I attend, including during my first visit to the Art Institute’s Modern Wing. So last week I went back again to take another look, and to get better sense of how the Modern Wing stacks up when it comes to issues of gender representation. (Note that due to lack of time I didn’t take account of the work in the Architecture and Design galleries).

On the third floor containing the European and Modern Art galleries, I counted just four works by the following female artists: Maria Elena Vieira da Silva, Suzanne Duchamp, Nathalija Gontcharova and Leonora Carrington. On the 2nd floor gallery featuring Contemporary Art from 1945-1960 there was Joan Mitchell‘s gorgeous City Landscape from 1955.

(So-called Modern works by women in the Modern Wing are kind of tricky to account for, because the period is divided multiple ways, between works exhibited in the Modern Wing and those installed in the American galleries in the main building, where, for example, a number of works by Georgia O’Keeffe are installed).

Unless I missed it, no female artist has been given monographic (i.e. dedicated gallery or grouping) treatment in the Modern Wing in the way that Robert Ryman, Bruce Nauman, Robert Gober, Kerry James Marshall, Mel Bochner, Constantin Brancusi and several others have. The closest was Eva Hesse sharing a gallery with Richard Serra in the Contemporary galleries (There are two sculptures and a drawing by Hesse here).

Women fare better on the post-1960, Contemporary side of things, as would be expected. Works by Mary Heilman, Ellen Gallagher, Sherrie Levine, Marlene Dumas, Cindy Sherman, Sue Williams, Cady Noland and Barbara Kruger hang in proximity to one another. In a gallery of contemporary paintings, there’s one work each by Margherita Manzelli and Lisa Yuskavage. Elsewhere in the Contemporary galleries, there’s a Vija Celmins near Sylvia Plimack Mangold‘s In Memory of My Father, an Agnes Martin and a Hanne Darboven (I actually missed the Darboven myself, but Lisa Dorrin mentioned it in the podcast and its listed as being on view on the AIC’s collections page).

The first floor photography gallery has another largish cluster of female artists, including works by Jeanne Dunning, Barbara Kruger, Liz Deschenes (2 works, including one that’s part of Gaylen Gerber’s piece), Rineke Dijkstra, Zoe Leonard, Diane Arbus, and Patty Carroll (also part of Gerber’s piece).

That’s my tally of female artists currently on view the Modern Wing. (Though I tried to be meticulous, I might have missed one or two works–please let me know if I did). So, you know, overall not great, but not completely dismal either. Their representation of women artists in the pre-1960 Modern & European gallery needs beefing up, but the great thing about permanent collection hangings is that they can always be altered and revised, along with the stories they tell.

But the question that’s really on my mind is this one: how much is “good enough?” Do male/female ratios always need to be close to 50/50 to get it right, or can the impact of female artists be measured in other ways, for example in the space and overall presence a female artist’s work is given in a gallery installation (a la the juxtaposition of Hesse and Serra)?

I’m curious about what readers here think about “the female issue” when it comes to permanent collections, in Chicago particularly. I’m especially interested in what female art students (if there are any reading this) may have to say – are you thinking about male/female ratios when you cruise the Modern Wing? Does it bother you that so few women appear in the pre-1960s galleries, or do you derive satisfaction from their collection in other ways?

Feel free to discuss your experiences at the MCA as well.

**Above image credit: Suzanne Duchamp, Broken and Restored Multiplication, 1918-19. Art Institute of Chicago.

25 thoughts on “Cruising for Chicks at the Modern Wing”

  1. alicia says:

    I find it nearly impossible to believe that we are still discussing this issue. Do we need to do a 2000’s version of 1970s feminist performance art just to get noticed? So, I guess the answer to the question “are we there yet?” would be a resounding NO.

    thanks for this post, Claudine.

  2. The Shark says:

    An interesting aspect of this particular issue -aside from the incredibly trendy, problematic contemporary hanging now going on in the modern wing, (what is Gaylen Gerber with his one high school level idea doing in the photography wing…schmoozing and politics replace aesthetic merit yet again-) is that contrary to what is usually written, the so called boys club of the 40’s-early 60’s was inhabited by any number of superior women artists: of course there is the great Joan Mitchell -being very conversant with her work, I do not consider the piece the art institute owns to be all that good- then there was Lee Krassner Pollock, Grace Hartigan, Frankenthaler, Bontecou, Jay de Feo, the marvelous -especially early -Joan Brown………then strangely enough, there are seemingly no women pop artists -unless you want to include op as pop….

    As far as junk like Sue Williams or Mary Heilman, its easy to name any number of terrific female artists working right here in Chicago whose work is vastly superior to this crap.

  3. This “issue” is the latest loooong discussion at Jerry Salz’s FB page. And MOMA wrote in that they were “following it with interest” for whatever that means.

  4. Claudine Ise says:

    Also interesting about the women painters Shark mentions — much of what the AIC owns by them are prints. And unless I’m using its online collections search incorrectly (if I am, I’ll gladly correct the info in this comment),[AND I DO; SEE MY COMMENT FURTHER BELOW] the AIC does not even own any works by Joan Brown (I used the broadest possible search queries and still came up with nothing). And, the works the AIC does own by Grace Hartigan and Helen Frankenthaler are all prints – not to knock prints but come on! Not one painting? Jay deFeo: one painting, not on display. Lee Krasner: two prints, no paintings. Bontecou (who absolutely should have presence on the walls of any museum that owns her work) is rep’d in the AIC collections by 2 sculptures, neither of which are currently on display. The rest of the Bontecou works are prints. Again I’m not disparaging the printmaking oeuvre of any artist but this is the Art Institute not a regional museum that couldn’t afford major works. I must be using that search engine incorrectly, I can’t believe this is right. Must take myself to the American galleries at the AIC and investigate first hand where all the paintings by those women are. But regardless of what’s on view in the American galleries, doesn’t change the story that’s (not) told in the Modern Wing.
    Oh and the contemporary galleries…I must agree that that selection is ‘problematic.’ Boring safe choices (esp. the Yuskavage and the Manzelli to represent painting now). I like the Gallagher piece. I also like Mary Heilman but not that one particularly. And of the so-called “Ladies of the 80s” gallery – the less said the better. It’s not that I don’t like those artists individually (tho I must admit to disliking Kruger’s work and I’m so-so on Sue Williams, but those are just my own personal assessments) on a curatorial level or whatever, I don’t agree with how those works were sort of corralled off together rather than a more thoughtful integration and insertion in other parts of the galleries. It felt lazy and even a tad dismissive to me, like “here’s the 80s work, here are the 80s ladies” without bothering to consider what each artist was pursuing on her own.

  5. The Shark says:

    Well, the Joan Mitchell the Art Institute has is an early example of her mature work -yet to come were the marvelous, messy atmospheres in clods and clumps -paintings like Couscous -or the hyper virtuoso slash and burn eruptions -that sit up on the surface like no other, an American idea of painting -that remains a high water mark in contemporary painting- forget Clifford Still -he’s outmatched! I don’t care if Joan was a man, woman or alien from some distant galaxy -what I do care about, is that she was and is, one hell of a painter.

    Joan Brown was a huge influnce upon me. Particularly the early thick impasto work….just fantastic stuff…..I put her alongside Diebenkorn and Parks as the three best mid century bay area/west coast painters -Jay deFeo literally died for her work -succumbing years after painting the monumental The Rose with white lead paint -to cancer.

    What would I rather see at the Art Insitute, a room of Mitchells or Richters? NO BRAINER -Mitchell (with her Chicago roots btw) is an infinitely more interesting painter -but all three of these women -along with the others I mention should be represented by major works.

    Where is June Leaf in this equation btw? Or speaking of here, Mary Lou Zelazny or Vera Klement or Sabrina Raaf or Phyllis Bramson, or Suzanne Doremus …..are these artists out there setting the world on fire? Probably not -BUT, at their best, they are all more interesting, better artists than Sue Williams -or Yuskavage, or Heilman or Doig or Tuymans for that matter…as far as the Heilman goes -I have only seen this one in person -however if it is any indication WOW! yet another example of what happens when the know nothing about painting conceptual smart set decides to annoint a painter……this thing is awful and begs the question; what is it about THIS PARTICULAR PAINTING that made it a necessity for the Art Institute to not only acquire it but then hang it conspicuously in their inaugural exhibition? Is it the painting, or, is it a brand name? And what does this say about the level of curating going on over there in the new Art Taj Mahal?

    Bontecou -she’s brilliant…why not lose that insipid Peter Doig and put one of her things up?

    Gallagher -I have a hard time liking it even though it is certainly competent -just knowing how no doubt, the Fine Arts Society jetted out to NYC, lunched with ‘Gogo’ and then purchased a local NYC painter -wih NEVER a thought of looking here in ther own city (-they wouldn’t have been able to lunch at Balthazar with the worlds most ‘important’ art dealer-) just turns me off.

    As for the 80’s don’t even get me started: I guess the main question is did Mr Ellsworth Touhy Jr aka Mr Curator James Rondeau decide to entirely dispense with 80’s painting before or after viewing the Pictures Generation Exhibition at the Met? In what universe do we have a mediocrity like Sue Williams or Sherrie Levine yeech! supplanting Keifer or Baselitz or even Schnabel? You laugh -but they are all better than this junk- but they are not trendy or, conceptually correct- isn’t that what we are really discussing here along with inequality?

    A lack of quality and an abundance of inequality, that should be the working title of this thread-

  6. The Shark says:

    Just think for a moment, what would it be like if instead of this by the numbers showcasing of popular labels that puts Barney’s to shame, what if there were a roomful of Joan Mitchells -or the other artists we are discussing here: what if, this exhibition had even a slight amount of originality attached to it? What if the contemporay paintings on exhibition, were there because of their quality? I know, its an earth shattering concept -given how far removed from any form of visual intelligence we collectively are at this juncture….how we all reside when it comes to museums, in the curatorial echoplex-

    Are there good paintings up now in the contemporary section? The short answer is yes -but, not many -an instructive moment is to go have a look at the wonderful Lucien Freud….an island of serene madness, of hell-bent painting, of visual and psychological fireworks, surrounded by, in the company of, and in a sea of maddening, deskilled incompetence and cynicism, of faux gravitas that in any half-way intelligent definition of truth, can be perceived as little more than the tepid, calculated, decline it involves itself with and epitomizes, the pathetic…..Yukavage, Tuymans, Doig, Dumas, Levine, Kelly, Krueger (complete with her 18′ long elbow enconsed firmly in the unfortunate viewers ribcage…. ‘do you get it?” -all the usual suspects..BORING

  7. The Shark says:

    Wait! HOW, can I go on like this without mentioning Robert Gober… two full rooms if I’m not mistaken…the kitty litter room-“beyond belief” to quote Jed Perl… what, a sick joke, talk about a colossal waste of space…..sitcom material/just how vapid-stupid! the art world can be -lets demand they tear that crap down and put up some of these women!

  8. Paul Germanos says:

    (1) The AIC’s Modern Wing is built. Unfortunately, it contains a finite amount of space. So that, for curatorial purposes, it represents a zero-sum game: One work hanging on the wall means one other work is left in storage.

    And even if those works do exchange positions, rotating between the gallery walls and storage spaces, there is the question of acquisition: Again, the sum to be expended is finite. To say yes to the purchase of one work is to say no to the purchase of another work.

    (2) Examining the works that are on the walls at this moment, we observe that too few of them were produced by female artists. Corollary: Too many of the works on the walls were produced by male artists. And being a zero-sum game, some of those male works need to come down.

    (3) How do we know that too few of the works on the walls in the Modern Wing were produced by female artists? According to what principle is the proper ratio between male and female determined?

    The unspoken, but implied, rule is found in the scientific investigation of Nature, and the faith in democracy: We conduct a census, or employ a sample. And learning that roughly half of the population is female, we argue for a similar representation on the walls of the Modern Wing.

    (4) Being Enlightened, we accept the argument and augment the collection to better reflect our society in regard to gender. But having done so, other problems arise…

    Interested parties make use of our census/sample data, informing us of the following: Roughly 1/3 of Chicago residents are the descendants of African slaves, and roughly 1/3 of the residents of Chicago are, or are descended from, people native to some place in the Americas — especially that place that we now call Mexico.

    Being a zero-sum game, the AIC must take down 2/3 of the European, or European-American, work. And so it’s done.

    (5) Now, having made some effort to balance the collection with regard to gender and race, another fellow raises the issue of religion. So — only in the interest of fairness of course — it’s necessary to walk through the Modern Wing pointing out this faith and that faith.

    (6) Then we’ll broach the subject of sexuality. And we’ll determine who does what to whom. Works down; works up.

    (7) Gender, race, religion, sexuality, politics, physical ability/disability, everything: Everything must be declared, recorded, and displayed.

    We will have fairness.

    We will have equality.

    (8) And it won’t stop with the AIC. Museums deal with the past; we live in the present.

    We’re going to look at the owners of contemporary art galleries, gallery directors, critics and curators too. If too many of them are female — then we’ll give their positions to males. If too many of them are gay — then we’ll give their positions to people who are straight…

    + + +

    I don’t see how this ends well for anyone.

  9. The Shark says:

    Paul -you are missing the point -or at least my point -which is based not upon percentages but, upon aesthetics……you are a smart guy -but I think you are entirely off track on this one- you are not getting the argument -which is a poor fit for your social equivalency scale-

    I am not arguing for EQUALITY -BUT RATHER FOR -QUALITY- BETTER WORK WITH THE SELECTION HAVING TO DO WITH MERIT RATHER THAN TRENDY CONSENSUS- that there are many women who’s work fills this bill on both sides of my argument should be no huge shock to anyone-

    At the same time, its simply a fact that women artists are not adequately represented here -CONSIDERING NOT THEIR GENDER AS CRITERIA, BUT THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS/ACHIEVEMENTS-!

  10. The Shark says:

    Point: as Claudine points out, its weird to have only Joan Mitchell represented by a major work when it comes to mid 20th century American painting -when the historical truth/facts are, that there were any number of women who played major, important roles as artists in that particular era -its an omission that in a sense rewrites history, in a way that does not only a disservice to all, but particularly to art itself.

  11. I agree that I would like to see Mary Lou Zelazny or Vera Klement or Sabrina Raaf or Phyllis Bramson or Suzanne Doremus or Edith Altman displayed there. Hell, why “or” — I mean “and” —show them all — I think all of them deserve it.

    Mary Heilmann is a close personal friend of mine and I know her work very well. She is historically quite important for the “revival” (it was really always there — but critical-attention-wise revival I mean) of painting, but can be very technically uneven as many others have mentioned. I don’t know what work is shown, but she is best with a large grouping, then you see the thought process and experimentation that generally outweighs her formal handling.

    Put Doig and other Feebleists in the basement now, where they will end up in the future anyway.

  12. Paul Germanos says:

    Wes –

    Jerry Saltz walked through the MoMA, tallying its works of art according to the gender of their maker.

    And that inspired Claudine to “cruise for chicks” at the AIC.

    She puts her thesis at the beginning of the article above: “How much does gender equality matter when it comes to museum permanent collections?”

    So, I wonder:

    – Why only gender equality? Why not racial equality? Religious equality? Etc.

    – Why worry only about museums? What would be the result of a similar “cruise for chicks” through the contemporary art scene in Chicago?

    – If racial equality means taking European women out of the museum, is everyone up for that?

    – If, ignoring the museum, gender equality in the arts means taking a percentage of women out of contemporary galleries in order to make room for a “fair number” of males, is everyone up for that?

    + + +

    I agree with you Wes, and I agree with Claudine too, about women who made important contributions being included in permanent collections. But how do we tell this story to someone who is, say, a Black Muslim? In a perfectly democratic regime, aren’t his values and claims for representation equal to our own?

    The City is filled with people who’ve made their living capitalizing upon existing divisions of all sorts. Enough. To the extent that you and Claudine want to move the whole [art] thing forward according to merit, I am totally behind you. But I worry a lot about (a) social cleavages widening, and (b) some forms of equality being as dangerous and unjust as radical hierarchy.

  13. By the way, I do not think quotas are a good idea for PLANNING or curating shows, but the “percentages” can be a good way to begin CRITICIZING shows — helping to uncover masked-over prejudices.

    I think classism is probably now the biggest of the hidden factors of the interlocked “onion skins” of oppression as Anja Meulenbelt terms them (racism, sexism, ageism, classism), and it is NEVER addressed. The big, central, glaring elephant of a problem standing in most art rooms and which is never addressed is Consensus Correctness. That generally engenders the other problems, including much of the sexism.

    Maybe someone should do a Consensus Correctness cruise through this and other museums.

  14. The Shark says:

    Paul -I dont disagree with a thing you say here: Joan Mitchell was famously evil to anyone who dared approach her about blazing a trail for women -being a feminist -etc -FAMOUSLY EVIL! She was a painter period

    -I believe Bontecou holds similar views: at the symposium for her several years ago an audience member stood up to discuss Bontecou’s feminist agenda -one of the panelist -a drawing curator from the Tate -also a woman, first of all shot down the suggestion of feminisim in Lee’s work -and then commented it was a good thing ms Bontecou had opted out of attending that day as she would not have been happy with the direction being taken in terms of interjecting feminism into the discussion…..

    I do not subscribe to quotas -or any agenda not aesthetic when it comes to art -in fact one of the most disturbing things about the current exhibition in terms of painting -is the total subservience of painting to conceptualism/theory and, photography -something both Saltz and Roberta Smith rail on about continually-and, is something Roberta pointed out about what is now hanging in the modern wing here -for instance (here again is my point) where is Susan Rothenberg -and why is a mediocre painter like Sue Williams with her supposed politcal agenda up-essentially in her place? No doubt Rothenberg is the vastly superior painter. Note, photo based conceptual darling Richter has supplanted all other German painters from the 80’s as if only he matters…

    Does Mr Curator really believe in the agenda he is following? I doubt it -he is far too cynical….if Rothenberg was hip, or Baselitz or Anslem Keifer he’d be showing them….my argument is, kind of the opposite of your fears Paul, I am saying when some of these people are left out, history is being manipulated, written or rewritten……packaged…..I love Joan Mitchell for what an incredibly difficult, ferocious human being she was -and, how that translated into this magnificent paint handling……my loyalty is with her as an artist -it just so happens, there are a number of very good ones curiously not being shown in the Modern Wing -their places usurped by a lot of trendy (non-gender specific) crap. I dont believe race, gender, or anything else as context has much to do with whether or not a painting is good or not- the context of painting is the history of painting, what it is, and how that translates into our time…. I am not interested in theory, gender politics or any construct being used to usurp and manipulate the outcome-

    The trajectory of whats up now in the modern wing in my opinion does violence to the history of painting mid 20th century until now. And, any number of serious omissions implicit in this retelling/distortion of what has or is occurring, what is important, happen to be women. In this way perhaps we can say women really have finally found their place in the corruption theoretical and otherwise aided and abetted by the towering cynicism the rootless ambitions of the art world apparatchiks, bureacrats of which the art world largely and unfortunately, consists-

  15. Yes. First of all, we artists must begin to claim history as OUR ground.

  16. Claudine Ise says:

    Some corrections to my previous post: (I need to catch up on all of the above comments, but first…) I’ve received some updated info and need to revise my claims about what’s in the the AIC’s collections:

    1)the AIC does own 1 painting by Grace Hartigan

    2) The AIC owns 2 paintings by Helen Frankenthaler.

    3) The AIC owns 1 painting by Lee Krasner

    The online collections database is incomplete and not up to date, they are working on it but it’s a huge process.

  17. Claudine Ise says:

    Mark said: “I do not think quotas are a good idea for PLANNING or curating shows, but the “percentages” can be a good way to begin CRITICIZING shows — helping to uncover masked-over prejudices.”

    I agree with this. I framed my post with an acknowledgment that I myself don’t count how many men vs. women artists are included in the shows I visit – nor did I when I was curating – However when I performed a little experiment and actually went down to the galleries to do some bean counting the numbers jolted me, and then the bean-counting naturally leads to questions you all have been asking and answering – well who should have been there, or who would you have put in instead? And those seem like the important questions to ask – the questions that perm coll curators should be asking themselves in the first place.

    You guys call it ‘consensus curating’ – o.k. – for me it is an issue of adventurous AND deeply-thought out curating that’s lacking here. (But then again, it is the AIC – a behemoth encyclopedic institution that collects a little of everything – so maybe it’s not fair to ask them for too much on this score). When I was a curator I worked only for institutions that were not actively collecting (at the time anyway) and I had this idea that working with perm collections was somehow unsexy – much less interesting than organizing buzz-worthy thematic shows. Now that I am on the “outside” of all that I view museum collections so, so differently — there is so much potential richness for curators to explore there, the opportunity to revise or rewrite history, even play with it like Larry Rinder is doing with his outside-the-box rethinking of the BAM’s collection.

    I think when perm colls are considered tourist attractions only, whose ‘greatest hits’ need to be on view at all times in order to satisfy the out-of-towners, it does a disservice to the ideas behind why an institution collects art in the first place. I do understand the need to play to the crowd to some degree, but why not throw in some “spinners” that make us rethink things, too?

    I wonder if aspiring and younger curators today give much thought (or, if they’re in museum studies programs, if they are encouraged) to really think through what a perm coll is and should be, and the responsibilities that come with displaying it.

  18. Paul Germanos says:

    I am not in danger of being curated into the AIC’s permanent collection.

    But suppose I decide to apply for a solo show at threewalls gallery prior to their new July 1 deadline?

    Looking at threewall’s exhibition program for the first half of 2009 I see the following names: Christa Donner, Judith Brotman, Anne Elizabeth Moore, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Shannon Stratton, and Jesse McLean.

    Mark said: “I do not think quotas are a good idea for PLANNING or curating shows, but the ‘percentages’ can be a good way to begin CRITICIZING shows — helping to uncover masked-over prejudices.”

    So that even if I like the aforementioned artists, and the artwork that they create or curate, I’ve got to recognize that the “percentages” metric reveals a curatorial bias favoring exclusively:

    – female
    – white
    – college-educated
    – people on the political left

    And I’m wasting my time even considering the threewalls application — let alone applying?

  19. The Shark says:

    “You guys call it ‘consensus curating’ – o.k. – for me it is an issue of adventurous AND deeply-thought out curating that’s lacking here. ”

    Claudine -here, you and I completely agree: the artists I mentioned -because I would like to see that show…..something away from the curatorial/consensus correct miniMoMA genericism -with more originality, more of an individual point of view, -some as you put it, deeply thought out curating….

    My only advocation is for the unique, inimitable, individual- artist or, curator or, Modern Wing- Clearly, whats up now particularly when it comes to contemporary art, its curators, the whole construct, falls short on all accounts-

  20. Kathryn says:

    This is a really interesting discussion. Shark, I’m … kind of starting to like you.. one night, my eyes popped open in the middle of the night and I thought, “Maybe he’s got a point on some of this stuff.”

    Anyway, to moderate, I see all the sides here: so Paul, no, no one is asking the museum collections to take a city’s demographic chart and plop that into the permanent collection equation. Women have come a long way very quickly and even a generation ago, they were really outnumbered. Everyone understands that.

    I also think throwing a group, any group, a bone by throwing in some undeserving artists is insulting and helps no group.

    So to .. gasp.. take Wesley’s side here, I think the trick is to find a great curator, who, like WK, when following his gut, naturally has a good mix. If you have a curator who hands you a list of 99.9 male, white artist, then my thought is to just start over with a new curator, someone who’s taste just happen to be more balanced.

    I think fears of the political correctness police are really exaggerated, and paranoia that if someone is 1% off there will be protesters outside unreasonable. Like Claudine said, after the fact, you do a little math, make sure you’re not totally out of whack with current cultural expectations about inclusivness.

  21. Paul Germanos says:

    Kathryn, it’s already happened.

    Above, you wrote:

    “no one is asking the museum collections to take a city’s demographic chart,”

    “fears of the political correctness police are really exaggerated, and paranoia that if someone is 1% off there will be protesters outside,”

    Refer to the discussion following Jason Foumberg’s New City piece published March 30, 2009, “Eye Exam: Why Have There Been No Great South Side Artists?”

    And pay special attention to the comments made by Lowell Thompson:

  22. Paul Germanos says:

    Then, move forward in time 3-4 weeks. And realize that the same discussion continued off-site: words coalescing into a plan of action.

    New City, April 24, “Eyes Opened: Trib Protest Avoided”

    Lowell Thompson, Andre Guichard, and Ashley Moy-Wooten, “organized a protest for April 22 and sent out e-mails to their friends to meet them in front of the [Chicago] Tribune Towers.”

    The newspaper [Tribune] yielded before the protest even took place.

    [Eler’s question answered from comment #1, above.]

    In her column, April 30, 2009, at The Reader, Deanna Isaacs employed the title, “Reparations at the Trib?” when summarizing the events.

    + + +

    It’s all [as you called it] “bone throwing,” and there aren’t enough bones: (a) USA/Illinois/Chicago all shrinking economically; (b) art isn’t a priority in the best of times; and (c) power is derived from careful rationing of the bones.

    + + +

    If New City’s coverage isn’t deep — it’s broad. I see Jason out there looking at things. Precious few other people do it.

    I would be shocked, in fact, to learn that more than a dozen people in the City really make a regular effort to “get out” and see what is being shown — outside of their own peer group, geographic territory, political affiliation, etc.

    Likewise, when complaining about coverage, or collections, very few [any?] people demand fairness for the whole of the City — focusing rather on their own interests, or the interests of the group to which they belong.

  23. Kathryn says:

    Hi All,

    It’s late, and if everyone will forgive me, I’ll say that on Art Talk Chicago ( I’m going to try to really take apart this issue in a series of articles and interviews by a number of people. Dawoud is going to post a piece this week, which I suspect will cause a stir.

    Yes, for mainstream media, I think there is a demographic awareness. But at the CORE, the CORE cool-kids club in the art world… well, like I said about Wesley – I don’t agree with his names – but I’ve come to agree that there is a well, I won’t use their concensorati term, but a few people annoint a few people and everyone gets in line and trots along. It’s not that anyone is excluded in the critical discourse scene based on demographics, it’s just that the focus is on a tiny percent of ‘important’ art that happens to be made by a white, upper class demographic. River North is as much left out of the discussion as Bronzeville. So the issue is that the real admiration goes to one sliver of the artworld, and it happens to be a largely white sliver.

    I guess my argument would be: Who cut that segment out and designated it as important, and why, and should that “sliver” be re-examined?

    here’s the audio of the panel for anyone interested

    I also think when we talk about coverage, we need to separate features from reviews.


  24. The Shark says:

    Its not just a sliver Kathryn, its a very academic -deskilled mediocre sliver -not only white, but white bread safe for collectors to invite to dinner kind of sliver -because its a social network….its not about aesthetics-

    btw -my point of view: there are any number of long time powerful people involved in the art world here in Chicago -at the highest levels, who agree pretty much completely with much of what I say….its not that radical or far out there -its pretty straightforward and fact based.

    …the old gatekeeper contructs are losing their power -..we as artists need to take that power back…isnt it a supreme irony looking at the likes of Dumas, Tuymans, Heilman, Doig not to mention some of our local ‘court painters/conceptual clones’ that the ‘seers’ mostly non-artists, people without vision, more attuned to trend, who confer power, in this time, chose work that epitomizes just that; a comple lack of anything interesting -visually! Work that is in terms of how it looks, how it is executed, -is weak -and in many instances, celebrated for being so-

  25. Feeble Painting, and Late Neo-Conceptual art: — as WK says “weak ..and …celebrated for being so.”

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