25 June 2012

Moan on Monday - exhibiting art

Hong Young-in's embroidery and its (disturbed) shadow
This picture started me thinking about exhibiting in specific spaces, and how wonderful the plain white wall is when the work has a certain format that needs that plainness - here, it would give the shadow a space of its own.

On the other hand, how interesting to do an installation using what's there in the exhibition space - the pipes and suchlike can either distract or be an important, or perhaps subliminal, part of the work. (This goes back to the idea of "the invisible support" that emerged from my essay last year:  the surface is one of the main elements in reading a drawing, but becomes invisible as the artist makes the work appear; the surface represents, in the words of one writer, an “inscription that ... being largely unread, makes possible the signification of the work of art as art.”)

Tell me about it

The web page on which this photo was found is an essay on the presentation of Korean art in a western context - which to my mind is a parallel to the culture-shift of art students presenting their work to the public in their degree shows. The writer makes the point that the viewer may not know about the Korean traditions that inform the work, and needs information:
"In general, your average punter might come into a gallery not knowing what to think. Looking at the image on the wall, his own mind might be a blank canvas. Artistically inarticulate, he or she needs something, ANYTHING, to help him get started as to how to react to a work."

(Here comes the moan...)

Being "unable to react to a work" usually means dismissing it in one glance and moving on. Even art students feel like this at degree shows, where often no information apart from title ("Untitled" - !) is provided. Sometimes the institution, in search of a standard format to give the show some sort of coherence, doesn't allow further info on the wall labels. Sometimes the student simply can't be bothered to supply it, either on the label or in the catalogue.

Information is your friend

Personally, I like one sentence about the work - the big bad world of  marketing calls this "the elevator pitch". As a person of older bones and eyes, I like this presented in a font size, and at a height, that is easy to read.

As Philip Gowman's essay on presentation of (Korean) art says: "a thoughtful handout to go with the exhibition containing the above basic information is the least that an organiser should invest in to do basic justice to the artist."

He also advocates "to get something original on to the website early in the course of an exhibition to help others start their own thought process about how to react to an exhibition. Whether written by amateur or expert, anything in print in the blogosphere can help."

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