Make American Art Great Again

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The audience gathered in the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery of the Art Students League, a midtown Manhattan art school founded in 1875, was mostly middle-aged folks and senior citizens, with a scattering of younger people who were probably students. They arrived to see and hear James Little, an abstract painter and professor, give a lunchtime talk. I was unaware of him prior to the event—I did not know if he was a critic, an artist, or some other art professional before showing up. Born in Tennessee in 1952, Little earned his BFA from the Memphis Academy of Art in 1974 and two years later received an MFA from Syracuse University. June Kelly Gallery has shown his work since the late 1980s.

Running in Circles

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Olivier Mosset was in town for the opening of his exhibition at Parapet/Real Humans, a project space run by Amy Granat in a storefront in the Fox Park neighborhood of Saint Louis. On view was a framed set of four lithographs of two thick black stripes on a square of white paper. The set, it turns out, was made for a Swiss Institute benefit in 2004. Granat said the work reminded her of September 11—I suppose any two vertical lines will do that. The artist compared them to an optometrist’s vision test. As someone who can’t see six inches past his nose without glasses or contacts (and who never skips his annual eye-doctor visit), that made more sense.

Next Question: Is Art Dead?

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The subtitle of this panel, “Is Jerking Off Getting Out of Hand?,” could mean anything from, “Once you’ve seen one jerk-off in an art context, you’ve seen them all, so a painting renaissance is inevitable,” to “Painting itself is the equivalent of jerking off, so why paint?” In either case, if you’ve been waiting tensely for the verdict, the panelists agreed that painting is not now, nor is it likely in the foreseeable future to be dead. In fact, one assumes that the four painters convened exactly in order to reach that conclusion. It did, however, take them three-quarters of the evening to start to explain why.

Landscape Surveyors

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A panel on “The Changing Landscape of Museums Today” coincided with the release of the Asia Society Museum’s anthology of essays, Making a Museum in the 21st Century. Responding to a question asked by Josette Sheeran, president and chief executive officer of the Asia Society—“What does a successful museum look like in the twenty-first century?”—the museum directors Richard Armstrong and Melissa Chiu talked about collections, buildings, and exhibitions, while the bureaucrat Tom Finkelpearl zeroed in on diversity and audience.

Hand Washers

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“I was wondering whether anyone has anything good to say about age as an organizing principle?” someone asked during the audience Q&A for “Curators: The Younger Than Jesus Effect,” a discussion hosted by the School of Visual Arts. Jenny Jaskey, director and curator of Hunter College’s Artist’s Institute, recoiled, “No one thinks it is.” When the next audience member rephrased the query—Is there an artist under 30 that you do like?—the five curators on the panel, all based in New York, were smiling but clearly looked uncomfortable. Alaina Claire Feldman, director of exhibitions at Independent Curators International, said flat out, “I think that’s exactly what we’re here not to talk about…. I kind of refuse that question.” Then why, I scratched my head for the hundredth time, are we even here?

Catchers of Light

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To celebrate the paperback edition of The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography, the author, critic, and professor Lyle Rexer led a panel of four contemporary artists: the Canadian Jessica Eaton, the Finnish Niko Luoma, and the Americans Yamini Nayar and Mitch Paster. The woman who introduced Rexer pronounced The Edge of Vision—originally published in 2009 and accompanying a touring exhibition of the same name—the first book on the history of abstraction in photography. If her claim is true, then it is an accomplishment. If not, then the book’s subject and the curatorial conceit would seem to provide a good if overly broad survey.

Our Rob Storr

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When in 2001 the curator Robert Storr mentioned to his friend, the German painter Gerhard Richter, that the Bonn Kunstmuseum was hosting an exhibition of work by the abstractionist Robert Ryman, they jumped into Richter’s Mercedes and sped at ninety-five miles per hour on the autobahn to see it. After arriving, Storr recalled, Richter was a leisurely but deliberate looker, as unhurried moving through the galleries as he had been fast on the road.

 

IN TERMS OF

Reviews of lectures, panels, interviews, conferences, and other live speaking engagements in the visual arts.

 
Funding for In Term Of has been provided by the Arts Writers Grant Program.