Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Art Is the Gap"

Bravo's Work of Art is so sad and silly I actually look forward to watching it every Wednesday night. It's not exactly like watching a car-wreck. It's more like watching a bunch of really serious-minded, old-school performance artists try to re-enact a car-wreck without knowing how funny and pathetic they look.

The show is a Top-Chef/Project-Runway pastiche that cancels out all the fun by making the prime objective Art, capital A. At least on Top-Chef/Project-Runway you have something edible or wearable to judge at the end of the day; with this gig the judgments seem totally arbitrary and anachronistic because of the totally arbitrary and anachronistic nature of the art being made. For example, trying to find a winner when the show split into two teams and designed and executed two horrible outdoor sculptures was a Waiting-for-Guffmanesque sideshow, the art-world-name-dropping judges seriously inspecting a couple of rickety-looking wooden monoliths made hastily by two groups of people trying to please them with their ingenuity and aplomb.

The contestants are from differing backgrounds, but they all seem to have been chosen to represent types: there's the feisty feminist, the art-school darling, the "outsider," etc. And the contests they all undergo to prove they are the Top Artist are on the whole dull- and literal-minded. Challenges like make art like when you were a kid, make shocking art, make art that reflects who you are. The artists on the show all go at it like what they are doing is meaningful because it has to be meaningful so they can win $10,000.

I guess what's missing from the show, and what can't be counterfeited or forced, is the fact that art as a concept and commodity is so diffuse and unconfined in the 21st Century there's no way to capture it in all its glory. Anyone trying to funnel all of art's power into an hour-long TV show ends up getting the most pathetic bits and pieces, so that art becomes a game and not a reason. A contest and not a revelation. When I go to a gallery or museum I truly appreciate the anonymity, the sense that the art was made by someone but now that process is over and here it is: mysterious and ready to be made into something else by the people who see it. On "Work of Art," the artists are just trying to get a good grade, and that sad lack of ambition creates parody.

But still I enjoy watching the thing because it reminds me of what art is not: not a contest, not an A+ or B-.

Marcel Duchamp once said, "It's not what you see that is art, art is the gap."

Maybe that should be the next "Work of Art" challenge: "Artists, don't make any art today. Just make a gap."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spooky Version

Thunder-Sky, Inc. Cofounder Keith Banner went to a retreat for people with developmental disabilities celebrating the American with Disabilities Act at Wright State University over the weekend, and for an hour or so some of the folks there "finished" some unfinished Xeroxed drawings by Raymond Thunder-Sky. Here's a spooky one by Zach Allen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Signature Styles & Obsessions

Opening Final Friday, July 30th, is Paradise: Paintings and Collaborations by Bill Ross

Bill Ross is a social-worker and artist who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1999, while supporting people with developmental disabilities in the area, he began to come across artists with disabilities creating incredible works. Raymond Thunder-Sky was the first artist he worked with, and this initial meeting led to Ross and Keith Banner co-founding Visionaries & Voices, a studio for artists with disabilities, in 2003. In 2009, he and Banner developed Thunder-Sky, Inc., a non-profit arts organization and gallery dedicated to archiving the works and maintaining the legacy of Raymond Thunder-Sky, as well as offering a chance to exhibit to unconventional artists in the area.

Paradise surveys works from the last decade. Ross’s paintings in “Paradise” depict a candy-colored universe that is both seductively sweet and jarringly violent. In each of his works, Ross uses storybook visual cues (cute but demented animals and creatures populating a Day-Glo forest with cupcake-covered hills beneath an orange-pop sky) to undermine the phoniness of fairy-tales, while somehow maintaining the innocence and humor. In 2004, Ross began a series of collaborations with a variety of artists labeled with developmental disabilities (many of whom attend V&V), including Dale Jackson, Becky Iker, Michael Weber, Kevin White and the late Donald Henry. These collaborative works (usually paintings) are about dislocating notions of who is an artist and what art can be and do, and feature Ross’s signature phosphorescent style merged with the signature styles and obsessions of each of the collaborators.

The exhibition runs through August 21st, including a reception with the artist Final Friday, July 30th from 6-11 pm.

Don't miss it: Gallery hours Tues-Sat: 11-3, Second Sundays 12-5, Final Fridays 6-11

Lily Mulberry
Director1305 Gallery1305 Main StreetCincinnati OH 45202

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Another great example of 2 + 2 = 5.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Thank you Tommy and everyone at Happen, Inc. for sharing your space at the Northside Fourth of July Rock N Roll Festival. The project: Raymond left behind hundreds of unfinished drawings. We Xeroxed copies of some of them, brought some markers, rulers, and pencils, and asked kids to finish the drawings the way they wanted to. We also threw in some free hardhats. The result: A new way to remember Raymond, and some cool collaborations.