Sunday, October 4, 2009

Inquiring Minds Really Want to Know . . .

Here’s the deal. I’m going to be brutally honest here.  I recently presented the top ten ArtPrize finalists as straightforwardly as possible, because I didn’t want to diss any of the work and I wanted to direct  some attention to what I felt was deserving art, neither sentimental nor spectacle.  All the artwork deserves a round of applause.  The work is good.  Would I have chosen any of these for the top ten.   If you want to know, ready on.

 Here goes:I love the Open Water No. 24 painting – that, and Field of Reeds are in great venues, are masterfully executed and are deserving of recognition. They sit about 10 feet apart from each other, and although I heard people say it was thoughtfully curated with the two pieces  being so intimate, I disagree.  The reeds make an unusual, creaking noise that  compete with the opportunity to hear the implied wind on Open Water.  The constant undulating movement of the reeds distracts the viewer from Open Water's implied rhythm of waves.  Plus, the proximity of the Reed piece also prevents the viewer from backing more than 10 feet away from the work to fully breathe in the whole Open Water piece.  On the other hand, the dynamic Field of Reeds is barely influenced by the other. But both works deserve their own space.  I hope at least one of these pieces earns more than the $7,000 that will be awarded to positions 4 through 10,

 Imagine That! The Children’s Museum Mosaic.

 The ArtPrize competition inspired some extremely talented and creative mosaic artists to produce a phenomenal piece to adorn the exterior walls of the Children’s Museum.  The children and city of Grand Rapids definitely lucked out in a win/win with this piece - regardless of where it places on the hit parade.

Jason Hackenworth's mind-blowing spectacular intergalactic army of ballon figures with its equaly spectacular title, Ecstasy of the Scarlett Empress received a ton of votes before voting was even officially announced.  I'll let you decide if it's worth $250,000, $100,000, $50,000 or $7,000.

These next pieces seem to resonate with the homies here and are all created by Michigan artists.

The Furniture City Sets the Table for the World of Art:

The mammoth, warm-your-heart and chair of bowlies dinette made me feel like a character in a Hallmark production of an Alice in Wonderland cartoon.  Why didn’t the artist use the opportunity to create a large-scale furniture piece that doesn’t dumb down the legacy of this area’s great furniture industry?  I heard they spent over $150,000 making the piece and installing it.  

The Nessie Project?

Come’ on people! I said it before; I’ll say it again.  Nessie works for people that like things that go bump in the night – and last night the glowing green eyes made my eyebrows arch and my eyes roll counter clockwise.   Maybe they can find a way to drop a coin into some bridge-mounted slot, to make he/she/it wink.


This is really a clever and talented entry,  But honestly, it’s hard for me to believe a moose could really be a contender for 250,000 clams.  But I'm jaded. Perhaps its because I live in Idaho where the ubiquitous moose is an obigatory element of interior design.  

Wind Dancer + The Grand Dance

Wind Dancer, the kinetic sculpture is pretty cool, but if it hadn’t been on the popular Blue Bridge, I suspect it would not have made the top ten.

And that floating river thing? The Grand Dance?  At least at night, the colored lights and the darkness obscure the view of the last-ditch-attempt-for-stability metal tripod that supports this fleet of flying fish. It honestly feels to me like a covert tongue in cheek mockery of the Calder: the 40-year-old Grand Rapids Granddaddy of public art that sits in the heart of the city.  

I’ll wrap this critique up with the push pin piece entitled Portraits.  Artist Eric Daigh seems to be a very strong contender for a big chunk of change.  His process is similar to Devorah Sperber’s breathtaking digitized work with thread that no doubt impressed every visitor to BAM this summer.  I understand how Daigh uses the tools of technology to execute these 50,000 push pin portraits.  They are amazing pieces.  I’m a printmaker and I’d be lost without Photoshop, but I would have liked to see Eric mix it up somehow.  Maybe nix the CMYK and introduce a fauve-ish palette or some other twist? 

Sorry for the windy post.  I had to get it off my chest.  Expecially when there are soooooo many works of art hanging at obscure venues in Grand Rapids that were obviously overlooked.

  Whew! That's all she wrote!