ARTISTS’ STATEMENTS MAKE ACTUAL ART UNNECESSARYSanta Fe
New Show at SITE Santa Fe Features 26 Artists’ Statements, No Art
—Guest Curator Michael Brownstein, a tall, thin, elegant man, welcomed hundreds of visitors to the 2005 SITE Santa Fe Biennial Exhibition Friday with a grand sweeping gesture of his arm, as if he were inviting a fresh breeze to blow through the gallery. Brownstein has put together a groundbreaking show that consists entirely of handsomely framed, carefully-typed, 11 by 16 inch Artist’s Statements.
Visitors, at first puzzled, were soon circulating about the room, pausing before each statement as if they were regarding a painting, sculpture, photograph, collage, or installation. Brownstein was delighted with the turnout and eager to explain his intent.
“Too often,” Brownstein said, “the artist’s statement is relegated to a secondary position. I have been to exhibitions where you could count on one hand the number of people who stopped to read the statements. What happens then is the viewers will look at the work, engage with it, and often draw their own, mistaken conclusions. The actual work, you see, confuses the issue.”
Brownstein paused to watch two visitors stride purposefully from one statement to the next. “See how confident they are, how sure they are that they’re getting it! In this exhibition, there is no artwork to muddle the artist’s intentions. No struggle with meaning, no missing the point. Nothing to make the viewer feel inadequate.”
Critical response has been mixed. Several local critics have panned the exhibit. Richard Turpin titled his review for THE Magazine, “New Clothes, No Emperors.” The national art press has, however, been roundly enthusiastic. John Barnes, writing in Art News, called the exhibition “groundbreaking, cutting edge.”
“This masterful exhibition,” wrote Mr. Barnes in the October issue, “reifies the space of the always-already-absent “art object,” empowering the viewer, who is also the viewed, to colonize the space with an imagined object that suits ideally the intention of the artist, nee viewer, because the “object” is inhabited by and inhabits the public/private interface of the absent “I,” which is culturally overdetermined and therefore absolute.”
Joe Munoz, well-known Santa Fe art collector, was beaming as he left the exhibition, having successfully negotiated the purchase of one of the pieces. “ I bought the large blue canvas, painted entirely with a pallet knife, in the far corner,” he said.
His wife looked at him, startled. “Honey,” she said. “That is a red canvas, with a splash of blue in the lower left corner, painted entirely by dripping and splashing.”
“Whatever,” he said. “The work is ardently political and explores the artist’s struggles with the concept of reservation as home and the attempt to decolonize the always already colonized notion of ‘home.’ That’s what matters.”
“And it will look great over our sofa,” his wife added as the the two turned on their heels and walked happily out into the crisp early fall evening.