Post #352 • August 24, 2004, 6:12 AM • 18 Comments
I will not be writing again for Street any time in the forseeable future, a development I announce with a mixture of regret and relief. The questions regarding conflicts of interest in a piece of mine published in Street last Friday, explored at length in Friday's comment thread, arose coincidentally with complaints I had regarding the editorial handling of said piece. The intersection was disasterous. My interaction with Street's editors degenerated quickly, and for the time being, irrecovably. At this point neither they nor I feel inclined to work together.
For comparison, here is my final draft of the piece.
Samantha Salzinger and her curatorial daring have made the Art & Culture Center of Hollywood one of the livelier visual arts destinations in South Florida. Her latest effort exhibits the work of Gavin Perry and Mette Tommerup of Miami with Sue Irion of Basel, Switzerland in a show called "All You Can Eat," which is greater than the sum of its imperfect but formidable parts.
"All You Can Eat" is built around notions of consumer culture, but the art relates to this theme tangentially. Really, the work just looks good together. All three artists share a fondness for mechanical or industrial methods of manufacture.
Irion's work is the most problem-plagued of the show. She takes snapshot-style images of touristy areas (like South Florida) and renders them onto surfaces that have been covered with flourescent-pigment-infused photo emulsion. Where it works, it works well; black lights illuminate the images and make them look holographic, dimensional, and raw.
Where it doesn't, they're hard to see. The canvases, placed upright on the floor to form a maze of sorts, would appear stronger if they were hung at eye level. An installation at the end of the show has one of these photo-emulsion pieces applied directly to the wall, a pink street scene projected at an acute angle. It's attractive, but the mini-bar in the same room refuses to relate to it despite the artist's intentions.
Mette Tommerup composes photo-based images using digital tools, with which she warps, flares, and colors bubble-like shapes and copies them into repeating arrangements. The best of them, such as Under Light (Red), 2004, recall stage sets from '60s-era sci-fi shows, filled with bulging shapes that glow with weird computerized light.
A series of circular images, all titled Orb Passage, pictures decorative but uncomfortable geometric landscapes, some of which have been populated with figures that get elongated and twisted by the strange physics of their environment. Tommerup's work is interesting enough, but it seems to long to transcend its cuteness and digital dazzle, and the individual pieces would have more punch if there were fewer of them fighting for space on the wall. They otherwise show flair and potential.
The same goes for the recent sculptures by Gavin Perry. Perry knows auto-painting techniques, with which he creates seamless, irridescent surfaces crossed with automotive striping. His paintings combine the rigor of minimalist abstraction with the fun of playing with Hot Wheels cars. An excellent diptych entitled Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun features sparkly fields of white punctuated with bands of copper that angle slightly away from each other, creating a perspectival effect with the wall itself.
The sculptures, despite the same virile, meticulous craftsmanship, don't snap together like the paintings. Perry thinks like a painter, and has difficulty making an object that works convincingly from more than one or two viewpoints. The notable exception is Disarm the Sexes, a low, laminated box outfitted with a set of bull's horns and red neon lights, which is too strange to ignore.
Perry's work exemplifies what's best about this show: shaky but sometimes surprising artistic moves. "All You Can Eat" may not have arrived at the destination it set out for, but it ended up somewhere interesting.
Given the fact that I have so many interactions in the local art world - personal, social, professional - I have had to determine a standard for conflicts of interest that makes it possible for me to write. I have arrived at this: I become conflicted when factors extrinsic to the art cause me to make statements that can't be reconciled with the experience of looking at it by a neutrally inclined viewer. In my judgment, the above piece passes this test. (My comment about Salzinger herself finds agreement with two other writers about this show.)
The version that Street printed contains revisions that in my opinion altered the tone favorably enough to make conflicts of interest a concern. I believe that it still passes, but not by as wide of a margin. I did not consult Street regarding my former relationship with the curator; frankly, I didn't think that it was that big of a deal, and I maintain that in both pieces the presence of the relationship cannot be felt. Nevertheless I regret not informing my editor about it from the outset. Street abides by its own standards for conflicts and ought to have had all the information it needed to make the call about my article. I regret any problems this may have caused.
On the other hand, the revised version contains content that I didn't write and cannot identify with. Edits throughout caused the tone, in my opinion, to become unbalanced and inaccurate. Despite my working relationship with editor Mary Sutter, which has been consummately professional, the overall handling of this piece (and my subsequent concerns) by Street's editorial staff evinces a culture with which I feel disinclined to work.
I nevertheless want to thank Street for the opportunity to write for them, for which I will always remain grateful. I wish them the best and hope they find success in their endeavors.