Thursday, April 12, 2007

Embarrassment is Conservative

Anointed Oil Auto Repair, Auction AvenueOver at Lantana Projects, Ian Lemmonds recently interviewed Frederic Koeppel, the art writer for the Commercial Appeal. In a question about getting people to pay attention to your art, he says:
Show as much as you can at spaces that are not embarrassing (no beauty salons, frame stores and pet shops).
But later, in a question about the changes in the Memphis art scene,
We have more alternative spaces, more independent and non-profit groups, more artists (and many of the same artists), but it’s clearly still a struggle to make and sell art in what is essentially an artistically conservative town.
Which leads me to this: maybe we're an artistically conservative town because we label mundane venues as embarrassing.


Because I think we should be an artistically progressive town, and because maybe is good enough for me, here's where we should show art:
  • convenience stores
  • car washes
  • parking garages
  • anywhere Louise Dunavant's paintings hang.
  • barbecue shops
  • MATA buses and trolleys
  • back yards
  • front yards (especially Prince Mongo's front yard)
  • public schools
  • ATMs
  • clubs and coffee houses.
  • feed stores
  • independent used bookstores
  • police precincts
  • pawn shops
  • churches
  • multiplexes
  • sidewalks
  • cafeterias
  • empty buildings
  • empty lots
  • Second Life
  • greenhouses and nursery grounds
  • tattoo parlors
  • anywhere Thomas Kinkade's paintings hang
  • junkyards
  • martial arts academies
  • where newscasters get their hair cut
  • the sides of the Pyramid
  • any setting of a Craig Brewer movie
  • any setting of a John Michael McCarthy movie
  • tanning salons
  • video stores
  • animal shelters
  • public libraries
  • City Council chambers
  • funeral homes
  • liquor stores
  • Chinese food buffets
  • sno-cone emporiums
  • everywhere else
Note: following my advice rather than Mr. Koeppel's will not only harm your career, but possibly the art itself. It could get stolen, it could get shot, it could get barbecue sauce on it.

But I just don't see how Memphis can build whitewalls around art and still shake artistic conservatism.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:19 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Deleted comment was 9/11 conspiracy spam.

12:34 AM  
Blogger fearlessvk said...

thanks for the tattoo parlor nod ;)

7:55 AM  
Blogger Justin W. McGregor said...

It's always struck me as an odd feature of the Memphis art scene that it's accepted to hang work in a bar if it's the one frequented by the right people, but it's not OK to hang in hair salons or coffee shops because it somehow demeans the art. Now that you've said it though, I think someone really need to curate a Chinese buffet show...

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Hugh Hollowell said...

I highly recommend independent used bookstores, but I might be biased...

11:46 AM  
Anonymous ian lemmonds said...

As an artist myself, I can tell you that putting your art in these places will definitely harm your career. It takes only a little while for people (after they've seen your work around) to begin approaching you with "opportunities". They mean well, and will tell you they are curating a show in some restaurant or hair salon somewhere, and at first you will do a few of these kinds of shows and say to yourself, "maybe this will help my career". Trust me, it won't. No one goes to the hair salon to look at or buy art. Instead, the hair salon is getting free, revolving are placed on their walls ao they don't have to go out and buy any. Frederic's advice was right, and I, for one, am going to take it. Memphis may be conservative artistically, but that's no reason to start hanging your art in places where people will not see it, buy it, or care about it. :)

12:26 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Ian, I agree with the advice also but wonder how you convert a city if you preach only to the choir in an acoustically sound church. That's not the responsibility of the individual artist, of course, but if we talk about Memphis as something more than a random, geographically contiguous collection of individuals, then I think it's worth considering.

By the way, I liked Mark Nowell's sculpture on the corner of Union and McLean. Red light -- you looked at it for 5 seconds; green light -- off you went. What the site lacked in concentration it made up in ubiquity. It sounds like the sculpture's gone to a good home, but I'll miss that ubiquity. I bet it had an effect on everyone who passed it by on a regular basis, especially children who might even consider it a token of their childhood and now are converted.

thanks for the interview and thanks for reading.

8:46 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Hugh, a big oversight. I've added your recommendation.

fearlessvk, you could take it a step further with tattoo parlors and transfer the art directly to patrons.

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello this is delbert-

I think that the conversation at hand should not just be where to show or not show your work because for me, the argument does not appear that simple. Although I can see how showing paintings in a beauty salon may sound like a career death sentence, I believe that if this location is a necessary context for the work, then that is where it should be shown. The problem at hand then becomes how Memphis’ contemporary art scene select its venues. Alternative venues allow a broader audience to come in contact with art, and possibly one that doesn’t regularly interact with contemporary art. I personally would like to believe that venue depends on the artist or collective, or in the case here, what Memphis’ contemporary art scene is willing to support.

11:50 PM  
Blogger PeskyFly said...

Yes, yes, and yes. And the building pictured is just around the corner (and one of my favorite hand painted signs in town).

10:45 AM  
Blogger The Saucier said...

I whole-heartedly recommend showing in BBQ joints as long as it isn't near the pit. Unless of course your work is fire-retardant. Don't worry about the sauce. BBQ sauce makes everything better.

7:39 PM  

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