R I V E R M A R K E T R E G I O N A L E X H I B I T I O N
KANSAS CITY ARTISTS COALITION
JULY 8 - AUGUST 19, 2011
Oracles & Vessels, 40x30" Oil on Canvas, Weathering Veins, 2010
In 2011 Oracles & Vessels was selected by Curator Dr. Patricia McDonnell to be in Kansas City Artists Coalition's prestigious River Market Regional Exhibition (RMRE).
Dr. Patricia McDonnell, Director, Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas. McDonnell has worked in art museums for 30 years. She opened new museum facilities at Tacoma Art Museum (with architect Antoine Pedock) and the Weisman Art Museaum, University of Minnesota (with architect Frank Gehry), and led curatorial programs to build increased audience. McDonnell is a widely published scholar, a specialist on painter Marsden Hartley, and curated over 80 exhibitions on a range of modern and contemporary art subjects.
"Quality. To jury an exhibition requires a discerning selection from a large body of art. The juror applies his or her best measures for identifying quality and makes choicesregarding good, better, and best. The “best” works make their way into the exhibition,receive the commission, or win the prize.
Quality has been a much contested notion in the recent art world. Do absolute anduniversal values truly exist in visual expression, values that supersede time, place, andculture? How are these absolute values applied? And by whom? The past centuries ofart theory, criticism, and practice held tight to the concept of absolute values. Formalismand the modernist project wove dependent ideas around this worldview.
Today’s postmodern thinkers, however, take a very different approach. Leading critics argue that determining quality no longer remains a valid or always valuable undertakingin the visual arts today. “Quality,” for many, stands as a code work for the exclusionary tactics of a Eurocentric, patriarchal society. Partly this belief is a reaction to the once monolithic authority of the canon and its keepers, and partly this belief comes as an intentional provocation to wake up the world to a new, postmodern ideology. A mainstream paradigm remains solidly in force within the art world, as it does in other spheres of American culture. The Western canon has not been toppled or entirely replaced. But, it has loosened. We are able to maneuver around and within the canon in the 21st century. When non-Western artists and when minority artists within Western countries create work that depend upon expressions within their cultures, then awareness of those references in their art is essential to any understanding of the work. When an untrained artist develops a wholly new and original style and meansfor cultural commentary and visual expression, value exists in the sophistication of that new and necessarily very different language. By striving to open up the canon and sensitizing the art world to “other” perspectives, cultures, and creative voices, we needn’t abandon all judgments of value. As art critic Thomas McEvilley states it, “a value judgment is still a very real expression of a culture’s sensibility, an avenue to the appreciation of what might be called its soul.”
Mihaly Csikszentmahily, a highly regarded specialist on creativity, makes the argument that it is only through the collected judgments of value that any field advances. Without the system that recognizes creativity and originality for what it is, creative genius can pass unknown and unencouraged. Csikszentmahily tells a clever story from his personal life history to support the essential need for expert judgments of value. He was once an editorial assistant in a publishing firm, and an astounding manuscript arrived in the mail one day. The author claimed to have been captured by aliens and transported to their spaceship. The manuscript detailed the complex technical innerworkings of the aircraft, as best remembered by the author. The editorial staff was impressed by the detail and specificity of the document, and they sent it out for review. As specialists weighed in, the technical part of the manuscript turned out to be a modified design of a conventional washing machine. The manuscript did not go to print. The author was clever, but not original when judged within his field.As the juror for the 2011 River Market Regional Exhibition, I passed judgments of value over a remarkably diverse and strong body of work. Many inventive, original voices live and practice the art in the geographic area encompassed by the exhibition.
The creative products of these voices will be on view at the Kansas City Artists Coalition from July 8 through August 19, 2011. Viewing this art, straining to discern meaning and value in it will make visitors to the exhibition participants in what is vital and alive in our culture. For as McEllivey has it, the “soul” of the region’s visual culture will be exposed and displayed in this artmaking." ~Dr. Patricia McDonnell