Friday, July 23, 2010
"Spark" Goes Out Tomorrow
Saturday marks the end of "Spark," an interesting little show at Butter Projects in Royal Oak. Butter is the alter ego of the studio space of two recent Cranbrook grads, Kelly Frank and Alison Wong. When they're not using the rented storefront to make their own work, the pair intends to put on four shows a year. This is the second.
The concept behind "Spark" is simple. Kelly and Wong chose works by nine artists and then matched them up with another nine to respond. The basic idea has been done before, for example, the old "Artists Chose Artists" shows that used be mounted at Detroit Focus Gallery. (Typically when the Exhibition Committee ran out of other ideas.) This one has a little bit different spin in that the chosen artists actually created new works in response to specific preexisting ones.
The most logical move is for the respondent to play yang to the first artist's yin. And so it is in the pairing Julie Blackmon and Jef Borgeau (top image). Blackmon's piece, Rooster, is an exquisitely seamless PhotoShop image of a child standing in a corner holding a rooster. It's virtually impossible to tell where the editing has been done, save for the view through the window at the right of a UPS truck seen through the scrim of a curtain. Borgeau responds with a moody painting, filled with baroque lighting and visible brush strokes. Mystery remains in that the main action of the title Combing Her Hair takes place outside the frame. All you see are two pairs of feet and legs, one obviously standing behind the other.
Another example is the pairing of Adrian Hatfield and David Flaughter (middle image). Hatfield presents one of his signature resin paintings, this one flooded with a delectable orange that is built up in layers bedecked with flowers and glitter. The piece is all out maximalism, eye candy of the most alluring sort. Flaughter on the other hand barely inscribes the canvas with vectors of lines in pencil and ballpoint pen.
Other artists worked to integrate their response into the other work. Nate Morgan simply stuck an arrow into the wall next to Joe Neave's untitled watercolor of a kaleidoscopic arrangement of female nudes.
My favorite was the collaboration Anders Ruhwald and Robert Fanning (bottom image). Installed in a corner, Fanning wrote two poems that offered narratives (of sorts) for two earthenware floor vessels, each of which served as pedestals for balloons.
What I thought was most interesting about this show is the idea of collaboration and its relationship to artistic creativity. In the old "Artists Choose Artists" shows, each artist was essentially an individual voice, the pairing happenstance at best. In this case, the second artist was acknowledging the influence of the first and not taking it as competition but instead as a "spark" for aesthetic dialog.
Romantic art from Gericault on down into the present is at pains to demonstrate "originality," "authenticity," and other tropes of authorial power. The premise of this show assumes that art is a social thing, a network of human relationships of which specific works are the nodes. I much prefer the latter.