Our expert panel included Andrew Suggs, director of the non-profit artist-run Vox Populi Gallery
, Sid Sachs, director of the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery
and faculty at the University of the Arts, Libby Rosof and Roberta Fallon, founders of the Philadelphia Art Blog
and the 0.1% For Art Commission
, and was led by myself and Katie Murken, artist and Tyler faculty member.
A bit of background was discussed, from Richard Flood's 1970's publication Arts Exchange, the New Arts Examiner magazine, the cratering of the art market in the early 90's, the start of Vox Populi (they are currently in their twenty-first year), the start of Space 1026
(eleven years ago), and the start of the Art Blog as a means of digesting through reviews a small part of the Philadelphia community.
for this Junto was my assumption that there is little being done—in Philadelphia and the larger art world—in the way of framing contemporary art practice with theory (or as Sid put it, philosophy). Sid further clarified that the distribution of criticism is a bell curve: pedestrian taste-oriented chatter on the left tail, a bulk of informed reviews generating exposure for work, and the academic right of art philosophy. It is not that we are lacking any one of those functions of criticism, but we need for all of them to expand and elevate. Artists and galleries need reviews for exposure, the audience needs reviews to help them find their way through a large and disparate art world. Artists and galleries also need the help of theorists to place their work in a larger context, providing a vocabulary for discussion, and challenging them to make work that is increasingly relevant.
There are currently a number of avenues for each of those critical functions—Libby and Roberta keep a somewhat comprehensive list
of local and national art blogs on their site, Andrew and Vox continue to invite critics and curators to lead artist talks for each exhibition and have recently embraced a forum for group critique between members. Sid challenged us to fill in the gaps. There is a feeling that Philadelphia lacks the monetary base to sustain serious criticism, but what it does have is cheap rent and plenty of democratized technology. The circumstances that make our city ripe for the creation of art extend equally to criticism.
After this opportunity to blow off some steam and have sort of a group-hug, it seems there is a fervor and want for elevated conversation, and plenty of qualified practitioners. Start writing a book, start contributing to a blog, record artist talks, publish or perish.