By Christina Rees via glasstire.com
[Excerpt, for full story, click here]
The new big show called “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now” at Crystal Bridges in Arkansas is a survey of contemporary art made by American artists who aren’t on the national radar even if they’re popular back home. The 102 regional artists (from 44 states) represented in the show aren’t slated to be the next national art stars, and that allowed the curators to relax into the task of creating a snapshot of work being made across the country without the pressure of winks to the international market or stroking the collective ego of the bi-coastal chattering class. One gets the feeling that for some of these artists, being included this show will be a career peak. Which is absolutely fine. It’s refreshing to see such an expansive show entirely lacking in name dropping or bets on future auction prices.
It’s clear even from the press material that the show’s remit is simply to represent each region in the nation and be a people pleaser. As the curators walked the press corps through the 19,000 square-feet devoted to the exhibition yesterday morning, my sense was that that no one needs to have taken a single art history class to “like” every piece in it—everything is instantly gettable. Even the nod to Donald Judd made out of box fans and straw hats by Detroit’s Hamilton Poe doesn’t need the Judd reference to charm what I imagine will be the thousands of school children and Branson-bound travelers who will tour the show. (The fact that this museum, dropped in the middle of Walmart country, is a godsend to smart kids who would never otherwise be exposed to art is another story.)
This is real art by real working artists. The populist bent was a considered choice. The exhibition’s curators, museum president Don Bacigalupi and staff curator Chad Alligood, traveled the country for nearly two years and visited about 1000 artist studios, and mostly avoided any truly challenging art; nothing here is willfully ambivalent or too subtle or dark. Almost every piece is turned up to eleven in terms of being engaging.
The video that stood out for me was by Dave Greber of New Orleans. It’s projected as a big oval on the floor, like a rug or table top, and the bird’s-eye images of various objects in motion stack and layer and unfurl on top of one another in a relentless and exhilarating rhythm: fabric, plates, food, a dog, a cat, paint, everything plus the kitchen sink. It’s high-energy and hypnotic.