A cry for real critics–Junto at P’unk Avenue

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Drama was the operative word last week when Roberta and I, along with Sid Sachs, Andrew Suggs and book artist Katie Murken participated a take-no-prisoners discussion about art criticism.

Andrew Suggs, Katie Murken and Sid Sach at Junto. All photos in this post taken by photographer Mike Fleming, http://mikeflem.blogspot.com/
Andrew Suggs, Katie Murken and Sid Sach at Junto. All photos in this post taken by photographer Mike Fleming, http://mikeflem.blogspot.com/

The panel was one of a series of discussions, Junto, organized by South Philly design firm P’unk Avenue. Our moderator was P’unk’s Rick Banister, who deftly held it down and keep it directed, until ultimately even he was overwhelmed by a groundswell of anger and frustration (oy, frustrated artists). (Here’s a link to the P’unk Avenue blog, P’unk Avenue Window, where there are several posts and comments about the event).

Rick Banister presiding
Rick Banister presiding

The small storefront on Passyunk Avenue on the corner of Federal was filled to capacity, with people on the floor, in the door, wherever they could squeeze themselves.

Mostly what they needed, besides a sliver of space, was a psychiatrist’s couch.

Sid Sachs and Roberta mid discussion. Me on right.
Sid Sachs and Roberta mid discussion. Me on right listening.

Sid Sachs, who’s the director of the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at UArts, brought the historical perspective, which no one was taking in, methinks. They couldn’t possibly believe that things used to be worse. Sweet guy, he said that with a nod to us. As far as the artblog is concerned, after his nod it was downhill all the way for us. But we enjoyed the toboggan ride anyway! What a discussion!

Andrew Suggs talking, Katie Murken listening
Andrew Suggs talking, Katie Murken listening

Andrew Suggs, director of Vox Populi Gallery, expressed a yearning for more writing with philosophical underpinnings and less writing that was cheerleading. That, too, seemed to come with an anti-nod to us, albeit unspoken. I think I pouted. (Just for the record, we do have philosophical underpinnings, but we don’t shout them in the day-to-day posts. There’s a pattern there to be read, honest. And it has to do not with formal issues but content issues. And if you ask me, therein lies the parting of the ways. I for one believe in the formalism of convenience, the one that fits the content, and not vice versa).

James Rosenthal, sporting a hat, Joseph diGiuseppi, sporting a video camera, and Rick Banister
James Rosenthal, sporting a hat, Joseph diGiuseppi, sporting a video camera, and Rick Banister

Someone wanted to know why the area academic community wasn’t contributing (by way of writing) to the philosophical and historical discussion about Philadelphia art.

Sachs and Suggs (doesn’t that sound like a Pop music duo?) complained that no hero critic on a white steed was riding in to clarify the murky waters of Philadelphia’s mushrooming mass creativity with standards and philosophical positions.

As if that’s what you get out of the New York Times! Cut me a break.

I do have to thank Sid for pointing out that Clement Greenberg was more certain than he was right. Now there’s some truth.

Anyway, there was a lot of whining (artist and writer James Rosenthal did at least half of it and Sid told him to cut it out and do something instead of just complain; but those two have a long-standing feud that’s best left to sleep). I was impressed with how many issues people had–based on their own needs and disappointments. I mean, really, can art criticism save everyone’s career????

Zoe Strauss‘ name came up as a role model for how to do it. Sid said she created her own world in her art work, and then she marketed it in every way possible. She established herself in New York; no one did it for her.

Afterwards Chris Golas (FLUXspace) came up to me and said some more about the need for people to grow up and deal with the market and stop blaming everyone else for not doing what they themselves should be doing–figuring out how to create a market in Philadelphia, and if it’s not possible here, figuring out how to take advantage of the market in New York. He himself was struggling with what all that means in terms of art and ahht.

A big thank you to Banister and the P’unk posse, who organized the event. They have Juntos ever month or two on various topics. I know they have a crowd of regulars. The Juntos may not all be rip-snorters like this one, but it sounds like they all offer food for thought (plus there was pizza I hear tell; I experienced the beer).

We are thinking about all that got said, and are trying to figure out how we can help further the discussion.

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