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Don’t miss Art:21’s fifth season


art:21, Art in the 21st Century,  is back!  This season’s series of 14 in-depth artist interviews and studio visits begins and ends like a house on fire. The first interview is with the brilliant William Kentridge and the very last is with the brilliant Allan McCollum. The series begins this week with Kentridge, Carrie Mae Weems and Doris Salcedo.Snapshot 2009-10-05 18-49-21

Besides this week’s group, who are grouped under the theme of compassion, here are the other groups:

–Jeff Koons
, Mary Heilmann
, Florian Maier-Aichen, Cao Fei
Transformation–Yinka Shonibare MBE, Cindy Sherman, 
Paul McCarthy
Julie Mehretu, John Baldessari, 
Allan McCollum

Besides Kentridge and McCollum, you don’t want to miss Carrie Mae Weems for her family history and the yarn about her appropriation of Harvard’s images of slaves and Jeff Koons who actually mentions metaphysics and his art in the same breath. Other highlights for me were Cao Fei, Yinka Shonibare, Cindy Sherman and Kimsooja. The big disappointments for me were the interviews with Paul McCarthy and John Baldessari.

More than 3/4 of the artists in this grouping work collaboratively, to some extent. Of course Jeff Koons and Allan McCollum take this factory approach the farthest. But Julie Mehretu? After her team puts down the underlayers, she paints the final gestural layer, working on canvases so large she had to move from New York to Germany to find large enough studio space. Now that was a surprise!

Here at artblog, where collaboration is king, we do not turn up our noses at this state of affairs. After all, it’s a fine old art tradition going back to the Middle Ages and earlier. Personally, I think it’s the end of the macho myth of the genius artist, working alone, stricken with inspiration from the heavens above. Hard work and intelligent decision-making once again get some recognition as critical factors in art-making!

Season Five of Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century will air on WHYY (Channel 12), beginning Thursday, Oct. 8, 10 p.m. and subsequent Thursdays in October at 10 p.m. as well. (On PBS stations in some parts of the country, the show may air as early as Wednesday). Info on a number of Philadelphia area screenings, including all four episodes at the ICA also starting this Thursday, can be found at art:21’s access pages. And for all you compu-couch potatoes, you soon will be able to catch the entire series online via Hulu, iTunes and other internet sources.