Friday, April 25, 2008

Joan Fabian and the Hunting Prize

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The Opposite of Peace, 2007, by Joan Fabian

This painting by Joan Fabian was entered into the into the Hunting Prize, where she was one of the artists on their "short list." As I understand it, that means she made it through the first round of judging, in which she had sent them a digital image of the piece, they decided they liked it, and asked for the original to be sent. She sent the piece to them, at considerable expense. At this point, she was disqualified. Why?

I contacted one of the jurors, who were going to chose pieces by viewing the actual works, and he said they never seen my piece. I called a representative of Hunting and she told me that they had nothing to do with the disqualification process and that it was the jurors that did the disqualifying because it wasn't a "painting".
Way to dodge responsibility guys! Now this is admittedly a grey area. On the other hand, artists have been painting on shaped canvases and shaped pieces of wood for a long time, and if such a work was not a painting as far as the Hunting Prize is concerned, it should have been either 1) more clearly spelled out in the rules, or 2) disqualified when she sent the digital file in.

What is the Hunting Prize? It's an art prize given by Hunting PLC, an English oil services company. From 1981 to 2005, it was given in the U.K., but moved to Texas in 2006. The prize is astonishingly generous--$50,000.

So what's the big controversy? It has been suggested that the shaped wooden nature of the painting is not the problem, but the subject. In the jaundiced opinion of local art blog B.S. Houston, Hunting is a prize that exist for the purpose of "impressing very-very wealthy oil executives and their wives." He also points our that the sign up sheet requires you to acknowledge that
Any artwork that includes the use of bodily fluids, degradation of religion or government, and/or depiction of sexual acts or any other medium, presentation or topic objectionable to Hunting PLC will be automatically disqualified from the competition.
So here's the possibly nefarious disqualification. Maybe the Hunting Prize people didn't see the word "WAR" when they got the digital file (I didn't see it at first, either), and when they opened the crate . . . whoops. (Why the word "WAR" should be offensive is another issue, but Hunting seems pretty damn sensitive about potential offense.)

What do I think? Well, whatever their reason for disqualifying the work, they did wrong by Joan Fabian, who went through a lot of expense to have a crate built for the piece and to ship it, at the request of the Hunting Prize. Also, the Hunting Prize folks need to loosen up a bit. And finally, impressing oil executives and their wives (and husbands) is worth doing--also educating them about art. If you are an artist trying to make a living from art in Texas, these people will be among your customers. So as an artist, you need to reach out to them in some way. They don't all have bad taste after all--Jean and Dominique DeMenil proved that.

For me, as a disinterested observer of this scene, I got introduced to an interesting artist. Joan Fabian's work reminds me of a stew of Jim Nutt, Lari Pittman, Elizabeth Murray, and Frank Stella. So on that note, let's close with another one of her paintings.

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Playtime, 2005

Update: In the comments, an artist named Carlos tells a similar story:
I have also been given the boot by the HAP folks. The word that I got was that my work was too-3-D...

Yes, it is made up of objects and brakes the plane of the 2-d format. Yes,I did include all dimensions and materials used. Yes, I did spend a large amount of money to ship the work to Houston, Yes, I have to spend more money to get the work back.
This suggests the problem they had with Fabian's work was its three dimensionality, not its politics. But it also suggest the Hunting Prize folks didn't pay much attention to the digital files and information the artists submitted about their pieces. I wonder if any other painters who submitted "non-flat" works were rejected?

2nd Update: You can see Carlos Cuevas' rejected piece here. It has a bit of an Ed Kienholz/Michael Tracy vibe, though without either of those two artists' intensity. B.S. Houston still thinks it was the "offensive" nature of the works that got them rejected. Cuevas's assemblage has some religious elements, but doesn't seem particularly offensive to me. (But the Hunting Art Prize people may be exceptionally sensitive to possible offense, for all I know.) At the same time, HAP must have been blind not to see that this was essentially a mixed media three dimensional work when they got the slide. Curiouser and curiouser!

(Welcome Glasstire readers!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Give Up in EDO

EDO--that's what this graffitist/gallerist is calling "east of downtown."

This is from the website give up. Maybe you've seen some of this necessarily anonymous artist's work pasted up here and there around town. He's a highly creative street artist using posters and billboards placed presumably without permission hither and yon, all with the uplifting message, "Give up."

He has a show up at the Aerosol Warfare gallery. (I think the guy with the cowboy hat in the video is part of Aerosol Warfare.) Aerosol Warfare is a collective of legal graffiti artists. You may have seen this house on Alabama at Almeda they did:

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Photo from HoustonSoReal.

So, the question is, how did I not know these guys had their own gallery?! I guess that means I'm old now.

(All of this via Neon Poisoning.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gary Panter is in New York (and I wish I was too)
(This Panter painting is not in the Clementine show as far as I know. But all the images from Supertouch went away, so I borrowed this image from a Billy Shire Gallery show.)

Wow, this show looks great. Panter is one of my favorite artists (ever since I first saw his work in RAW and Invasion of the Elvis Zombies). This gallery show at Clementine Gallery in New York sounds practically like a retrospective, but I'll echo Supertouch and proclaim that Panter really deserves a museum retrospective. (You listening Diverse Works? CAM?)

Panter has a book that is tantamount to a retrospective from the nice folks at PictureBox. Have I mentioned that my birthday is coming up? May 8th? I'm just sayin...