Dean Liscum condemned the Salon des Refusés at BLUEorange Gallery as "Fun Fair Positive art"--everybody's a winner here! And there is a lot of art that got shown over the four weekends that the Salon des Refusés ran that wasn't all that great. But there is a big difference between the Big Show and the Salon of 19th century France. The Big Show makes no claim to show the best work--indeed, no one could convincingly make such a claim today because the very act of judging has become so atomized and problematic. What the Big Show has a right to claim is that it is the best show that the guest juror could make when applying his tastes to the material offered. So of course that means he rejected a lot of inept, half-baked art. But he also rejected art that was good or pretty or interesting or even art that he liked but that didn't fit in with the show he wanted to present.
So the upshot is that any given piece of art in the Salon des Refusés might be pretty good or not, depending on your own tastes. This is a wishy-washy thing for a critic to say, I admit. But that's why I sign my reviews. Everything I write is filtered through my experience, my education and my tastes.
With that in mind, here are a few pieces from the Salon des Refusés that appealed to me.
Happy Valentine, El Radio X, 2013, found objects including a radiation mask, 27 3/8 x 33 3/8 x 14 inches
Happy Valentine had a video in the Big Show, but I guess this one didn't make it. But I like it--the radiation mask mounted on a black background is creepy and disturbing. I don't like the sunglasses and bandana or the lights inside (not so visible in this photo) so much-I think it might have been better just to show the mask alone.
Needless to say, this is an artifact of Valentine's own treatment, as is the video Code Blue in the Big Show. Valentine was a musician who after being treated for cancer could no longer play. These two pieces are among his first visual artworks.
Jim Adams, Siblings, 2011, rescued metal, 17 x 16 x 54 inches
The only thing I don't like about Siblings by Jim Adams are the two faces--they seem too literal to me. But I love the rich texture and color of the metal. I like it when a sculptor sees a piece of metal crap and thinks, I see beauty in that and with my welding torch, I can make other people see the beauty, too.
Cynthia Gomez, 2013, Nearly Devouring Growth, fabric, thread, 6 x 9 1/16 inch
Several of my favorite pieces in the Salon des Refusés appealed to me because they had interesting textures. Nearly Devouring Growth by Cynthia Gomez, for example.
Sebastian Montes, Renovation 1, 2013, latex on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
Renovation 1 by Sebastian Montes also had a cool texture.
Laura Pregeant, 2013, untitled, refrigerator, fur, chandelier, 8 feet tall
I guess I'd have to say I have a soft spot for altered found objects, like Laura Pregeant's piece and Happy Valentine's. But it's not that I find that kind of art inherently more interesting than other kinds of art--I just happened to like these two pieces. The blinged out refrigerator made me laugh, which counts for a lot in my book.
Blase DiStefano, 2012, 4 Queers and 4 Faggots, typographic/ornamental collage, 15 13/16 x 15 15/16 inches
I guess the letters in 4 Queers and 4 Faggots by Blase DiStefano are iron-on appliques or something like that. It is amusingly put together--I saw the pattern before I could read the words. It reminds of an ultra-stripped down Lari Pittman. And one can't help but think of Cary Leibowitz (aka Candyass).
Dandridge Reed, Collectible Item, 2004, mixed media, 18 x 24
I like Collectible Item by Dandridge Reed for its layering of collage elements and paint and the way the painting looks and the pleasing nostalgic subject.