Several of the commenters on the last blog were very confused by the oblique stacking design stem I brought up in the last few posts. In order to explain that better, I have to make an illustration. Doing the blog is a time eater that I have to manage. I have done lots of illustrations already, but they are time consuming. The best posts I have done often had illustrations and they are worth the time, but they take about an entire day or more to generate. For someone posting every day, that quickly becomes unmanageable, I have to have them in the works for days as an addendum to my regular blog creation. Here I am doing that again. Someday there will be a pamphlet, and the illustrations will be useful then.
So as an aside I think I will talk about juries at exhibitions. I attended the Annual Metting of the Rockport Art Association the other night and much of the talk after the meeeting was about the juries. It often is. Virtually everyone rejected by a previous jury has a plan for re-doing the juries, a constituency of the rejected, calling for no juries, or juries from outside the organization. Maybe college professors, or newspaper critics or museum curators, REAL EXPERTS.
I have sat on dozens of juries, assembled more than a few and been the president of an art association where it was part of my duties to sit in on, and oversee, the juries to ensure that it was "straight". I have been an "out side juror many times. I have had a very good look at the system.
The other evening I was talking to a woman (or was it two? they were small) who told me that she (they?) thought an outside jury of experts from the REAL (official) art world should come in to separate the quick from the dead. Maybe an art critic from a newspaper. I disagreed gently , being 32 feet tall and weighing over 1,600 pounds. "No ", I said, waving a finger the size of a kids baseball bat at her, and beginning to puff up to a gargantuan size. I began flapping my arms and hunching over, as I hissed through clenched obsidian teeth the size of tombstones .
, I sez:
"This is a juried association of hopefully qualified members. They have been vetted by jury and allowed by the strength of their art to become an artist member. There are art associations that are open to all comers or have thousands of members that often operate on that system. But I think it is tyranny! ( As I said this I spit streams of red hot nails and brads out of my ears) I think that the member ship should govern itself, selecting that jury is part of governance. It is the aesthetic "conscience" of the members. The elected jury stands at the gate and says "This shall not fly! below certain levels of quality we will not go!"
Often there is only so much wall space and many paintings clamoring for that limited space. Some triage has to be done, they all can't hang. They must be sorted, graded. We may disagree on what quality in art is or "goodness" whatever, but it is the best way to put together an exhibition. Pick the "best paintings" and hang them, return the weaker ones to their creators who will now join the other exhibited, in planning the the installation of people who they believe WILL favor their own art.
The membership has a body of vetted artists from which to select a jury, they know those artists and will generally appoint those they think most qualified either by reputation, ability or judgement. They know the nominees and are generally aware of their attributes. Over the course of years they have probably rotated through juries and sat next to them at judgement time.
The members have the right to decide for themselves who will jury them. Bringing in an unknown stranger, usually one who doesn't even paint, to manage this for you, is likng inviting the guy down the street to mange your personal life. For an art association, what gets shown in the exhibitions is important. Exhibiting the art of its members is it's primary mission. A membership needs to summon from its own numbers artist who can represent them on that jury. Like a democracy, not everyone gets to vote in the senate, but you certainly want to a say in choosing who does and have a number of nominees from which to choose rejecting some and approving others.
The membership needs to decide for itself what it wants on its walls their decisions may be erratic, but they will be their own arrived at in the fairest most democratic way. Self governance and not governance by unknown experts from the worlds of journalism, philosophy or writing but practitioners of the craft. Very few are great judges of crafts they themselves do not practice.
An outside jury is usually imposed from above, by the board, or the director. Generally when a membership is informed of the outside juror it is as a yes- no vote (like in 3rd world dictatorships) or the next juror is simply announced to them ( like in the time of Dirk Van Assaerts) by a newsletter from the staff or the board or the exhibition committee or who knows who. Often it is convenient that a member knows so and so at the college and that seemed as an easy way for the board to deal with the jury problem. Everybody is always upset about it (remember jurying automatically produces a noisy tribe of the disgruntled carrying torches and at the gates).
A CONSTITUENCY OF THE MEDIOCRE!Thats enough for today, more tomorrow.
There are definitely mistakes and preferences in jurying, it is an imperfect system. Sometimes an artist is rejected and you wonder why? "Looked good to me, well established artist too". But the greatest number of the rejected, were rejected for very good reason and almost any jury would have eliminated them. There is a wide range of quality in the paintings presented to a jury, with usually about half being very amateurish indeed. Its like the first shows of a season of American Idol, mostly train wrecks that make you ask "what made them think they could do this?" interspersed with the very occasional diamond".