Monday, April 8, 2013

The real and the not-so-real...

...or I guess I mean, the real and the a rapidly changing world.

A few thoughts here that came to me after reading an article by the art critic Jerry Saltz (  An article on how galleries are struggling, and the one aspect that stuck with me being a result of the Internet and the role online galleries play in the marketplace of art and ideas.  There is a lot to cover in this article, so I wont re-hash it all, but the point that I am left contemplating is how the Internet has changed the face of art and its audience.  And while it is easy to jump in on either side of that debate, with one deploring how art (clay in my case) is so often viewed as only a 2D representation of a 3D object; or the other side, in saying it has leveled the playing field making objects so much more accessible to everyone who has a computer (and who doesn't these days?), I don't think the discussion, or debate, is really that black and white.

Saltz talks about the importance of seeing art in galleries, and how that helps us formulate our opinions and foster a conversation about what we are seeing in the real world and in real time.  This is certainly true, and if I lived in NYC, LA or Chicago (or any other art center around the world), I would tend to think the absence of the gallery scene might be a loss too great to imagine.  But what about the rest of us, those of us rowing quietly in the cultural backwaters of society (and this is not to imply anything pejorative here as honest looks into culture are so often found in those places).  The very idea that I can experience art via the Internet certainly does create a more level playing field in what I know and see.  And after all, in the past (before the digital age), it was magazines in print that delivered the newest work to my doorstep, in 2D, from shows of artists far away from where I lived, meaning I was not always seeing clay objects in the real anyway.  The difference now is that I can see things as they appear at the same time as others in the big art centers around the world, albeit still in 2D (that is also changing!).

I remember back in the early 90's when I started the Clayart Listserv for ceramists, living in a more rural environment I was looking for a way to be more 'connected' to the clay world on a regular basis.  For me, it made a huge difference to be able to share ideas about clay with people from around the world, almost in real time.  And while images were not part of that format, the discussions were lively and new connections were made possible, and immediately.  Of course, Clayart continues today even though I passed it along to Ceramics Monthly in 2000, and since then, more electronic venues have presented themselves and added more to the digital dialogue that continues today. Saltz talks about missing the 'conversation' that is a vital part of the gallery scene, through openings and other meetings at shows.  But really, are these 'conversations' lost through the Internet?  Not sure. Clayart alone, at least in the early days, provided a great deal of grist for the (ceramic) mill and discussions were often lively and thoughtful (not sure these days as I do not follow the list regularly).  But the idea that the loss of a meaningful gallery scene equates to a loss of a meaningful 'coversation' on art seems narrow in scope, at least to me.

But, on the other side of the issue, when comparing traditional galleries to on-line venues (can I still call them galleries?), have we really made progress?  I guess it sort of depends on what we call 'progress', don't you think?  I say this because sure, on-line galleries (or any other electronic means of showcasing one's work) does allow for a more level playing field with regard to people having access.  I mean really, now your work can be seen by anyone with a computer, and your audience is not limited to those locations where good, traditional style galleries exist (and I have not even mentioned accessibility to web sites!).  But it also means everyone has a venue for showcasing their work, and in many cases, without regard to the quality of that work.  As I said in an earlier post...when art becomes everything, it also becomes nothing! So while we have this tremendous access to work from around the world, where and how are standards being applied?  And for that matter, who creates the standards in the first place?  When traditional galleries present work, I guess we rely on their knowledge and keen 'eye' towards presenting the best.  So now, through the internet, we need to rely on...?  Hmmm, makes you wonder, right?

With all this said, there are certainly good places, at least for me, where I look to see good work in clay.  Access Ceramics is one, and I love it because it is not a sales room, only a place to see good ceramic work.  For sales, AKAR does good shows, along with Schaller Gallery, Charlie Cummings Gallery, etc., not to mention other less commercial gallery/more community based venues such as Red Lodge, Lill Street, etc..  Oh, the list goes on and on, and I'll bet anyone reading this could add another name (please do!) to a growing list of credible clay spaces that function primarily as on-line galleries.

In the end, I am glad to have ANY access to looking at clay, be it in-person, through the Internet, or print magazines.  They all still play an important role for me, and I am sure many others as well.  But as magazines move toward on-line apps (like Ceramics Monthly just has), and the digital age gets more and more sophisticated, the future for following clay art is obvious.  How many of you have already thrown out your old clay magazines?

A few sites worth checking out, but we all know there are so many more to list:

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