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Host Sarah Urist Green shares 40 reflections about art, gathered in the course of a career in art, art history, curating, and making videos about all of the above. And don't forget to check out Sound Field!: http://youtube.com/soundfieldpbs.
#art #arthistory #contemporaryart

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Alright, so, I do my best to pass along the art and ideas of many different people on this channel.

But today I’m going to speak from my own experience and share forty reflections about art that feel something like the truth to me... Or at least truth-adjacent...

For now... Because everything is contingent. 40) Big things can happen in small places. Think about Black Mountain College, where amazing makers and thinkers gathered together to grow their own practices and teach the next generation from the 1930s to the 50s.

And it happened not in New York or Paris but on the side of a North Carolina Mountain. Or there’s the 25 acres of sculptures and mosaic courtyards that Nek Chand created in the north Indian city of Chandigarh. You can make art and do cool things anywhere, even if the market is in only a few places. 39) You don’t have to like Picasso.

You can, but you don’t have to. 38) Almost everyone is suffering from a crushing lack of confidence, even at fancy art parties. Perhaps especially at fancy art parties. 37) I like a lot of conceptual art, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also appreciate draftsmanship and art that involves tremendous training and skill. Master craftsmanship never gets old.

And liking it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy different kinds of art, too. 36) As one of my art professors in college once said, “Some people go to the moon. Some people paint a canvas red.” I took it to mean: Lots of human activities are kind of crazy and arbitrary when you think about it. But also, keep whatever you’re doing in perspective. 35) Context matters!

Sometimes I like to squint my eyes and imagine art that I see on a folding table at a sidewalk art fair on the wall at MoMa. And conversely, imagine the artwork I see at fancy galleries hanging tightly packed with many others in a poorly lit gymnasium. Doing this can solidify either solidify what you were already thinking about that artwork, or completely upend it. 34) Sometimes, the most important person in the room is sweaty and wearing bike shorts.

I learned this when I was working at an art gallery right out of college and made my first and very significant sale to just such an individual. But this can apply to so many fields. Don’t judge anyone by their attire or other outward signs.

You never know who they are or what they might bring to your life. 33) Related to this, remember that when you are making snarky comments about the art you’re looking at, there’s a chance the artist is in the room with you. 32) It is easy to parody contemporary art, and that parody is often deserved. Sometimes the emperor really isn’t wearing any clothes. But parody can also be a way of giving ourselves license to ignore what we might find challenging or complex.

So you know, laugh, but then think about it anyway. 31) Lectures and all-day symposia about art can be deadly boring but if you sit there you will come up with good ideas. This is how my husband discovered the idea of “third space,” used extensively in his book The Fault in Our Stars. 30) You don’t have to like Impressionism. You can, but you don’t have to. 29) The ancient Roman poet Horace said that poetry should delight and instruct, or in other less pithy translation, “join the instructive with the agreeable.” This can be extended to visual art as well.

Make sure to leave room for both when you are making art or experiencing it. 28) Disliking something is rarely forever. I dislike Renoir right now, but that only tells me that in 20 years I’m going to encounter a Renoir that will surprise and move me. The art may not have changed, but I will have, and also the world around me will have, both affecting my read of it. 27) Whenever I study an artist or artwork deeply, my appreciation for the work almost always grows.

I’m a softy that way. 26) You belong in art museums and galleries. If you are made to feel as if you don’t belong, that is because the museum isn’t doing their job, not because you don’t belong. If you feel like you don’t belong in a fancy commercial gallery, try not to take it personally.

They are trying to sell luxury goods to .01 percenters, and that air of exclusion is something they’re trying to cultivate to make the work seem more special. 25) People are involved with art for a variety of reasons, some of them purely economic. The art world is not one thing; it is many things. 24) At times, your art world might feel like middle school. There are nice people in middle school, but the larger structures of power and influence don’t necessarily bring out the best in them. 23) It’s okay to be earnest.

Jadedness and cynicism feel cooler, and maybe they are cool. But do you actually want to be cold to what the world has to offer? 22) When you’re in a museum, go your own pace. Don’t feel like you have to look at everything for an equal amount of time, and feel free to breeze through twelve rooms to spend your entire visit in just one. 21) Images you recognize are a very powerful pull.

Part of the magic of seeing the Mona Lisa in person is that YOU KNOW IT’S THE MONA LISA. Try looking at other artworks with that same enthusiasm, imagining them to be of equal importance and value, even if you’ve never heard of the artist. 20) Even a simple museum label can tell you a lot. Beyond the title and artist’s name, look at the collection number of the artwork, which will include a year along with some other letters or numbers you can ignore.

That is the year the art was collected by the museum, which may or may not correspond to when it was made. Think about the circumstances of that time period, and what it might mean for, say, an artwork created by a woman artist in the 1950s, to be collected in the 2000s. 19) Take as many pictures of the art as you want, as long as it’s allowed. It can be a great way to jog your memory and help you look things up later. 18) Looking at art through the lens of your camera is not the same thing as looking at art.

Look at the art for longer than feels necessary. 17) You do not have to photograph an experience for it to have happened. If you feel strongly compelled, just channel Eugene Levy in the otherwise terrible 2005 movie The

Man: [clip:. I am taking a mental picture / blink] 16) When going to see art, wear comfortable shoes. You’ll look much worse when you’re hobbling and your feet are bleeding in more stylish footwear. 15) Acknowledge the presence of gallery guards. They are people.

A slight nod of the head or a little smile will do, especially if you’re the only two people in the room. Also, sometimes the guards know secrets, and will tell them to you. 14) Don’t get mad if a guard tells you to take a step back. It’s their job to protect the art, and you’re getting to close and for all they know could be the one maniac who ruins an artwork for the rest of us.

You may know you’re not going to touch the art, but they don’t. 13-10) Take the free tour! Attend the performance! Get the audio guide!

Download the app! That was four. 9) Sometimes the only difference between having a miserable art experience and an enjoyable one is a cookie and a cup of coffee. If you find yourself hating everything you see, take a break, feed yourself, and try again. 8) For art to have a transformative impact on our lives, it has to make a deep connection with the viewer.

Some of that work is done by the art, and some of it must be done by the viewer. Don’t forget your role. 7) This is just kind of an observation, but people really love shiny, reflective art. Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, Jeff Koons’s sculptures, Kusama’s Infinity rooms.

After all these years we’re just cave people attracted to the bright flickering light and our reflection in a pool of water. 6) Art that you have to go out of your way to find can be the perfect organizing principle for travel. From Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels in the Utah desert, to the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, to the art park Inhotim in rural Brazil, having a destination like this in mind and letting the rest fall into place around it can lead to epic and fulfilling adventures. 5) Write in your books if you want to. If you’ve ever been to a book-pulping factory, which I have, you’ll start to understand them as utterly temporary items, especially in this digital age.

Unless they’re from the library, or could be valuable first editions, or you’re depending on reselling them, make them yours, in pencil or pen or by dog-earing or whatever. 4) You often have to seek out art, or at the very least be attentive when it’s around you. It’s not necessarily going to demand your attention, and it doesn’t just exist in museums and galleries. Start to notice the art on your friends’ walls, or the murals on the sides of buildings, or the artistic choices in signage and ads and architecture.

W. H. Auden said poetry is a “way of happening.” Art is, to some extent, a way of looking. 3) Sometimes what feels like procrastination is important thinking and processing time.

But also, sometimes what feels like important thinking and processing time is really procrastination. 2) I once had the good fortune to work with the artist Spencer Finch when I was museum curator. He told me about this project he did a long time ago where he closed his eyes, pressed a finger to one eyeball, and then tried to represent what “saw” on paper. I’ve always thought of it as this one little thing that is the most perfect evidence that there is still so much to explore and represent as an artist.

That so many people have done so much, but there is still room for more. 1) Last but not least: Don’t save your ideas. New ones will always spring up in their place. What versions of truth have you constructed about art?

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