Sunday, August 30, 2009

Show and Tell

by Drew Martin

I just got back from the Freak Show opening (see previous posting) at Galerie Califia in Horazdovice, Czech Republic and my lasting impression has less to do with the show, which was great, than is does with the concept of the word show. This old English word once meant to behold, which is perhaps a better concept for art, which is inherently interactive, mesmerizing and contemplative. To show sounds one-way and commercial (as in a car showroom). The day prior to the opening and the opening itself made me think about this word more in terms of showing up...both the exhibiting artists and the visitors. There were artists who shipped over their work and let the gallery install the pieces and then there were artists who arrived a couple days ahead of time, installed their own work, all the while making adjustments and really giving a lot of thought of how they wanted the work to sit in the gallery and interact with the other pieces. These were the artists who interviewed with the journalists and were present at the curator's opening speech to the attendees. They are also the artists whose works I feel much closer to...not because I heard them explain themselves but because I got to see these works as extensions of their personalities and something they cared deeply about.

On leaving Europe, I stopped by Frankfurt, Germany for a day and visited the Städel Museum. It is an impressive collection and on the day I toured its galleries there was also a phenomenal Edvard Munch exhibit. Despite the countless and priceless works, what touched me the most were the guided tours and the keen interest of the visitors who all seemed consumed by the docents' explanations. Museums such as the Städel can put on the best shows in town but they are nothing without the public interaction. No matter how isolated the artist or the viewer, the real chemistry happens when the artist (living or respectfully curated after his or her death) and the viewer show up for each other.

Pictured above left: some of the exhibiting artists (Drew Martin, Lenka Vítková, curator-Tony Ozuna, Marie Hladíková and Veronika Bromová)

Pictured above right: a work by Marie Hladíková

Pictured left: my Homeless self portrait in Galerie Califia.