In a sense art has been a space race at least since the onset of Cubism, which shattered the calm of one-point perspective and, with collage, punctured the barrier between art and reality. Art’s spaces really started multiplying in the 1960s, with the successive splinterings of Fluxus, Happenings, Pop, Minimalism, Arte Povera and Neo-Concrete and the Post-Minimalist flotilla of Conceptual Art, performance, earthworks, installation art and video. Today in art there are so many permutations and gradations of space that there could be dozens of names for them. Instead we have adjectives. Space can be pictorial, mystical, fictive, real, social, geographical, male, female, architectural, fragmented, whole, distorted, compressed and mental. Space also has become an essential commodity for making and selling art, for which we do have a name: real estate.
From Roberta Smith’s parsing of Chelsea, the “epicenter of the big-box art gallery” in the New York Times.*
Real Estate. As opposed to False Starter Home? I have a life long love/hate thing going with those two words. I have been variously seduced by great white space galleries, sublime museum spaces as as well as the out-of-the-way, quaint or picturesque. The venue does impact the perception and experience of a work of art even though the purist in me wishes that weren’t the case. But context matters.
Then there is the fascinating and now much-discussed experiment with music and context. Joshua Bell, world class violinist, is asked by the Washington Post to play in a DC metro station to see if anyone would recognize genius outside the confines of a concert hall. Answer: One person. But for 43 minutes of playing, he did garner $32.17 in donations. (Go the Post to view the hidden camera video of Bell playing.)
Real Estate doesn’t just hold me hostage when it comes to art viewing. I need it to make art too and I’ve spent my life looking for more studio space. I never have enough, as inevitably as death and taxes. Someone once described an artist as someone who is always looking for somewhere to store stuff. (Louise Bourgeois once advised her sculpture students to rent a Long Island warehouse and just put their work in there for 20 years. “Maybe by then the rest of the world will have caught up with you.”) My variation is a bit different: I’m someone always looking for more space to make the stuff in. After all, a studio–with plenty of room–is its own kind of context.
*Note: Highlights from Smith’s reviews of Chelsea shows by Walter De Maria and James Turrell can be found on Slow Painting.