Friday, September 21, 2018

ArtPrize and the ArtCurmudgeon

Copyright © Edward Riojas

ArtPrize, it seems, is an ever-changing thing. Forget the official rules that change yearly. Forget the official boundaries that are ignored by the event itself.  Simply viewing the art entries can be a challenge, especially when venues change entirely.

One may expect, for example, to see some cutting edge pieces at the Kendall Gallery or the UICA, but Kendall has but one entry this year and it’s outside. The UICA, on the other hand, has apparently spread like a virus and is this year at multiple locations – except at the UICA.

Some venues may decide to limit the number of entries so that, in the case of DeVos Place Convention Center, an individual piece needing 150 feet of wall space can be accommodated. Other venues vanish altogether, while yet others add more space. While this makes for a very organic event, it can be slightly frustrating to patrons who may discover these changes on the fly when seriously pounding the pavement.

Being ever the helpful sort of curmudgeon that I am, what follows are a few pieces worth hunting down. They are stylistically all over the map. They may not make anyone’s top list, but if you want a little direction while wading neck-deep through mediocrity and welded, scrap-metal dragons [I know I am being redundant here], then check these out...

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Daniel Wurtzel’s “Air Fountain,” showing at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, will indeed make it to the top. [Well, maybe. At this writing the piece seems to be a no-show. See what I mean about change?] “AirFountain” is the sort of piece that is mesmerizingly simple, devoid of any controversy, and oozing with elegance. Check out a video of the Brooklyn-based artist’s piece when it was installed in the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw.

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Eric Freitas’ “Twisted Twelve,” hosted by Divani/Gallery Divani, is a combination of precision machinery and disturbing perception all wrapped up in a series of unfortunate events. The working clock – well, sort of – makes no mention of Happy Hour.

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“Pacific Quilt,” by Sarah FitzSimons and shown at the GRAM, takes the concept of quilting and blows it out of the water. Using underwater topography and ocean currents, the artist shows what can happen when craft and concept collide.

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“Madonna Muerte” is just weird enough to make us want to look at it. That may not exactly be high praise, but in some corners that is high praise, indeed. It is showing at PaLatte Coffee & Art. Bob Doucette, the creator of the piece, is director of many children’s television shows, including PBS’s “Clifford’s Puppy Days.” Knowing that just makes “Madonna Muerte” all the more weird.

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John Krout’s “Mid-West Coast” uses a technique more often seen on boxcars and barrios and applies it to the sights of Holland, Michigan. The fresh take on landscape is being hosted by Grand Rapids Brewing Company.

Of course, this is not exactly a well-rounded list of all that you should see. I’m sure some artists may take umbrage that I didn’t include their piece, but then again I refrained from touting my own entry. If you can make the trip to downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the coming days, I’m sure you’ll find a piece that puts all these to shame, and plenty more that are simply, hmm, shameful.

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