Critic's Choice Show Questionnaire Response
(How Art Shows Should Happen)

© 2001 by J R Compton

When we picked up art from DVAC's recent Critics' Choice show, each participant got a questionnaire about what we thought of the show. I knew better than to just spill out stuff from the top of my head. I demanded and got a postage stamp. I wanted to think it through.

My initial response was that there were too many works. 57. Just enough to fill the recently expanded gallery space. It's almost as if the juror had picked our work by the square foot. I was pleased to be in the show, but I'd rather it were more exclusive. Fewer pieces, even if I were one of the artists included out.

Gradually, I expanded my concept. Many of us agree that showing fewer than three pieces by any one artist is a disservice to that artist's work. Yet so few shows ever make this tiny leap.

How Group Art Shows Should Be Organized

Nobody can know enough about an artist from just one piece in a show of one-offs. But by three or four or five pieces each, we begin to recognize what's going on in those creative minds, how they express their ideas, what some of those ideas involve and what seems important to them.

We begin to get a feel for their visions, their expressions, as well as their subject matters. Beyond that, their sense of space, of color, of texture, maybe even their senses of humor or history. Bits of philosophy start sneaking in our growing understandings

Why not pick say, 20 or 25 artists. Then sort through their work somehow. Choose at least three, four, maybe five or six pieces each, depending upon whatever seems important to that juror at that moment.


While we're at it, add some more movable walls and scatter the works around a bit. We don't need stuff hanging so high or low it can't be seen. But a little salon style would help bunch the works together into cohesive clumps. It might actually add a sense of dynamics to the show, which always seems so placid.

Don't be timid about hanging works in less normal places. Face some of them out, so people who don't go into galleries can see it from outside. Maybe even face something into the street. Let folks know what goes on in those hallowed halls. Light some of them up or hoist them, like the rockets on The MAC. Include some outdoor sculpture in the indoor shows. Art doesn't just hide in buildings. Stick something out in the parking lot.

Why not erect a Salon de Refusé in an adjacent hall? There, hang stuff as easily and quickly as possible. Fill the walls with it, willy nilly or worse. Let's see what got excluded and whether we agree. Add to the public discourse. If it's just too many works, pick only one work each. A fitting punnishment.

Of course, I'd like to see more color — give us some Richard Brettell effect, some color behind those clumps of art. White is just so boring. When real museums have colored walls, why can't little fake ones?

Instead of hollow rooms, let's guide our audience through the space. Break up the art mob into nooks and crannies of art. Make it harder to camp out without seeing. Generate visual excitement. Let's pick up this droll tradition of annual ad infinitum Critic's Choice shows and break some rules, seriously bother some people. Freak some of them plumb out.

Make it over into a whole 'nother set of rules. Make it a show to remember. Something that startles and amazes us all. Lend this city a sense of what's going on in all those little circles that spread into bigger circles that spreads out into the visual art community. Make a show that matters, that rocks some boats, that excites both the lookers and the makers.

Return to the DARts Membership Page, so you can participate in a show like this.


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