Friday, January 5, 2007
Art Takes Time
At a holiday party this week in North Jersey I had the opportunity to meet some people outside the Philly arts loop. They announced that they had heard great things about the art scene from their artists friends living here. Rather than burst their bubble like I am tempted to do, this required further gentle probing. The artists friends in question were in there 50’s obviously – as am I – so I would have to give them a little grace and I mitigated my initial and usual response. These people claimed that their artist friends were showing in old city and having a fun time. I wasn’t around 15-20 years ago but I know Philly has come a long way. If you graduated from Tyler in 1980 or thereabouts you would have had a different and more difficult experience from recent grads who are now spilling off the sidewalks and showing their bits and pieces all over town in a variety of boutiques, coffee houses and little galleries. So today must feel like a party compared to the limits back then. If only this party had more substance. Yes, you can show all sorts of work in Philly but very little is of a caliber that makes anyone else take notice. Yes, there are hipsters from all over coming to town; such is the great press we are getting in Local and National media not to mention the hidden recesses of My Space. There is no telling where we shall be in five years. We shall have, no doubt, have numerous subcultures dancing to new beats, but I fear the same old institutions and bureaucracies. It is natural that as the nature of art shifts dramatically, the older set loses sight of the continuum – I can relate – and tries to hang on the familiar model. But why hang on to the dying breed of Old City gallery hopping by people in Eagles caps. Call me a snob if you like, but they wouldn’t know art from a hole in the ground (Yes, I know art is often a hole in the ground)! At the party, I was surrounded by unfortunate works from my student days that my brother had collected. I used to be embarrassed by it all. This is why I brought along a nice new piece so there would be a more complete history of my meagre doings. The piece was met with approval by most of the crowd. I will not mention the mid-seventies realist self portrait by a younger James Rosenthal featuring heaps of unkempt hair and a painful expression. I guess I have come a long way too.