EXPO and the Union by iewoj

This weekend marks something of an official beginning for our little publication. Through SAIC and our founding editor Justin Howard Rosier, praises upon him, we were able to secure space at EXPO Chicago, a trade show of modern and contemporary art held at Navy Pier over the weekend. The show previewed Thursday night before running through the weekend and our editorial staff got the chance to attend Thursday. More dressed up than I’ve been outside of attending a wedding in quite a while. The event space was packed with art from galleries all over the world and the preview was very well attended. It was exciting to get to show Critics’ Union to guests kind enough to stop by our booth, but even more so to see all of the amazing work on display. All the same, there was tension.

The airplane-hanger-chic common to large exhibition spaces may have played a role, but the event had an inevitable silo feel. It was especially pronounced given the Supreme Court related headlines of this particular Thursday. The art was inspiring, if overwhelming, but it was hard to ignore the evident distance between the political desires of many of the artists, and the political center of debate in the country at large. This is no fault of the artists mind you, blame falls at the feet of those who talk about their work.

In political circles, art is often easily written off as, at best, expressive and thus lacking in wisdom relevant to governing politics. The artist creates in a moment and inevitably the work stays wedged in that moment in time, unable to move into the future. It is shrugged off as representative of an individual’s state of mind in a single instance, ephemeral. The current cycle of critique exacerbates this problem. It’s flat. The first response is the end of the official conversation. Any continued interest in discussing the work is chased into small art-interested group discussions or large hangers filled with art on the auction block. How can we hope for a larger public to understand the insight of an artist’s work in three hundred words? The works aren’t meant to be consumed in such a way and it helps add to the image of art and artists as somehow flighty and under-informed when an extended engagement with most any work present at EXPO would prove otherwise.

Remedy: elongate the conversational cycle surrounding artworks and artists. There needs to be at least one more pass. Not only to keep the critiques sincere, but to keep the conversation visible to a larger audience for a longer amount time. We hope we can be part of that extended conversation at Critics’ Union.

Keep it honest.

-Ian Eric Wojcikiewicz