The premise was intriguing, debauchery, over satiation of the senses, sensuous climax, visual euphoria. What anticipated elation I held for this show for a plethora of reasons.
I left after ten minutes.
I was under the impression that this was to be an art show. Having work tomorrow morning, I had already determined to go during the viewing portion of the night only. Walking up the stairs at Mellow Mushroom, I was quickly introduced to artwork on the stairwell. It was indeed a great segue to the second floor, somehow divorcing it from the downstairs filled with pizza consuming patrons. But once upstairs, what my eyes took in was visual vomit.
Wall space was engulfed by artwork. A clutter field venue that usurped the eyes’ right to breathe, to take in a piece on its on accord without an intrusive neighbor less than four inches away. I felt the need to squint in order to focus on a single piece, to try and coax or fool the mind into isolating it. I wasn’t sure how much thought was placed in the layout, how pieces may flow from one artist to another, if it was a haphazard first come first serve affair.
But what was more bothersome was the lighting. Rather than natural light, white of some shade, it was fluorescent pink and blue. It was like skimming the walls in a red light district whore house while waiting for a trick. I wondered what use was a viewing hour if the artwork was going to be difficult to view? Or rather, why insult the mounted pieces by impeding the eyes’ sight? It isn’t easy to take in a piece in such pungent lighting. It influences shades, darkens hues, limits the senses to texture because already they are too consumed. I figured the rave concert lights would be turned on after the viewing and auction when RAW would further embrace its debauchery theme with an open bar, dj, and break dancing. But I was wrong. Instead of indulging the senses, the layout and lighting caused the senses not to be enticed, but rather confused, too much information to process at once, resulting in what I call “visual vomit.”
In truth, it wasn’t until almost the end that I was even able to find my own artwork. The layout was not only overly cluttered, but some pieces were placed extremely above or below eye level. I found my photographs along with several others’ artwork in the back right corner of the upstairs. Not only were my photographs below eye level and jammed practically into a corner, but the auction table had been placed beside them as well, another obstacle for viewing pleasure. It was at this point that I started to be truly upset. My work had not only been swallowed up by the over population of art, but was mounted almost out of view. I half realized or acknowledged the pieces in the corner partially obstructed by the table until I looked long enough to realize that my artwork was a part of it. And the disturbing truth is most people won’t stare hard enough or lean over far enough to realize there is art there. If it doesn’t catch the eye, the viewer is gone in under five seconds.
I had purposely chosen smaller prints and frames. I envisioned the setup to permit pieces enough breathing room that smaller portraits would standout particularly due to the extreme size difference. But the wall looked like a mother’s stairwell with dozens of photographs chronicling each school year portrait of her three children. Not even a patient eye would sit to view past grade 3 when walking up the stairs.
I couldn’t take anymore. I left.
I had faith that the organizers would have an editing eye so-to-speak. That though artists were told to contribute up to five pieces of work that the arts’ integrity would not be compromised for quantity. If all that artwork jeopardized a viewing gallery space, then pieces should have been taken out. Fourteen artists at max five works each equals 70 pieces of art, with the majority being medium to large works, that is too much for the limited space at this venue.
As for the quality of art displayed. I was relatively impressed. Large paintings of silhouetted human forms with potent color captivated me most. A photograph with delayed shutter had hands streaming with a ghostlike face, it was entitled: What Paddy Cake is Like with a Ghost. I laughed out loud.
Works by SHT! were polished but concerned me. By what I saw tonight, I’ll assume SHT! is known for a particular motif in his/her art. I find reusing the same graphic in each piece to be potentially crippling for an artist. It may be easier to garnish notoriety by consistent use of a ‘sign’ or ‘symbol’ in art. That’s proven by the easy association people make with eateries such as the Starbucks mermaid, the McDonald’s golden arches, it embeds in the brain. But how does that motif challenge a perception? How does it point out or mock these empty symbols that people identify so easily? Basically, what is the point? If there isn’t one, then the work might as well be among the overly priced art deco posters sold at Target.
The only other artwork that I didn’t take to was a B&W photograph of a young man in a lawn chair (I think) with a cig flaccid in his hand. I thought to myself…neo egotistical hippie photo…it said nothing of the nature of that person and seemed extremely posed to me. Nothing raw about it.
So, yes, ten minutes of viewing produced this written tangent. Some may think my critiques harsh, unwarranted, or just think I’m a bitch, a whiner, another freak minded artist with touchy moods. I’m sure there’s a certain degree of truth in all that, but my reasons for this response are, in my opinion, valid.
I am critical because I care, because I expect more from the art community in Charleston. So should others. The day when no one has a thoughtful critique slipping off the tongue is the day no one gives a shit anymore. If RAW intends to become a staple art event in the future, I recommend taking notes from the organizers of Kulture Klash who manage to display many artists, many art forms, in a way that gives each art the attention and respect it deserves without being too intrusive of other works or over cluttering the venue.