This post wraps up my picks from the West Coast Print Fair, a new virtual fair that, during the pandemic, compensated for the cancellation of a group of fairs that normally take place in January and February along the West Coast. When I first posted selections from this fair, I promised to articulate what makes a great print. Of course, what makes a great print is in the eye of the beholder. Please know these are my subjective opinions.
The best way I can describe what makes a print great (or a work of art in any media) is to take you inside my mind. Yesterday I laid out the two big concepts: visual impact and emotional impact. There’s a lot contained in both categories. This list of questions helps me think through and assess any work of art.
It’s important to note, however, that a great print does not need to address each and every one of these questions. In fact, I don’t know that such a print exists (I’ll think on that). Here goes.
· Does it elicit any feelings (good or bad)?
· Is it thoughtful? Does it ask more questions than it answers?
· Is it overwrought? Is there unnecessary stuff in it? Could it be said with less?
· Does it have a tight conceptual circle—does the idea translate into a work that expresses the idea clearly and well?
· Does the choice of technique(s) add to its meaning?
· Does it nod to art history in a smart way without being derivative?
· Does it nod to meta? Does it understand itself?
· Does the work take an idea and transform it into a conversation starter?
· Is it by someone other than a white, cis-gender male?
· Does it have visual impact? This does not mean large and colorful and is a truly subjective gut reaction.
· Does it express a great design sensibility?
· Does it have a range of lights and darks, wonderful transparencies, interesting patterns?
· Does it capture atmosphere, reflections, ephemeral things?
· Does it embrace its own delicacy or roughness?
· Is it readable/legible/comprehensible, or utter nonsense?
· Is it more than merely decorative?
· Is it indexical? Is the image of its own making?
· Does it cross disciplines in an interesting/meaningful way?
· Does it tell a great story?
· If I were presenting it to a accessions committee, how much is there to say? Thirty seconds worth or thirty minutes worth?
In a weird turnabout, the emotional aspects are quantifiable--identifying whether the technique adds to the meaning is pretty straight forward. But the visual elements are highly subjective--visual impact is totally in the eye of the beholder. Curious. There is so much more, but I think this is a pretty good start.
I never wanted to do anything else besides create ways to tell interesting stories through great art. I love works that sit at the intersection of new and old, of abstract representation and representational abstraction, of beauty and toughness, of stark crispness, and pure emotion. Have I set too high a bar? Maybe. And this doesn't address my feeling that a work that is appropriate for an institutional collection is not necessarily one I could live with, and vice versa. There is a place for the decorative, after all.
Please enjoy this final group from the westcoastprintfair.com. Remember the randomness derives from the list running alphabetically by dealer. Today we start with Sh (Keith Sheridan) and wrap up with V (The Verne Collection).
Here is #WestCoastPrintFair Curator's Choice, 5/5.
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Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.