I’ve been meaning to write something about the Hal Marcus gallery closing for awhile now. I’m writing something about its implicaqtions for another publication, but I do want to throw out some ideas on what seems to me a completely false division many people are making here.
The general term used for the art at Hal Marcus is “commercial”-lots of people use another term altogether, but that’s something else. In any case, there seems to be this idea that this art-bright colors, traditional themes, realistic rendition is “commercial” with the implication that other more cutting edge art is not.
Commercial art originally referred to artwork created for a company like advertising, publicity etc. Like so many other words it has morphed into something else, but I think we would do better to call the kind of art now referred to as commercial as “safe.” Most of the art at Hal Marcus was pretty much a visual equivalent to “easy listening” music. (By the way, I have always found easy listening music very hard to listen to, but that’s me.)
Obviously it wasn’t quite commecial enough since they didn’t sell enough, but more importantly, all art that is for sale is in this sense commercial. Some art may be a harder sell than others, and the fact that a painting pushes no envelopes, makes no demands does not necessarily mean the artist has no talent, any more than slap dashing pop culture references on cardboard means the artist is an unsung genius though both cases might be true.
The Hal Marcus gallery ranked high on popular polls and low with every artist I talked to up to the point when they might have gotten selected to show in it. The problem is that people seem to think if they make difficult art it won’t sell, or they shouldn’t view their art as something for sale or some such nonsense. People in the rest of the world have long since gotten over this idea, but here, like so many other outmoded ideas this uncomfortableness with making actual money from your artwork seems to persist.
Get over it. The question is how to educate more people on the difference between art and colorful canvas; how to encourage thoughtful art making and how to convince the rest of the country that there are some very talented artists here.-David Sokolec