Less is more at EPMA-Judd and heirs

A tiny little show popped up at the El Paso Museum of Art this past Sunday in the De wetters gallery on the second floor. Called “Untitled” and the Minimalist Aesthetic” it features 3 prints by Donald Judd and one work apiece from four artists who seem to have been influenced by Judd’s aesthetics all these many years later. 

It’s a very appealing show with all of the work taken from the museum’s own collection. Connie Goldman explores tension with her small wood pieces called Hybrid set slightly askew and Margo Sawyer’s “Index for Contemplation” does just that. 

The only little quibble, and it is one that I suspect Judd would appreciate, is with the commentary. It is hard to write about minimalism since practitioners like Judd seemed to have wanted nothing to do with any such label. In Sawyer’s commentary on her work, she mentions Judd warning her off allowing herself to be labelled with any “ism.” So when the introduction to the show cites unnamed critics referring to Donald Judd as the father of minimalism, one hears the gnashing of teeth from the graveyard. In addition to ignoring everyone else who was working from a similar aesthetic at the time, as well as precursors, Judd, as I mentioned, wanted nothing to do with the label. The whole point, it seems, was to force people to look at the work without extraneous reference. This, of course, makes it rather difficult to write an introduction, but there might have been a bit more background and some other artists at least mentioned. There is also what I believe is a misspelling in referring to artists as having “pared to core values”- here spelled “paired.” This becomes a bit more confusing in the Spanish translation which fathfully translates the phrase with the pairing meaning rather than the paring. 

All of this may be a bit too pedantic for many and particularly for a show containing only seven pieces. The art is what is supposed to be important, not the intro and in this case it is. -david sokolec

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Two wildly different visions this Friday

This Friday August 1 there will be two openings which will have widly differing visions and also wildly different crowds.

The El Paso Art association is opening  a juried Western themed art show in the downtown public library. Seems the jurors will also have their own work on display. Hey, what’s the good of being a judge if you can’t get your own works featured. In any case, this should be a large show of what should be  realistic renderings with a Western theme.

At the Percolator, the show “Flavors”  from 6-10 will feature Keith Allyn Spencer, Jason Lucero and a variety of other contemporary artists. The Percolator has become the defacto go to place for contemporary experimental art. Of course there is The Forum, but the shows there are carefully selected by the director, whereas the Percolator is lots freer in how it selects who gets puts up as well as how often. They have just been having a show of Dianne Zamora’s work, she whose drawing so offended some Sunland Park mall patron she was directed to remove her offending paintings. Up they went at the Percolator, and more power to Bobby Smith for doing so and for providing the space for people with a different vision than the usual around here.-david sokolec

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The Museum is a mandate mr city rep.

Last week I went to the city budget hearings on the  museums of the Museum and Cultural Affairs department partly because various representatives were proposing some unfortunate solutions to their budget problems. Apparently large numbers of citizens called and wrote to protest, Dr Tomor of the Art Museum met with the individual involved  and presented a logical case for not proposing draconian measures and there seems to have been a temporary stay.

Jeff Litchfield of the Forum, a non-profit arts organization sent out an email saying the arts are saved the people saved the day,  democracy has prevailed and truth and justice will reign.(perhaps the last was just implied.)

Well, no. That is not what happened.

The arts in El Paso were not “saved” because they were not in danger from this quarter.  The fight was a bit different and while no less important, it is important to understand exactly what did and did not happen

The question was:

A) The reputation of the city. At a time when other cities around the world are trying hard to showcase their  museums and build a name for themselves as  lovers of the arts, members of this city council seem to view the  museums as some sort of elective frill. 

B) Whether the citizens of El Paso, who effectively own the museums, would continue to be allowed by their supposed representatives to continue to have access to them to the extent they had previously

C) whether the members of the city council would honor their commitment to “keep the lights turned on.” The agreement between the museums and the city is every bit as much of a mandate as that between the police department and the city. 

Essentially these were the questions, and despite the exuberance of Mr Litchfield, the fact of the matter is that while the city does seem  persuaded they should not shut down the art museum for four daysa week and the history museum completely for six months, there was still the threat held out that if  the “budget situation deteriorates” this might be revisited. The newest member, Ms Acosta, suggested that if the city withheld the $168,000 for operations -(i.e. that to which the city had previously committed) well, “Couldn’t you just ask corporate donors to make up the difference?” She asked brightly. She then went on to say that if there was no money the city would offer the museum the ability to choose what programs they could cut. She seemed to think this  a kindness. This is like saying we will chop off your finger, but you get to choose which one.

There was talk of the fact that the police and fire departments budgets are mandated, but well the museum-fluff, you know. In fact the city has committed to pay for the operations, and that occurred when the city took charge of all the museums.

The budget has not been passed so none of this is out of the woods, though apparently Dr Tomor’s common sense and review of financial facts as well as the large public outcry has for the moment meant things are encouraging. The thing is there was absolutely no indication that certain members of the City Council have the slightest idea of the real importance of the arts in terms of a city’s culture, reputation and general civic well-being. As I’m writing this, I read an announcement of the Art Institute of Chicago announcing the opening date of their new multi-million dollar modern art wing designed by Renzo Piano. 

Dr Tomor among many others in this city can see the tremendous potential for growth a thriving art museum would make for the city and  the region-it is too bad some members of the city council cannot see this as clearly.
  Of course, the arts in general in this city are another matter, and while there are a lot of artists, there seems a lack of city-wide appreciation, and in some cases as the recent Sunland Park Mall stupidity but this budget hearing was exclusively focused on museums and that is another matter altogether.-david sokolec

Rembrandt B-day

 Happy Birthday Rembrandt- born today in 1606. I wonder if he had any idea he would become so significant that so many people  would shamelessly fake his work.-dsart

EPMA Zip tour

Reminder that today’s  (July 09) zip lecture will feature David Beathard discussing his work in the binational art exhibit. This free tour is at 12:15 at the museum.

Mitsu’s Mural unveiling next Monday

Mitsu Overstreet’s mural “Regeneration” will be unveiled Monday July 14th at 10:30 am and the public is definitely invited and welcomed.

This is the first official Public Art project from the City of El Paso, and it hasn’t been an easy birth. Details of the problem with the wall were detailed here last year, but that was then and this is now. Apparently walls were built, torn down and rebuilt and a happy time should now be had by all. The mural’s theme is inspired by Native American healing plants. This seems an appropriate theme for a setting by a hospital. Perhaps the doctors there will have second thoughts when pharmaceutical companies come to call.

In any case, if you are free Monday morning  go over to Texas Tech Medical Science building 5001 El Paso Drive and join in the celebration. Congrats to everyone for bringing this to fruition.-dsokolec

Convocatorio para Cortometrajes (Short Films wanted)

Para la Festival international Chihuhua, hay una convocatorio de cortometrajes en 3 categories: Ficcion; Documentary, y animation. Quieres peluculas non solo del Mexico pero tambien del Taxas y Nuevo Mexico. La festival es Oct 1 y la sumission es Augosto 1. Hay una premio de 30,000 pesos en cada categoria. Para mas informes: Chihuahua.gob.mx.festival o festival internacionalchihuahua.

I just saw this the other day. There is a contest and a call for short films as a part of the International Festival of Chihuahua. They are looking for films from Mexico and also Texas and New Mexico. There are three categories: Fiction, documentary and animation (the latter category requires you to be no older than 25). deadline is August 1 and the festival is Sept 4-Oct 1. For more information contact Chihuahua.gob.mx.festival or festivalinternacionalchihuahua.-Good luck-David Sokolec