Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who Needs a White Cube These Days?

In Roberta Smith's article "Who Needs a White Cube These Days?" {Jan. 2006}, Smith analyzes the answers to the question of what an art gallery is. Galleries are now in flux, adapting to the needs of our contemporary artists in response to the question of whether the space work is presented in presents it as a product or a state of mind. Smith cites several examples of 'alternative' galleries that have neglected the institutional 'white cube' aesthetic, such as the Wrong Gallery--which is essentially a one-foot deep doorway. Michele Maccarone has a three-story building that is hardly renovated and scarred by the constant building up and tearing down of work. A gallery with a fictitious owner is then mentioned, then Scorched Earth which is sort of fashioned to function as a publication center rather than an exhibition space. Then there's the Martha Rosler Library, which appears as a used bookstore in which nothing is for sale, but people are free to browse and take pictures and make photocopies if they wish.

I wonder, wouldn't it be easier for artists to take advantage of this trend and make galleries for their own work? I'm sure it's not easy to purchase space, or to get the word out, but it seems as if the people who know best about where their work is best presented are the artists. Some people make work while thinking about the space where it'll be shown in the future. Some people don't. Sometimes white walls are just what you need and sometimes they're detrimental. There's nothing wrong with having a selection. I'm glad people have devised alternative galleries. I loved the idea of a doorway being the maximum show space. But what about the foot traffic? When these alternative galleries are made, how do you get the right people to visit? How do you make it obvious that your space is showing art as a gallery and not as a cafe trying to be hip and modern with the decor? I mean, that's /if/ the owner wants to make it obvious, but the artist should be thought of as well. Art is often made to be seen, after all. I'm just hoping that these alternative galleries can attract the non-art savvy as well, because someday the current lot are going to get old and die and there should be other people in their places.

When I make my art, I think about the space I would present them in all the time. Sometimes I want to do something a little ambitious, like make a maze out of the gallery space, and other times I want to do something simple yet imposing. For my show coming up, I gave up on the idea of using props to accentuate my pieces. Not because it would take more time, but because I didn't think it was going to be necessary. I thought of a better way and though simpler, it should be effective. I can do this within the Crossley space, which in my opinion isn't far from a white cube itself, but it will take a few placement considerations and lighting adjustments. I believe that even a white cube can be manipulated by an artist who not only wants to use a space that people recognize as 'gallery space', but wants it to become something other than that when visitors step inside.

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