Art Papers, Nov/Dec 1986
Cutting Em Off at the Pass
Experiments, Diversions and Lies (Mattress Factory Group Exhibition)
Arts Festival of Atlanta
.Within the Festival, the enclaves of high art were entirely
in agreement on one point: they were addressing those who dont
make art, yet purchase art. In this context, the notion of the organicity
of culture and therefore, the non-existence of any such lacunae
in interpretation takes on new and significant meaning. What
role is to be played by the apparently innocent description of diversity
as an organic whole? "If the Artist Market is the backbone
of the Arts Festival", wrote Catherine Fox in a review of the
MFG exhibition ("Mattress Group supports diverse, bold exhibits,"
The Atlanta Constitution, 9/23/86), "and this years Bathhouse
show, with its heavy social critique, is the brain - or, at least,
the superego - then the Mattress Groups show must be the heart."
It seems that such casual metaphorization really has, as its core,
a profoundly disturbing, bourgeois conception of social life. The
figure is misplaced and serves to enforce what has been for artists,
among others, a disastrous split between theory and practice, labor
and management, ownership and control and non-ownership and servitude.
This is the double talk of the cultural manager, for whom everything
is neatly in place. For those there can be no gaps, no dark
shadows of culture.
.On the other hand, there were works in the MFG exhibition
which refused to be merely decorative or entertaining or slight;
for example, the works by Terry Boling, Michael Jenkins, Lisa Tuttle
and Victoria Webb. So while the Bathhouse and the Pavilion appear
to co-exist in an oppositional relation to each other, the very
categories upon which that judgement is rendered prove to be unstable
and illusory. There is no denying that they do represent two differing
paradigms of art making, which, unfortunately, has raised the red-herring
of accessibility leading to the veiled charge of elitism
or obscurantism or, at the very least, excessive intellectualism,
levelled at MFGs efforts. This issue of accessibility is irrelevant.
There is nothing in either of the two shows which supports such
a claim. To confuse accessibility with popularity
is to participate in the malformation of social discourse. To say
that art is either this way or that way is to enforce normativity.
What has that got to do with the production of meaning?
Michael Corris is an artist in New York.
Statement for the exhibit:
For the past six years I have been painting; landscapes, portraits,
mostly dreams of visions. Because the urbanization of the city keeps
edging the green out, I find myself using landscapes in the dream
paintings and vice-versa. For this exhibit I chose to portray what
was once a huge field of Kudzu, home to birds and winos and a source
of local mystery. You could walk down my street into this place
of rambling trees and bushes and leaves where old mattresses lay
with flattened discarded jackets, ancient bottles, arrangements
like cheap Stonehenges. It was quiet, peaceful. Now the Carter Library
exists there with a large parking lot, well lit at night with a
guard to shoot stray dogs, people who get too close. No more solace
or mystery to it, the moon cant compete with buglights.