I had no intention of going to the Art Institute’s BFA show, but like a demon black hole, it sucked me into its vortex. So I ended up wandering around the three floors in the show’s final hours on Friday night after dining on a Greektown gyro.
It was a show of a thousand sub shows. A lot of artists felt the need to title their small plots of land. Vinyl lettering, some were pre-made kits, some custom die cut into specific fonts, said, “this is MY show.” Production value was very high. Along with the expensive lettering, everywhere were large format ink jet digital photographs mounted on panel. This goes with the over-titling of everyone’s personal sliver of land. The work that came out strongest was the photo-based work.
Painting stuck out as the worst. It occurred to me that painting must be the hardest and therefore best form of art. There were some good paintings, but on the whole, people were noticeably struggling. Installations, especially in the floor/wall tracts, spaces came off looking far better with a lot less effort expended.
I was most disappointed with the lack of political art. You should always be able to count on that, and especially right now. Something is seriously wrong when art students aren’t crying out against global injustice. No really. As tired as you get of pounding your head against a brick wall, there is always a comfort that conscientious art students are always full of vigor and anger about the current state of things. When I was installing my BFA work, Bush was leading America down the road to war in Iraq. Working on the installation, we had our radios on as he made his ultimatums regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (remember those fictitious creatures?) troops marched in and bombs knocked down buildings as we were putting up our art. This shocked a lot of people out of apathy, including me. And lots of reactionary and immediate art turned up in that BFA show. Not so this time around, two years on. It seems everyone is tired and doesn’t care. When art students reflect this exhaustion, we are truly in trouble. Maybe to the Undergraduates of this show, the battles over painting’s relevance and how to make high quality ink jet prints are ones they feel they have a shot at winning.