Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where does Art live? (Artisan Works; Rochester, NY)

I thought it might be fun to philosophize on this, despite the post being about six years overdue; given that I didn't start the blog until 2009, however, I don't think it'll be much of an issue...

In February of 2008, I flew to Rochester, NY to visit a friend. She took me to Artisan Works, which asks the question: "Where does Art live?". Instead of being some fussy gallery where it's nearly impossible to see a painting in any sort of real world context, Art Works sort of lets it all hang out. It's a collection of old warehouses that are all connected (including a fire house, if memory serves me right!) and it is part studio, part gallery, part museum, part auto shop, part opera house, part café, part grandma's attic. Art is EVERYWHERE, in many places stashed seemingly at random so that the art blends in with the surroundings and you never quite know what's for sale. In a way, it's wonderful. It's part cacophony, part breath of fresh air.

I think "Where does Art live?" is an excellent question because typically when we see art for sale, we don't get to know where it lives or has lived; instead, it's almost like it's on stage, performing... acting the part of "art for sale", which tends to feel a bit sterile. We don't get a true sense of the work in a live context because galleries and most other show spaces are so clean and proper that the art on the wall starts to lose its luster. (I would say coffee shops are an occasional exception.) While it's true one could argue that art hanging in a gallery, free of context, allows the viewer to project their interpretation of where the art should live, I would counter argue that removing all context except the smooth gallery wall also hides a lot of the energy of the piece. It may be that seeing a piece of art where it lives (such as an artist's studio) provides the wrong context for a potential buyer, but I think that most people would be able to project beyond the current context and imagine the art living with them. If the piece is strong enough and evokes enough passion in the viewer, it won't matter how dingy the "living" conditions are, which should in turn be a powerful indicator of the success of the work of art!

My friend and I walked the entire perimeter of the place, looking at the art, watching movie demos in mini-theaters, talking to the artists who were in their studios (including the fire house!), and trying not to trip over things. If you ever find yourself in Rochester, NY, it's worth going and taking a look. And yes, there was someone singing opera in one of the rooms...

I have no clue as to the title of the piece in this photo or the name of the artist, unfortunately. All I know is that it's just doing its thing, living...

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like the kind of place I would enjoy visiting.