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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Art Prize 2010: A recap

Art Prize 2010 is now in the history books, and this year, I actually went and saw the works displayed. I shelved my distaste for the DeVos family and drove north to see the works the day after the winning piece was announced. Chris LaPorte’s piece, an epic pencil drawing bigger than some homes here in Jackson is truly something to behold. But should it have won? I may be quickly treading into Gretchen (from this season’s Project Runway) territory here with the following comments, but I think that they need to be shared. I am not intending to toss shade on this man and his efforts, or his win, but I have a few points to make. Yes, the piece is great. It’s huge, it’s superbly executed, and it strikes at the heart of many who have had family serving in the military. But for all those positives, I think there are some glaring negatives that were either over-looked or simply ignored by the voters/judges.

For example: in my twenty years of teaching, each year, some bright-eyed student will show up with a portfolio of drawings copied from magazine photos. They can’t wait to show me their immaculate rendering of Heath Ledger as the Joker or have me marvel at the detail they put in to Megan Fox’s lips. Their pieces show great artisanship, but aside from that one quality, that’s it. When those same students are put in front of the simplest of still life set ups, they crumble.


From LaPorte’s own mouth comes the fact that he projected and then traced out the many figures in the massive composition. I think that the piece may have been more interesting had he just started laying the picture plane out without the aid of a projector and let the fun start. That’s a challenge.

Yes, he spent 800 hours on the piece, that’s 20 weeks, or about 6 months to fill in all the value on the men’s faces. In my opinion, LaPorte’s work is nothing more than what those students share with me each year, but on a grander level. I didn’t see much innovation, nor did I see much creativity. He was simply filling in the value/matching texture and that’s about it. I am concerned that the voting for Art Prize will go to a safe piece each year, hotel art if you would.

I shared my photos from my trip with my beginning drawing students today and when I mentioned that he traced this picture out from a projection, a voice came out of the dark and said, “Hey, that’s cheating!” After this student clarified her point, a few murmurs of agreement came from the rest of the class, acknowledging that his piece was good, but…

There were so many other pieces that showed much more innovation and creativity that it just made me sad to walk around the city’s many venues and see these pieces that didn’t win. My personal favorite, and an “ooooo” invoking piece with my students was David Sprigg’s “Vision” an amazing piece done with layers of clear plastic, creating an amazing 3D image.

Beili Liu’s piece “Lure/Wave” is an amazing installation that I regret not seeing at night. During the day, when my buddy Randy and I strolled by, it was difficult to see, let alone photograph the images in the space. However, it remains embedded in my memory.

And then there’s Steam Pig. What can I say here that will do that piece justice? It was just fucking amazing. Here is the link to the collective’s proposal to Art Prize. http://www.artprize.org/artists/public-profile/51031

So yeah, I am now a fan of Art Prize, and god help me, I may even enter a piece next year and see what floats. Until then, something to think about for the DeVos clan… I am certain that the economic impact of this event on the city is astounding. After listening to a story on NPR this morning, it seems that Detroit is about ready to fall into ruins financially. Why not host Art Prize in Detroit every other year? Grand Rapids has a stronger economy, so why not share the wealth around the state? Just something to consider.

Until next year, stay hot Rick.