Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886 – 1957), La Canoa Enflorada (The Flowered Canoe), 1931, oil on canvas, Collection of Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico. © 2012 Banco de México Diego
Art is spoken of in many voices. In this issue of TAS, our authors represent three different voices: that of the curator, the poet, the critic. Each has a different relationship to and investment in the art they speak about. The curator's and critic's respective relationships to art are mediated through exhibitions, but they do their work at opposite ends of the exhibition process. Curating is in some sense an act of art criticism as well, frequently, of art history. The question of what goes into an exhibition and what does not, and of how both artist and work should ultimately be portrayed, what kind of narrative should be built around them, are interpretive and evaluative questions not unfamiliar to the critic. If curating has some affinities with criticism, the reverse is also true. By selecting which works (in some cases, which artists) and which aspects of an exhibition to discuss, the critic also curates. The critic, too, weaves the works into a narrative, though it may turn out to be a counter-narrative to the one intended by the curator!
Poets enjoy a privileged position when they take inspiration from visual art: they are their own curators and can address any art they choose, from any era. Although they, too, tell stories about the art, their stories are independent of the institutional constraints under which both the curator and the critic do their work. One expects the poet to address art on a more personal basis than is usually available to either curator or critic.
In an exchange with Deanna Sirlin, TAS's Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Elliott King, Guest Curator of Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, provides insight into the way he thinks about the subjects of the exhibition, their legacy and contemporary significance, and the insights into their work he has gained by working on the exhibition. Our London-based writer, Anna Leung, addresses contemporary art from China in an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery this past fall. She discusses the work's relationship both to its particular national and cultural contexts and to larger trends in the contemporary art world. She also addresses the well-known Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei's highly critical evaluation of the exhibition. Our poet, Blake Leland, offers a range of poems, including a love poem and two meditations on creation and creativity, along with a clutch of poems addressing paintings by Brueghel, Velazquez, and Cezanne. Leland addresses the paintings as an observer, describing what he sees in them. As a poet, Leland is alive to the human implications of the scenes depicted in the paintings. His voice joins that of curator and critic in our trialogue.
All my best,
The Art Section
Philip Auslander is the Editor of The Art Section.