Tag Archives: Stuart Horodner

Arts

End of the Beginning UMGram/Sent 5-4-2020

Photo credit: Theresa Bautista

Reflections on Stillness:  How Dance Continues to Move Through the Pandemic
Stephanie Harris, who is on the faculty of the Dance program at the University of Kentucky, explores a paradox of our COVID era; how the stillness of our quarantined lives allows for the expression of deeper insights through movement. Using improvisational techniques that she has been studying and researching, Harris works with her students to explore and express deeper truths within themselves through dance.

Artist Tony Tasset standing next to his Mood Sculpture, installed near the Student Center, but relocated this past winter to the front of the UK Art Museum. Photograph by Alan Rideout

Stuart Horodner: The Art World After COVID
The Director of the University of Kentucky Art Museum misses the public interface that is so much a part of any museum’s life. After COVID, surviving arts organizations will face an environment that needs and demands clarification of relevance and mission, and that ascertains what can be accomplished with assurance and excellence when faced with new limits on resources.

Image courtesy of Dmitry Strakovsky

Dmitry Strakovsky: The Art World After COVID – The Last Days of the [Centralized] Art World.
Strakovsky is hardly mourning the art world that Jerry Saltz describes in his piece in Vulture. With little room for technological innovation or small galleries and a constantly escalating “arms race”, that gallery art world was unsustainable with its limited audience of extremely wealthy patrons. Maybe there is hope for a reinvented, accessible, and decentralized visual art world after COVID.

KY Author Debut: Bobi Conn
An idyllic setting in Eastern Kentucky, but author Bobi Conn’s debut memoir recounts a harrowing childhood home with an abusive father, and her escape from that place filled with trauma and violence. Tom Martin interviews the author for WEKU’s Eastern Standard.

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While we are all surely hoping for a breakthrough in both the development of treatments and vaccines, it is apparent that we are just in the first phase of dealing with this deadly virus. Despite noisy and threatening protests, polling consistently shows that most Americans understand this. How the arts and culture community is coping with the pandemic and its ravages is an important story we will continue to cover. Our ongoing series of brief essays, “The Art World After COVID”, is one way we are engaging in this needed conversation. Look for more of these provocative essays on our website and highlighted in future newsletters. We encourage you to send us your responses and feedback to these essays and more at UM@under-main.com. We will have other COVID-related coverage going forward, including interviews with folks in different roles in the arts sector.

Meanwhile, we have highlighted in past newsletters and on our website arts relief efforts emanating from Louisville and Lexington, and we encourage you to support those efforts. Watch for a big announcement this week from the Artist Relief Trust . UnderMain’s Christine Huskisson is an A.R.T. steering committee participant and says, “This initiative is exemplary as a broad-based coalition from across the state of Kentucky; arts advocates from multiple disciplines continue to raise funds for distribution to Kentucky artists and musicians and I am proud to call UnderMain a partner in the effort.” If you would like more information or are considering a donation, feel free to contact Christine at christine@under-main.com.

A shout-out to our friends at the Lexington-focused CivicLex. In addition to their COVID resource page, they have been holding an excellent series of well-attended online digital town halls, including one pertaining to the arts and culture sector. They are currently uploading the recordings of the town halls to their website.

Bobi Conn (With permission of the author)

Looking ahead, we are going to be increasing our book-related content. Tom Martin’s interview for WEKU’s Eastern Standard of author Bobi Conn is a terrific introduction to the kind of book coverage we hope to be able to offer. A pandemic is a perfect time to catch up on your reading. We will focus on books with a Kentucky-connection, due to authorship or Kentucky-relevant content.

Photo image: Musei Vaticani

Sorry about the cancellation of this summer’s trip to the continent. We know Italy was on the itinerary and surely a visit to the Vatican in Rome was on the schedule. The Vatican has one of the world’s great collections of art housed in several museums. You can take virtual tours of some of the museums on the Musei Vaticani website. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is, of course, a highlight of any visit to the Vatican. Here is a link to a decent tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

Detail of Sistine Chapel

As we acclimate to our changed lives, take a moment to think about all those helping hands that are working to keep us healthy and safe. If you are able, consider donating to community relief efforts that are helping others. We are all in this together.

You can sign up to receive our UMGram newsletters hot off the press in your email inbox on any page of our website.

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Stuart Horodner: The Art World After COVID

We’ve asked a number of people to write brief reaction pieces to art critic Jerry Saltz’s recent piece in Vulture, “The Last Days of the Art World … and Perhaps the First Days of a New One”. The writers were also asked to comment about the effects the virus and resulting mitigation steps have had on their work. We will be publishing these pieces over the next several months.

How has COVID 19 impacted what you do?

The spread of the virus and all the precautions around it led to the obvious decision to close the UK Art Museum until such time that it is safe to return. The staff and I are working from home, doing research and creating online offerings that provide the robust flavor of what we normally do, if not the actual taste. We meet via Zoom and FaceTime, and the longer our seclusion lasts, the more these gridded conversations keep the connection between us and remind us of our shared commitment to a life in the arts.

In a recent article for The New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz wrote about the theatre in these days of quarantine: “I hope it doesn’t sound too prematurely elegiac to say that one of the things I miss about going to the theatre is the going: leaving home, travelling, with a sense of purpose, to a specific place at an appointed hour. I miss threading my way through the obstacle course of Times Square, secretly proud of my agility. And I miss being part of an audience, one soul among many. I even miss the infuriating madness of other people.”(1)

I can relate. Not being able to feel each distinct part of the work day – from driving to the university, dealing with the day’s tasks, eating lunch in the break room, and having face-to-face encounters with students, faculty, staff, and the public who’ve come to see an exhibition, attend a lecture or a tour, or participate in a workshop or Family Day activity – is disorienting and depressing. We are planners and presenters, and this gives us a sense of purpose and pride. Not being able to know for certain when to arrange for the installation of new exhibitions, or book travel for exhibiting artists or guest speakers, is maddening. Oh, to be back in the happy days of listening to visitors complain about the lack of parking or scrambling to get ready for an opening reception!

As I write this, government officials and university leadership are making budget calculations and projecting the possibility of phased returns in the future. While we wait for a clear sense of how this will work, my mind goes to the belief that I’ve maintained since adolescence – that art is meaningful and transformative, giving us insights into ourselves and others. While we can’t have the real thing right now, there is something satisfying about delivering a few weekly social media items that can engage the homebound art lover. The museum has a modified Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament going that pits artworks from our permanent collection against each other, asking viewers to vote on their favorites, as well as writing prompts for parents and teachers using current and recent exhibitions, and staff reflections on their own wondrous objects, which is a teaser for the upcoming Cabinet of Wonder exhibition.

How do you see post-COVID 19 practice?

This period puts in even starker relief the vulnerabilities that organizations of all sizes understand about their situation. A small and scrappy art center knows the struggle of paying staff what they are worth, and the value of each grant, membership, and annual fund donation. A venerable encyclopedic museum with millions of annual visitors knows the challenges of securing major sponsorships and the mind-numbing protocols of crowd control. I’m reminded of a comment by artist Xu Bing: “My viewpoint is that wherever you live, you will face that place’s problems. If you have problems then you have art.” (2)

None of us could have imagined that a pandemic would put a total stop to our publicness. That was not in anybody’s strategic plan. But if problems yield art, then our collective creativity now and in the future will figure out appropriate ways of being.

When I interviewed for the directorship of the UK Art Museum in the spring of 2014, I told everyone I encountered that great university museums do three things in this order: they are a valuable asset on campus, offering faculty and students varied exhibits and programs that can be linked to syllabi and various learning outcomes; they are beloved in their communities as a destination for art lovers of all ages and backgrounds; and they contribute to the field, establishing a solid reputation for rigor, experimentation, and relevance.

University museums are often poised to take risks, and I’m thinking of several past and present directors and curators that I’ve respected for years, who have each steered their institutions with passion and clarity. They’ve worked in good times and bad, dealt with questions of appropriate scale, diversity, and inclusion in hiring practices and collection management, and economic uncertainty. A quick list includes Ian Berry at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery (Skidmore College), Barry Blinderman at the University Galleries (Illinois State University), Andrea Barnwell Brownlee at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Susanne Ghez at the Renaissance Society (University of Chicago), Ann Philbin at the Hammer Museum (UCLA), Larry Rinder at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives, and Simone Wicha and Veronica Roberts at the Blanton Museum of Art (University of Texas at Austin), to name a few.

Artist Tony Tasset standing next to his Mood Sculpture, installed near the UK Student Center, but relocated this past winter to the front of the UK Art Museum. Photograph by Alan Rideout.

The post-COVID environment will demand that we are secure in being open and can be especially clear about our values and deliverables. What lessons did we learn that can be brought from this curious limbo condition to the first phase of a “new normal?” How can we prioritize our endeavors as we face likely budget cuts and audience anxieties about occupying cultural spaces? Which platforms and what tone will be most effective in communicating the significance of our work into the future?

I’m thinking a lot about the exhibition planned for fall called This is America*, coinciding with the 2020 presidential election. It was conceived to examine aspects of history, citizenry, faith, race, sexuality, dignity, power, and struggle today. How can it not be altered to address, in some way, the precautions we are taking, from hand washing to social distancing? It was always meant to challenge viewers to sort out their knowledge of, and feelings about, our country. Will visitors want to be challenged after months of isolation and anxiety?

How do you respond to Jerry Saltz’s recent article, The Last Days of the Art World … and Perhaps the First Days of a New One? (3)

I agree with him that the inequalities in the system which were obvious before will be even more so. I’m not interested in making predictions right now. Everyone has their version of the glory days and there have been war stories at every level of the artworld for decades. I will save mine for another day.

There will be changes, as always. Artists, galleries, critics, collectors, and institutions are never static. I remember Leon Golub telling me: “There are three things: your work, your livelihood, and your personal life. If any two are going well at the same time consider yourself lucky.” (4)

Given the current situation, we might need to be content with one good thing. We are all in the big “we’ll see.” But we are in good company.

  1. Alexandra Schwartz, “Screen Time: Performers on lockdown turn to their smartphones,” The New Yorker, pp 75-77, April 6, 2020.
  2. Xu Bing, in Letters to a Young Artist, Peter Nesbett, Shelley Bancroft, and Sarah Andress, eds. (New York: Darte Publishing, 2006), 15.
  3. Jerry Saltz, “The Last Days of the Art World … and Perhaps the First Days of a New One,” New York (Apr 2, 2020), https://www.vulture.com/2020/04/how-the-coronavirus-will-transform-the-art-world.html, accessed April 16, 2020.
  4. Leon Golub, conversation with the author, October 15, 1999.

Top image photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Arts

Collapsing Art and Life

(Photo by Guy Mendes)

At the beginning of this month, UnderMain began a series on Louis Zoellar Bickett, a Lexington-based artist who has made his life his canvas. For the first two installments of the series, please visit the links at the bottom of this post.

In this short podcast, Stuart Horodner and Louis Bickett share with us the details of the upcoming retrospective of Louis’ work. Stuart, the director of The University of Kentucky Art Museum, and Phillip March Jones of Institute 193 are leading this effort in collaboration with The University of Kentucky Art Museum and Hospital, Institute 193, The Lexington Art League, and 21c Museum Hotel.

Louis Zoellar Bickett in The Archive, Photo by Guy Mendes – commissioned by Oxford American, 2016

Also in this Series:

By The Hand of A Conceptualist

New Broom Sweeps Clean

Arts

Raising the Bar

UnderMain is again partnering with The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky and The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning to promote more art criticism in our community. Our partners know that to do this well, we have to commit to quality writing and to achieve this, we have to keep raising the bar. So, on Saturday, September 26th, from 10:30 am – 1:00 pm, Stuart Horodner will conduct a class in writing critical review. Below, he answers a few questions about purpose and process.

UM: What do you hope to accomplish with this class?

SH:  I’d like to give an overview of why art criticism ( in the form of reviews of exhibitions) is important, and who are some of the best practitioners today. We will discuss  what makes them so good, and how local writers can cultivate their skills to contribute arts-related writing to local and national outlets in print or online formats. We’ll look at a range of short reviews and analyze them, and then do some short writing exercises based on Lexington exhibitions.

UM: How in your opinion can art criticism contribute to a growing arts community such as the one we have in Lexington?

SH:  Art criticism is a healthy thing for all arts communities, as it provides feedback for artists about how their work is being understood, and helps those interested in discourse to have a public opinion to discuss (to agree with or argue about).

Thoughtful critical writing helps audiences understand art and can serve to inspire them to visit galleries, museums, art centers, fairs, etc. If local artists and exhibitions are not written about, an important part of the professional development of individuals and institutions cannot mature and succeed. Can you imagine the films, books, plays, restaurants, or sports teams in Lexington or any other vital city,  not being written about regularly? I can’t. So who will do this writing, where can it appear, and who will read it?

UM: Will the structure of the class be lecture-style or more of a workshop?

SH: The class will combine lecture, conversation, and workshop aspects. We will address a range of philosophical and practical aspects of art writing, locally and beyond.

UM: How can UnderMain facilitate you in attaining your goals?

SH: UnderMain can invite individuals to attend the class, and continue to serve as a platform for emerging and established voices. One aspect of art criticism locally that we must address is the timeliness of response, and the differences between journalistic coverage and critical assessment.

UM: Any expectations on academic training or experience needed for those who enroll?

SH: The class welcomes people who have an interest in the topic regardless of their training. Most important is that those who enroll are excited about art and writing and want to learn new skills. Something I might ask of those who do enroll is to bring a list of what arts-related writing you currently read, why you read it, and how you use the information/opinions to further your own interests and activities.

The class will take place at The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning located at 251 West Second Street, Lexington, Kentucky, 40507. The cost is $20. Please sign up today! We look forward to seeing you there.

Arts

The Humor Lens: Photographers Habjouqa and Nakadate Rejuvenate May Lecture Series

In a continued effort to bring the Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series to a more prominent position at The University of Kentucky, The Art Museum will exhibit the work of award-winning Jordanian photographer, Tanya Habjouqa this winter. Alongside fellow statement show Same Difference, and the community pleasing Lexington Tattoo Project, Tanya Habjouqa: Recent Photographs will bring together two of her internationally acclaimed bodies of work for the first time.

Occupied Pleasures looks at the human spirit’s amazing ingenuity for entertainment in the glaring light of turmoil, while Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots examines the “muted testimony to loss” experienced by the women of Jordan who live in exile. The first installment of the 2015 Winter / Spring Lecture series, this collection of Habjouqa’s work demonstrates an admirable ability to document the occupied Palestinian condition from the perspective of humor, absurdity and finesse.

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Born in Jordan and then raised and educated in Texas, Habjouqa is a founding member of the all female, all Middle Eastern photography collective Rawiya. Rawiya, meaning “She who tells a story” presents  “an insider’s view of a region in flux balancing its contradictions while reflecting on social and political issues and stereotypes.” Habjouqa’s dissertation on narratives of resistance and suffering in Israel and Lebanon earned her an MA in political communications, and the academic qualifications to endorse such a socially progressive mission as Rawiya.

However, Habjouqa refuses to document the archetypes of journalistic conflict coverage and a population under duress, instead favoring elements of comedy and joy. For example, a grey, bullet-marked structure provides the background, but teens performing urban gymnastics serve as the subject in her photograph Gaza Parkour Team, Khan Younis Refugee Camp. In addition to these playful youth, Habjouqa’s subjects include teenage girls performing karaoke, grown bodybuilders, and whole families enjoying a meal on the beach. In another photograph, the border walls in the background appear less threatening because of what Habjouqa chose for the foreground: a man casually smoking a cigarette inside his car while a live sheep stares at him from his passenger seat in a comical moment of mutual respect, and sexual tension.

Habjouqa’s quest for these surreal moments does not occur coincidentally, but instead through a determined divergence from the “hyper narration” she saw put upon a place she now calls home.  In an article for the New York Times in 2014, she says, “ I really felt like I needed to find another way to tell a story, not only just to make sense of it for myself, but to make sense of it for how I’m going to present it to my children as well, since this is going to be their home too.” This bold choice in documentary style photography has won Habjouqa a World Press Award for Occupied Pleasures and Time magazine selected a photograph from There will be Apricots as one of the top photographs of the year.

Habjouqa is the second contributing artist in the R.C. May Lecture Series, curated by Janie Welker. In the wake of the captivating portrait series Strangers and Relations by artist Laurel Nakadate, the increased emphasis on the photography endowment is both evident and welcomed. Having previously worked with Nakadate in 2012 at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, newly hired director Stuart Horodner would place the expansion of her Star Portraits project in the recently expanded main room of the Art Museum’s floor gallery. While the Habjouqa’s exhibition hangs in the more contemplative room located adjacent to this space, her work does not feel under-appreciated by comparison. Habjouqa and Nakadate’s photography achieve narrative in very different ways, but their distinctive approaches to portrait photography equally allow both female artists to reach extraordinary heights of self-reflection through their portraits of others..

Both Habjouqa’s work, and Nakadate’s Strangers and Relations use two modes of theatre to accomplish and ultimately showcase their processes. Both artists must manipulate the technical components of the camera (composition, lighting, etc.) in order to frame and light their subject. Nakadate’s use of the night sky and one flashlight creates an intrusive and eerily sharp concentration on her subjects, while Habjouqa prefers natural light for a more forthright approach to her subjects. Regardless, both artists excel in their ability to foster a human connection prior to the moment of the photograph so that their subjects understand and participate in the documentation.

In short, the Art Museum staff has brought the R.C. May Photography Series back into a brighter spotlight. The work of these two artists alone signals positive changes in the lecture series and the Art Museum at UK on the whole, including the forthcoming exhibition of 1950s and 60s street photographer Vivian Maier.

The R.C. May Photography Lecture Series will host Tanya Habjouqa for her culminating talk about her exhibition on February 27th at 4 p.m. in the Worsham Theatre. This event is presented in conjunction with the UK College of Arts and Sciences’ Year of the Middle East and is open to the public.

Tanya Habjouqa Review

On Display January 24th  – April 12, 2015

The Art Museum at The University of Kentucky