You, “Artist D” are entering into an agreement with the “Curator” and the Art Gym. Both “Artist” and “Curator” agree to never confirm your participation in this exhibition to the press, Art Gym staff members, students, other artists, friends, family, or anybody who might fall outside of this list. Your participation will not be listed on any press materials, statements or documents outside of this one. If a direct question is asked of your participation a straight lie of, “no, I have nothing to do with any of this” is perfectly acceptable. Upon signature of this contract, your authorship is officially obscured.
About two years ago, I invited Micah Malone to organize an exhibition for the Art Gym.
I had just seen Malone’s project Sell Out at Worksound in Southeast Portland and was curious to see what else he might be interested in exploring as a curator. Malone is an artist and critic and occasional exhibition organizer. He has written extensively for Artpapers, Artforum.com and the online arts journal Big Red & Shiny, where he was also an editor. He is currently the arts journalist for Arcadia Semana based in Bogota, where he now lives.
Malone was interested in what artists would produce if freed from their brand. The result is the exhibition Anonymous. Six artists, referred to throughout the project as Artist A, Artist B, Artist C, Artist D, Artist E, and Artist F, have signed contracts with the curator promising not to disclose their connection to the exhibition. Please join me for the opening of the exhibition, from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, January 8 and at noon, Thursday, January 12 for a discussion with the curator about the issues, process, and consequences of choosing to work anonymously.
– Terri M. Hopkins, Director of The Art Gym
Anonymous Curator’s Statement
For Anonymous, I asked six artists to make work specifically for the exhibition, yet remain completely anonymous. The artists were urged to create work separate from their typical practices with the intent that the work be a departure, a point of difference, and hence unrecognizable from their otherwise productive careers. Each artist signed a contract with the expressed agreement that their authorship be officially obscured, agreeing that their participation be kept secret to all Art Gym personnel, members of the press, students, other artists, friends, family, or anybody else.
I aspired to give artists some relief from the constraints of maintaining an artistic identity. Without the pressure of sustaining one’s narrative and persona, artists could be free to make whatever they pleased. No particular theme was solicited, or wanted. However, the other side of freedom is constraint. Without the possibility for rightful public acknowledgement, the artists could limit their investment in the show. After many emails of brainstorming how a particular image might take form, Artist A concluded: “I am so low on funds even small prints are hard for me to afford right now given my situation, and since these won’t be sold or credited it’s hard to make an investment other than intellectually.” Despite these supposed limitations, I believe the scrutinized result chooses cost-efficiency over excessive production. Something I wholly welcome in today’s climate.
Other artists had different criteria for choosing their respective projects. Artist D: “Though I do love this work with the others, I feel it would be best to be able to make this work with my name.” Artist E suffered from too many ideas: “All of sudden, any style is really easy for me to parody right now. Today I am a ‘figure painter,’ tomorrow I could be a ‘conceptualist,’ the next day a ‘post-black artist.'” Consciously strategizing what to feed one’s artistic narrative versus the invention of seemingly infinite alternatives is precisely the tension that interests me most.
I certainly am not proposing that artists stop chasing the historical significance that will always be attached to a name. However, a break from canon building to address one’s role in persona craftsmanship seems like a suitable way to confront whether the biography of an artist should or must be a determining factor when discussing art. Biography can determine meaning, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.
Curated by: Micah Malone
On view: January 9 – February 15, 2012