Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Compare/Contrast: Gallery Talks at Dia:Beacon

Luc Sante will be speaking on the work of An-My Lee at Dia:Beacon on Saturday, Jan 26 at 1pm.

As the subjects of the museum's monthly gallery talks are constrained to the limited number of artists whose work is on exhibit, there's an interesting opportunity to receive a deeper understanding of the artists, given the particular sensibilities each speaker brings to the subject.

In the most recent gallery talk in Dec 07, Barbara Schroeder spoke on Blinky Palermo. Miss Schroeder's talk differed in approach from a talk on Palermo given by Ivo Mesquita in late 2006. Mesquita's talk focused heavily on biographical information and Palermo's activity as an artist in relation to his peers and mentors, including Beuys and Knoebel, with more references made to illustrations in a monograph on the artist than to the artwork in the gallery. At one point during the talk, Mesquita led the group into another gallery to look at this Sol LeWitt. In terms of presentation, Mr. Mesquita's was challenging, as his Brazilian accent, and halting speech could be difficult to follow at times, and I know that there was some disappointment that the talk did little to engage the Palermo work on exhibit. However, having known very little about Palermo beforehand, my knowledge was enhanced by the information gleaned from the talk, giving me an overview of the man.

Barbara Schroeder's talk dealt more specifically, and at times meticulously, with the technical and conceptual details of the work on view in the two Palermo galleries. This more recent talk gave a much deeper understanding of the work on exhibit in a way that completely altered and enhanced my experience of it. (I imagine that some such relevant information is included in the gallery literature, but I'm loathe to read in a museum, and therefore, I've never looked the material. So let that be a lesson to you kids.)
Ultimately, these two talks complimented one another, and together they conveyed a more complete understanding of the artist and his work than either could do individually. This "accumulation factor" is the overriding effect of the talk series, and I find it's an analogy to experience of visiting a museum that almost requires extended and repeated interactions with the work presented. One can be either frustrated or enlightened from a talk, similarly to how one may react to the museum's collection, but with repeated engagement, the benefit grows.

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