Art Criticism / Art History

Some Re-Appropriated Thoughts on Regional Art

I recently published a short essay  on the Hudson Valley-centric Chronogram magazine’s blog about whether the expression “regional art” and the rather more pejorative “Regional art” does any helpful work.

Some choice bits from the essay and below that, the link to the piece:

“Regional art” is attached to parochialism. No, artists in the Hudson Valley are not “Regional artists”; they are regional artists. They are regional artists only in so far as they live and work in a specific place, here in the Hudson Valley. They have use and make use of the wide-open spaces here. They choose to work in studios—on the cheap relative to Brooklyn arm and leg prices—above a babbling brook, they enjoy the contemplative luxury of a tree lined view, a river view, out the window. Sure, they choose to move residence here, actively, from New York City and elsewhere to become embedded in the way of life here. But these artists show their work in galleries and museums in New York, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, London and Paris, in Universal art places alongside the great Universal artists. They count in their corner recent Guggenheim Fellowship recipients, celebrated artists who live quietly and get written about enthusiastically in the New York Times, artists who are historically important thinkers who’ve spent lifetimes thinking about working and making work in service of global, human concerns.”

….

“Why am I so concerned about this issue? I’m concerned because it seems to me that the view of the Hudson Valley as a place for “Regional art” is in some part behind the modest political economy of art-making here. Collectors and curators sometimes move from the sensible use of the expression regional art, to the rather more pejorative view with a capital R, for rejection. I’ve heard it argued that art here is somehow second-class and so galleries and non-profits have a hard time selling work and, therefore, expect to sell little of the work on display. The fault is in the region, as it were. That, in turn, makes it difficult to run a gallery, much less have a thriving gallery scene, arts institution scene in this town and that. Knowing this, young artists and curators who train in the Hudson Valley, at SUNY New Paltz, Bard and elsewhere seldom think twice of staying in the area and making a go at a career, a life. Good talent that would soon have found its place here shuffles along to Brooklyn. And who, here, in their right mind thinks that’s a fine state of affairs?”

“So, curators and collectors need to know that work here is excellent. The work here is important and so far as their portfolios are concerned—if you or they want to think in that way—they are viable as commodities. So, work has to be supported on the only grounds it should be supported: that it is good in the conventional New York account (let’s assume this is a valid account. I’m not sure it is, but let’s assume it anyway) and that it contributes to conceptual, experiential exchange, artists to audience via institutions that support that exchange. Let us reject the “Regional” account of art. Let us do that by ceasing to talk about art of the Hudson Valley region, regional art. Let us talk about art in the Hudson Valley.”

Find the piece here. And check in from time to time at Chronogram for more of my work on art and its political and social valences.  And, of course, do come back home here.

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