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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Mistakes Were Made

I’ve heard the same thing said in a couple different contexts lately. Art students in top programs today are facing too much pressure to produce quality product too quickly. The stakes are too high for them to use their school years to experiment and make mistakes.

Charlie Finch visited the Columbia MFA studios recently and returned with an interesting report about how the young painters there are dealing with the pressures of not having enough quiet time to focus on their work.

Paul Schimmel made a similar point last weekend at the panel discussion I attended. Students, he said, are working to make gallery shows, not art. “If you can’t do something awful when you’re a student,” he asked rhetorically, “when can you?”

At the National Museum of Catalunian Art on Sunday, I happened to stumble across a show of video work by eight recent Yale graduates. (The screening was part of the Loop Festival of video art running this month in Barcelona.) I’m happy to report that the video division of this venerable art program hasn’t caved one inch to market pressure. It’s still turning ’em out old school style in a way that would make Schimmel happy. All eight of these Yale grads, I have to say, have made truly awful things.

I don’t mean to slag the artists whose work was included in the screening, so I won't name names (other than that of professor John Pilson who selected the work). But, man, the pieces chosen to showcase Yale at this international event give student work the world over a bad name. And Yale a very bad name.

I can’t help but feel sorry for these recent grads. I mean, imagining paying Ivy League rates for a professional training program that only enables you to produce output like this. Now I understand where the term "starving artist" comes from. Having massive loans to repay and making work that no one would ever be interested in buying (let alone actually watching--even once) must make it pretty darn hard to put food on the table.

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