“Arthrocereus-Halide (OEL #38)”, Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe, 2012, Quartz, Plastic, Resin, Epoxy

In the current exhibition of Land of Tomorrow, E.V. Day’s Pollinator Series features pink-purple grid-like projections of the flowers from Giverny onto etched glass. They were constructed using digital scans of original flower pressings. So too was Serkan Ozkaya’s David (inspired by Michelangelo), a giant gold-painted, fiberglass double-sized reproduction of Michelangelo’s David, recently acquired by 21C. Both of these artists’ artworks have something in common, namely the interdependent means of production. In the case of Serkan Ozkaya, (who has never seen the David, and it shows), he commissioned technicians to reproduce it based on a 3D rendering of “Stanford University professor Marc Levoy’s computer model.” It was then “constructed by six people over the course of six months.” Likewise, as I learned from Joey Yates (one of the curators of Land of Tomorrow) and Drura Parrish (a founder), the production of E.V. Day’s Pollinator Series was by people at Land of Tomorrow–E.V.  Day apparently gave indications of what to do, and Land of Tomorrow did the rest.

In the case of Land of Tomorrow, this surprised me. I realized just how naive I am about the way some art is produced. Perhaps my misconception was partially due to how the press release of Pollinator Series presents E.V. Day’s embodied artistic process. She is described as actually being in Giverny, “sifting” through the “gardener’s wheelbarrows” for “latter blooms” after following the workers around during their breaks. This actually happened. I naturally, but wrongly, assumed she made all on her own the computer projections and etched them onto glass, given their small size.

Yet, Land of Tomorrow is not disingenuous in this regard. I admire their work and the professionalism of their comportment. It is a common practice in contemporary art for the designer to have the final work bear only his or her signature. Land of Tomorrow cannot question this or they will lose commissions. Yates gave the example of Jeff Koons whose ‘art’ is made (infamously) by a flotilla of unknown artists (or rather, we are supposed to say, ‘artisans’) with minimal–if no–intervention by Koons himself. For me, another example is Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (2006). It is evident that Anish Kapoor did not make it, but who did? The emphasis for public knowledge is on Kapoor’s creative act of the design, whereas the actual foundry (or army of welders) that brilliantly constructed the massive, smooth, impossibly-perfect, polished steel structure has been elided from public knowledge like Nefertiti in the reign of Akhenaten.

21C offers documentation on the production of the David (inspired by Michelangelo) in the form of a film and a 340-page book. This is very different than simply stating that David (inspired by Michelangelo) was made by Serkan Ozkaya, as per the press statement (I have not seen the film or read the book). Alice Gray Stites, the curator of 21C, states that the key theme of Ozkaya’s work is, “How do we assess the value of an artwork (or its double), in the marketplace, in the art-historical canon, in our own subjective experiences?” I am presenting, obviously, a different issue.

From my conversations with Yates and Parrish, Land of Tomorrow, perhaps like Solway and Nam June Paik, is a production source for young artists of rapid upward career trajectory. The other objects in its gallery, such as the crystal sculptures (The Pale Hotel) of Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, hence represent varying degrees of Land of Tomorrow’s hand and even interpretation. They are well-made, but in time I was not sure what was made by whom. Yates explained specifically who made what, but my hasty notes are complicated and, unfortunately, somewhat unreadable. I learned later from Parrish that there was a creative interchange between Land of Tomorrow and Freeman and Lowe through photos, collages, and trials in a back-in-forth dialogue in the making of the final works.

I am not proposing a dualistic artist-versus-artisan discussion of the way in which art is signed and produced, or simply a Made in China sticker. It is wonderful that people collaborate to make art. It is the tradition of the creative arts. Consider the workshop of Rubens, or Warhol’s Factory. The credit for the final object, however, varies. At the end of a film, a long list of the individuals involved in its production appears before the viewer. I suppose the equivalent in the visual arts would be to instead simply state who wrote the screenplay–forget the makeup artists, cinematographers, the director, the actors–they would be, for the visual arts analogy, replaceable and hence uncredited, for only one person could have been so inventive as to write that which directs all their efforts.

The term for this is disclosure. I wonder what would happen to the ‘art world’ if it emulated film’s disclosure of everyone involved. Instead of the fortification of star-like egos, we would have a vision of a community of people–real people, individuals with personalities like Parrish–who participated in the process. It does not undermine the importance of the conceptual and design stage, but actually highlights it. Disclosure means letting us the viewers know about what is happening and letting us make our own judgments. Is this not a contemporary notion as well?

–A.C. Frabetti

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