My Picks from the PBS Series Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century product

Ask any teen or twenty-something about children’s programs and you should find a mixture of respect and condescension. This condescension is not arrogant but rather a matter of fact about a certain kind of Pollyanna censorship designed to “protect” innocent children. Before Masterpiece Theatre became Mobil Masterpiece Theatre in the early 2000s, I would have disagreed with you that the adult/mature content for PBS also deserves such non-bitter condescension. Now, I’m not so swaggeringly confident. The multi-season series Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century fully deserves this anti-Pollyanna mental health treatment and is a typical sanitized vehicle that any artist concerned about being “established” would whole-soulfully welcome.

My effort to pick out the artists that resonate with me is proof that this PBS program is not a total loss. For me, however, the art shows/documentaries that work well with my humanity are:

  • Vernissage TV : “VernissageTV (VTV) takes you to opening receptions (vernissages) of exhibitions and events. Online, worldwide, on demand. VernissageTV provides insight to the social side of the art world. For you, Vernissage TV is talking with artists in a relaxed style.”
  • Art City: Making it in Manhattan : this is my first contemporary documentary showing Euro-American artists openly complaining about how the “art world” works. This is a seriously healthy break away from the “savvy” quiet desperation that pervades weed-smoking American pop.
  • The “What Do Curators Want” series from I blogged about the importance of this series in 2008. After listening to this informative series, I’m convinced that all curators should produce at least one show a year entirely composed of artists they suspect (or know explicitly) of disliking (or openly despising) them. The effort taken for a curator to showcase people with whom they cannot possibly find social comfort should show real hard work done.
  • The Art of the Steal : this documents the disgraceful fate of one of the best private art collections of the 20th century. The Albert C. Barnes collection is worth billions of dollars. One of the many messages from this piece is that you can do everything “right” far beyond expectations and still have sworn enemies posing as fellow colleagues. Another tidbit from this film is my answer to question, “Why would a PBS show ‘sanitize’ the art world?”
  • Herb & Dorothy : is a splendid compromise between PBS “safe” television and what’s so “disturbing” about The Art of the Steal. Director Megumi Sasaki does an excellent job portraying the human side of the “art world” and how it can gracefully plug into the establishment. product

Pepón Osorio—Season 1 (2003) Episode: “Place”

Pepón Osorio, best known for large-scale installations, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1955. …‘My principal commitment as an artist is to return art to the community,’ he says.”

Sally Mann—Season 1 (2001) Episode: “Place”

Sally Mann was born in 1951 in Lexington, Virginia, where she continues to live and work. …Her early series of photographs of her three children and husband resulted in a series called ‘Immediate Family.’”

Trenton Doyle Hancock—Season 2 (2003) Episode: “Stories”

Trenton Doyle Hancock was born in 1974 in Oklahoma City, OK. …Hancock’s paintings often rework Biblical stories that the artist learned as a child from his family and local church community. Balancing moral dilemmas with wit and a musical sense of language and color, Hancock’s works create a painterly space of psychological dimension.” product

Janine Antoni—Season 2 (2003) Episode: “Loss & Desire”

Janine Antoni was born in Freeport, Bahamas in 1964. …Antoni’s primary tool for making sculpture has always been her own body. She has chiseled cubes of lard and chocolate with her teeth, washed away the faces of soap busts made in her own likeness, and used the brainwave signals recorded while she dreamed at night as a pattern for weaving a blanket the following morning.”

See “Lick and Lather” on My notes on this work from 2/2010: “…it’s about the woman protecting herself from a role she can’t stop herself from playing in a ‘scripted’ relationship with a male…”

Martin Puryear—Season 2 (2003) Episode: “Time”

Martin Puryear was born in Washington, D.C., in 1941. In his youth, he studied crafts and learned how to build guitars, furniture, and canoes through practical training and instruction. …Puryear’s evocative, dreamlike explorations in abstract forms retain vestigial elements of utility from everyday objects found in the world.”

Cai Guo-Qiang—Season 3 (2005) Episode: “Power”

Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province, China, and lives and works in New York. … While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995 he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, leading to the development of his signature explosion events.” product

Fred Wilson—Season 3 (2005) Episode: “Structures”

Fred Wilson was born in the Bronx, New York in 1954, and lives and works in New York. … He questions—and forces the viewer to question—how curators shape interpretations of historical truth, artistic value, and the language of display, and what kinds of biases our cultural institutions express.”

To paraphrase one of Fred Wilson’s notable remarks: your modern European art is our traditional African art—so our modern art must be your cliché.

Mark Bradford—Season 4 (2007) Episode: “Paradox”

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles, California in 1961. … Drawing from the diverse cultural and geographic makeup of his southern Californian community, Bradford’s work is as informed by his personal background as a third- generation merchant there as it is by the tradition of abstract painting developed worldwide in the 20th Century. Bradford’s videos and map-like, multilayered paper collages refer not only to the organization of streets and buildings in downtown Los Angeles, but also to images of crowds, ranging from civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s to contemporary protests concerning immigration issues.”

My cryptic praise of Mark Bradford: samo are better than Elvis sightings.