Just this morning, I was talking with someone about art shows, and saying how much I loved this thing that the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood once did at a Biennial show. At the exhibition, which has a different judge or judges each year, they had a little station where you could sit and look at every single work that was not accepted into the exhibition.
It was there that I discovered one of my very favorite works, a piece that I still remember to this day.
Just hours after talking about that today, I was going through my e-mails and found a message from Tom Rossetti of Rossetti Fine Art Gallery. Earlier in the week I'd asked him for an image I could run in the guide with an item about his Abstracts show. This morning, he sent me a few, including pics of some of the winning works announced at last night's opening, noting that "The best-in-show piece was highly controversial!"
Curious, I scrolled down in his message to see the image, which Rossetti noted has been sold to a collector for $1500. I didn't see an artist statement for the untitled work, which artist Russell Rand made from oil paint-splattered plastic bags wadded up and bound together with fishing line. I gather it's about the environment but the controversy Rossetti cited isn't about Rand's stance on the environment. It's about the fact that his work took best-in-show and that someone paid $1,500 for it. .
The image of the work, posted on Rossetti Fine Art Gallery's Facebook and elsewhere, has spurred commentary ranging from "What total crap" and "I'm no art critic ... but what the hell are they supposed to be?" to "Respect the success of others."
Again I found myself thinking about that photo station and finding my favorite work among the many that never even made their way into the show. It's all relative, isn't it? And these shows are, in the end, the opinion of one person with whom others may or may not agree.
That said, here is the work (posted above) that the show's judge Byron Keith Byrd deemed the best, along with some thoughts about his choice in an excerpt from his judge's statement:
"Everyone has an opinion. At times the opinion may transpire into a critique or judgment. These cerebral intricacies are based on ones’ personal standards and/or life experiences. Certainly my time spent in New York City has affected my own artistic sensibilities ...
Awarding the ‘Best in Show’ was a spontaneous instinct for me. Russell Rands’ jarring untitled work with plastic and oil had the same impact I experienced while viewing the work of sculptor Lynda Benglis in New York some 30 years ago. And the visual stimulation which I have encountered over the past few years at Art Basel only cements the fact that Mr. Rands’ work is current and quite profound on many levels. While some may question this choice, I find the enigmatic work to be provoking if not somewhat controversial in nature."Asked about the controversy surrounding this choice, Rossetti notes that he selects judges he feels are very qualified and gives them free reign. "I think for the most part artists and people in attendance just didn't get it," he says of Rand's work. "You find conceptual art and pieces like this in New York and Art Basel. It's pushing the envelop a bit and for an abstract show this was the most edgy and truly abstract work entered. Many judges don't want to be safe, they want the unexpected. Even the artist thought it was a joke of sorts, considering it took him minutes to create while, on the other hand, a sculpture like William Reed's 'Drill Baby Drill,' was beautifully executed and took him hundreds of hours to create. But art is art and everything is subjective."
Or as Rossetti put it more informally in a discussion about Rand's work in the comments section of Rossetti Fine Art Gallery's Facebook, "Though I don't understand the artist's statement or his intent, I congratulate him for having the balls and vision to enter it and stand by it."