The Future is Now at CIA Exhibit

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Wed, 10/26/2005 - 13:21.

The panel discussion “Dream On: Lines of Escape” at the
Cleveland Institute of Art Saturday took some interesting turns. Thepanel
included artists, art teachers, curators and critics – and some members held
more than one of these titles. David Pagel, art critic for the LA Times and
curator of POPulence, the exhibit currently at MOCA was the most outspoken of
the seven panel members. Pagel instigated dissent among panel members early on
by stating that he is only interest in art of the present – meaning art that is
not nostalgic. The question was never really resolved: do we live in an age
of nothing but nostalgia – as someone suggested -- or is there really art about
the present and what is the present?

At times the discussion moderator threatened to steal the
show: a fantasy of his own that he shared at the beginning of the discussion
and returned to several times was more memorable than the images of on the
screen behind the panelists. He said in his childhood he dreamed of having an
electric lawnmower, he now has a push mower but satisfies himself by pretending
he is a robot pushing it when he mows his grass. One of his opening questions
dealing with representations of technology and nostalgia in contemporary art
led to the panel members returning again and again to the impact of the cell
phone on our world.

Artists Maureen Conner and Sharon Ellis explained ways they
escape the tyranny of technology in their work. Conner’s work was in the
Beautiful Dreamer Show that just closed at Spaces last weekend and Ellis’s work
is in POPulence. Ellis creates landscape paintings and Conner creates
installations with video. They both use art to create their own private worlds.
Ellis explained how nostalgia/images of the past can help make the artist’s
private visions meaningful to the viewer. Artist Adam Ross, in what was almost
an aside to the panel discussion spoke out to art students – and there were
many in the audience – saying “know your history well, not just art history,
know when you are doing something that has been done before.”

Behind the panelists images of works in Beautiful
Dreamer and POPulence flashed across a screen. Some of the images were
difficult to understand if you had not seen them in person because of the wide
range of media the artists used. Conner and Ross both addressed the pluralistic
quality of the art world today. Conner complained that pluralism is not always
reflected in the exhibitions of major contemporary art museums. Dreaming of A
More Better Future, the exhibit that opened in CIA’s Reinberger Gallery after
the panel discussion does conveyed this pluralism, it includes prominent works
in painting, drawing and sculpture as well as video and multimedia installations.
Most of these artist’s dreams of the future seem dystopian and chaotic. The
show’s title recalls the saying “less is more” and the art suggests there just
too much of everything in the future for it to really be better.