UPDATE: These reviews have been completed with text. See below.
UPDATE 2: As of 11:30pm on Sunday, I've added more to the discussion under the third Postsecret image.
I guess it was two weekends ago that I did a mini-crawl in Georgetown. I have two shows to discuss. As usual, images first, text later.
Frank Warren's Postsecret
Warren's Postsecret show has generated a ton of reviews and thought. But, as you can tell with the photos I chose to post here, I don't wish to focus on the actual postcards. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the project is no longer about the postcards, or at least the postcards are not as important any more. Just look at the pictures here to see what I mean.
When I arrived at the old Staples store I was flabbergasted to see a long line of people standing in the cold waiting to get in. I could not believe that this was an art show. I'm accustomed to viewing art with maybe one or two other people in the gallery with me. But then I saw who was at the show. One person, who I work with a daily basis, I know to not be an art person at all. He was at the show with a date because it was the cool place to be. And if I had to guess, the vast majority of people at the show were the same. I would love to see a statistic that measured how frequently these people visited a gallery or museum each year.
I'm no psychologist, but my interpretation of the incredible interest in the show is not so rosy. Many reviews have stated that people want to see these secrets because it reveals that we all have problems and secrets. We are no "weirder" than the next guy. But seeing this many people line up to read such revealing secrets reminds me of our fascination with reality TV. We love to see other people make a fool of themselves. We love to laugh at others. I saw a ton of laughter at the show but no crying. I felt that it was almost like a mob scene. Everyone wanted to devour the secrets. The formation of a line suggested the same thing to me. It was an assembly line of reading. Few people lingered in front of a card and gave it prolonged, serious thought. People wanted to get to the next funny or embarrassing card.
Which makes me think, this project, though begun with sincere and pure ideals, resulted in Entertainment. I believe that without a doubt the first responders to the project were honest about their secrets. The cards were likely simple and if decorated at all it was true to the secret. But after some time, I believe people wanted to create the coolest cards. They knew that if the card was good enough it could be on the Postsecret blog. What if they had known the cards could have been in a music video or a best-selling book? As for the viewers, I think the majority came to the show (or read the blog) to be entertained. Building on the reality TV comparison, I can't help but think of that one show where the girl faked the marriage to the fat guy and fooled the family. Nobody knew those people but we loved to see them all make fools of themselves. We've all acted just as stupidly, but we usually try to keep our audience as small as possible. If we knew no one would recognize us, how much more ridiculous would we act?
The majority of viewers, I suspect, didn't even care if the secrets were true. We know many of them probably are not, though we'll never know for sure. But just as we don't care really if reality TV shows are scripted, we don't care if the secrets are made-up. Would it change our outlook on the project if we discovered most of the secrets were fiction? I suspect not.
Entertainment... unknown creators making something that resulted unknown viewers' enjoyment, sometimes intended, sometimes not.
Back to the forming of lines, why in the world did people line up to view the art? Was it the type of viewer that saw the show? A viewer who is more accustomed to waiting in line to ride a roller coaster (entertainment) than taking in the overall experience of an art show? Why did I get so many dirty looks from people for poking my head in the line to read an assortment of cards?
Again, I'm no psychologist. But, after seeing this show I'm left to think that the significance of the project isn't the cards. Instead, it's the performance of the secret writer and secret reader. That's where the true magic of the project lies. After all, so many of the postcards look to be about the design of the card and not the sincerity of the secret. However, in the end I don't think it matters. I think the overall project is absolutely amazing and Frank Warren should be commended for conceptualizing it. I agree with others who say that the entire collection should be snapped up by some thoughtful art museum and be displayed and cared for with great care. The project epitomizes the time in which we live. In 100 years these postcards will say more about the time we live in than almost anything else. Congrats to Frank for the incredible success.
F. Lennox Campello @ Fraser Gallery
Campello's recently closed solo show demonstrated what a passion-filled artist and a unique vision can create. A mixture of old-school tradition and quirky interests, Campello's drawing envelope the viewer in the artist's vision. While in the gallery, I couldn't help but feel Campello. There's a purity to his vision that comes across as sincere. As a gallery owner, the artist surely knows how to sell pictures. And though Campello prices his works affordably, his subject matter isn't always an easy sale. It's clear that Campello's art is about the art and nothing else.
I found Campello's drawings to be an interesting juxtaposition of elegant craft and also rough handiwork. Take for example the image above. Kennedy is rendered perfectly whereas the vast, wide space of black is made up of overlapping marks. It seems that Campello spent hours on the portrait and two minutes on the surrounding blackness. Is this a statement by the artist to the viewer saying look at the portrait, that's where the magic is? That the rest is just environment... setting the stage for the portait. This is how I read the work and for me it fit perfectly with the unique vision behind the work.