I know this is old news, and the folks that follow art happenings are probably sick of it, but I'm fascinated by the debacle that was to be the Mass MoCA “Training Ground for Democracy” exhibit. I think this quote from Roberta Smith in a dialogue in Artl!es applies to the curators for artist Stephen Buchel's work: "There is a lot of what I would call 'wishful looking' in art criticism these days." I think there's a lot of wishful looking throughout the public art world, and Mass MoCA was caught looking. Smith wasn't referring to criticism of “Training Ground for Democracy”. In fact, I think she views Buchels work as legitimate, interesting art. I think that some art critics look at Buchel's work and wish it was more than it is — not simply mediocre to bad art, but monumental, relevant, major art.
Here's the current state of the Mass MoCA, Stephen Buchel, "Training Ground for Democracy" show: Judge rules. . .
Why Roberta Smith thinks Mass MoCA shouldn't open a show with what's left: Is It Art Yet? And Who Decides?
Tyler Green's latest comments: On the mess. . .
I've recently read criticism of some art museums' tendencies to book big blockbuster events, at the expense of relevancy or artistic merit. “Training Ground for Democracy” is a perfect example. It appears that it was simply going to be a show about how amazing it is that they got a house and some trucks and other big stuff inside a museum. Too much is made of the juxtapositions. Even if Buchel had finished “Training Ground for Democracy”, and approved of the exhibit, it was still just big stuff from the real world moved inside a museum. I think trying to make much of Buchel's environments is an extended example of "wishful looking". In describing them as "bristling three-dimensional history paintings", Roberta Smith explains his environments, but ultimately exaggerates the positive. I doubt that “Training Ground for Democracy” was going to bristle.