Thursday, March 05, 2015

But Is It Art?

“My interest in drawing and painting developed 
synonymously with learning to sew and loving fabrics.”
Caitlin Keogh

My first serious piece of art criticism came from my father. “I do not say it is great art, but it shows a very high degree of technical competence,” he wrote about my realist still life painting of wine bottles in candle light. He was right; it wasn’t art and had no pretensions to be so. It was all about technically rendering what I saw before me. It was the craft of painting.

I suspect that the craft becomes art when the wow factor strikes, when the artist becomes as much of an audience member as the visitors to the exhibition where the work is shown, when the works feeling trumps its intention.

The American painter Caitlin Keogh who graduated from the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts in 2011 is as aware of this as anyone. As she told “My dad is a painter and printmaker and my mom is a weaver who worked as a seamstress, so I grew up with a lot of both fine art and applied art skills going on. I went to art school, at Cooper, and that was the first time I was expected to make big distinctions between the skills and their various histories. Fine art was taught as a conceptional education, while it seemed like craft was possibly a supportive element to a studio practice, but not terribly relevant or intellectual.”

Keogh went on to add “I was really happy when I got a job after graduating making technical drawings for a shoe designer. The drawings were used in the factory for production. It was really important that the image be legible, and I loved this practical imperative. I’ve tried to bring that informational clarity, a kind of explicitness, to my work in my studio.”

Keogh’s first exhibited works were of renderings of worked fabric samples found in op-shops and flea markets. As Le Salon’s Jenny Borland wrote of Keogh’s 2013 exhibition Modes, “It is tempting to read Keogh’s paintings as a nostalgic, romantic vision of handmade skill and craft not yet outsourced to machines, but the direct and methodical way in which her subjects are rendered prevents this shift from occurring, and in turn negotiates the space between use, production, and practice.” 

In her current exhibition Keogh has moved on with a series of paintings that depict creative types. As the exhibitions press release states “The various creative practices are metaphors for today’s artist and the various roles one assumes while producing ideas…For these paintings, Keogh sourced imagery and illustrations from women’s magazines dating from 1936 to 1939…By using material from the past, Keogh asks us to reconsider imagery, specifically images targeted towards women.”

Keogh’s current exhibition The Corps is on show at New York’s Mary Boone Gallery until the 25th of April.

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