Sunday, November 16, 2003

Critic's Notebook 

From the Tri-County Courier-Journal Weekend Arts Update

Briefly Noted
by Elliott Nook

As any visitor to the Tri-County Courthouse Annex can attest, the walk from the East Main Street entrance to the south wing hearing rooms is a long one, whether you're reporting for jury duty or coming in to surrender your drivers license, no matter how many times you've done it. The exhibit currently adorning those walls, "Art of the Ages: Expressions of the Young and Old" (November 10 -- January 30), and whose premise is to juxtapose artwork by five-year-olds with that of senior citizens, serves only to make a long walk seem even longer.

While I didn't arrive at the opening of this show expecting to discover a Grandma Moses among the residents of the Shady Rest Retirement Village or a wunderkind in Mrs. Tobler's kindergarten class from Tri-County Elementary, I was still grossly disappointed.

This exhibit is the second in a trio on the theme of "Compare and Contrast" inspired by the recent spate of New York museums playing Famous Artist Dream Date (Matisse-Picasso, Manet-Velasquez, etc.). The first of these local offerings, "Seascapes or Landscapes: Which is Better?" closed a few weeks ago and the third, "Poker & Pool: Dogs at Play" is set to open in the spring. The stated purpose of these ghastly curatorial exercises is, according to the catalogue, ". . . to reveal something important through the contrasting visions of different artists."

Well, I don't know what's important but all that comparing the paint spatters of the very young and the very old revealed to me is: 1) Both groups favor bright colors and possess sub-par motor skills; 2) At a quick glance (the only sensible way to see this show) you can't tell which picture is by a child and which is by a senior; and 3) Since they all stick close to the same short roster of sappy, sentimental subjects -- home, family, pets, thieving night-shift orderlies -- it doesn't really matter.

The deeper into this show I waded, the darker my mood became. No sooner had I remarked aloud that "My grandmother could do better," than I came upon my dear old Nana's mixed media entry (egg tempra, raspberry Jell-O) entitled "I Wanted Pudding!" and realized that, no, she couldn't.

As for the opening night festivities; since my role in the unfortunate melee has already been widely reported and is part of an ongoing civil matter (though no longer criminal), I can say nothing more. With hindsight, however, I realize that I probably should have been a tad more sotto of voce when speaking into my tape recorder, at least while standing within earshot of the artists' families and friends.

My advice for anyone needing to traverse this corridor in the near future is to insist on a court date after the exhibit has ended or, failing that, to pull your coat up over your face, perp-walk style, and make a run for the parking lot. That's my plan, anyway.

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