Unless you are a bounty hunter, your job probably requires that you work with others. You may have individual responsibilities, but you are likely part of a staff, division or militia that relies on the efforts of many in order to achieve its goals. Cooperation is the foundation of society.
The cherished exception to this harmony is the role of the artist.
Inventive and self-indulgent, the artist toils in isolation. The artist’s singular vision is the only quality-check, self-doubt the only obstacle. Unburdened by the expectations of others, the artist’s imagination is free to push boundaries and challenge beliefs. But this self-reliance is also what gets an artist into trouble.
Despite copious evidence that there is not a stable market to support all these singular artists, each year thousands of students graduate from art school in hopes of becoming gainfully self-employed creative persons. Sadly, most of them don’t make it, and they end up writing scintillating columns for free weekly newspapers.
The other drawback is that the personal and private nature of making art can result in, shall we say, a clear lack of peer input. Imagine John Cage performing “4’33”” for a friend:
“Well, what did you think?”
“You didn’t play anything.”
“You’re an asshole.”
After all, art is about communication and a solitary approach might not be the ultimate answer. Examining the alternative, Pennbrick Gallery (141-143 W. Santa Fe Ave., 577-5470) hosted Gruesometwosome, a one-night exhibit on Aug. 28 by artists who work in pairs.
A quick survey of the show revealed that the crucial component to a collaboration is adopting a cool pseudonym—Apenest or Zeitguised sound infinitely better than Hall & Oates. But apart from the hip handles and head count, mere collaboration is a fairly thin thread for a show. The works didn’t have a great amount of overlap or seem particularly cohesive. The whole of it struck me as being predicated on the nifty show title rather than a tangible theme. Still, there was some great stuff to look at.
Zeitguised, a duo based in London, created “Peripetics,” a short video of CGI vignettes that was so odd I had to watch it twice. Much of the action involved forms that resembled anatomical models. Pink and yellow tissue, red and blue networks of blood vessels throbbed and gasped in clean animated scapes. Though the forms were little more than geometric blobs, I began to worry. They kept enlarging and tumbling and disintegrating, seemingly under duress.
Apenest, the LA-based publisher-printmakers, produced some fanatically colorful and creepy prints. One was a melange of everything the artists had designed up to that point “in a big transparent pile,” which prominently featured a giant squid strangling a fish. The second print depicted a skull beset by more skulls and fire and bad things, all in a nice candy coating.
Deep Slumber Lake contributed the knockout punch—a pair of exquisitely detailed graphite drawings of severed heads. An internet search of DSL revealed that one of the artists is Zac Scheinbaum, a Pennbrick co-owner and co-curator. (This is a frequent trend throughout the gallery’s short history. The names of contributing artists to past events appear again and again. Herein lies the implicit collaborative nature of art—the network of friends.) Typically, I find this sort of self-adulation disgusting and lazy, but the work isn’t generally this good either. We can argue about whether one should curate one’s own work into a show, but I think it is agreed that swimming is more fun in a flowing river than in a shallow pool.
Pennbrick, itself the collaboration of dynamic duo Scheinbaum and Meghan Tomeo, is proving to be a valuable source for contemporary work in Santa Fe. Sadly, the next show (Noise, Sept. 18) is the last on the schedule at the gallery’s current location. Scheinbaum and Tomeo have other co-curatorial plans in the works for the winter and are leaving open the possibility that Pennbrick, as we know it, will exist again next summer, but the twosome makes no promises.