Monday, March 21, 2011

Art as Irrelevent?
Museum Faces Seeming Dilemma;
Cancel Japan Show Or Not?

Can This Sculpture From Japan Still Mean The Same?

Japanese Artists Said To Be Uninjured

Hopes, Thoughts With Japan]

In the earliest days following the cataclysmic earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor damage to all hit Japan, the Torrance Art Museum faced a seeming dilemma -- to cancel or to at least postpone the scheduled Gateway Japan exhibition, or to open and exhibit the show beginning March 26, 2011 as had been long-since planned.

The show was and still is to feature the artworks of fourteen full- or part-time residents of Japan, along with two Japanese co-curators.

Well, it turns out that seeming dilemma wasn't really a dilemma at all.

Assuming that the facts on the ground don't much change -- a significant assumption -- then TAM will proceed with the show as planned, with an added opening day fundraiser for the Japanese Red Cross.

A week or so ago, TAM's curator and director Max Presneill received an email from Ei Kibukawa, one of the two Tokyo gallerists who have become Presneill's co-curators for Gateway. In addition to providing this update on his and his family's safety as well as the situation in Tokyo and to the northeast, Kibukawa announced the redoubled intention of he and the artists in his circle to still come to Torrance for the show's opening.

Kibukawa said that the disasters make for a bleak immediate outlook for artists and art professionals in his nation. "I am afraid," Kibukawa wrote, "that it will be difficult to live by art business in Japan."

The gallerist goes on to say that Gateway is therefore "very good timing."

And as noted here, Kibukawa and the show's other co-curator, Yuko Wakaume, both in separate emails pushed for a philanthropic component to Gateway.

Wakaume wrote in part: "Artists [living] in Japan, they would like to do something for the sufferers..."

TAM's Presneill and newly hired TAM Assistant Curator Jason Ramos were already by that time discussing options. When Wakaume emailed to say she and the artists she knows in the show were intending to bring small artworks to donate for a charity sale, Presneill and Ramos et al. put the details together towards making that happen.

But as for the show itself, in a conversation in the days following the earthquake and tsunami, Presneill -- also an artist himself -- expressed undiluted confidence that his fellow painters and sculptors and otherwise would desire the show to go on.

"I know artists," Presneill said. "They aren't going to say that because of disaster we should give up the thing we most care about in the world."

He was referring to their art practices in general there, and not specifically to the TAM show. (And again, this comment was based on the still-standing initial information that all the artists and their families were safe and uninjured.)

Regarding the TAM show, Presneill asked and answered his own rhetorical question. "What does it matter if we're going to do it?" he said of the show. "On one hand it doesn't matter. On the other hand, of course it matters, and perhaps it matters even more."

Art and creative endeavors, Presneill said, make us fundamentally human. And in time of crises, the need to strive on with hope is particular vital.

"That momentum forward," Presneill said us crucial, "even in the face of whatever gets in their way -- people will create."