Air Kissing: An Exhibition of Contemporary Art about the Art World

March 5 – April 20
Arcadia University Art Gallery

Participating artists: Alex Bag, Conrad Bakker, Brainstormers, BANK, Jennifer Dalton, Elmgreen & Dragset with Lizette Kabré, Andrea Fraser & Jeff Preiss, David Hammons, Jason Irwin, Christian Jankowski, Kalup Linzy, Lee Lozano, James Mills, Elena Nemkova, Carl Pope, William Powhida, William Bryan Purcell, Mira Schor, and Amanda Trager.

Curated by Sasha Archibald.

March 5 at 6:30 p.m, Arcadia University Theatre, Spruance Fine Arts Center.
 Panel discussion with exhibition curator Sasha Archibald and participating artists James Mills, William Powhida, Mira Schor, and Momenta Art co-director and artist Laura Parnes. Opening reception to follow immediately afterward in the gallery.

About the Exhibition

Featuring 35 works in diverse media by 22 regional and international artists, artist teams and collectives, the show explores the double-bind faced by artists navigating their desire to work (and succeed) in a world they hold in low regard.

Using self-deprecation, humor, sharp criticism, and a deliberate mix of high culture with low, the artists in “Air Kissing” give voice to a number of legitimate grievances about the art world. Works in the exhibition by Andrea Fraser & Jeff PreissElena Nemkova, and William Powhida take up artists' relationships with collectors while the London-based collective BANK use their unsolicited “Fax-Bak” service to correct the art-babble clichés, grammatical errors, and exaggerated claims of press-releases issued by commercial galleries. Mira Schor's paintings compulsively document the lack of studio time for making work; Alex Bag's video parodies the plight of young art students; and Kalup Linzy's overblown soap opera spoof uses drag to examine the emotional drama of desiring art world success. Conrad Bakker and William Bryan Purcell speak to the stratification of institutional funding, particularly the fact that struggling non-profit galleries often rely on donations from emerging artists no more flush than the gallery. The work of Carl Pope and Amanda Trager addresses the phenomena of art world fame, while the graphs and charts developed by Jennifer Dalton and the Brainstormers (building on research begun by the Guerilla Girls 20 years ago), respectively create a statistical portrait of New York artists and make explicit the continuing gender inequities manifest by gallery exhibitions. Commercial signage by James Mills bespeaks the frenzied art market, as does Jason Irwin's minimalist cube turned racecar, as well as the behind-the-scenes work of art handlers.  David Hammons takes a canonical monograph on Duchamp and rebinds it as the Bible, suggesting (among other things) the art world's predilection for accepted dictums. Lizette Kabré's photographs of the opening celebrations of Elmgreen & Dragset's Prada Marfa project—a Prada boutique in the Texas desert—poignantly capture the partygoers' isolation. Lastly, Christian Jankowski records Italian television-based fortune-tellers responding to questions about his forthcoming project for the Venice Biennale.  The resulting work—comprised of the televised dialogues between Jankowski and the card-readers—reveals a seemingly irreconcilable gap between the earnest prophecies offered by professional mystics and the strategies of contemporary artists. 
The insularity addressed by these and other works in the show highlight the art world's biggest problem, a handicap that leaves it not only embarrassingly homogeneous, but unaware of its own narrow confines. All irony aside, what's to be done? The painter and conceptual artist Lee Lozano took this question seriously, beginning an art world boycott at the height of her fame in the late 60s that she continued for nearly thirty years. Lozano described the strike as "the hardest work I have ever done." As the works in “Air Kissing” attest, staying in the New York art world isn't easy either. 

Sasha Archibald is a Brooklyn-based writer and curator. “Air Kissing” was originally presented in November-December 2007 at Momenta Art (Brooklyn), and has been expanded for its installation at Arcadia. First established in Philadelphia in 1986 by Eric Heist, Donna Czapiga and James Mills, Momenta Art is an artist-run charitable institution that works to promote emerging and under-represented artists. In 1992, under the direction of Heist and Laura Parnes, it relocated to New York City and began presenting exhibitions in a variety of temporary venues in Manhattan. In March of 1995 Momenta Art reopened in a permanent exhibition space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.