Marketing Mondays: What the Juror Saw, Part 2

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Last  week  I talked  about  the   process  for  jurying a show
I hadn’t intended to write a Part 2, but after going to the gallery to lay out the work for installation I was inspired to write this follow-up, for which a more accurate title would be:  What the Juror Saw is Not Necessarily What the Art Actually Looked Like. While some of the situations I note below are from the show, others are from exhibitions I have seen or helped install in the past—and, truth be told, some are gaffes I have made myself in the past.

The idea is to use this fabulous tool to make sure the image accurately represents the work—not to put false eyelashes and makeup on it and pump up the cleavage. If it’s a gray green, don’t make it a deep, mossy, earthy green. If it’s ocher and yellow green, don’t make it look like cadmium orange and yellow. This is one reason why many, probably most, prospectuses include a line such as: “The juror reserves the right to make a final determination when the work is delivered.”

I overlooked the chromatic discrepancy of a couple of works that otherwise had a lot going for them (in other words: they were still strong, if somewhat different from what I expected). But there are times when inaccurate color—by default or design—will make a difference. Think about the dealer who requests images of your newest work; she will expect to see in real life exactly what she saw in a digital image. Think about the consultant who asks for images of a particular group of pieces and sends them off to a collector, who, let's face it, may be looking to match the sofa; imagine the collector’s displeasure and the consultant’s surprise when the magenta  turns out to be red, or the slate gray turns out to be sap green. Yes, different monitors read the color differently, but visual people depend visual accuracy. Selection or sales may depend on it.

There was a dark piece I loved. Loved. It was a piece that deserved a float frame with an inch or so of space around it so that the image could expand visually before being embraced by a black, white or neutral frame. In the gallery I found the work cramped by a wide, light and visually inappropriate frame. Another had a thick, rounded frame that was way too clunky for the work. Sometimes the work can overcome the clumsy embrace. Sometimes it’s crushed.

There are differing opinions here, I realize, but my idea of a frame is one that doesn’t announce itself. If it screams FRAME! it’s not right for the work. As a comparison, a smallish painting that I saw unframed on the monitor arrived with a light maple museum frame, which enhanced this terrific work in every way.

Do you have to frame? Paintings, no. However, works on paper typically need something. If you’re submitting work for a juried show, the prospectus may indicate what the gallery doesn’t want. Work sandwiched between glass and a foam core backing and held together with clamps is usually a no-go. Pinning work to the wall may or may not be acceptable. Kiki Smith can do it, but many galleries—particularly for a juried show—don’t want the responsibility of exhibiting unprotected work.

Relatedly, Hanging
When a prospectus says, “The work must be ready for hanging,” here's what it means: The work must be ready for hanging. If work is in multiple parts, those parts need to be equipped for hanging in a manner that allows the installer to hang each module in the same way. It’s not OK to ask the gallery director to figure out how to hang the work. (An artist/dealer relationship of long standing may offer more latitude for the artist and more discretion for the dealer, but that’s a different situation.)

Here’s a solution I loved: One painting on heavy-weight gessoed paper, which arrived rolled, had tiny grommets every six inches around its sizeable perimeter. The artist included small nails for the installer. It was a smart and simple solution for the artist, who I think FedExed the work, and the installer, who had only to tap, tap, tap the work onto the wall.

Here I’m thinking broadly about work that looks good in a digital image (or slide) but which looks flimsy or student-grade in actuality.

. A thin wood panel? It needs a cradle—a back frame—to stabilize torque and give it the physical presence it needs to hold the wall. And for godsake, sand the panel so that the saw marks and grain breaks are not apparent. Richard Tuttle's work can have a hand-hewn presence; that's the point of it. But the means need to justify the end.

. Hex panel or aluminum sheet? These more high-tech options don’t need a cradle or frame, but give them some kind of back support to allow the work to float away from the wall.

. Student-quality stretchers are made for—wait for it—students. If you are showing professionally, use better stretchers, which typically have more heft and stronger joints. If the dimensions are large, make sure the stretcher is adequately braced so that warping doesn’t occur. (Use professional-grade gesso, paint and canvas, too. Even if the result is not immediately apparent, it will be over time.)

. If it’s warped, restretch it before you bring or send it to the gallery. Just because you’ve seen a big-ass warped painting in a Chelsea gallery doesn’t mean it’s something you should allow out of your studio.

. Of course there are exceptions. There's a whole school of contemporary painting and sculpture that embraces what the painter Sharon Butler, writing in the June issue of The Brooklyn Rail, calls "calculated tentativeness." Her term for these artists? "The New Casualists."  Cordy Ryman, Angela De La Cruz and Jim Lee come immediately to mind.
I wrote a long post about the 2009 Armory Fair called Salvage Operation, after seeing painting and sculpture that looked very much like the detritis that painter Joy Garnett has been photographing on the street in her ongoing Unmonumental series . But like pornography and beginner work, you know the art from the trash. OK, sometimes you don't. But that's a topic for a different post..)
Bottom line
It’s not just about getting into the show or getting your images in front of a dealer or curator. You have to deliver.


mariandioguardi.com said...

I think I have pretty much decided that submitting digital work for juried show doesn't work for me. I use lots of reds and magentas and the subtleties of these colors do not read due to digital reproduction limitations in that color area.

I don't use frames and paint on the cradled panel sides to be interesting and supportive to the main composition. Lastly, I use a painting knife and my paintings have a rich cake frosting type of texture. None of this is captured digitally.

But the nice thing is I am always being told by
and clients how good the paintings looks on my site but it's
even better in person. That's what I rather hear.

annell said...

Good post!

Gwendolyn Plunkett said...

Your statement "this follow-up, for which a more accurate title would be: What the Juror Saw is Not Necessarily What the Art Actually Looked Like." brought on such a long laughing response of understanding from me. Thanks for pointing out these things with a first hand "from the juror's mouth" account. Really!

Philip Koch said...

I totally agree with Joanne's comments on framing. I've juried from actual work and just from "slides". When it was actual work being looked at, the first pieces to head to the rejection corner were the atrociously framed ones. In truth, usually the genuinely bad frames surrounded paintings that were the weaker work submitted. But what a way to announce ahead of time to a juror (or to any viewer) "You are about to see a painting that you're probably NOT going to like."

Nancy Natale said...

It makes you wonder why images are not requested that include the frame if it is to be framed for the show.

Bernard Klevickas said...

Hi Joanne,
I cannot help but be curious:
The one that you mentioned on Edward Winkleman's Blog about swooning to; was it as good when you saw it in the real?

As a sculptor I dread the image submission process because it limits so much of the information that can be understood from moving around an actual art object.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

Bernard: Re the piece I swooned over in front of the monitor,you asked "was it as good when you saw it in the real?"

The piece, yes. But that lovely work had been framed in the most unappealing way, with a thick, light frame that boxed it in. I found it disappointing.

Framing is one of things that you pay little attention to when it's done right, but can't ignore when it's done badly.

Michelle Paine said...

This is great, and also a good reminder of why sometimes when you attend a juried show and say "that got in and I didn't??" it's because "What the Juror Saw is not Necessarily what the Art Looked Like".

Framing is SO important. When I worked at a frame store sometimes the worst things we worked on were things from artists that were being re-done.

Mery Lynn said...

Don't you find that certain kinds of art photograph really splendidly and others just don't? Joanne works with layers and layers of encaustic - that subtlety registers better in the eye than the camera. I work with glitter - it changes color and reflectivity depending upon the light and angle. One reason the the ab ex guys became so successful is that their work photographed nicely at the same time color magazines started coming out.

Julie Sadler said...

Fabulous and most helpful post!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I feel that anyone who communicates using visual arts over the internet should have a hardware calibrated monitor. Inexpensive options such as a Spyder or Huey are less than $100 now (and while the top ones are more accurate, the less expensive ones are very usable).

For those who still resist doing this, please find a friend with a calibrated monitor and spot check all images on one prior to using them.

I've found there can sometimes still be slight variances from calibrated monitor to monitor, the differences are reduced dramatically (and often are really reduced to slight color casts).