Trends, fads, instant celebritism, hype and its own version of insider trading, the art world (seems silly to call it a “world”—I would prefer a name that is more in line with drug trafficking or a proper noun like Wall Street) has always had its version of the tulip bubble running somewhere. Art world high jinx has been with us for some time. One of the latest hypings is a young artist named Jacob Kassay. A year or two ago he was an unknown, but now his work is selling at auction for outrageously high prices. His technique and pieces are not without charm and intrigue, but the hype is deafening. Too much too quickly. It just can’t be a good thing for Kassay’s organic development as an artist.
It is also a story that is in high contrast to an extraordinary experience I had this weekend. George Wingate, an artist I have known for most of my adult life, was offered the use of an empty storefront in Marblehead Massachusetts by a friend for a one day installation. What he assembled— paintings by himself and others, words on 3 x 5 cards, blue masking tape, found objects and even a video loop—was breathtakingly elegant in its simplicity and deeply moving to me personally. Simply called the Dark Room, this pop up installation offered a gently considered nod to the works of a few Wingate-aligned artists like Richard Tuttle, Yoko Ono and Henry Pearson. But George’s installation was as elemental and authentic a homage to his mysterious and complex journey as an artist as you can get. It was funny, it was poignant, it was sobering. And it brought a singular polyphony to his many parts—artist, thinker, seeker, reader, humorist, poet, seer. They were all there to be acknowledged, those disparate parts that have consistently informed and enriched his work over the many years I have known him.
It is hard to adequately describe why the Dark Room succeeded in being both deeply personal and yet larger than life. Without a whiff of manipulation or self-conscious posturing, George offered anyone who was lucky enough to have been invited a fascinating tour of his deep inner life as an artist.But this tour completely sidesteps the over-sharing, confessional, tediously TMI proclivities of our current culture. George takes you down deep with just a few simple objects and some words on a card. That brevity and essentiality is rare because it is hard to do. Very hard.
The number of people who saw the Dark Room is small. No artfanistas were milling around, and there will be no auctioning off of George’s blue masking taped words any time soon. But as for an unforgettably moving, extraordinarily authentic experience of how visual language operates in deep consciousness, this was a hit out of the park.