“Is the best art simple or complex? Do you believe in the possibility of perfection or is it all determined by chance?” These are the questions the curator Tony Godfrey asked eight artists in this exhibition: Pablo Capati III, Nona Garcia, Kawayan de Guia, Nilo Ilarde, Geraldine Javier, Donna Ong, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, Zhao Renhui.
As possible examples of chance, perfection, of minimalist or maximalist approaches to art making, small works by Jean Tinguely (1925-1991), James Lee Byars (1932-1997), Felix Gonzalez Torres (1957-1996), and Matthew Barney have also been included in the exhibition.
Or, put another way,
Can art achieve perfection as James Lee Byars wished?
Or is it all arbitrary, a matter of chance, as in Jean Tingueley’s machine drawings?
Should art be a small precise intervention in the world as in Felix Gonzalez-Torres works for public spaces? Or should it present a complex imagination, overwhelming the senses, as Matthew Barney seeks to do?
Of course these are absolutist positons which we normally move between. Conjunctions and contradictions are always possible: Byars described himself as a “baroque minimalist.”
Or, put yet another way, We could say one is classical and one is romantic. We could say one tries to make us think and the other expresses the authorial personality. We could say one is conceptual and the other expressionist.
Our understanding of what art is and what art does is based on such binaries and this exhibition will seek to explore that.
Tony Godfrey came from Britain to Asia in 2009 and now lives and works in the Philippines as teacher, writer, and curator. For many years he ran the MA (Contemporary Art) at Sotheby’s Institute London. He has published books on contemporary art and his 1998 book, Conceptual Art, was the first publication to see conceptual art as a global phenomenon.
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