NYC Critic Discusses How Art Inspires Action
CHAUTAUQUA — Andrew Russeth, New York City-based art critic, conveyed the impact life has on art and vice versa at the Chautauqua Institution on Thursday.
Russeth sat with President Michael Hill in place of the scheduled conversation with comedians W. Kamua Bell and Hari Kondabolu who had to vacate their time slot due to personal circumstances, according to Chautauqua Institution officials.
Russeth was accompanied by a slideshow that he frequently referred to in order to give the audience a visual of the art he was describing.
The institution continued its 2018 season with the week seven theme of “The Arts and Global Understanding.” Russeth complimented the week’s theme by detailing pieces of art around the world. He told stories about how certain pieces were inspired by historic events and how specific pieces have impacted current events.
Russeth is currently the executive editor of ARTnews, a New York City-based American visual-arts magazine.
Prior to ARTnews, Russeth co-founded and edited The New York Observer’s GalleristNY. The online publication was oriented around New York art.
“When I received the invitation to Chautauqua, my jaw just dropped,” he said. “It’s an honor to be here.”
Through his slide show presentation, Russeth displayed work from artists like Gauri Gill, Kara Walker, Louis Armstrong, Mounira Al Solh, Anicka Yi, Christoph Buchel, Olu Guibe and Sam Durant, among others.
With each image he showed the Chautauqua audience, he told a story of its origin or gave a description of a particular piece.
A story about Durant detailed the fallout of art he created that combined different eras of gallows the U.S. government used in executions. Those public executions included 38 Dakota Indians.
The sculpture, known as “Scaffold,” caused an outcry from Native Americans who protested its inclusion in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Durant apologized and the piece was set to be taken down.
Russeth was optimistic that even with shortcomings within the world of art that these moments would lead to greater art.
“The best thing we can hope for is that these cultural appropriation conversations led to more thoughtful art,” Russeth said.
A primary emphasis of Russeth’s discussion was how art can be used as a response to historical tragedies in places like Germany after the Nazi Party was eliminated. One example where he said art impacted current life was with Oquibe’ work titled “Monument to Strangers and Refugees” in Germany. A right-wing and anti-immigration push called for the monument’s relocation in the city of Kassel. His point being that art — as much as it is inspired by real life — can impact and spark action in modern times as well.
Overall, Russeth felt the art world was in a good place. He described the current scene as being as diverse as it has ever been in the past. Russeth gave advice to aspiring artists and informed them they should consider moving artistic hubs like New York City and Los Angeles.
“It’s an exciting time to pursue art because it’s more diverse than it was before,” he said.