CAC's 25th Annual Juried Show Through April 25, Thursday-Friday, 2-5 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. CAC, 1217 S. Main St., 496-0569.
Alien figures glowing with important light. Horse spirits. Turgid Surrealist symbols. The obligatory field of red poppies, lightly abstracted. All that’s missing from the 25th Annual Juried Show at CAC, curated by John Seed, is the woman-as-bird motif and a bald humanoid sculpture. The exhibition is so bad it could almost be good, almost be satire, but (gosh darn!) it isn’t. Familiar art-student experiments and boring academic precepts cloy the gallery walls, quashing whatever redeeming interest may lurk among the 36 paintings chosen for the occasion.
The 25th Annual Juried Show is a long way from last year’s spunky 24th edition, curated by Erin Cosgrove, which spotlighted work made by artists who had mostly mastered a range of technique and were eyeing new, hard-won terrain. If originality is one way in which art is defined—if art history describes the threshold where art pushes forward, innovates, and the field evolves and changes—then the 24th Annual Juried Show brightly looked toward the future.
Not so with the final 25th round. Breaking new ground—or even identifying the frontier—isn’t the point here. This year’s exhibition harkens back to more conservative, understandable times, preferably with a touch of ’50s turquoise and mustard yellow right out of the tube. Seed seeks to promote not only representational art, for which he is a recognized exponent, but also sentimentality, as if the reboot of culture known as Postmodernism had never occurred. The curatorial goal was, perhaps, too personal—a selection of works that allows Seed to emotionally connect with the art object.
While the emotional dimension of art is worthy of contemplation, and the expert salon-style hanging at CAC lends a coherent Old World charm, curatorial and artistic sincerity are not enough. Professional chops count, too. No matter how well-intentioned, the exhibition is filled with inert, abstract paintings that Travelodge wouldn’t hesitate to hang above a queen bed and figurative works with realistic subject matter destined, at best, for parlor bars.
Although reactionary art with déjà vu content and callow technique has a function in society (and a following), a gallery that struggled, and succeeded, for 25 years in presenting quality work isn’t the place for it. The final exhibition is a betrayal of the standards CAC attained in its best shows, which hold up to well-known galleries anywhere. Cue the cello. Despite its clear record of achievement, CAC shuts its doors not with a bang, but with a groan.