This panel—consisting of artists, historians, and writers from Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri—is designed to explore critical interpretations of Midwestern art and design. Each panelist has had an important and sustained engagement with a range of critical, theoretical, curatorial, and artistic projects and will speak to his or her experiences in a manner that reflects upon the Midwest over time. The discussion will relate anecdotes about artists, galleries, museums, art journals, education, and audiences in the Midwest that have bearing on critical judgments that have fundamentally affected perceptions of art and its social impact. Panelists will dispute Midwestern cultural stereotypes like “flyover zone” and “red states/blue states,” and consider the anti-intellectualism of an art world monoculture and the shifting consequence of geography.
The impact of regional art journals over time … the extended influence of architecture and design practice … the locus of academic and cultural institutions that thrive in the Midwest … mentorship, post-populism, and collectivism—all are factors in asserting or disguising “Midwestern-ness.” This occasionally understated, sometimes populist, and often contested dialogue on cultural identity and artistic practice is the subject of our brief look at critical ideas on regional culture over the last 25 years.
The Delights and Drawbacks of Contemporary Exhibitions in the Midwest
This panel brings together artists and curators from Chicago and St. Louis to discuss the advantages and challenges of presenting contemporary art in the American Midwest. While much of the critical attention in contemporary art remains focused on art centers such as New York and Los Angeles in the United States—and London and Berlin abroad—vital and necessary work continues to be done both by those In many ways, the ability to function beyond the scrutiny or market-driven intensity characteristic of those cities provides artists and curators based in the Midwest with an opportunity to experiment with different approaches and to explore unconsidered or overlooked historical trajectories— circumstances that can be liberating rather than confining. (Not to mention other, more practical advantages such as competitive costs of living and an abundance of well apportioned exhibition spaces, or the potential to create them.)
Exhibiting contemporary art outside of the “center” does, however, present real difficulties, including the need to appeal to audiences that are indifferent, unaware, and possibly even adversarial. Midwestern cities often become overidentified with a particular style or sensibility that, in turn, consigns some artists’ work to limiting critical receptions. During this informal discussion, panelists will not only address these issues but also invite suggestions as to how the perceptions and realities of exhibiting art in the Midwest might be productively rethought and reconsidered.