March 17, 2012: For Art’s Sake

            It’s Art Detour weekend. Today and tomorrow, galleries and artist studios all over downtown Phoenix will throw open their doors to art fans and collectors. This is Art Detour’s 24th year; my friend Mike Oleskow has taken it over and done a fine job of resuscitating a frankly troubled project.

The exhibit I have up now at Willo North Gallery features Peter Bugg, whose work comments on America’s obsession with popular culture, and DOSE, a former graffiti artist whose “street art” has lately been shown in museums. One of Peter’s series is a set of Franklin Mint-inspired plates depicting starlets like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton climbing out of automobiles in short dresses, sans panties. Remember that trend? Yeah.

            Art Detour is marketed pretty widely to folks who don’t normally visit galleries or museums. And so I keep having a version of the same conversation, over and over today. It goes something like this:

RP, addressing a patron who’s looking at the Peter Bugg plates: These are new works, commissioned for this show. They’re a reference to the Franklin Mint plates that some people collect.

 Patron: How is this art?

 RP: Well, the artist came up with the concept, and he executed it.

 Patron: Yes, but it’s a photograph of Britney Spears stuck to a dish.

 RP: It’s contemporary art. Peter Bugg is making a statement about the ways we sometimes elevate these talentless celebrities.

 Patron: Well, I don’t. You can see her—I mean, look!

 RP: Yes. It’s her vagina.

 Patron: On a plate! This isn’t art, to me.

 RP: Because it doesn’t match your sofa.

 Patron: Yes! Exactly! Where would I even put something like this?

 RP: I can think of a place.

             Anyway, it’s nice seeing new faces in the gallery. I’d better get back out on the floor—I can tell that that lady who’s eyeing DOSE’s graffiti-inspired homage to capitalism needs to tell me that it looks like something she just paid the city to remove from her alley fence.

Thing I Hate Today: Half-assed holidays (like St. Patrick’s Day).

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