The Rising Arts Writers Program is an initiative created by The Arts Beacon to encourage, mentor, support and post writings by aspiring locals writers. With the intention of fostering critical responses to art and artists in the Valley, the RAW Program creates an opportunity for up and coming writers to comment on their own art scene using the platform of The Arts Beacon website while also being a valuable resource for local artists seeking insights into their practice.
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The Danish art collective Superflex (Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen) paired with the LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science to present Superfake/The Parley, currently at the Arizona State University Art Museum until April 30, 2016. Superfake/The Parley is the inaugural exhibition of the Encounter series at the ASU Art Museum where existing collections are re-visualized by artists, altering the context of works of art to comment on social issues. Superfake/The Parley focuses on the Museum’s founding collection from Oliver B. James; particularly on a painting previously thought to have been by artist Frederic Remington, using the work as a vaulting board to examine the value placed on art produced by a well-known artist.
Various documents are presented in conjunction with the exhibition space, allowing the viewer to follow the original gifting paperwork from Oliver B. James, and into the 1990s as various scholars call into question the originality of The Parley (right). Additionally, a chemical examination completed recently on January 7th, 2016 concludes that some of the paints on the canvas were not used until ten years after Remington's death, suggesting that he is not the original artist. In The Smoking Gun (left), Superflex shows the similarity between two white paints which cannot be distinguished from each other. With the value of the “Remington” now greatly decreased, The Smoking Gun highlights the importance placed on art originally deemed “authentic”. Superflex uses the two paint colors to draw parallels between the perceived worth of an original work of art, and the changing of public perception that dictates that value and authenticity, although the differences cannot be seen, except when examined on a chemical level.
Superflex likens their exhibitions as “tools” that solicits the viewer's interaction, stating “A tool is a model or proposal that can actively be used and further utilized and modified by the user.” The space surrounding Superfake/The Parley ceases to be a typical gallery space, but instead transforms into an experimental lab, becoming a scene that turns a voyeuristic eye upon the processes used to authenticate art, including the paper trail, opinions of experts, and scientific data. The gallery further turned into a living reenactment of an administrative space, where the museum registrar works during normal business hours. Acquisition and loan paperwork are laid out on the desk, and the viewer is invited to participate in assigning an emotional worth to The Parley, now that the full story has been presented to them. In Underlying The Parlay (left) Superflex reconfigures X-ray images of The Parley captured by Nathan Newman. In doing so, Superflex is conducting an experiment to see what takes precedence when an artist is well- known, either the prestige of the artist, or the artwork.
A large impact of the exhibit comes from the recent results and nature of the laboratory testing that has been done on The Parley to determine the original artist. Documents dated just days before the opening lend a hand in making the viewer feel that they are watching the events unfold, perhaps an unsettling feeling. Furthermore, a forbidden feeling of intrusion further interrupts the space as ghost outlines of missing artwork lingers on the walls and stanchions block access to works of art on painting carts. Superflex excels in crafting the exhibition to be participatory and experienced in a gradual build, with clues placed around the gallery that eventually lead to the larger narrative, forcing the viewer to confront their own perceptions of authenticity.