Current artists: Amon Azizov, Wei Chen, Qiao Fu, Gao Min, Guo Kun Sheug, Artashes Karslian, Ji Yin Jin, Li Qun, Lin Ruo, Dean Lu, Ren Jien-Guo, Jorge Rivera, Sharif Sadiq, Peter Walsh, Xiang Yue Chuan, Dario Zapata, Zhuang Xuemin

Organized by Peter Walsh, Ongoing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Horrendous along with the Exquisite

"Quite large numbers of LF's works founder.
'I could tell that it wouldn't develop into a finished picture. There's something wrong.'"

p. 104 in Martin Gayford’s Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucien Freud

Some of the drawings made for the Portrait Exchange are really gorgeous. Sometimes they were laid down on the paper so quickly that they seem to have been miraculously pulled out of a magician's top hat. Others - many of my drawings, in fact - are small catastrophes, neither good drawings nor accurate likenesses.

Should I just politely fold them into the kitchen trash bin and hurry them to the curb so they can be wisked away before they do more damage?

No. I don't think so.

You can see them all here on this blog. If the editor's creed is to "cut, cut, cut," what is to be gained by showing everything, the horrendous along with the exquisite?

Traditionally the artist cherry-picks the best work they do and discards the rest to give the illusion of mastery that builds the artist's reputation, their "brand" as we might call it today. However, when you don't edit, you get a full set of "data points" and when you share that set of data points, you allow the viewer to make their own conclusions about what's happening in the set. That's reason one.

I want to see all the drawings made in the Central Park Portrait Exchange because I really don't know what the drawings are going to look like. Who is in the park making portraits and what do they look like? If each one of them draws the same person under similar conditions but all the drawings are uniquely different, what is the relationship between these portraits?

At the heart of the matter is the ephemeral nature of human perception as it plays out within the tradition of looking at another person's face and translating that face into marks on a piece of paper. Editing out the "bad" drawings skews the data. That's reason two.


I was chagrined to see that someone has "favorited" one of the Portrait Exchange pairs on my public Flickr account and cruelly enough its the most hideous two drawings done so far! Qiao Fu and I had a truly bad day and now someone's cherry-picking our failures! Ouch.

Here's that "favorite" for your enjoyment:

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