From drag queens to the artistic significance of a can of beer, the Wunderkammer Company has become a wunderkind of producing eclectic contemporary galleries that give a wink to something lying deeper underneath.
So for the gallery’s first exhibit this season, Swartz has paired off painters, printmakers, photographers, illustrators and a wild card sculptor in the Old School vs. New School exhibit. The exhibit pits older artists against younger artists with viewers of the exhibit declaring the winner of each bout. Completing the theme, amateur boxers will be giving demonstrations in a boxing ring set up in the gallery.
The audience has to be the identifier, Wunderkammer founder and curator Dan Swartz says. It’s definitely a goal of mine as a curator to bring something new and unexpected so they can think differently of the world we live in.
Here’s the wink: art is subjective – so whoever wins is arbitrary. The intention of the new exhibit is to take an introspective look at the art world, and how the aesthetics of the artist is often scrutinized as closely as the work they produce, Swartz says.
There’s two opposing ideas in the art world – young artists are the art stars, and that’s definitely a bias against older artists, but on the flip side, an artist isn’t given an introspective until they’re at least 50 years old, which gives off the idea that you have to earn it – that you can’t be a great artist until you lived it, Swartz says.
I’ve been fascinated by that idea. This is my tongue-and-cheek way of talking about it.
Swartz says it’s healthy for artists and their audience to turn a critical eye upon the art world and have an open dialogue about the social constructs of age.
At the base level, I want people to think, he says. I would love for the audience to think of how the roles of age are playing out in the community. I think age is more of an inflammatory issue – we have more of a tolerance of new ideas than we do of old ones. Age goes back to animal instincts; it is more ingrain.
Artlink’s gallery assistant and figure artist Suzanne Galazka will compete against new school artist and Artlink’s education/gallery coordinator Rebecca Stockert in illustration. She says that as an older artist, she works better within her comfort zone of traditional processes. Conversely, she says young artists have more freedom when it comes to expression.
They have new ideas, new mediums – I sort of admire that. They have guts, and they have access to things we didn’t have. When I was young, a computer was a big, hulking thing making a lot of noise, Galazka says. With the Internet, you have more access to the public; it’s like having a little store right there. We didn’t have that. If you had a business card, that was something.
Swartz says in the local art market technology has played a significant role in how younger and older artists view opportunities.
The idea of the artist has changed. Older artists see it more as a practice; they don’t see making money off their art as a primary role. Younger artists see it as a definable way to make money, he says.
New school artist Adam Meyer is an entrepreneur and founder of Coya Creative, a digital marketing firm. Meyer, who has begun exhibiting his abstract work over the past two years, will face former IPFW fine arts professor Norman Bradley in painting.
Working as a professional digital graphic artist for advertising agencies for five years, the 28-year-old Meyer started his business in 2012. He says in his career, he hasn’t faced much age discrimination because he is often brought in to update an older client’s Web presence.
Age comes into play when it comes to the knowledge of marketing yourself as an artist. A lot of digital marketing helps you get known faster. The old school may not feel comfortable even now using it as a platform, Meyer says. I think it’s pretty cool; the digital age has definitely changed artists in terms of marketing and their art. I like the dialogue of this exhibit. It can kind of show how times have changed, but not to look at it in a good way or bad way – it is what it is.
Swartz says in spite of the differences, it’s important to acknowledge that these artists are producing work on the same level. Their talent – whether it has been refined over decades or a few short years – is worthy to exhibit. To be considered old or young isn’t the insult; the insult lies in the perception that your age is all you are.
The art world is meant to be critical. It’s literally what we think of the world – we challenge things and what the response is back, Swartz says. When I first pitched the idea, I got a fair amount of responses from artists thinking I’m calling them old as a negative thing, but they are older. It’s just like young artists who take youth to mean naïve. It’s on both sides. You can be mature at a young age, just like how someone who is physically older can be very youthful.