Published: 'Art City' Blog, MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, April 2009 (no longer online)
"A Question on Art:: Manuel Saiz at Castlefield Gallery"
What is art? Not an original question, but one Manuel Saiz tackles head on in his solo show Private Party. Keep Out at Castlefield Gallery. A title that aptly comments on how, for many, contemporary art is illusive and seemingly pointless. It is an exclusive form far less approachable, and far harder to initially appreciate, than classical realist paintings.
Contemporary art is ambiguous in meaning and talent: artists present painted dots, a urinal, or a room full of air-conditioned air as artwork, (see the Pompidou’s current show Voids, a retrospective of the many empty exhibitions in recent art history).
Yet Saiz is quick to make the distinction between ‘anything as art’ and ‘art itself’. In The Two Teams Team, a short film in which two actors discuss the relations between video art and cinema, (contemporary art and traditional), it is made clear that modern art works through the intellect: integral to an artwork’s success is the idea it attempts to indirectly convey rather than the technical skill of its execution.
His Social Structures (everybody is an artist) utilizes Joseph Beuys famous words to remark on the range of possibilities, content and attitudes in modern art. Three actors repeat the words over and over again in varying emotions, from elated to blasé to positively upset. It highlights the important role the audience holds in creating meaning.
If you are still suitably confounded to the meaning of art, what you think it is, traditional or contemporary, realist or abstract, Saiz comes to the rescue once more with his What is Art Flowchart, a poster the visitor can take away to contemplate. Using binary statements that demand yes-no answers, the flowchart guides you to your final ‘art judgment’. Whether it is that art is objects that create beauty, the audience themselves, what is displayed by galleries or even that everything is art.
Manuel Saiz addresses the identity of contemporary art and the relationship it has with the audience and society with wonderful comic and intellectual work. Private Party. Keep Out is a compact but sharp and poignant exhibition, well worth a visit.
Manuel Saiz: Private Party. Keep Out
06 February to 22 March 2009
2 Hewitt Street, M15 4GB
Wednesday to Sunday 1pm – 6 pm