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Joachim Pissarro is the great grandson of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. He is also the Bershad Professor of Art History and Director of the Hunter College Galleries at the City University of New York (CUNY), and co-author of the book Wild Art. Pissarro will visit the Museum tomorrow, January 7, to give a Spotlight Lecture about the book:  a visual exploration of everything and anything from outside the exclusive and rarefied spectrum of the ‘Art World.” From pimped cars and graffiti to extreme body art, ice sculpture, and flash mobs—this book has them all.


As Pissarro writes about the work:  “The objects featured in this book do not fit; they are the misfits of the art world. They are often spectacular, frequently causing strong impressions. Their visual powers are obvious, direct and immediate; some are mesmerizing, some shocking, some weird and some hilarious. Together they all share one common denominator: they do not leave their viewers indifferent. This is what makes them so interesting.”


He also wrote that “Working on this book has changed our own everyday experience of visual life. We have begun to pay more attention to art in the street….”


It is true that the concentrated act of looking can change how we see.  We can easily go through our daily lives without seeing the graphic design of our cereal box, the graceful ergonomic shape of a shampoo bottle, or a well-crafted television commercial as art, to say nothing of the surprisingly beautiful tattoo on the shoulder of the biker dude standing in front of us in line at the grocery store. But the concentrated practice of really looking at the real-life art all around us suddenly opens us up to seeing art everywhere. Or perhaps more accurately, to recognizing that art for what it is.


In something of the same way, many of the artists represented in State of the Art rely on everyday materials as either the subject or medium of their work.  These artists are also recognizing the art around them—or the potential for art—in the most common of materials and themes. Consider the photographs of Miami, Florida artist Peggy Nolan: armed with her camera loaded with real film, Nolan captures the minutiae of everyday life: a bowl full of light bulbs, the corner of a curtain lifted in a breeze.  She said she was captured by “the odd transformation that occurs between actually having the experience and seeing it through a frame that you subconsciously put on it–so that sun setting on hairs on the floor looks like some religious thing.”


Or consider the Water Bar by the artistic duo Works Progress. This installation in the Museum’s main lobby takes—as both its subject and medium—the water we drink. What could possibly be more everyday than water?  And yet nothing else is quite as important for us, either.  The Water Bar is an interactive experience, offering guests the opportunity to taste and compare drinking water from three local sources. We immediately become connoisseurs in tasting differences between three samples of something we might otherwise consider to be just the same.  And tasting makes us think about where our water comes from, how that affects the quality, and what we can do to keep our water sources clean and safe.  Water becomes art/becomes water!


Wild, huh?


Join us for Joachim Pissarro’s presentation and see what other wild art is out there to discover! You can see a short video about the book here.