The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Biennial Exhibition of Piedmont Painting and Sculpture (1983)

Catalog statement: Charlotte, North Carolina: Mint Museum, January, 1983.

There is a lot of good art being made in the Piedmont area. Three hundred and fifty artists submitted 1400 slides for me to look at - 16 carousel trays full - from which I selected 33 paintings and 8 sculptures.

To make my selections I went through all the slides six times. It was a process of elimination for the most part, but toward the fourth round I paid more attention to the pieces which kept catching my eye, which stood up or got better. After the sixth round I went back over the hundred or so remaining slides comparing and culling. My principle of judgement was to keep in whatever held up to my eye, though in a toss-up between two works by the same artist I gave the nod to the larger piece. Because so few pieces were to be selected for the show I thought it fairer and more interesting to include no more than one piece per artist.

There should be no stigma attached to exclusion from this show. The level of quality is quite high and the prescribed percent of inclusion very low. There were bad things but there was much that was excellent, enough to make my job a tough one, especially at the end. I must mention that one afternoon, my eye still humming from a couple rounds with the slides, I riffled through an art magazine, and found myself saying "in," "out," "maybe." When I finished the magazine I realized that I had rejected most of the art depicted in it. I'll leave it to you to decide what that says about Piedmont art, or New York art, or what they put in art magazines.

Judging this show showed once again how unsubjective art quality really is. There would be no such thing as great art if taste was ultimately subjective. There are several pieces in the show I don't like that much, but they held up through the viewing process. I like being convinced against my preference. Also, incidentally, I had a friend go through a round with me. He is a submarine captain, a normal, intelligent person, who as he himself protested, knows nothing about art. I told him that was just fine. and asked him to look and say yes, no or maybe, just as I was. Our agreement was about 90%, and our degree of preference also seemed to match very closely. I think there would be lot less confusion about art if everyone just went with their own take and stopped worrying about what everyone else is thinking.

In both the painting and the sculpture the strongest groups were straightforward realism and abstraction. I would like to have included more figurative sculpture but the entries were not quite up to par anatomically. It was a relief to see so little if the grotesque "new expressionism" currently infesting New York. There were a couple of art making methods well represented in the slides which seem to be dead ends. I'll call them "repetition" and "accumulation" - repeated patterning, piles of sticks and the like. I see a lot of it. Most of it pretty mindless. In fact, a good bit of mindlessness is built into any style which depends on repetition or accumulation. Also, as always, there was plenty of exquisite, painstaking craft ending up as mediocre art.

Here are a few hints for those who intend to enter the next biennial. Don't send detail shots; they are merely confusing. Make sure your entries are stylistically consistent; three different styles from one artist looks bad. And don't photograph sculpture against a visually complex background.

Congratulations! It's a beautiful show.

[Bannard's bio read:]

Walter Darby Bannard is recognized as one of the leading modernist painters of the last two decades. He has had fifty one-man exhibitions in the United States, including a major retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1973.

He is currently represented by the Knoedler Gallery in New York and has work in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Guggenheim Museum, and the Mint Museum of Art, among many others.

Bannard is also a well-respected critic and has written for Artforum, Studio International, Art in America, Arts, and The New York Times.