China’s Art Explosion vs. Political Poster Art

Earlier the summer, PBS Art Beat correspondent, Jeffery Brown published an interesting interview with Art Critic, Barbara Pollack.  The interview covered the main ideas in Barbara Pollock’s recent book, “The Wild, Wild East: An American Art Critic’s Adventures in China.”   In this book, Barbara details China’s booming art scene and the explosion of art creation and art consumption within a culture that westerners typically regard as a repressive society. Barbara Pollock states that, “Beijing is now the 3rd largest art center in the world,” and explains that the growing enthusiasm for art in China is demonstrated by the growth of galleries, museums, studios, and art prices.  In fact, the price paid for a contemporary piece of art in China has grown more than ten-fold in a very short period of time.  Prices continue to go up and there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling. Pollack cleverly coins this “free for all” period in the Chinese art market as the “Wild, Wild East,” and she argues that for now, there isn’t an end in sight.
Jeffery Brown does a nice job at introducing the necessary background information on China’s art scene in the first few moments of the interview.  He establishes who Barbara Pollock is, and in a clear and direct way, summarizes the main topics of her book. Jeffery structures the sequence of the interview by asking questions that relate to China’s art scene from a historical point of view, its current state and the future of the art market in China. This, “past, present, future” approach to the topic is very subtle and flows naturally from one question to the next.  Jeffery Brown continues to add structure to the interview with specific questions relating to the growth of China’s art market from the perspective of the Chinese artists, dealers and collectors. Jeffery Brown’s introduction and properly timed questions add structure, context and relevance to the listener.
Overall, this is a successful interview because it deals with a unique topic, in a relevant and comprehensive way.  He does all of this within a short amount of time so the listener doesn’t become easily distracted.  The interview is direct, informative, and easy to follow. This interview gives just enough detail, in the appropriate amount of time.  It successfully peaks the listener’s interest and knowledge of the topic. Jeffery Brown closes his piece with another plug for Barbara’s book which adds a nice closure to the interview and gives the listener a clear path for further information.
To listen to the full interview, please click here:
Adventures of Art Critic Barbara Pollack in ‘The Wild, Wild East
When compared to the interview mentioned above, PBS Art Beat recently published an interview with artist and activist, Ernesto Yerena in a lackluster way.  The subject of the interview, Ernesto Yerena is an artist who created political posters that relate to Arizona’s controversial immigration law.  This interview, published by Mike Fritz and Tom LeGro, features Ernesto Yerena’s poster art and highlights his effort to protest the Arizona immigration law through his work.
Perhaps PBS Art Beat put this interview out as an effort to stay pertinent with current events and to illustrate a connection between contemporary art and politics. But upon review of this interview, I’m left a bit uninterested and uninspired by the artist, his point of view, and the work itself. That’s not to say that this tepid impression of Yerena’s work is mostly attributed to the interview and not Yerena’s artwork itself.  The interview gives very little insight into this overly discussed issue and doesn’t develop the artist well enough to have an emotional connection to him.  Consequently, I’m left disinterested about Yerena’s artwork and it’s relationship to the protest against Arizona’s immigration policy.
The interview is awkward from the beginning because there isn’t an introduction to the artist or to the big picture of what is going on in Arizona. Without an introduction and clear context for this interview, it continues falling short because it only scratches the surface of the artist and the issue.
The interview fails at addressing important questions such as:

1) Who is this artist and why he is relevant to this issue?

2) What has been the response and impact of Yerena’s artwork, both locally and state-wide?

3) What will this artist do next and what is he working on now?

The basic objective of the interview is to tell a story about Yerena’s artwork, its point of view and its impact on this issue, but the interview handles this in a very superficial way. Ultimately, I lose interest in this story because I haven’t been given any authentic information about the artist, his work, or the nuances of the issue.  I don’t learn why Yerena is making this art, how he came to his work and how he has been influenced by Arizona’s immigration law.
Ultimately, this interview doesn’t involve me emotionally or intellectually.  There isn’t a clear point of view or any depth and  insight into an otherwise exhausted topic. After the interview, I’m left feeling a bit flat and end up in the realm of the expected.
To listen to the full interview, please click here:
In Arizona, Posters of Protest Against Immigration Law

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