Art Unites, But Not United

Gallery800_openingFor those not lucky enough to have someone who works in art department as a personal acquaintance, let me let you in on a little secret: they are some of the most talented and diversely knowledgeable people you will ever meet. They are the ones responsible for the physical “look” of any film or television show you see. Give an average person a ream of paper and they can load a printer for you; give someone in the art department a ream of paper and they are likely to produce a mind blowing installation of a thousand origami cranes.

And that was the main reason I was so excited to check out the “Art Unites” exhibition at Gallery 800 in the NoHo Arts District. Gallery 800 showcases the work of members of the Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800. With nearly 2,000 members who work in film, television and theatre as Production Designers, Art Directors, and Assistant Art Directors; Scenic, Title and Graphic Artists; Illustrators and Matte Artists; and Set Designers and Model Makers, Local 800 is most certainly chock-full of creativity and talent, so I was expecting an inspiring afternoon.

I couldn’t imagine what the work of these artists would be like when left to their own devices without the constraints of a crazy production schedule, some pretentious director’s vision, or a caffeine addled brain (okay, so maybe the caffeine stays). I obviously made the rookie mistake of expecting too much, however, because even though it pains me to say it, I was disappointed with what Local 800 had to offer. I expected the work to be prolific, and while it was technically skilled, very little of it was moving or innovative. The number of traditionally themed oil and acrylic portraits, landscapes and florals felt stale and ordinary. Where the heck were my paper cranes?

Also, while I think the idea behind Gallery 800 is an admirable one, having 30 artists featured together without a focus or theme left the show a bit disjointed. Putting an art exhibit together provides the curator an opportunity to make a commentary, but this seemed more like an overtly random collection—much like a student show. I found myself standing in the middle of the gallery trying to suss out a common thread and just when I thought I had finally found one – because what self respecting Art History major can’t over analyze an exhibit to find the deeper meaning – nothing.

Issues of personal taste and lack of cohesion aside, I do believe in what Gallery 800 is trying to accomplish by giving the unsung heroes of  many of our favorite films and programs their own platform. While I didn’t enjoy the show as a whole, I don’t doubt that there is an abundance of talent in Local 800 as there were definitely some bright spots. So while I wouldn’t make a special trip to the 818, if you find yourself in the valley this summer (because it isn’t hot enough where you live), stop by Gallery 800. Just don’t expect to find any paper cranes.

Gallery 800 is located at 5108 Lankersheim Blvd. in North Hollywood. For more information, please call (818) 763-8052, or visit www.artdirectors.org/?art=gallery_800.

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