Comfort Zone at Guest Spot (at the REINSTITUTE)

Guest Spot has moved into a newly refurbished domestic space on Calvert Street, with hardwood floors, pristine white walls, and two separate display spaces on the lower floor. The new space comes also with a new scope, incorporating Director Rod Malin’s REINSTITUTE project, an educational program to be launched in Winter 2013.

The REINSTITUTE calls itself, “a school for innovation and self accreditation.” The idea is that a select group of artists from the community will have the opportunity to take advantage of a space for curating shows, organizing lectures and workshops, and generally doing work that is in dialogue with an already vibrant art scene, rather than at an institutional remove from it.

The term “self accreditation” feels provocative in this context. For anyone involved in the arts, it immediately calls to mind the ever present issue of the MFA system and art school in general. In the midst of a student loan crisis, it is clear that alternatives to our current arts education system are needed, but it is less clear what on earth those might be. The necessity of advanced degrees for careers in arts education, administration, or even as a commercial artist is at this point fully entrenched. Advanced degrees are not pursued solely for the purpose of professional security, they are also a way of deepening one’s practice. However, there comes a point to start asking, “At what cost?” Various forms of funding are still available to students in graduate programs, but as the pool of those seeking advanced study ever expands, fewer people will be available to receive funding, and the financial pay off at the other end will remain nebulous.

Martha Rosler did a conversation with Tyler Green earlier this year at the Baltimore Museum of Art (you can download a version of it on iTunes, by searching for Green’s Modern Art Notes podcast). When a young woman who said she was a recent MICA graduate stood up and asked what young artists could do about their predicaments of graduating with massive debt, and being forced to work menial jobs to get by, Rosler answered with tough love. She said that if people didn’t start taking to the streets over student debt, young people were more or less screwed. She also said that when she went to graduate school she was paid to do so, but unfortunately if this was no longer the case, people needed to come up with new ways of teaching each other and setting up alternative schools. These proposals are radical, and not necessarily realistic (not to mention the fact that they feel very specific to Rosler and her personal approaches to activism – if you are not yet subscribed to her facebook feed, it’s worth checking out for an idea of what we mean here). However, as far as radical approaches go, they are worth a shot, if only for the purpose of active resistance. We plan to keep our eyes on the REINSTITUTE and are interested to see what comes out of it.

Comfort Zone is the first show at Guest Spot’s new location. Curated by ICA Baltimore’s Lou Joseph, it features the work of four artists from Baltimore, Brookyln, North Adams, MA, and Maine. The works featured incorporate a range of found and domestic materials and the press release articulates an engagement with the idea that “the interior and private are not safe from intrusion; boundaries between personal and public are not fixed.” These issues are addressed elliptically in the works. Kim Faler’s Untitled (Fence), two large pieces of plywood, one painted pink, and the other painted with faint illustrations of chain link, creates a barrier that is flimsy, provisional, and mostly implied. Grayson Cox presents two works incorporating screenprinting and domestic cushions. In Hot Tubs, the work piled up behind the gallery desk, he has screenprinted images of hot tub interiors onto pieces of furniture foam to create objects that look like the detritus from a space ship crash landing.

Comfort Zone runs until this Saturday, October 6th. Guest Spot will be open today from 5:00 to 7:00 and Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00. It is located at 1715 North Calvert Street.

Thank you to Rod Malin for your time and allowing us to photograph.

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