A Critical Beauty
Artists: Frances Grafton, Lucy Hogg, Patrick Mahon and Gu Xiong
Date: February 8 to March 2, 1996
Artists' Lecture: February 9
A Critical Beauty brought together the works of several artists whose practices were united in their interest in developing an informed aesthetic that retained "the beautiful" as legitimate within the syntax of contemporary discourse. Essential within each artist's work was the notion that an apparently traditional strategy was utilized self-reflexively, so that the production acted as both a critique and a defense of the practice. The problematic of traditional painting and representation became the object of critique, and the engaging as a means of recovery. The reconsideration of the notion of objective beauty without altogether disregarding ideas of harmony and balance, or pleasure an sensuality, circulated within the landscape of these works.
"The project of dismantling the notion of an autonomous aesthetic realm has been with us for most of the twentieth century. Avant-garde practice has been particularly intent on returning art to the praxis of everyday life and ridding it of those sensuous qualities that are not directly tied to utilitarian purposes. The advent of post-modern discourses of the 1970s initiated an unprecedented degree of zeal for critiquing modes of production and reception that had come to be viewed as antithetical to intellectual projects aimed at overturning structures of domination. Therefore connoisseurship, which underpinned what was termed "the history of painting," and even some "histories of art," came to be considered suspect. It was inevitable that the concept of beauty as an essential construct within aesthetic discourse fell into disfavour as well."
"Curator's Statement", A Critical Beauty Catalogue, Open Space Archives, Victoria, B.C. (Box 28, File 1997: G1)
Open Space also hosted an Open Voice reading about "critical beauty" with Jay Ruzesky, P.K. Page and Lori Acker.