A new online publication aims to address the long-standing lack of art criticism in towns outside of the American art capitals of New York and Los Angeles. “Some of the best contemporary work is being made and exhibited outside of New York and LA, but why aren’t more people talking about it?” asks a letter from the editors of The Rib, which a trio of New England arts professionals soft-launched in December.
Leah Triplett Harrington, director of programs and exhibitions at South Boston’s Fort Point Arts Community and an editor at the Boston arts blog Big Red & Shiny, has joined forces with artist-dealers Lindsey Stapleton and Corey Oberlander, of Providence, Rhode Island’s Grin Gallery, to launch The Rib. Current features include a report on artist collectives in Minneapolis and St. Paul; an interview with the co-founder of Chicken Coop Contemporary, an art space in a Portland, Oregon, chicken coop; and an essay on an exhibition at Philadelphia’s Tiger Strikes Asteroid gallery.
“We’ll talk to anyone who will listen about how there is a significant lack of critical coverage” in her area, Stapleton said in a phone interview. “We’re at the whim of critics from other places. You put up a show, and there’s no guarantee that people will come experience it beyond the opening. How can we elevate the things we’re participating in?”
Grin’s participation in art fairs like Spring/Break, Untitled Miami Beach, and Satellite Art Show gave the duo opportunities to connect with other far-flung counterparts and share their grievances. “Since we started doing the fair circuit,” Stapleton said, “we met people in other cities who felt a similar frustration, even though they were running a tight ship and showing interesting artists.”
The new initiative comes as major papers like the New York Times are paring back arts coverage outside of their home bases. At the same time, Harrington said, there are strong publications like Pelican Bomb in New Orleans and One Good Eye in Denver, but those are highly localized. The Rib aims to leverage these various art scenes’ criticism and commentary by bringing them together under one umbrella.
The Rib includes reviews, features, interviews, essays, and podcasts. The publishers aim for a heterogeneous voice, and are casting a wide net in terms of writers. They hope, in their early days, to tap into existing content that doesn’t get widely distributed, such as republishing interviews with artists from galleries’ exhibition catalogues. In the future, they hope to put out a semi-annual print journal.
A grant from the LA-based Common Field, along with money from the founders’ own pockets, helped to establish the publication, which is currently operating on just a few hundred dollars a month. Future funding models may include further grants as well as crowdfunding and advertising.
Harrington says the initiative echoes an idea from artist-critic Donald Judd. In his 1975 essay “Imperialism, Nationalism, and Regionalism,” Stapleton said, Judd “argues against cultural imperialism and homogenizing effects of big-city narrow-mindedness. He differentiates between politics and cultures: ‘For local control all you need is a place, political say, and a way to make a living; it’s a practical matter. For local art you need a whole culture.’”
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