Monday, July 28, 2014

Meow Wolf, Past and Present

The subject of two pages of reviews in the Summer edition of ARTnews, Santa Fe's art scene must not be that boring. The city is also hosting its own International Biennal since 1995. But what appears to be an energetic environment to outsiders like me is not perceived as such by all the members of the local community, mostly younger members who are feeling excluded. Their premises are that the establishment is getting stuffy and smothers creativity, prompting the creation of their own collective Meow Wolf born in 2008. Moving Still, the exhibition at The Front  in the St Claude Arts' District is a retrospective of a kind,  a recapitulation of the group's history. It allows the viewer to go through a detailed chronological timeline, starting in the gallery's front room, which includes a "manifesto" delineating the principles and goals: a collaboration between emerging artists of all ages, all levels of skills, in any artistic realm, fostering "creative expression and political activism, not supported by Santa Fe's current cultural landscape" which "omits local and youthful expression and supports boring elite and tired old ideals" in reaction to "boring galleries with white walls."
Illustrated by a clear display, the history of the group unfolds along the walls of two adjacent rooms. We meet  members like a poet, a psychology student, a musician, a self-educated artist, a show promoter, follow the collective's migration to a new location and discover the projects through photographs, texts, videos and a few small pieces of art. The fate of the multimedia collaborative works from their conception to their realization is described in details, including number of  man hours, time for completion, financial constraints... Successes like the ambitious Meow Boat project, failures like Auto Wolf , the first sponsored project like Glitteropolis,  impact on the destiny of Meow Wolf. A splinter group writes an operating manual, tries to organize the anarchic gathering, establishes rules to be broken. Success brings pressure to perform and financial responsibilities, to incorporate or not, become a business reality?
There are lessons to be learned from the experience which offers material for reflection about group dynamics, collective art including economic models and possibly for a study in sociology.

But art needs to be experienced and this is the goal of the two works in the backrooms, a journey back to the 60's, colors and smoke included for psychedelic effects. A subdued version of Kenny Scharf's Cosmic Cavern or decorations for a Halloween haunted house, the two installations are somewhat disappointing and fail to show a renewal of the art landscape. Dada, Gutai, were reaction to wars, social upheavals, Meow Wolf is a reaction to exclusion from a local art establishment and stays a local phenomenon. The collective needs to break barriers, promote creativity, have new visions to reach goals other than existing and surviving... which is a challenge in itself. Meow Wolf needs to take a deep breath and move on.
Known for creating immersive, theatrical installations or experiences, Meow Wolf has also been a music venue, a music promoter, a theater company, an arts educator and a voice of youth culture.  - See more at: book geodecadent for donors.geodome. 50 people weekly

photographs by the author at the Front

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