Art Papers, Nov/Dec 1986
Cutting ‘Em Off at the Pass: Experiments, Diversions and Lies, by Michael Corris. Mattress Factory Group Exhibition, Arts Festival of Atlanta September 10-28, 1986.

Within the Festival, the enclaves of high art were entirely in agreement on one point: they were addressing those who don’t make art, yet purchase art. In this context, the notion of the organicity of culture — and therefore, the non-existence of any such lacunae in interpretation — takes on new and significant meaning. What role is to be played by the apparently innocent description of diversity as an organic whole?

"If the Artist Market is the backbone of the Arts Festival", wrote Catherine Fox in a review of the MFG exhibition ("Mattress Group supports diverse, bold exhibits," The Atlanta Constitution, 9/23/86), "and this year’s Bathhouse show, with its heavy social critique, is the brain - or, at least, the superego - then the Mattress Group’s show must be the heart." It seems that such casual metaphorization really has, as its core, a profoundly disturbing, bourgeois conception of social life. The figure is misplaced and serves to enforce what has been for artists, among others, a disastrous split between theory and practice, labor and management, ownership and control and non-ownership and servitude. This is the double talk of the cultural manager, for whom everything is neatly in place. For those there can be no gaps, no ‘dark shadows’ of culture.

….On the other hand, there were works in the MFG exhibition which refused to be merely decorative or entertaining or slight; for example, the works by Terry Boling, Michael Jenkins, Lisa Tuttle and Victoria Webb. So while the Bathhouse and the Pavilion appear to co-exist in an oppositional relation to each other, the very categories upon which that judgement is rendered prove to be unstable and illusory. There is no denying that they do represent two differing paradigms of art making, which, unfortunately, has raised the red-herring of ‘accessibility’ leading to the veiled charge of elitism or obscurantism or, at the very least, excessive intellectualism, levelled at MFG’s efforts.

This issue of accessibility is irrelevant. There is nothing in either of the two shows which supports such a claim. To confuse ‘accessibility’ with ‘popularity’ is to participate in the malformation of social discourse. To say that art is either this way or that way is to enforce normativity. What has that got to do with the production of meaning?

-Michael Corris
Michael Corris is an artist, art historian and arts writer. Corris holds a BA from Brooklyn College, an MFA in painting/media from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and a PhD from University College London. A former member of the Conceptual art group Art & Language, Corris’s papers and archive of early Conceptual art are now housed at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. He was a founding editor of The Fox (1974–76) and Red-Herring (1976–79). His art criticism has been widely published in journals and magazines devoted to modern and contemporary art including Art Monthly, Artforum, FlashArt, Art History, art+text and Mute. Corris' most recent books include Conceptual Art: Theory, Myth and Practice (Cambridge U.P., 2004), David Diao (TimeZone8 Books, Beijing, 2005), Ad Reinhardt (Reaktion Books, 2008), and A MUTE Reader.

Statement for the exhibit:
For the past six years I have been painting; landscapes, portraits, mostly dreams of visions. Because the urbanization of the city keeps edging the green out, I find myself using landscapes in the dream paintings and vice-versa. For this exhibit I chose to portray what was once a huge field of Kudzu, home to birds and winos and a source of local mystery. You could walk down my street into this place of rambling trees and bushes and leaves where old mattresses lay with flattened discarded jackets, ancient bottles, arrangements like cheap Stonehenges. It was quiet, peaceful. Now the Carter Library exists there with a large parking lot, well lit at night with a guard to shoot stray dogs, people who get too close. No more solace or mystery to it, the moon can’t compete with buglights.