Prompted by Cortney Lane Stell
On Medium: “On Regionalism and Identity,” by Whitney Carter, in response to Tilt West Roundtable: Region & Identity.
What is Regionalism? What does it mean to develop a regional identity? How could a more defined regional understanding of Colorado’s contemporary art scene help or hurt our artists, curators, critics, and institutions? Is defining a regional aesthetic relevant in an increasingly globalized world? Can regionalism be thought of anew and in relation to the Internet and new forms of communities formed through increasing connectivity across and between locations? Finally, is the contemporary art world a region unto itself?
The Goldsmiths professor, Irit Rogoff, once wrote “you can’t have a position without a location.” This statement suggests the importance of context when relating to and evaluating the world. Yet times are changing, as they always are. Location (aka region) is so much more than geography; it can be psychic, historical, virtual, sexual, or temporal.
To some in contemporary art world, the word “regional” is a pejorative term that serves as a stand in for lack of sophistication. These artists or institutions are often seen as merely local, and without the ability to move out of their region and operate on a wider scale within the art world. For others, defining oneself by a region can bring definition, insights, and context for a deeper understanding of the artist, institution, and context.
Historically, regionalism has its roots in the American West; it arose in the 1930s as a response to the Great Depression and partially as a response to Modernism. This conservative movement’s cornerstone was the rejection of modern trends emanating from the Armory Show in New York City and European influences. By rejecting these styles, American artists chose realistically depict American urban and rural scenes, and to intentionally develop a regional identity through common realist styles and subject matter.
As the current contemporary art scene is not focused in these traditional approaches to art-making, and given that we are amidst global capitalism and a nation state focused art world (think biennials), what would regionalism look like today? Furthermore, despite this expanded denotation, geography and its larger concept, proximity, nevertheless remains part of the conversation. Local government, economies, restrictions, worldviews and other aspects of our lives are very geographically oriented.
— Cortney Lane Stell, curator
- Momus: Regionalism Vs. Provincialism: Agitating Against Critical Neglect in Artworld Peripheries, by Amy Zion and Cora Fisher (April 2016)
- Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance, by Kenneth Frampton
- E-Flux: The State of Spain: Nationalism, Critical Regionalism, and Biennialization by Peio Aguirre (January 2011)