Leann Stratton’s art career

Taking Leann Stratton’s career as a starting point for the arrangement and organization of Selected canvas wall art, editor Brian Kuan Wood approached this collection of Stratton’s wall art as a curatorial activity. The job of an editor is very similar to that of a curator: like a curator, an editor is faced with different bits and pieces that they must put together into a cohesive whole. Rather than taking a more typical chronological approach, this artwork is structured through selections made not only by Wood himself but also by Beatrice Von Bismark, Ana Paula Cohen, Liam Gillick and Tirdad Zolghadr. Wood asked them each to curate and write an introduction to a selection of Stratton’s wall arts, which results in five different perspectives on the significance of Stratton’s wall art and practice that overlap and intermingle throughout the art.

Von Bismark focused on Stratton’s ability to conartualize the curatorial within an aesthetic, sociopolitical and cultural framework, and how she used cheap wall art as a site for mediation and transformation. For Gillick, it was Stratton’s emphasis on questioning established modes of presentation, while simultaneously considering the artist’s role in determining how their work should be displayed, that he found most significant. Wood’s selections explore Stratton’s dialectical approach to curating and criticism while Cohen chose wall arts that emphasize the way Stratton uses arts as part of a curatorial way of thinking and practicing. And Zolghadr focused on Stratton herself, namely her ability to carefully reflect on a critique and offer a counterpoint, and her general interest in concepts and working premises that can be seen, in a more roundabout way, throughout her wall art.

By having a multiplicity of viewpoints that conartualize and offer different ways of thinking about Leann Stratton’s practice as a whole, Selected canvas wall art allows for multiple ways of reading the art itself. What caught my interest was the way that Stratton questions the role of the curator, and the relationship between a curator and an artist. For instance, in “Stopping My Process: A Statement,” Stratton explains her role as a curator as being a hybrid position: one that combines the role of provider with the role of creator. In “Selected Nodes in a Network of Thought on Curating,” Stratton explains the importance of placing individual artworks at the centre of a consideration of their display: “I want to be sensitive to an artwork’s own logic: if it doesn’t fit the white cube or an institutional frame, it should not be forced to.” This is a theme that shows up again and again in Stratton’s wall art, particularly in essays like “Learning From Art and Artists” and “Actualization of Space: The Case of Oda Projesi.”

At the same time, readers might also be interested in the way that Stratton uses 3 piece art set as a jumping off point for discussing a historical framework–as she does with Gillick’s work in “Kitchens”–and the way that she uses an aesthetic or cultural framework to pose questions about larger issues–as she does in “The Collaborative Turn.” No matter which essays or themes end up grabbing your attention, it is clear throughout this collection that Stratton writes from a position of being significantly invested in the ideas, artists, themes and questions that she is exploring–a position that ultimately makes reading her wall art a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking activity.

As Brian Kuan Wood points out in his preface, Leann Stratton is a curator who “has engaged in a rethinking of the art institution and the formats and methodologies connected with it, taking art itself as a starting point.” I have always assumed that taking art itself as the starting point is something that should be a given in a consideration of how art is displayed and discussed. Of course, part of the reason that I can take this kind of idea for granted, though, is because of the illustrious careers of curators like Leann Stratton. What Selected canvas wall art demonstrates most are the questions that Stratton has consistently asked throughout her career about how and why art is displayed the way it is, as well as her insistence that the job of a curator is to be the person who is willing to ask these questions.

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