Monday, October 31, 2011

New York Magazine article

I really enjoyed this article by Emily Nussbaum about modern feminism and the Internet. When people ask, "where are all the feminists? Guess feminism is dead," while completely missing the 'blogosphere' (ugh that should not be a word), it reminds me of people in the Art World who are constantly pointing out the death of art criticism because they can't find anyone being published in print media. Ahem... we're out here. On the Internet. Criticizing.

Sister Wendy, art critic extraordinaire. She pops up occasionally on public television.

Another big difference between now and twenty years ago (or how things seem to me to have been twenty years ago, since I wasn't exactly aware of... much at all then) is that artists themselves have much more of a voice in the literature published about them. Most artists run their own websites, which makes it much more likely that people will actually read the Artist's Statement (as opposed to Xeroxing a few copies and scattering them about at a gallery opening). And many more, such as *ahemahem, hem... hem* myself have blogs too, where we can spew forth all sorts of ideas. Of course, just as being a critic doesn't make you an artist, being an artist doesn't make you a critic either.

Raoul Hausmann, "The Art Critic." [Image: antique magazine collage. Man stands in front of black text on yellow background holding a pointy stick, wearing a three piece suit. Woman peers out from behind some tiny text I cannot read and a black & white photo in which the man has been cut out and replaced with small black text on a yellow background. Hausmann has removed the eyes and mouth of the oversized head of the main figure (the man in the suit with the stick) and replaced them with cartoon pink mouths to make a grimacing, sneering expression.]
 One of the most surprising things about checking the primary sources of art history-- aside from the actual art-- is that the shit artists say about their own art is usually vastly different from what critics and historians say about that person's art. Did you know that Piet Mondrian often described his art as being about Eastern-influenced spirituality (what was sometimes defined as The Occult in his day)? Or that the idea that incidental, unplanned spontaneity played a role in his drippy paintings pissed Jackson Pollock right off? Or, according to his vast and rambling writings, Duchamp actually thought... well, I'm still working on that one.* But while this huge discrepancy between recorded artistic intent and general critical/historical consensus seems to me to be a problem, I don't think that it means criticism has failed these artists.

While plenty of artists are both searingly articulate and artistically expressive, many other artists express themselves better through art than through words (or sometimes, tragically, better through words than art). That's why they're artists. It is simply unreasonable to expect that all artists, after creating a piece that expresses something, will then step back, examine their piece within society/the universe/the ivory tower from several different points of view, express it succinctly, and hand it in writing to the public on a silver platter. That is a separate skill, and the two need not always match. It is like a conversation, where the same idea needn't be reiterated: different but related things are uttered between people.

*You know, I would provide sources for this information but I'm going on memory here and that shit would take forever to find. But I am certain.

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