From the Desk of FLUX. : Thoughts on Art Criticism

(Fountain, Marcel Duchamp)

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”

– Paul Valery

(Water Count Bin, Gabriel Kuri)

I just read this Timeout Boston review of Gabriel Kuri’s exhibit at the ICA with the byline “Propped up on tissue boxes and Coke cans, Kuri’s ideas can’t stand on their own.”

Here is the last bit from the article:

“It was Kuri’s association with fellow Mexican artists Orozco and Damian Ortega that have been earning him so much buzz, not to mention the ICA exhibit’s intriguing title. But if admiring an artist’s work requires reams of explanation and an interview with the artist to clarify intent, then the work isn’t standing on its own merits. Here’s hoping Kuri grows some teeth in the future—or at least learns to match the scale of his art with the scale of his ideas.

All I could think of was this.

Of course there are things I like more than others, but personally I will never post a negative review of an art exhibit on FLUX. I think art should be about exposure, and opening people up to things they have never seen before or exploring foreign concepts or..whatever you want it to be. Not to cut artists down, it’s not constructive.

Educate and provide people with information, let them make their own decisions.

I just don’t see a place in Art for the critic.

There I said it.  I have been gathering facts and grappling with what camp I fell into for some time, but this article solidifies my stance.

If I was the artist, and read a review like the one of Gabriel Kuri’s exhibit, I would be hurt, frankly. But I’m a pussy. Sure, we all need tougher skin when we open ourselves up to the public.  But, to imply that someone’s work is essentially trite, and if only they could be doing something with more POP and panache..like a giant spider sculpture to justify their space at the ICA, is absurd and counterproductive.

(Aside, I was referencing the following remark:

“We get the subtext: banal quotidian existence rendered as art, the artist as playful accountant and so on. But it’s been done before in less bombastic forms; expanding a small idea to take up a museum wall doesn’t make it a big idea. In contrast, Mark Bradford’s huge, eye-popping collages and Louise Bourgeois’ room-sized spider sculpture—both featured in past solo shows at the ICA—had an impact that deserved the setting.”)

The quirky folks, the ones who stick out and challenge convention or do something against the grain are always the easiest targets. Published art criticism is almost like a form of bullying, and brings me back to feeling like an awkward Middle Schooler with Halloween colored braces that survived by spent her time focusing on art rather than getting felt up in someone’s dirty closet. (Not that I had much of a say in the matter, cumbersome orthodontics rarely made Cosmo’s HOT list. ;* )

What does the critic suggest/recommend you do? Be someone you’re not?

(No. 14, Mark Rothko)

Criticism is like an annoying fly that artist’s have to keep batting away in order for movements like Fauvism, Outsider Art, Dadaism, and Lowbrow to have a chance to emerge.

And what is with the condescension? “We get the subtext: banal quotidian existence. “ WHYYY. I am trying not to prey on this particular reviewer(sorry David!) who is just doing his job, but many art criticisms read in the same way. Verbose. Grandiose. I think the critic’s dialogue and what it represents are why some people hate art.

Again, why is one person’s opinion any more valid over another? Why is someone allowed to be considered an “art critic”? Aren’t I critic? Aren’t you? Don’t think we need a degree or accreditation to acknowledge that we have our own individual tastes and preferences.

I personally would never read an art review and let a stranger’s opinion dictate what I was going to do with my time off.  ”Oh shit, this guy says there is a conceptual artist at the ICA..GARBAGE CANS?! RECEIPTS?! Oh god, can we do something else tonight?!”

We like what we like.

It’s not like a restaurant reviewing platform where I would like to know beforehand if people were finding glass shards in their hamburgers.

(IKB 79, Yves Klein)

If you go to the museum website, the exhibits are (generally) outlined pretty well, reading a random’s criticism doesn’t shed light or provide additional information on the subject. It just seems like an opportunity to publicly preen yourself and flex your perceived writing prowess. “Hey ma! Did you see my latest article? I snuck ‘sesquipedalian’ in!”

The only helpfulness I can see coming from critical reviews is the whole ‘buzz’ factor, seeing what the hype is about, and the ability to even catch one’s attention with your work long enough for them to speak poorly of it.  Or as Mr. Wilde put it:“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

I really do come from a “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” persepctive with art, which is one of the ONLY areas of my life I am so…kind…liberal..hippy-dippy.

(Retrospective Bust of a Woman, Salvador Dali)

Perhaps I am too liberal in this respect. I didn’t even like art criticisms in school.  I would listen to people’s opinions, take it like a champ, and still paint trees how I wanted to paint them.

But this is my opinion, again, no more valid than anyone elses, but I side with the artist.  Even when people “don’t get it” or I even “don’t get it” , I’ll just tuck it away in my head, not slander it in a periodical.

It’s hard enough being an artist as it is.

Of course I will give “the role of an art critic” some additional thought, but that is where I sit this morning and my response to A.M. reading as I drink my cider and house an egg and cheese.

“Each one of us, in his timidity, has a limit beyond which he is outraged. It is inevitable that he who by concentrated application has extended this limit for himself, should arouse the resentment of those who have accepted conventions which, since accepted by all, require no initiative of application. And this resentment generally takes the form of meaningless laughter or of criticism, if not persecution. But this apparent violation is preferable to the monstrous habits condoned by etiquette and estheticism.”

– Man Ray

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