Monday, April 2, 2012

Platitudes in art writing @ artforum (part two)


Every so often we review the state of national art-writing. Check Art Forum's review page, labeled "Critic's Picks." Art writing has become coded hairball of theory, ideology & arcana. Clarity? Explanation? What for? Yet, when it comes to aesthetic evaluations you'd expect a writer to justify his/her judgments.


 Mark Manders, In Figure with Three Piles of Sand, 2010, photo, Artforum

1- A Matthew Bourbon describes the works of Mark Manders for the Dallas Museum of Art. At the end of his second paragraph he asserts:
Manders carefully governs the presentation of his art as a means to expose the interiority of a self ––a portrait of the artist revealed in the tangential relationships he creates. 
An important conclusion. Yet, from looking at Manders' work, how in heaven can Bourbon fathom such statement? I mean, is "tangential" here a geometric real property, or is it a metaphor for relationship? In some sense anything is tangential to anything else. So?  

Worse yet, Bourbon exhibits an -almost- automatic tendency to approve, as in this sample:
Displaying a sensitivity to the relationship of objects to one another, and the relationship of forms to their environment, Manders crafts and arranges his ambiguous sculptural aggregates as thought-provoking machines. That’s not to suggest that he is merely combining disparate elements in some empty game of neo-surrealism. Instead, his organizing principle is the notion of a self-portrait as a building. Manders’s individual sculptures are precisely conceived and function as parts in a larger and perpetually expanding whole. Manders carefully governs (...)  
Each sentence contains hackneyed nuggets: "displaying a sensitivity," "though-provoking," "precisely conceived," "carefully governs", "creates palpable tension." Then, according to Bourbon's take Manders' work cannot be chancy (it would amount to "an empty game of neo-surrealism"?). But the writer doesn't explain why he makes this distinction, other than throwing an organizing principle: "self-portrait as building." What is that? We'll never know. 
Cheyney Thompson @ Mit List Visual Arts Center, 2012, photo Artforum

2- How about Nicolas Linnert's review of Cheyney Thompson's show @ Mit List Visual Arts Center:
There is an impenetrability to Thompson’s art, which is unexpected given that his references and methods are so extensive and clearly elucidated.
How can Thomson's "clearly elucidated" references and methods simultaneously elicit "impenetrability"? Linnert's own aesthetic bafflement leaves us with pellucid balderdash.

Joe Thurston's Nothing Leading Anywhere Any More Except to Nothing (photo Jeff Jahn)

3- Stephanie Snyder covers artist Joe Thurston's exhibit @ Elizabeth Leach Gallery. Here is an interesting part:
The resonant indexicality of the works’ geometries suggests histories of exchange. And in fact the accompanying text reveals that the works contain objects we cannot see, such as eyeglasses, letters, and older paintings by the artist.
What's "resonant indexicality"? Snyder concludes "resonant indexicality" implies "histories of exchange." But alas, she betrays her own inference with the information of an "accompanying text." Which is first?

Snyder concludes:

Inside each object sits a piece of the artist’s life, its human value enclosed within the question of the object’s value as a work of art. Thurston offers us the opportunity—with each piece’s painterly force field acting as a psychic oasisto contemplate the importance of history and the challenge of letting go.
... "painterly force field acting as psychic oasis" notwithstanding, Snyder's conclusion in red can be said of virtually any artwork.

Until the next,


Anonymous said...

Interpretation is open ended. Writers can choose what they see. One uses the best words to describe it. That's it.

Dissey said...

Triff, these people don't get paid that much for these reviews.

Elizabeth said...

Yeah. Good post. Normally I don't pay attention. But I should.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this theme. This is a good example of a parasite art critic that lives at the expense of the artwork; sometimes this kind of critic matchs perfectly with a vacuous art or an art that have not aesthetical values. In general, this is a critic without rigor that is used for impressing and overwhelming the reader with flatulent words. Probably writers of this kind of essays are seeking personal recognition, patronage, favors, or money . Saludos, Judith G.

Feminista said...

Nice post AT. I'll share it with my students.

Anonymous said...

I like your pòsts. Gute Website.

atRifF said...

Thanks, all. True, they don't get paid much for the reviews, but that doesn't interfere with a clear, stereotype-free prose, does it?

Tx, Feminista, Dissey, Liz
Tx, German anonymous,

Anonymous said...

Interesting post but I don't think there is one way of talking about art. These writers use the jargon of contemporary descriptions. There is nothing wrong with it.

Anonymous said...

Good post, all these gibberish don't add up to much of anything. Still waiting for critics who can tell it like it is, just like Howard Cosell.

The Mike said...

Spot on Triff, even if not resonantly indexical.

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