Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Review of a Bunch of Galleries

There is no point in reading this, so just stop.
No really, stop reading this.
Go read something meaningful.

After a few more sentences, you won’t be able to take it anymore, so just get out while you can.
Trust me.
What you’re about to read is going to piss you off and then it just gets worse.

Why are you reading this anyway?
What do you care what my opinion is of some stuff that really no one wants to see and even fewer people care about?

I’m only writing this because I read Matthew Nash’s review of the book “Critical Mess” in issue 59 of Big Red and Shiny. In it, Nash outlines the various points of view about the crisis in art criticism presented in the book. In the course of presenting his arguments, Nash quotes Raphael Rubinstein as saying, “Part of the problem, surely, is that we have so few consistently tough art critics.” With that I decided to see if I was a tough critic, so I re-read most of the articles I’ve written and all of them were glowing reviews. It seems that I could not get in enough good words in about how excited I was about whatever exhibition I was writing about.

Here is my point and a point completely left out of anyone’s argument in “Critical Mess”. There are not many “tough” articles written about art for one simple reason: How much do you want me to write about something I don’t like and don’t find inspirational? How many words does it take to say that a piece of artwork is not interesting?

By only writing about shows that I think are important, it only gives the appearance that I am afraid to pass a judgment. All along I have thought that choosing to not write about an exhibition counted as a form of passing judgment. If an exhibition goes up and no one in a city of millions chooses to write even one word about the exhibition, isn’t that a condemnation of silence? What’s wrong with uninteresting work passing silently out of culture and history?

Well, apparently the notion of positive criticism is not held in high regard and so we need tougher art critics.
People who are not afraid to pass judgment.
Or really, I have taken this to mean people who are not afraid to pass a vocally negative judgment since apparently a vocally positive judgment does not count as “tough”.

So here it is.
Someone asked for it, so you’re going to get it.
Here is a list of judgments of exhibitions I’ve seen that, normally, I would not have even gone to effort of thinking anything about.

Cynthia Packard @ Chase Gallery
Impressionist painting in 2007. Why would anyone do this? The vocabulary for discussing this type of work is fully developed to the point of not being interesting to discuss.

Joe Ablow and Roz Karol Ablow @ Pucker Gallery
Still life paintings about the color and relationship of objects. Abstract images rendering space with construction and reduction. It’s as if no one has had a new idea about representation since the 1950’s …

Patrick Pietropoli @ Axelle Fine Arts Galerie
Another artist copying great master works with their own “style”. I understand the strategy, now. I’m supposed to see their work and think, “That’s like a Vermeer. I identified the image this artist is copying. That makes me feel smart. I should buy this.” No spin of his own on anything relevant to today.

Out and About: Syracuse University Alumni @ Pepper Gallery
I usually like Pepper Gallery, but why should I care about alumni from Syracuse? None of the pieces are particularly well rendered and don’t seem to go together in any cohesive way. The best piece was a Kahn/Selesnick piece that was in the backroom.

Gregory Gillespie @ Nielsen Gallery
Well rendered representational painting, but what is the point of contemporary representational painting? The work is like Rembrandt in 2000, but if I wanted to see Rembrandt, I would just go see a Rembrandt. What’s the point of trompe-l’oeil painting in a world where other media trick my eye in far more fascinating ways every day? If you want to see something that is a technical masterpiece and tricks you’re eye in a magical way, go see Harriet Casdin-Silver’s holograms @ Gallery Naga.

Hiro Yokose @ Alpha Gallery
Aesthetically very beautiful, but nothing conceptually interesting about the work. Every piece evoked the exact same mood. All of which would look great over my couch.

Chris Armstrong @ Beth Urdang
Big paintings of the ocean. Would look good over my couch.

Stephen Dinsmore @ Arden Gallery
Expressionism. Fauvism. Matisse. Would not look good over my couch.
Would not look good anywhere.

Someone @ Martin Lawrence Gallery
Turns out this gallery is not run by Martin Lawrence the comedian. The receptionist did not get it when I said “Wazzup?!?” and then asked how “Wild Hogs” was doing. I have already forgotten what was being shown ...

I just reviewed nine galleries.
So how do I get paid for writing this criticism?
Usually I write out of love, but for this, I deserve to get paid.
Please “donate” to my “criticism” with this PayPal button:

Anything you can give will help.
God bless.

(I warned you at the beginning not to read any of this.)

BTW, all of this has been ironic.
Some people don’t get irony, so I’ll spell it out:
I don’t believe in anything I have written here because I don’t believe in this style of criticism.
It only appears to pass judgment in a “tough” way, but in the long term it does not express any values that I want to advocate and I do not believe it will lead to a stronger art community or better art.

I’ve written another piece in reaction to SunTek Chung’s opening @ Samson Projects that I really do like.
Read that.
It’s a much better piece and rather than pointing out where artists have failed to live up to the artists that have come before them, it highlights an artist who is showing all of us the way forward into a more interesting future.


Cynthia Packard @ Chase Gallery

Joe Ablow and Roz Karol Ablow @ Pucker Gallery

Patrick Pietropoli @ Axelle Fine Arts Galerie


At 8:30 AM, Blogger Matthew Nash said...

Steve -
Absolutely and unquestionably brilliant.

There are so many ways to approach art, to think about it and debate it, and that book was full of folks arguing about their approach. None of them, of course, took yours.

The two ideas that stuck with me, essentially the two sides of the debate that seemed most interesting, were (on one side) Arthur Danto, who claimed that there was no need to consider judgment, because all of his reviews were of work already deemed "good" by others (usually museums). The other side was JJ Charlesworth, who defined 3 types of critic, the most relevant being the "goalie" whose job is to keep bad art from entering the canon and being considered "good."

Huh? Both of these seem kinda dumb to me. I enjoy what you're doing, getting excited about art and wanting to share that. Still, your mini-reviews were actually very powerful, consise, a lot like what I get from the Weekly Dig's mini music reviews. Maybe we can only be negative in short bits, because longer negativity is seen to "hurt the community" or something?

Now, I'm off to read your Samson review.

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Ninja Dave said...

I would like to agree with Mr. Mathew Nashs opinion on negativity in short bits. Perhaps this is why the Nightly News is only 30min long, with the exception of 60min which is usually 48min long.


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