Art in America

My lovely wife gave me a subscription to AiA for Xmas, and I've decided to read every bit of each issue. Usually I dilly-dally and keep magazines around forever - this way I can trash them with a clear conscience.

So I've been slogging through them and so far it's not so bad. The "news" stuff is a little above my station the art world, the auction info means little to me and the main articles are pretty ok.

One thing I am noticing, and I know how often this is mentioned online, is how much crap there is out there, crap that even makes it into the magazines. Over and over, especially in the short reviews at the end, I see what look like junk all puffed up to greatness. One thing deep in my craw is all the hot air around the crap. Apparently, if one mentions, scrawls or off-handedly depicts something, one has "referenced" it, and a whole world of wordy blather can issue forth.

I remember there was an installation here at the UVA museum a few years ago by a famous artist supposedly all about DNA and politics. She had a standard silkscreen reproduction of Darwin on fabric in part of the piece. According to the lengthy brochure justifying the work, that "reference" should have been enough for me to say "ahh, Darwin, evolution, DNA, how insightful, how thoughtful..." Instead it made me think of how corrupt and meaningless the whole thing was (plus Darwin had nothing to d owith DNA). The artist just scrambled up a few "signs" and let the curators write and write on how brilliant it was.

This isn't against intellectual or conceptual work - it's against laziness. This stuff is trivial and weak - its work that stays outside the viewer. It's read, not experienced.

Another thing - if I was a photographer, I'd be pretty pissed about how alot of this kind of stuff uses photography to "document" things with no thought to how it looks - it reduces photography to it's mechanical side, when anyone who has taken a picture knows there's much more involved. It's as if photography is "neutral" because part of it is mechanical, but photography is anything but - it's a distorted way of reperesenting the world, just as distorted as drawing or writing.

Man, I'm really going off here...


Craig said...

Nicely put! I just cancelled my Modern Painters subscription because I was sick of seeing people trying to look like an artist, rather than just making work and becoming one. What was and still is good though is Matthew Colling's Diary. He's all for painting, real painting though. He tends to say it as it is, refreshing straightforwardness in amongst meaningless wordiness. I read a statement the other day, I'm not going to say whose, but it didn't mean anything. There were about 500 words that meant jack. She'll do well because of it no doubt!

w said...

I agree about MP - I hada sub umtil last year... I like collings too - I don't agree with him all the time but he's at least aware he's full of BS!

J.T. Kirkland said...

Atta boy! More of these posts please!

I agree wholeheartedly... I have a sub to all of the major art magazines and they are worth the money to me. I rarely read them but instead use them to stay up on what's happening. Plus I enjoy the hour or two of entertainment they bring for a few bucks.

With that said, I think I'll let all these lapse and visit the local Barnes & Noble instead.

ahab said...

"Pretty ok" post. I like to read opinion, it helps me figure out how to word my own - even though I generally take artists' opinions with more than a single grain of salt, especially my own.

My only critique, salt to taste, is to edit yourself a little - you couldn've had at least a couple of decent posts out of all that.

ahab said...


Could've edited myself a little.

w said...

JT - you probably have the right idea - thats what I do with most of the mags. Leaf them at the store. and even though they drive me crazy I agree it's important to see whats going on.

ahab - yeah maybe I should have spread that out - I just started writing and kept going!

. said...

This magazine comes to the college library every month and I think I am the only one who reads it, thats Idaho for you. But it is wonderful to be connected to what is happening currently, though there is alot of crap out there.

w said...

Yeah, JT said something similar - its a good resource for staying abreast somewhat of whats going on. Its a long way from Idaho to NYC (hell, its a longway to NYC from charlottesville!)