the great miami art criticism die-off
Post #239 • March 18, 2004, 9:12 AM • 8 Comments
In the newspapers, visual art is going the way of poetry.
You know how you occasionally see a poem in the paper? A book review of a new poetry collection? An author profile? Or sometimes a colorful spread about several young, up-and-coming poets in the local entertainment weekly? One day, sooner than you like, that's going to be the case for visual art. Maybe not in New York and Los Angeles, but likely here in Miami.
Since revamping its format early this year, the Miami Herald as all but run Elisa Turner out of Herald Plaza. Her articles appeared January 19, February 10, March 4, and March 16, according to the Herald website. She used to appear once or twice weekly.
Street, a Herald production, will no longer be running art criticism every week like it used to when Damarys Ocaña was a staff writer.
The New Times's pattern is becoming difficult to predict. Alfredo Triff appears every two weeks (sometimes three during the summer), except when someone else takes his spot. Lately this has been done by Vivian Marthell and Cesar Suarez de Jesus. Triff has taken up an interest in architecture, which is a welcome addition to the New Times, but when he writes about it, he causes four weeks to elapse between essays about visual art. (Unless another writer picks up the slack, as seems to have happened this week.) Capsule reviews of shows, written mostly by Suarez de Jesus with additions by Triff, have begun to appear weekly. This is positive, but as a best-of listing, it isn't criticism - it's advocacy. The overall irregularity of coverage at the New Times is bad for developing an audience.
All told, total production of art criticism is heading down below pre-2001 levels in Miami. I think we're looking at a future in which art is covered in the papers once a month, and criticism, when it appears, will be of the mildest sort. (Is someone going to come out once a month and pan something?)
We can grouse about this all we like, but the fact remains that the majority of the Herald's customer base did not go bananas when Turner stopped appearing every week in the paper. Street's readership did not fly into open revolt when Ocaña departed. The New Times has been able to function for years without insisting on an art review each week. Our impact as consumers of art criticism is negligible.
In light of this, I plan to start posting more exhibition reviews on Artblog.net. Destiny is being delivered to my door, in a sense - the papers are rolling back their interest in art at a time when the art scene and its audience is expanding. My hit counters and comments boards tell me that reviews with pictures are my biggest draw (right after reactionary screeds that lay wide swaths of contemporary art to waste). They're the likeliest posts to be cited by other blogs as well. There's an appetite for this, and although it may be much smaller than the public appetite for sports, it's growing. I love print and will continue to produce for it, but every sign points to the real action moving online.
Update: Here's Vivian Marthell reviewing Laura Owens for this week's New Times:
Owens's inspirations are free-ranging, diverse, and humorous. She brings to the canvas American folk art, Chinese landscapes, children's illustrations, embroidery, flower-and-bird fabric motifs, and more. Nothing is off limits. She embraces the historically anonymous with the same fervor as the established. Her references include insider and outsider styles, as well as various art movements such as color-field abstraction. She is painting about painting.
Here's me, reviewing Greg Kucia and Daniel Scheimberg for the New Times last November:
There's a kind of contemporary painting that examines what it means to be making a contemporary painting. Highly recursive, it mines art history and the visual record for intense, sometimes injurious remixing. ... If [Gerhard] Richter is this style's granddad, Laura Owens is the precocious big sister. Owens was the subject of a big show at the MoCA Los Angeles earlier this year, proving that she could recombine everything from Chinese painting to faux-naif illustration into enormous paintings -- ten and twelve feet on a side -- that had no impact.
I'll chalk it up to coincidence, but I got my eye on you, Marthell.