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big art spread

Post #297 • June 11, 2004, 8:15 AM • 15 Comments

There was a big art spread in Street Miami this week for which I contributed three pieces: a review of Snitzer's first show at his new space, Bernice Steinbaum's birdhouse show, and Rick Newton at Ingalls and Asssociates.

Omar Sommeryns reviewed the show at Dorsch (an article about which some consternation has been expressed to me in private, I think rightly), the new opening at Box, and Lissette Garcia's effort as a newly-minted independent curator at the Odegard Building.

Joel Weinstein covered the Miguel Angel Rojas show at Casas Riegner, and Anne Tschida eulogized the House in preparation for its farewell show this evening.

Over at the Miami New Times, Michelle Weinberg covers "Cakewalk" at Ambrosino Gallery and Lissette Garcia's show previously mentioned. Also, Kirk Nielsen wrote a cover story about the plans by Miami artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt to convert a disused monument on an island off of South Beach into a giant art piece.

Happy reading.

Comment

1.

Jack

June 11, 2004, 9:34 PM

The STREET review by Omar Sommereyns of the current show at Dorsch Gallery disqualifies him from further consideration by me as a credible art critic. He may well not care, but that's beside the point.

Of the three painters involved, his favorite was the one showing the weakest work, afflicted by gimmicky presentation, fashionitis and the attendant unbearable lightness of being. It's not that Alex Di Pietra has no talent, but that she's not doing a great deal with it. Sommereyns was particularly taken with one of her pieces for "warping the viewer's sense of gravity": if I want that, I can always go to an amusement park.

His response to Lucas Blanco seems rather eccentric. He notes approvingly that some of Blanco's works keep their subjects off center, which in and of itself means nothing--the worst hack could easily do the same thing. Much more significant qualities, such as the artist's handling of paint and his remarkable color sense, are ignored.

The nadir of the review, however, is the outrageous dismissal of George Bethea's work as "nauseatingly imbued in radiant color...in tacky, often slapdash oil compositions that reek of self-indulgent fantasy and are tawdry enough for an apartment in a Bal Harbour high-rise." It would appear that Sommereyns is not well acquainted, if at all, with French painting in general and Fauvism in particular, from which Bethea's work obviously stems. If he is familiar with Fauvism, his scorn for Bethea must then extend to some of the greatest names in 20th century painting, like Matisse. He is entitled to feel such scorn, but I am entitled to dismiss his judgment.

2.

oldpro

June 12, 2004, 2:34 AM

Jack hits the nail on the head. The Street reviewer has all the requisites for Miami art criticism: bliindness, ignorance and stupidity. Where do they find these people?

3.

clueless

June 12, 2004, 6:59 AM

jack & oldpro is right in his indignation... who are these people anyway?
let's kick their ass...

4.

Franklin

June 12, 2004, 3:28 PM

I'm going to stick up for Mr. Sommeryns. Yes, he choked the Dorsch review, and indicated thereby that his art historical references go back about ten years. But within those ten years he actually does pretty well - I find myself in agreement with him often, and he usually passes what I think of as the basic test of art writing: whether you can guess what the art looks like from the prose. He doesn't get taken in easily and his critical comments are pretty evenly distributed among style and media. Armed with more art history and some first-hand art-making experience (which he may have, for all I know, but he doesn't seem to be able to discuss materials), he'd be doing all right. I've seen other writers who seem like they will never get it right no matter how much background they have, and I do not believe that Sommeryns is one of them.

5.

Jerome du Bois

June 12, 2004, 10:44 PM

About Sommereyns's review: he writes 209 words about three painters, and this is supposed to be real art writing that generates comments. No wonder Miami and anemia have so many letters in common.

JdB

6.

clueless

June 12, 2004, 11:22 PM

critical work here sucks, we all know that, what's new? but whose fault is it? maybe the art is not that good anyway --or the critics for that matter. and who needs critics? i don't.

7.

Franklin

June 12, 2004, 11:44 PM

Jerome, I am so stealing that line. Believe it or not, my editor is talking about the possibility of doing something even shorter. I lost fifty words off of a 300-word piece, I think, but hey, that's the newspaper business for you.

Clueless, I sympathize with your position. Why do we need critics? It's not an easy question to answer, but here's my attempt: We don't need them, really, but we like having them around because it's good to know what's going on in the art world. Straight reportage doesn't do that so well because it's not as interesting - art is wrapped up in matters of taste, so the exercise thereof is as informative as the facts about the show. A critic is just a well-spoken member of the art-going public. The art-making enterprise could function without him, but it wouldn't be as much fun.

8.

oldpro

June 13, 2004, 1:25 AM

Franklin, you are too kind to this critic. If "his art historical references go back about ten years" he has no business writing about art. And he writes as if his birth date doesn't go back much further.

9.

Jack

June 13, 2004, 6:16 AM

If you want to play the benevolent uncle, Franklin, that's up to you, but I'm not buying it. The issue here is not just ignorance, which is bad enough in anyone presented to the public in the official guise of an art critic. A critic MUST know art history, period, and I'm definitely not talking about the last 10 years, or the last 100. True, ignorance is potentially curable, and it's also true that a PhD in Art History, by itself, is not enough to make a good critic--but it would certainly help.

The issue here is apparent ignorance plus what I perceive to be the lack of an eye, meaning a good one, which is a much more serious problem because it may be an intrinsic defect, which is not curable. It's possible that what we have here is such a woefully undertrained eye that it amounts to the lack of one, though in that case all is not lost--assuming the requisite training takes place. However, such training should have preceded writing as a critic in an official capacity for public consumption.

10.

clueless

June 13, 2004, 7:25 AM

ok... just shut up jack, i'll take the crtic;s mantle...

11.

Jerome du Bois

June 13, 2004, 8:21 AM

Franklin, you're welcome to the line, my man, and my sympathy. Cutting 50 words out of 300! I'm all for compression, I work on it all the time, but that's only to give me more room, to free me to write more and better words!

As for why we need critics: I didn't comment about this on the relevant thread, but it seems relevant now. Cretins like the one Franklin calls Fame Whore hate art, life, themselves, and other people. Some gallerists, like the ones who run OBJEX in Miami, seem to agree. Yes, let's shove people's faces in feces -- with a nicely-typed wall label, of course, and a smooth spiel, and a price. No, no, you're not an idiot, this guy is deep. Sign here.

Self-loathing, cruelty, and humiliation are now shot through our culture. I love art, life, myself, and (some) other people. That's why I'm here.

And, clueless, give me five, man: ditto on Jack.

JdB

12.

Franklin

June 13, 2004, 5:45 PM

Jack, Oldpro - I don't dispute any of what you're saying. But just to make it through the day in this town, I find it necessary to apply a lower standard of excellence that makes gaffes like the ones you're describing at least grudgingly pardonnable. The silver lining here is that within the realm of what he knows, he can operate. He's not mangling the language, and you know what he's talking about even if his point is errant - by which I mean that you can actually understand what he's saying. He did a face-plant on the Dorsch review, but his descriptions can be correlated to observable physical facts in the work. Historically, none of these virtues are a given in the local art writing so there is cause for hope.

I don't understand Clueless's remark to Jack so I don't know what Jerome is agreeing with.

13.

oldpro

June 13, 2004, 7:45 PM

So he has no eye and he is ignorant but this is OK because those deficiencies are immediately clear, and he makes a hopeless muddle of a review a show of straightforward painting but "within the realm of what he knows he can operate". What the hell, let's elect him president.

14.

Franklin

June 13, 2004, 9:24 PM

It's not a big silver cloud, just a lining. Believe me, I feel your pain on this one.

15.

oldpro

June 13, 2004, 11:19 PM

More like a lead balloon, if you ask me.

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