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postcriticism

Post #496 • March 20, 2005, 6:57 AM • 12 Comments

Via Good Reads: At a crossroads: Peter Plagens on the "postartist." Aside from utterly mischaracterizing Robert Hughes (who is better known than the artists he dismisses because he's a better creator than they are), his categorization of the varieties of art critics - goalies, cartographers, and evangelists - is worth thinking about.

I'm not throwing in the towel as a critic yet, though, to practice something called postcriticism. Firstly, although Plagens doesn't outline what form it might take, I can't help but think that it will model Kuspit's postart - divorced from beauty, married to word games, and possessing all the profundity of a martini glass; basically, the gee-whizathons that we've come to expect from Brian Sholis. Secondly, I'm not convinced that postartists have "outflanked" art critics so much as they've outflanked Artforum and its ilk, which, aside from sparse bright spots like Plagens's, do far more to advance the careers of artists through direct or indirect advertising than sort them for quality. A growing number of us, while not seeing our words on varnished paper so often, are not so hamstrung.

Comment

1.

oldpro

March 20, 2005, 5:54 PM

I have always enjoyed Plagens, and this is no exception. He is clever, fairly common sensical and writes in a lively way.

But all this excruciating doublethink is so far from experience, from the simple making and enjoying of art, that it has become meandering and pointless, like medieval theology.

I wish art could just go back to being a plain specialty and get away from all the mindbending, headach-making academic twaddle.

2.

Momoko

March 20, 2005, 5:57 PM

Ismism: A condition in which there are so many what-isms that argumentative people can publish more brah brah brah writings that may not necessary help art. A synonym of brahbrahrism.

3.

Momoko

March 20, 2005, 6:01 PM

Gramattically it should have been "neccessarily" above. I guess.

4.

Jack

March 20, 2005, 7:16 PM

Very interesting essay, and very depressing, because a good bit of it rings true. Let's just hope the situation is not really as bad as it looks.

5.

george

March 20, 2005, 8:36 PM

Oldpro is worth repeating here.
"... all this excruciating doublethink is so far from experience, from the simple making and enjoying of art...."

postart and postartists? Gag me with a spoon.

The future is post-past, period

The usage of the term "post" represents the inability to form a precise critical defininition by saying "well, today came after yesterday." The failure of Peters article is that in the end it becomes just a glib lament, without any attempt to reframe the problem (postcriticism, gag)

As far as painting is concerned, this uncertainty, this doubt about the future, is miraculous, for it signals a change is in the air.

6.

Jack

March 20, 2005, 9:11 PM

The attempts at neologisms are rather glib and of no great utility, but the analysis of where things are and how they got that way is fairly on target. Of course, there's no solution offered, and we already know there's a problem, but it's a lucid piece nonetheless.

7.

flatboy

March 20, 2005, 9:24 PM

Art criticism has its glaring limitations, but it is not going away any time soon.

8.

flatboy

March 21, 2005, 12:11 AM

Peter Plagens, in this essay, seems more a cartographer than a goalie, to use his terms. As far as art criticism goes, he is charting, not preventing the bad crticis from getting whatever. Maybe when he writes about artists it is different. I like his chart. It rings true and will be convenient when I need a map.

A common affect of many seniors is to think the world is ending, more or less. First John Link, who appears to be another old art teacher, and now Plagens and Kuspit make their appearances in these messages championing the end of time, Plagens to the extent he likes Kuspit.

For those of us who are young, the bias is opposite, the world didn't begin until we became conscious.

9.

rene barge

March 21, 2005, 3:41 AM

My last job in the motion picture industry consisted of traveling with a photographer around various parts of the "under developed" world to photograph "street sports" (that would be anything from Ping-Pong in Asia to Basket Ball or Base Ball in the Dominican Republic, and even unsuspecting speed swimming in the rivers of Brazil). This was done for a company who's brand I dare not mention, as I signed a contract that would hold me liable. Plus I quit the job in the middle of it and resigned all together from ever providing services for commercial industries. I now scrub floors and clean piss and shit from toilets!
Anyways, it kicked me real hard to see people at their best (brutal truth) despite all the accomodations the West would have to offer $$$ Nothing in their way... Not Sports Casters, Banners, Athletic Wear, Big Bright Lights, the hopes of being in the Olympics, or Sports Illustrated. No strategies on how to succeed in their place... They are not "Contemporary" or "Post" or "Modern". They are the brutal truth!
We, on the other hand, in the West are full of it to the brim, some of us die with plenty of it undigested, even. We spend so much time trying to make sense of everything we have "created" with all its affiliations, pros and cons, acceptance and dismissal, that it can only come from a need for an identity, a lifestyle, and/or a hard time "finding something to believe in". Hell, we even identify our lifespan by decades, the 60's, 70's, 80's, etc .
In our present state in "Art" we are partly human and partly beasts. In our ignorance and even arrogance, we say that we truly fulfill the purpose of our species when we deliver blow for blow and develope the measure of self defeating anger required for the the purpose.
Rene Barge

10.

Jack

March 21, 2005, 3:42 AM

This is off-topic, but in the tradition of the roundup that used to be up all weekend and was fairly open ended, which I liked, I will proceed.

I went to MAM today since it's free on Sunday, and the latest New Times has a glowing review of the "Beyond Geometry" show by Alfredo Triff. That's entirely predictable, and I hardly take Triff's views as gospel, but I figured I'd check it out and catch the other MAM shows as well.

"BG" struck me as largely dry, sterile, clinical, academic stuff--work for people (scientists or engineers, perhaps) who want to think about art rather than see and feel it. A number of pieces are indeed interesting, but in a predominantly intellectual or theory-based way. For me, this sort of show is like a starvation diet; it's all very well, if one's anorexic.

"Figuratively Speaking" consisted of pieces I'd either seen already or didn't much care to see. There were some embarrassingly bad paintings (Francesco Clemente and Sandro Chia, especially) and various ho-hum items. The only new thing that caught my eye was a small 1984 oil on paper by Eric Fischl of three sketchily painted nude people, presumably a family group at the sea shore. The coloring was lurid and ugly, but the paint handling and composition stood out, and I found it intriguing.

The Rauschenberg show was pretty much as Franklin described it in his review here. It's easy on the eyes, but it looks formulaic and rather tired. The colors in general seem faded and/or dusty, and the best piece is the one with the least blank space (most of the others have too much of it). Incidentally, I happened to see a published photo of Rauschenberg at a private reception in connection with this show, and I was shocked at how ill he looks, despite the ever-present smile. His health must be quite poor, which may explain a number of things.

11.

that guy in the second to last row

March 21, 2005, 3:51 AM

Thanks for the report Jack. I was going to go to MAM today but figured my time would be better spent at the Studio. Sounds like it it was for the most part. I've never seen much of Fischl's that I liked but the piece you mentioned sounds at least viewable. Some painters who get noticed doing large sweeping genre scenes do their best work on an intimate scale. Might be the case with Fischl. I'll go see it.

12.

Franklin

March 21, 2005, 5:11 AM

Rene is onto something. Kakuzo Okakura from The Book of Tea: "The long woes of his country have robbed him of the zest for the meaning of life. He has become modern, that is to say, old and disenchanted. He has lost that sublime faith in illusions which constitutes the eternal youth and vigour of the poets and ancients." While I don't think much of the noble savage angle, I agree that the surfeit of theoretical parsing we have in the art world comes from a kind of fatigue when a thing is overdeveloped - played out, like a baseball game that's gone on for eight hours.

At a certain point the time comes to start a new game.

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