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Kimmelman watch

Post #776 • April 17, 2006, 10:40 AM • 23 Comments

Michael Kimmelman hadn't been doing so bad lately, approving of Bonnard and Auerbach in recent weeks.

Yesterday, he melted.

A reader wrote in with this article excerpted, and put "100% BS" in the subject line. My estimation of Kimmelman's work rises and falls. He never wields language, like Robert Hughes or Peter Schjeldahl - he rolls out simple sentences that do their job. That has honor, if not panache. He uses his eyes more than his press kit. He sees glories in certain contemporary works, especially minimalist ones, and describes them with enough conviction to make me wonder about having a second look at them.

I'm still trying to forgive him for a review of a late 2004 Raphael show at the National Gallery, London, in which he confessed his blind spot regarding the master. I admired the honesty but not the lapse of taste. He closed that review thusly, quoting Delacroix from his journals:

"Although one may prefer the note of majesty in Raphael, which echoes, as it were, the grandeur of some of his subjects, I think that without being torn to pieces by people of taste (and here I mean people whose taste is genuine and sincere), one might say that the great Dutchman was more of a natural painter than Perugino's studious pupil."

So there it is. Majesty versus naturalness. Maybe that's the heart of my own misgiving.

Except that Rembrandt bugs me, too.

It turns out that Rembrandt doesn't just bug him - Rembrandt has him scrambling for anecdotes and asserting with no good reason that a show connecting him to Caravaggio is a "ludicrous idea." What can we learn from this mishap?

1. Split right after the bit about Richard Tuttle, this one article would have made two fine blog posts.

2. Honesty saves not from errancy.

3. Faced with deficiencies in one's seeing, breaking out into a song and dance just won't do.




April 17, 2006, 11:46 AM

I expected worse, but yes, it's pedestrian writing and a largely useless exercise. If this is the best the NYT can do, well, you do the math.



April 17, 2006, 11:54 AM

P.S. Compared to Bunny Smedley (see her review of Ruisdael show in last Roundup), Kimmelman might as well be retarded. The difference is so overpowering that it's a travesty. Again, if the NYT will settle for this, its standards are simply not respectable.


Marc Country

April 17, 2006, 1:00 PM




April 17, 2006, 1:01 PM

P.P.S. I don't care how chummy a critic is with Richard Tuttle, Kiki Smith or anybody else. I don't care if a critic can conjure up the ghost of Andy Warhol. It's strictly stand and deliver, especially if you're writing for anything like a major publication. Otherwise, don't waste the print space and definitely don't waste my time. Who the hell is minding the store at the NYT, anyway?



April 17, 2006, 1:08 PM

Wields is fixed. Thanks, Marc.



April 17, 2006, 1:32 PM

Kimmelman has a lot to apologize for, not the least being his abject swoon over Minimalism and the Dia Foundation installation in Beacon, New York, a couple of years ago.

Roger Kimball did an excellent job on that:


Kimball asks us to "think about Michael Kimmelman’s assertion that the perpetrators of these objects constitute 'the greatest generation of American artists'" and offers this Kimmelman quote, with its preposterous opening sentence:

"They were the first Americans to influence Europeans. The work these artists made changed, or at least questioned, the nature of art: what it looked like, its size, its materials, its attitude toward the places where it was shown, its relation to architecture, light and space and to the land. The artists even questioned whether art needed to be a tangible object. Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Earth art, video art, Conceptualism—suddenly art could be nothing more than an idea, a thought on a piece of paper that played in your head. It could be ephemeral or atmospheric, like the experience of a room illuminated by colored fluorescent tubes."

Who is minding the store, indeed.



April 17, 2006, 2:20 PM

And the great man said:

suddenly art could be nothing more than an idea, a thought on a piece of paper

Uh, gee, Mr. Kimmelman, I hate to break it to you, but an idea is just an idea, and a thought is just a thought, unless an actual artist has what it takes to turn it into actual art. Of course, maybe I'm just not sufficiently advanced, but maybe you're just a glorified flake (useful though that may be when dealing with Richard Tuttle).


Marc Country

April 17, 2006, 2:47 PM

This all reminds me of something funny Vito Acconci said to me this one time, while he was at my place helping me paint my baseboards... I can't share it here though... it's too personal.



April 17, 2006, 3:27 PM

But we appreciate the thought, Marc...



April 17, 2006, 4:37 PM

Kimmelman seems to be very impressed by what artists say, whether or not it makes sense. Richard Tuttle, who seems to be the latest anointed master of our time, insisted that a praying figure was holding his hands together to "calm down", and thereafter Mr. Kimmelman could see praying figures no other way, comparing the remark to one made by Kiki Smith who similarly insisted that an incense burner reminded her of a Frankenstein-like laboratory machine that did things to dead animals. To Mr. Kimmelman this meant that they were "being artists" - "fresh", "unruly" and like that. The Rembrandt/Carravaggio show, by the same token, was "a ludicrous idea for an exhibition", therefore, aha! "it's the kind of show an artist might have dreamed up".

I hate this kind of patronizing bullshit.

When I was a kid painter looking at paintings with my friends we would have been embarrassed to talk like that. That was the kind of thing know-nothing, uncomprehending aunts and uncles said: "say, that there looks like a woman in a funny hat, doesn't it?". We didn't look at pictures to see different pictures, we looked at them to see how the artist painted what was so palpably there in front of us so well.

I suppose, for better or worse, that's the difference between then and now.



April 17, 2006, 7:26 PM

I read his "review" today of the Caravaggio/Rembrandt show and could not believe how lame it was! Does anyone know of some decent writing on this show somewhere?



April 17, 2006, 9:07 PM

OP, I'm not sure he's being patronizing; he may not have enough on the ball for that. He may simply be trying to disguise his deficiency with a supposedly cute-hip little song-and-dance, simultaneously dropping names and reminding readers he's an inside player who's "in the know." Lame indeed.


Marc Country

April 17, 2006, 9:44 PM

I saw the Tuttle 'retrospective' last summer ago at the SFMOMA. Rather than his work making any kind of positive impression on me, strangely, I kept thinking about the film "Brazil", and that somewhere out there, there was an artist named Richard Buttle, but because of a clerical error, this Tuttle crap accidentally got shown instead.

After reading that fine Kimball piece oldpro alluded to, I use the word 'crap' advisedly...


Fun with Anagrams!

April 18, 2006, 12:13 PM

Who the hell is minding the store at the NYT, anyway?

The New York Times?...
"Enmity Worksheet"?
"Thy Semite Knower"?
"Money-Thirst Week"?
(...'t'reeks with money,
stinky whore-meet.)

The New York Times?
Esteem-worthy ink?
They went irksome
(History went meek...),
wrote inky themes.
Tenet? More Whiskey!
(meter not whiskey)
The skew? ENORMITY!

The New York Times?
Tree with monkeys;
"Monkey Twits Here."
The monkeys write!
(Three monkey-wits,
three times wonky!)
The wriest monkey
knew Times Theory:
"Knoweth yer Times,
ye theist workmen".
(They site workmen;
they strike women).

Re: Mike Kimmelman

Mike's theory went:
Write keen mythos
(keen=Times worthy),
keen, smothery wit.
When trite, 'smokey'?...
Then write smokey!
("Written smokey", eh?)
Hey!... Written smoke?
Skywrite them one:
(meek Whitney rots...)

Two eyer, methinks,
them eyes? Tinwork!
(They seem tinwork).
He knows temerity,
("Knows temerity", eh?)
when temerity's O.K.

Thy sweet moniker,
sweet, thorny Mike?
"Wormy ink-esthete"?
"Whiney Met stoker"?
"Wee stinky mother"?
"Stinky mother ewe"
(Tory ewe, methinks)?
"Wee mythos tinker"
(works teenie myth)?
"The Wonky Meister"?...

Mike's teeny worth?
Mike's teen-worthy!

Hotter news, Mikey:
New York, meet Shit.



April 18, 2006, 12:49 PM

"New York, meet Shit."?

You cheated!


Fun with Anagrams!

April 18, 2006, 1:06 PM

I suppose I used "Times" a few, uh, times, too. Is that cheating?



April 18, 2006, 1:12 PM

Not in my book. Is there some kind of award you can get for this?



April 18, 2006, 1:33 PM

Yes, the Grandma Anna Trophy for anagrammatical calesthenics


Fun with Anagrams!

April 18, 2006, 4:18 PM

Send it in to Mike and The Times, see what they're giving out...
The Grandma Anna Trophy,
or maybe just a little
phony Manhattan regard.



April 18, 2006, 4:55 PM



Marc Country

April 18, 2006, 10:14 PM

Re: #20:
"Oh, HANG this PEDANTRY MARATHON!", narrated thy hangman, OP.

I couldn't agree more.
This thread, rest assured, has been abjured by the herds, while absurd word nerds have endured (and likely won't be cured)...



April 18, 2006, 11:05 PM

to all those who dread
continuing this thread,
this silly game
on Mikey's name:
it and I are going to bed.


lonely toker

April 19, 2006, 12:36 PM

Kimmelman's in Amsterdam. He's obviously stoned out of his mind.



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