Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Critic on Criticism

Amy over at ARTery tipped me to a really interesting article by Jerry Salz on art criticism. Read that article here.

And Amy also notes that NYC gallerist and fellow blogger Edward Winkleman has responded and his response has created a whole series of interesting comments, with the usual anon attacks that seem to follow any art discussion, and the usual easily bruised writer who dishes it out with brutal gusto but can't take it when it bounces back, etc.

There are, however, otherwise some really good points in the comments.

The key issue to me?

Winkleman smartly notes that

With art, in New York City, there's no such guarantee you'll ever know [whether a critic liked a show], even when you know they saw it, even for the largest artists or most powerful galleries. If The New York Times, for example, on average, publishes 7 major reviews and two articles in each Friday edition, that totals about 470 reviews each year. The problem is there are more about 470 exhibitions per month*, meaning that more than 11/12ths of all exhibitions will not be reviewed in the Times. For the Village Voice, the number of reviews is fewer than half that. So if you are the lucky artist who gets a review, you've already beaten incredible odds. At that point, for the review to be unfavorable seems almost cruel.
Translate that into Washingtonese, and remember that the WaPo has only two gallery reviews a month, plus one in Weekend section every once in a while (and thank God for those!).

And, uh... the WaPo's Chief Art Critic is too good to write about DC area art galleries or DC artists on a regular basis (except to note when they are barely emerging).

So let's say... four gallery reviews a month (and yeah, I know once a month is the multiple mini-review day) at the WaPo.

And on any given month in the Greater Washington area there are (by the time you add the independent fine art galleries, the non profits, the embassy galleries and the cultural centers) around 100 different visual art shows to choose from.

And at least NYC has a whole bunch of newspapers, plus all the NYC-centric art mags, all the freebies, etc. to augment the NYT's coverage.

Other than the WaPo, we should be grateful that the City Paper covers as many shows as they do. But even adding the CP's coverage, the chance of an artist or show to be reviewed in print in our area is pretty slim.

As Larry David would say: "Pretty, pretty slim!"

So if we take Winkleman's point that "at that point, for the review to be unfavorable seems almost cruel" -- then we have some pretty f&^%$# cruel writers in the nation's capital area, don't we?

Art criticism should (in fact it must) have teeth; but it must also be even. When was it the last time that you read a published review around our area where the critic was really passionate about a show that she/he really liked?

Pretty, pretty cruel.


Last night I had dinner with that living legend known as Lida Moser, who was telling me stories about Alice Neel moving to Havana, after Neel married her first husband (who apparently was an art student in NYC and from a wealthy Cuban family). Neel related to Moser that she couldn't find women's shoes in Havana to fit her healthy Midwestern feet. I thought that was funny!

Afterwards, as I had received a couple of complimentary tickets to King King in the mail, I went to see the film, which was OK, but way too long and a bit annoying in a couple of areas.

The "lost island" scenes were terrific, and that was almost a movie by itself, but when Kong was fighting the Ty Rexes I glanced at my watch, and saw that it was already two hours gone by and I thought "Mmm... two hours gone and they haven't even got the monkey to Manhattan yet."

The movie also has an annoying effect of seeming like it was directed by three different people (the whole side story with the "Jimmy" character was lost on me), and even more annoying was the fact that the Anne Darrow character spends a ton of time running around a frozen New York in a negligee and she's apparently immune to the cold.

Other than that, the special effects were very good, the entire island scenes were outstanding (although the Kong fight scene with the Rexes took way too long, as did the dinosaur mass crash).

Curtis in MOMA

ANABA reveals that MOMA has recently acquired a Tony Curtis painting for its permanent collection.

Read it here.

Top Ten Lists

The end of the year is time for everyone to come up with their "Top Ten Lists" for nearly everything.

Email me yours for the top 10 art exhibitions in our area in 2005 and I'll post them here.

One Word Project

J.T. Kirkland, over at Thinking About Art, has been conducting a fascinating art project that he titles the One Word Project.

The project started here a while back, and so far about 40 artists have participated.

Essentially, here's the deal in Kirkland's owns words: "first, if I am not familiar with the artist's work I will want to review it (jpegs, Web site, maybe even a studio visit, etc). Once I get somewhat familiar with the work, I will communicate a single word that comes to mind about the art. I will ask that the artist write 100-500 words about the chosen word and what it means in their art. Because the "question" is so open ended, I think it will allow the artist much freedom to discuss their work and their thought processes. I would then like to publish the writing and a couple of examples of the artist's work on this site."

The One Word Project has been a terrific success, and Kirkland is planning to publish a book! See details on the book's progress here.

He's looking for more participants for a second project: The Artists' Interview Artists Project, and interested artists (and it is now open to all artists - not just area artists) should contact Kirkland at Thinking About Art.

Second Annual Bethesda Painting Awards

Deadline: January 31, 2006

The Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District is currently accepting applications for the second annual Bethesda Painting Awards. This is one of the nation's largest cash award painting prizes funded through the generosity of Carol Trawick.
Bethesda Painting Awards
Eight finalists will be selected to display their work in an exhibition during the month of June 2006 at the Fraser Gallery in downtown Bethesda, and the top four winners will receive $14,000 in prize monies.

Best in Show will be awarded $10,000; Second Place will be honored with $2,000 and Third Place will receive $1,000. Additionally, a "Young Artist" whose birthday is after January 31, 1976 will be awarded $1,000.

Artists must be 18 years of age or older and residents of Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C.

All original 2-D painting including oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, encaustic and mixed media will be accepted. The maximum dimension should not exceed 60 inches in width or 84 inches in height. No reproductions.

Artwork must have been completed within the last two years and must be available for the duration of the exhibition. Each artist must submit five slides, application and a non-refundable entry fee of $25. For a complete application, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Bethesda Painting Awards
c/o Bethesda Urban Partnership
7700 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814

Or visit this website or call 301/215-6660