Recently, I read a statement by Kenneth Turan, film critic for the LA Times, that struck a chord. As a poet and art critic, it is impossible to ignore the reams of exaggeration I am bombarded with on a daily basis, from blurbs attesting to the gorgeous mastery to be found in a young poet’s first book to the unrivaled brilliance to be encountered in an artist’s most recent exhibition.
Economics rarely motivate people to go into the arts, and that’s fine — what isn’t fine are smoke-and-mirror attempts at falsely touting fiscal health of “the arts” under the guise of rigorous economic research.
As if we didn’t have enough trouble preserving the middle class, the middle of the art market is the latest topic of debate among members of the art world’s commercial side. Why is the high end of the art market constantly booming while the lower and middle sectors suffer?
At one point, Arts & Labor member Blithe Riley, who was in the audience at the round table, made a comment about “freaking out a little.” This highlighted the disconnect between the political and social aspirations of Arts & Labor and the general role of art critics for me.
Last Thursday night at Housing Works Bookstore, Occupy Wall Street affinity group Arts & Labor organized a panel of New York art writers to discuss the labor of art criticism. Village Voice and New York Times critic Martha Schwendener opened the round table with the question, “What is the labor of writing?” Schwendener and Arts and Labor proposed a discussion about the working conditions of art criticism in an effort to dispel some prevailing myths, which she framed as power, authority, and allure. She then started things off with an open question to the panel about how they became art critics.
This week, street art blows in North Africa, discussing the Eames design legacy, the future of the books, Chomsky on #OccupyWallStreet, Ed Winkleman on cartels, de Kooning’s studio in 1982 and Steve Jobs.
Last Thursday January 13, there was a panel discussion at LA’s Fowler Museum titled “How Does Street Art Humanize Cities?” Organized with Zócalo, the event featured curators, artists, and reporters, most of whom were associated in some way with the LA MOCA’s upcoming street art exhibition, yet to everyone’s surprise the topic of the Blu mural whitewash wasn’t even discussed. But that’s not to say it didn’t come up in other ways. A new protest group, LA Raw, handed out condoms branded with MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch’s name on them to remind those in attendance that the erasure of artist Blu’s mural is not forgotten. One source told us that he estimates 80% of the audience to the Fowler event received one of the protest condoms as they walked in and additional condoms were placed around the venue.
‘Tis only a flesh wound! Newly-crowned Artinfo deputy editor Ben Davis (née Artnet) posts a rant about the State of Art Criticism, pointing out that even though serious criticism may look dead, it’s actually just become increasingly eclipsed by the more hit-friendly version of art writing he deems “art news.” Davis conflates this new world of web-based art criticism with a drop in quality, but I think serious criticism is actually more relevant now than ever. While we may not have journals full of October-style criticism, we do have an engaged community of artists, curators, reporters and critics who all contribute to a group dialogue that is a composite of so-called art criticism and art news.
In two weeks, #TheSocialGraph will open at Outpost in Bushwick, Brooklyn and we’re incredibly excited. What is #TheSocialGraph? It is an evolving exploration of the burgeoning field of social media art and the relation of contemporary art with this populist tool as a medium, facilitator, and subject for art.
I am the curator of the project and I’ve pulled together a number of interesting artists, writers, social media mavens, and others to share ideas and explore possibilities presented by the intersection of visual art and social media. Some of the art in #TheSocialGraph will be about social media, some will use social media as an integral component of the finished project, and some will be more of an experiment so we’re not exactly sure what to call it.
Writing for Slate, critic Ben David investigates the possibility that Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop may have been a “poisoned valentine” to the global movement known as Street Art.