I was at Catching the Light, Lois Dodd’s retrospective at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the August day I got the news that critic Robert Hughes had passed away at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, New York. For many, myself included, Hughes’s prose did for art criticism what Shakespeare did for the stage. Hughes was sound and fury, speaking in a booming voice while just barely opening his mouth.
The other day, at a small cocktail party, a literary agent told me that he liked writers who knew and wrote for their audience. Our conversation soon sputtered out because I didn’t see any value in disagreeing with him. A few minutes later, a writer confided that he would keep working on a manuscript only if he could morally, ethically and esthetically justify what he was doing. For each of them the work itself could never be justification enough. It had to appeal to a larger power.
Like the Jack Kerouac’s three line poems, Lois Dodd is able to capture the essence of her subjects through simplicity and directness of expression.