Don't Bash Other Artists
So I asked Kuspit, since he provided a pretty binary argument, what he thought about artists who write criticism. And he had practical advice. He said that Donald Judd spent a lot of time bashing other artists, and that this negatively impacted his work. He made a bad pun, he said that it "boxed him into a corner." Get it?
He went on to talk about Michelangelo, who built very positive critical relationships with other artists and wound up using these relationships to develop such a dynamic understanding of the human body in three-dimensional space. And he basically blamed the market for the adversarial relationship modern artists find themselves in. Renaisance-style patronage promotes artistic security, while the rise of the dealer signalled a more competitive, less secure environment for artists, in which everyone is working whatever they've got.
This places the artist-critic in a rather delicate position, and I would like to move through that position to another place.
Always on the money, Kat suggested yesterday that Kuspit's reasoning is all about keeping Kuspit in a position of authority and power over artists. And yes, if taken literally, Kuspit's argument makes critical assesment of another artist's work dangerous and potentially stunting. But I don't think that's literally true.
As always, I am left searching for Door Number Three. What if Kuspit is kind of right? What if a little bit of Judd and a little bit of Michelangelo creates a thriving intellectual environment in which artists learn from one another in a way that is separate from their egotistical Vision... in which meaning is not singular and self-evident, but driven by an intellectual community? And what if artists retained the power to create the social meaning of art by working to critique the work of fellow artists? In a spirit of growth and not bashing?
I know this time that I might be dreaming... I have, after all, received a couple of emails from artists accusing me of sour grapes or worse because I placed their work in a different context than they do. Artists may be too egotistical to engage one another in healthy, sustaining criticial dialogue.
But I doubt it. I am left with many questions about how to best engage with another artist's work critically, but have too many examples of good artist-driven criticism sitting right in my blogroll to think that this is a lost cause.