12 October 2006

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I work in a community of artists and most of us would never think to bash one another. Looking out at the wide world it is a little difficult to believe that the artists we do bash are part of anything but a community of dealers, dealers that they defend to the teeth, and who can blame them, really. But that doesn't mean they don't still totally suck it, and them and their crap dealers deserve to be thrashed until... well ha ha here I go again. Thanks though, this helps with a post i am putting together... for when i start blogging again.

13 October, 2006 23:19  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Hey Ashes, great to see you.
It's all about power. More to come.

14 October, 2006 09:19  
Blogger onesock said...

It just seems like a no-brainer to me. If one is thinking and engaged with visual things one can easily engage with other artists work on a critical level a well as a lauditory one. Isnt this just an extension of your Maker/thinker definition (which i love by the way!) to include that same process is assessing other works. The making part is when the viewer "re-makes" the work in his or her mind. no?

I think that an artist can gain much insight thru critical art writing in that it sharpens sensibilities in terms of both making and discussing art. As long as one isnt just using writing to tear down others in order to lift up your own work.

That being said, personally I have a hard time with critical writing of other work because I know how limited is my knowledge of other peeps work

14 October, 2006 15:58  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I don't know whether it's politic for an artist to write criticism, but I've heard a number of artists say that the approval of their peers matters more to them than any other opinion.

14 October, 2006 20:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent this afternoon with a friend who is working his way down the West Coast Tap-dancing, of all things. He explained to me the beauty of tap dancing, different from other forms of dance, as being performative, expressive, and competitive. He travels to events and simultaneously shows off and learns. Often times there are peer generated awards. We wondered why other disciplines aren't like this.

15 October, 2006 03:30  
Blogger onesock said...

Isnt the ultimate paradox of art that it embraces ambiguity while also inviting different constituencies to divide and define it into "boxed in" relationships? Isnt this the activity of institutions and goes back to the discussion of singularity vs. multiplicity of vision?

Or on a personal tangent- wouldnt my art career have a better success rate if I directed it toward one vision, one medium, one methodology? But isnt that antithetical to the times we live?

And where does "love and acceptance" fit in?

15 October, 2006 12:18  
Blogger onesock said...

thinking on this more... that ideal you mention of artists working in a "spirit of growth and not bashing" does exist-just not wholistically, primarilly due to the fact that this art making thing is an activity of egotist difference-one thing,activity,person,idea set apart from another. Now an individual can conceive things in an alternative way, can see the connectivity of creative actions and thoughts, but that person is thinking very transgressively in my opinion.

15 October, 2006 13:16  
Blogger onesock said...

I am sorry to hog the comments today- its just that I have been on a mental mode this week of thinking about my own personal identity as an artist- this blog has contributed to a large degree to this process/crisis. It seems like, in my life right now, the warm current of art as free exploration, open to change and makerthinker-type of procedure is just now cross breaching the cold front of art as identity card, defined and contained within a convenient nugget for gallery owners, collectors, university art department sellection committies, etc. can really chew on and say "this is...".

15 October, 2006 13:29  
Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

Artists should write if they can. They should. They should. They should.

If a scientist or medical doctor found a flaw in the work of a colleague and wrote about it, would we say that doctor or scientist was bashing her colleague? No. We'd say that person was contributing critically in their (medical or scientific)discourse.

What happens to art discourse that leaves out the voices of its own practitioners ie. artists? Well, it turns into something else doesn't it?

22 October, 2006 17:06  
Blogger The Hanger-On said...

You may wish to read my brief take on this same lecture at http://globalwarmingyourcoldheart.blogspot.com/2006/10/critiquing-critics.html.

30 October, 2006 23:05  
Blogger harold hollingsworth said...

I like the art of Peter Plagens, and I enjoy his writings, also Robert Motherwell wrote some really critical essays, and made strong work. So Kuspit seems a bit suspect, but again, that's the role of a critic, and besides, what a boring place it would be if we all agreed!

04 November, 2006 21:55  

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