24 December 2007

New York Times To Chelsea: You've Dropped Dead

The first step to improvement is admitting you have a problem.

The New York Times has summed up all of 2007's visual arts activity in three scant articles. At the back of the paper. Each one of them more of an indictment than a summation.

Holland Cotter played the straight man and attempted a legitimate trip down memory lane, but could only attack such an exercise after deploying a disclaimer, making the gist of his article go something like this:

Art is merely businessy slick marketing. These were the few things that escaped this glossy existential vacuum. Some of them were kind of dumb. But at least I remembered them.

Roberta Smith opted for more of a two-bird salute. Instead of traipsing through the year that was, she wrote a stiff memo condemning us all for sanitizing and professionalizing a business that is best left to dirty unprofessionals who don't quite know what they are doing. She did this by focusing on three words we all use when we talk about art, and yes. This is an effective strategy for dispatching lots of serious problems in a thousand words. Words like reference or imbricate do point directly at (more than) a year of gobbledygook posturing as actual intellectualism. The word practice is an efficient vehicle for unpacking the problem of the MFA; the professionalism it creates; and how that professionalism devastates the artist's ability to make no sense and solve no problem.

Carol Vogel's little back-page ditty on, basically, stuntsmanship as lame visual art, rounded out this trifecta nicely. Consider the gauntlet thrown! Finally, instead of just not covering arts very much, the paper of record has very clearly explained why visual arts receives so little coverage. From the sound of three of its arts journalists, it sounds like there is little happening that is legitimately "fit to print."

There is nowhere to go but up!


Blogger prettylady said...

Well, of course the NYT arts critics are taking their revenge, Deborah, they have to read the press releases. All 1000 impenetrable tangles of post-modern pretension that are faxed, emailed and mailed to them, every week.

And you must remember, that arts critics are writers. They understand their craft, which is the use of language to communicate, articulate and clarify, not to confuse, intimidate and separate. They are not hoodwinked by pseudo-academic posturing into thinking it communicates something significant; they see it for what it is, shockingly bad writing which gloms onto academic language in order to conceal a near-total cultural illiteracy, intellectual poverty, spiritual vacuity and social irrelevance, on the part of the press-release writers, if not the actual artists.

If a few high-profile, literate artists started a Movement for Accessible Press-Release Copy, my guess is that arts coverage would improve in a very short time.

29 December, 2007 13:24  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

If I were high-profile enough, I would join this movement.

Happy New Year!

30 December, 2007 21:41  
Blogger prettylady said...

Until then, of course, your press releases shall remain just as unreadable as everybody else's. ;-)

HNY to you!

31 December, 2007 17:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't pity Chelsea Deborah but I do pity the NYT critics who have to supress their real feelings all year round, pretend to like stuff they obviously hate, and are forced to express bile in a cowardly fashion in a random paragraph in their end of the year pieces. Happy New Year!


02 January, 2008 23:00  

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