Jerry Saltz asks, "When did the art world become so conservative?"
I was in NYC recently and noticed that the galleries on the whole have never been so toothless, formulaic and predictable. So why so conservative? Partly it is because art is being treated as "investment grade", which it has always been... just it used to be only for those very few who cared about art and ultimately there was a sense that the good was the enemy of the great. Today, as a market (like any other) good performance on all levels is generally preferred to the Great, which is a historical construct that coalesces over time and tends to forget the wannabe clones. His piece is also a modified mea culpa
and Socratic apology for Jerry as a critic (there aren't many of us critics and Socrates version of an "apology" was not what it means today). Whenever a critic is seen as too powerful, i.e. truthfully and formally laying bare things that people already knew but didn't dare but whisper there is typically some backlash (this is partially for the Zombie Formalism thing, but that's just part of it).
There are different types of critics (Jerry is the kind that tap dances in the minefields of acceptability and taste) and the very few who critically assess work as an form of independent review have always been rare. Yet, today most so called critics are just art careerist writers that flatter their leash holders (I tend to be harder on friends). Yes, I circle back to myself, as a critic my own experience is the only version of truth I'm comfortable drawing upon (see this primer essay on criticism
) and yes I see this honesty as crucial. Still, critics share this inner dialog in a very public way... and because it is a longstanding practice is very different than mere opinion being shared. I liken it to forest fire spotting as critics watch from their posts and draw attention to hot spots and areas where vegetation seems diseased. The job implies there will occasionally there will be a false alarm and critics will have a certain annoying quality as those who raise alarm must (critics annoy each other too). I can say that most true critics care more about the impersonal act of diagnosis as a benchmarking process more than specific outcomes, which is all to say: Keep it coming Jerry. Keep Jerrymandering the otherwise constricting boundaries of acceptability and taste.
Don Bacigalupi leaves Crystal Bridges for George Lucas' museum of narrative art in Chicago
. Not surprising as State of the Art at Crystal bridges came off as a somewhat too narrative tour of art in the USA. Instead of picking the outliers that make art weird and difficult to pigeonhole it came off as critic Peter Plagens described as, "the worlds largest university faculty show," which I interpret as very easy to digest into narrative discourse.
Mass MOCA takes on the Dia model
(which is adapted from Donald Judd's Chinati model).
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