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Saturday 01.10.15

« First Thursday January 2015 Picks | Main | Exploring Images of Africans at the Archer »

Weekend Required Reading

Here are two articles that seem to be calling for a greater degree of critical thinking and more nuanced language in society at large. I don't think the current lack of critical thought in the art world is some outlier... it is an endemic issue for a globalized world that needs to learn how appreciate the inevitable disagreements that competing value systems inevitably create. New or at least completely recalibrated models seem inevitable. Perhaps something more supple and open to nonconformity?

First is Jerry Saltz on the power of images to in incite a disproportionate response from terrorists. Jerry looks into belief systems as are espoused by religions but I think the discussion can go deeper. In a world where everyone is so connected we can devolve into cliques of group-think more easily. We can instantly find those who agree with our views and this can fester in isolation cells, which create disproportionate or non-scalar and circuitous thinking. Maybe its my Viking heritage or love of Greek and Jewish debate traditions (interrelated) but when someone disagrees with you publicly it is a gift. If it has some strength behind it and you are suddenly seeing red it means you've just encountered "another way" that should be considered. It takes a kind of cosmopolitan approach, which is tolerant of diverse thinking. In that way Art is an important cultural exercise or a way to agree to disagree. Often this comes in an environment of respect (gallery) and maybe even an understanding can come of it. In general, respect comes from acts of critical thinking. Dogmatists who have those knee jerk, "you insulted what I worship & there will be reprisals"... can be found everywhere, even in art scenes but criticism is a way to be tested and grow. In the past few years I've seen a call for the rare kind "supple" avenues of respect that more criticism creates. It isn't taught very much in schools anymore and most curatorial initiatives have devolved into evasive curatorial speak and practices. Those programs that risk misunderstandings in a thoughtful way are all the more important for this.

The second is this article on important female artists who are discovered late in their careers. I agree that there needs to be a different historical/critical discussion. Many excellent artists who happen to be female are overlooked until late careers because their concerns just don't fit the driving institutional and market consensus that are the rule rather than the exception in the art world. Part of the reason this happens is many of them express a different approach to existential doubt as the core of their work. For example, both Eva Hesse and Helen Frankenthaler, clear leaders in their respective eras made work that seemingly consumed itself. Smithson did the same thing as did Morris Louis but it comes off a man going kamikazi into Art's void. Whereas Hesse and Frankenthaler in many ways seemed to need no gesture of finality... just simply a gesture that is consumed by itself... thus their work lived in the void. There was peace in this and most media fetishes the "struggle" not the effect and the preference for men in the market seals the deal. Existentially this lack of a grand futile gesture and more focus on how the female artist looks instead undercuts respect in Western History books and auctions houses. Kirk Varnedoe's book on abstraction's approach to nothing comes to mind but innumerable shows could look at how women in our midst are not receiving the proper credit right now. Regionally there should be exhibitions and awards that make a point of giving at least an equal # of women accolades. If we can't do this at the local level it doesn't get better.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 10, 2015 at 12:27 | Comments (0)


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