Saturday, December 10, 2005

Barry Gewen's "State of the Art" essay in NYTimes

Barry Gewen has written an interesting article, State of the Art, in the New York Times this weekend. It reviews some recent book releases, and then takes a broad look at the state of art criticism and the questions in art right now. There is mention of a number of performance actions from the last 50 years.

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3 Comments:

Blogger MD said...

Thanks for the link. I think it is a decent article overall, as a summary. That aside, I'm very glad that Elkins is being cited in this article, because he has his hand firmly on the button of so many issues right now in the art world. The little book mentioned in the piece (What Happened to Art Criticism?) is indeed a little powerhouse. So are all his others.

It does seem to me like Gewen raises a lot of issues, and rounds up dynamics at play in/around NYC over the last 75 or so years. It is obviously well-researched, but I'm feeling a real lack of conclusion, other than to assert that the question of "why is this art?" is a justafiable one.

I suppose in some circles that may be in contention, but in the wider world, I think that question is just about the first one people ask, and reasonably so. The main theory on aesthetic response (by Abigail Housen) discusses how the first two stages of response (out of five measured) are basically versions of "does look like art is supposed to look?" Certain curators, promoters, and programmers ask a version of that relatively low-developed aesthetic question, as well (even if their private aesthetic development is far higher) because they are often interested in what their paying audience will think. If a piece of art doesn't "look" like a piece of art is supposed to look (this goes for conventional art, as well as unconventional art, which still is burdened by what unconventional is "supposed" to look like), then people don't buy, money is not exchanged hands, and the economics don't work like they have to in order to support the sustainability of the gallery, club, performance space, etc.

All of which is to say that, outside of some interesting commentary on The Gates (I mean that), this article seems about 20 years late, and especially less relevent given the royal treatment Lynne Munson gave the 'pomo' art world in her book, Exhibitionism. What people forget about that book (which is filled with juicy polemic, as well) is the support and validation she gives to working artists, those who operate without need of the hype, or need to provoke for its own sake, so attached to the kind of art so often talked about in the NYTimes.

Shock art is an industry, one that I believe the Times has enjoyed supporting, cuz it sells papers.

December 13, 2005 1:34 PM  
Blogger MD said...

Revision of the above comments posted here, with additions. FYI.

December 13, 2005 1:53 PM  
Blogger Erik Fabian said...

Thanks for the comments Matt.

I agree that the economic demand is the elephant in the room. Perhaps the question should be: why should the consumer bother?

I liked what this essay sums up though and I like that performance art is called on to evidence the relevance of art.

I am not familiar with Lynne Munson's book so I will leave it at that.

December 13, 2005 4:14 PM  

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