Spectacular Vernacular

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“In fifty to one hundred years,” Brian Droitcour said during his lecture on “Vernacular Criticism” at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, “the exhibition review might become a sonnet.” The arts of literature and theater were certainly on his mind, as he began his talk by reciting two of his cheeky Yelp reviews on venerated New York art institutions—the Frick Collection and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—from memory for a full auditorium.

Flowers and a Nasty Note

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Halfway through this conversation, the New York Times art critic Roberta Smith was asked, “How do you choose what to write about?” She responded by stating that it’s the art she really likes or dislikes, no matter if the artist is super popular or under recognized. “I’m interested in the unit of a show,” she noted, yet “we’re in this post-post-post period.” Although Smith gravitates toward “rematerialized objects,” a play on Lucy R. Lippard’s famous notion, “any kind of work can be made now.” This was all good news for the crowd of fifty-plus that gathered in a crit room at the New York Academy of Art, a small graduate school known for figurative and representational work.

Solo Searching

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Moderator Ronald Jones began the discussion promising that “the ’80s changed theory and the function of criticism in major ways,” but the panelists did not address the history of ’80s art criticism. Instead, each discussed his or her own criticism as a personal quest. All seemed to see their occupation as a solitary one; they did not allude to the community of artist, critic, and reader/viewer, nor discuss their position in an art world structure in which they saw all others embroiled.

The Ergonomics of Experiencing a Text

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Paperweight, a new organization founded by the artist Jesse Hlebo, was born because, it seems, people involved in producing artist’s books and related cultural publications feel that something needs to be done but aren’t sure exactly what. This evening’s conversation, involving more than a dozen participants seated at a long single table in the Museum of Modern Art Research Library’s reading room, was held to help pinpoint those purposes.

Let’s Stall the Conversation

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“Is it possible to define a cogent code of ethics in art writing?” asked the promotional statement for this panel, presented by the MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department at the School of Visual Arts. The answered offered by the giddy, often flustered moderator, Aimee Walleston, a graduate of the program, was something like “I think, um, I don’t know. It’s an interesting thing to think about!”

Tuesday Talks: Paul Chan and Jerry Saltz

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Did you get into the Paul Chan lecture? Someone at SVA said they called Columbia and were told only Columbia grad students can attend those lectures. I forgot that Jerry Saltz was also giving a talk last night. I arrived at the studios just as some fellow students were headed over there. So I went with them. It was good in Jerry’s “I’m-not-gonna-beat-around-the-bush-with-you” way. His thing is this down-to-earth, no bullshit thing. There was nothing revelatory in his talk. He said many of the same things one finds in his writing and that he regularly seems to mention.

Critiquing the Critics

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On Tuesday night, the art historian and critic Donald Kuspit spoke at the School of Visual Arts. Tonight, Ken Johnson gave a talk at the New York Studio School. A prolific writer of articles and reviews and the author of dozens of books, Kuspit spoke on “Why Artists Hate Critics,” which was a provocative title for a pedestrian talk. I’ve never been a fan of Kuspit’s writing, which general cries out for an assertive editorial hand, and his often curmudgeon points of view.