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MEET THE PRESS
"Meet the Press," is an opportunity to get the critics out from behind the page and to put a face with the by-line. It also allows for a dialogue with the art community. With this event we hope to address some tough questions such as: What is the responsibility of the critic, especially in Chicago? What credentials should a critic have? How much freedom do critics have in regards to their respective journals and editors in choosing exhibits to write about? The role of the critic and that of the artist is not always clear. There is often a feeling of mistrust on both sides. Critics sometimes feel besieged by artists to see their shows and to write about them. In the worst case, critics feel as if they are supposed be the artist's PR person. Artists feel they are ignored most of the time (sometimes established ones) and that there are not enough critical venues for Chicago art. Moreover, in the worst view, the critic is in an elitist position of power and cares little about the plight of artist other than to advance his or her writing career. With 'Meet the Press' as a forum for a dialogue between the critics and the art community, we hope to answer some of these questions with honesty and candor which is in the spirit of the C.A.C.A.
Criticism-Focusing on Craft Art
This is my goal in being a critic of contemporary art with a special interest in craft art: to show how craft has been undervalued, to explain how it is made, to place it in an aesthetic and art historical context, and-especially-to find find philosophical links between craft art and other aesthetic forms so that we can see in fresh and new ways. I find that as a craft critic (and former craftsperson) I am tempted to turn my skepticism not on craft, but rather on the art world itself. Craft art has been relegated to the basement of art hierarchies for a number of reasons: 1. historically, it has been made mostly by women; 2. it is often functional-and therefore involved in daily human activities; 3. it can be unashamedly decorative or beautiful, and 4. it values craftsmanship, a skilled use of the hand. Now, ironically, some of these qualities are being reclaimed as valuable by postmodernism. Craft has never pretended to conform to the severe restrictions placed by Enlightenment philosophers on art. These 18th century writers-whose groundbreaking aesthetic theories still hold sway today defined art as separate from life in order to extricate it from the propaganda of the church and of kings. But contemporary 'fine" artists have tried to break through these old boundaries by searching for ways to make art socially relevant, mixed up with life, for example, in community-based art projects. I think that craft has something to offer this trend-as a history of aesthetic objects inextricable from daily life that reach back literally tens of thousands of years
Criticism: Making the Private Experience Public
As both an artist and a writer I view the practice of art criticism as an extension of the private investigative and creative process that occurs in the artist's studio. Like this studio process, the act of writing is not motivated solely by the end results of a specific essay but rather by the revelations generated during the act of writing itself. Writing about art requires the same intensity of observation and disciplined approach to organization and execution as does the art making process, with the final goal being a dynamic use of written language to expand, enrich, and clarify the private thoughts sparked by an individual or collective body of work. Similar to the artist's studio practice, the act of writing art criticism is both a private and public practice, placing the end result of an intimate activity in a public forum. The best art criticism, like the best art, embraces this paradox by recognizing that the personal voice of the author should not be corrupted by anticipating the potential responses of the audience. The writer's voice must remain true to responding to the work of art in front of him, for that is the most authentic of experiences. This does not mean that the writer ignores the context that surrounds the work that is being critiqued, for that is as embedded in the artwork as much as the materials that construct the work itself. Yet, the writer who is engaged in a private dialogue with a work of art, instead of a public debate, brings to art writing an intimacy that extends the nonverbal nature of the viewing experience. Art essays, like the art they critique, must be able to stand-conceptually and formally-on their own. They are an independent entity, a creative work unto themselves. True, their existence is generated by the artwork. But it is a mistake to view the written essay as a second-cousin to the original art. To do so only denigrates both art forms. Artists who view art criticism as no more than a press release for their exhibits should either learn how to write, or hire a press agent. Artists do not exist to be the mouthpieces of other individuals and neither do writers. For both artist and writer the goal of the creative process should be to initiate meditation on challenging or overlooked ideas, and provoke discussion of difficult topics. When both succeed, society benefits.
Why Do I Write Art Criticism?
I write because I write. In other words, I'm a writer whose genre happens to be art criticism and because the various aesthetic, social, and cultural issues that the world of art raises somehow prompt my need to respond. I write criticism to clarify my responses to a particular work of art or issue that either interests or provokes me, which I share with others in order to enrich his or her response to the same work or idea.Some art criticism is simply journalism, reporting to the public on the various artists, exhibitions, and events of a said moment. Some art criticism may indeed educate, but education is not its sole purpose. Nor is blind promotion. There has been too much emphasis of late on the need for more coverage of Chicago in the national and international art press that emphasizes advocacy over issues, PR over informed opinion. I have no qualms about writing negative criticism, particularly if it will stimulate discussion that is helpful for both the artist and Chicago. However, negative criticism for its own sake is never constructive. In essence, criticism is a function of all the above. I believe that art is a necessary and integral part of any society. Through my writing I hope to contribute to a meaningful dialogue not only within my own community but also with others, and to impart a perspective for understanding and interpreting the art and culture of our time.