Hot Topic Alert: Granting New Ph.D.’s in a Job Market That Sucks

January 18, 2010 · Print This Article

There’s a really interesting discussion taking place on Tenured Radical right now about the merits of pursuing a Ph.D. when the job market sucks so badly and there is precious little likelyhood that newly minted Doctors of whatever will find a place in academia after graduation. Tenured Radical, aka Claire Bond Potter, is Professor of History and American Studies at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut specializing in United States political history, queer studies, and the history of gender, sex and feminism. In a post titled “Playing the Blame Game: Or, How Should Graduate Schools Respond the the Bad Job Market,” Potter writes,

“While I am deeply sympathetic to those whose dreams of a teaching life are discouraged and perhaps dashed by a foul job market that gets only fouler, I am entirely unsympathetic to claims by disappointed job seekers that they have been lied to and bamboozled by the schools that admitted them to the Ph.D. because they were not cautioned at the very beginning of their education that they might not succeed in finding a tenure-track job.

“In fact, I don’t know a single form of professional education that guarantees its graduates a job, whether the market is good or bad, and why Ph.D. granting programs have a special moral responsibility to do this is unclear. But on the job wikis and the blogs there is an emerging consensus that the jobless should have received a waiver of liability with the letter of admission (which Brown University actually used to send its graduate students in English back in the sad old 1980s, and most of us who knew someone who received one were horrified by the practice.) Resentful job seekers , in other words, speak in the language of fraud rather than regret. This I find astonishing, given that an hour of research prior to applying, or accepting an offer of admission, could tell any prospective graduate student what their academic job prospects might look like six to seven years hence.”

Potter goes on to argue (quite persuasively, to my mind) that Ph.D. programs should not allow graduate students to matriculate within three years of having attained the bachelor’s degree, Ph.D. programs should consider devoting at least one year of graduate support to administrative labor, and and that professional associations, particularly in history and literary studies, need to think about accreditation of graduate programs. A lengthy, fascinating and often heated discussion about the issue follows in the comments section afterwards. The full post is definitely worth a careful read, especially if you’re thinking about pursuing a Ph.D. right now (the discussion, while not specifically touching on the art M.F.A. or Ph.d., translates quite readily to that issue too). Related: Duncan’s conversation with James Elkins about the Art Ph.d. on Podcast Episode 191.

(Via @briansholis).

Top 5 Picks (1/15 & 1/16)

January 14, 2010 · Print This Article

Ahoy again, me mateys! Thar be arts in them thar  waters. Yarg! And for this week’s briny picks, we’ll be casting broad our ores…or something. Ok, enough of that. But really, we are a bit scattered about for this weekend’s picks. I’ll be driving my trusty Jeep round, dashing through the snow and such. Perhaps, I’ll see yo ass out there? And now…

The True and Trusty Top 5:

1. Matters at Golden

Golden Gallery has impressed me with their selection of work since they opened about a year and a half ago with my buddy Jill Frank’s work. This round looks like more of the same, in the good way. Opening this week is a solo show of Joseph Cassan. And really, anyone who can take Kleenex and a bloody Band Aid, put it together, and make me think of Caravaggio is worth a look in by book. Rock on, dear Golden Gallery.

Golden Gallery is located at 816 W. Newport. Opening reception is Friday from 6-9pm.

2. The Dog and the Wolf at Monique Meloche

I friggin’ love Laura Letinsky. ‘Nuff said. She’s having a solo show at Meloche’s joint. Go see the show.

Monique Meloche is located at 2154 W. Division St. Opening reception is Saturday from 4-7pm.

[Read more]

L.A. Museum Professionals Weigh In On Deitch as New MOCA Head

January 14, 2010 · Print This Article

Jeffrey Deitch, via Los Angeles Times.

One aspect of Jeffrey Deitch’s startling appointment to the director’s post at L.A. MoCA that’s undeniably positive: it’s shining a harsh light on the role played by glitz, commercialism, business savvy and showmanship in today’s art museum–not to mention the contemporary art world as a whole. The appointment of a commercial gallery director to this top Museum post has put the issue front-and-center, fueling a much-needed public debate that’s taking place in the art press, the blogosphere, and even among friends and colleagues just sitting around shooting the shit.  That fact alone is inspiring, even if Deitch’s appointment may, for many, represent something quite the opposite of that.

L.A. Weekly has a feature article on Deitch’s appointment that quotes Gary Garrells, former Hammer Museum chief curator and current chief curator at SFMOMA, a former MoCA curator (speaking anonymously, natch), Andy Warhol Foundation president (and ex-L.A. City Councilmember) Joel Wachs, and MoCA board chair David G. Johnson, and others on the pros and cons of Deitch-as-Director.

All of the critical quotes are provided anonymously, of course. The ex-MoCA curator, for example, had this to say about the Deitch to MoCA transition:

“I am not worried about his commercial background, and can’t really judge what sort of management skills he has, but it is his aesthetic judgment that to me is the biggest disconnect. There is no artist on his roster that MOCA would show (the only possible exception is his newest, Tauba Auerbach). His eye seemed fairly in tune in the ’80s with Koons and Basquiat, etc., but since then he has not been a reliable arbiter of what is important in recent art. Way more flash than substance.”

Read the Weekly’s full article, written by Tom Christie,  here. (Via @artwhirled).

The Strange Disappearance of the Judith Rothschild Foundation

January 13, 2010 · Print This Article

Judith Rothschild, Bar Harbor. Whiteline woodblock print. Via Artnet

If you are a contemporary art curator or historian, chances are good that you have either applied for or considered applying for a Judith Rothschild Foundation grant. Founded by Judith Rothschild, an abstract painter who died in 1993, the Foundation has until recently awarded grants to curatorial and scholarly projects that highlight the work of “under-recognized, deceased artists” with the strange provision that those artists must have died “after September 12th, 1976 and before March 7th, 2008 (15 years before the date of her will and 15 years after her death).” The Rothschild Foundation been an important, if relatively modest, funding source for professionals working on books, exhibition and archival projects that promote the work of lesser-known artists who never attained a great deal of fame in their lifetimes.

No more. The New York Times reported yesterday that the Rothschild Foundation has defaulted on all 17 of its 2009 grants — including $7,000 to include a work by Simon Gouverner in a group exhibition at Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago, and a $5,000 grant to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO, for an exhibition  of Dan Christensen’s paintings. [Read more]

Cloth Windows and Concrete Screen Doors: Two Robert Overby Sculptures On View in Chicago

January 13, 2010 · Print This Article

Not acquainted with the work of Robert Overby? Here’s a chance to start. If you live in Chicago you can currently see two stunning examples of this still under-appreciated artist’s work (which isn’t surprising, since not only did Overby die in 1993, he stopped showing his artwork in commercial contexts early on in his art career). Concrete Screen Door, 1970, now part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection, is now on view in the Modern Wing, and Two Window Wall Map, 1972 has just been installed as part of a group show of gallery artists in the back half of Rhona Hoffman Gallery in the West Loop.

Robert Overby, Concrete Screen Door

Born in 1935 in Harvey, Illinois, Overby attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in the mid-1950s and later moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a graphic designer and taught advertising and graphic design. Whereas artists like Gordon Matta Clark took a surgical approach to architectural materiality, slicing into buildings in order to unearth new and previously impossible perspectives, Overby focused on the outer layer: making latex casts of building facades and canvas “maps” of building interiors that functioned simultaneously as images and recordings. In a 2000 Freize review of Overby’s retrospective at the UCLA Hammer Museum, Charles La Belle described the artist as “specializing in a brand of corrupted (he called it ‘Baroque’) Minimalism.” Writes La Belle:

“He instilled a highly personal, poetic, and social content into what were basically reductive, process-oriented works; marrying pure materials such as rubber, lead, canvas, concrete, resin, and wood to banal objects and abject spaces. All manner of crappy, dirty, broken things formed the subject of his work: socks and handkerchiefs, shattered windows and splintered doors, bondage masks, beaver shots, coat-hangers, cans, belly-buttons, and man-hole covers all cropped up during the high point of his production in the 1970s. With his been-down-so-long-it-looks-like-up-to-me sensibility Overby wasn’t afraid to crawl in the gutter and the resultant work refused to accommodate itself to the expectations of market or spectator.”

Overby’s 2000 Hammer retrospective generated lots of attention and several follow-up exhibitions at galleries and smaller museums over the following couple of years, but for now, those who wish to learn more about Overby’s work will have to check with their local museum to see if any of this artist’s works are in its collections. Chicagoans have an opportunity to see two very good examples on public view right now; hopefully one day the Art Institute or the MCA may acquire one of Overby’s more spectacular (if such a word can be applied to this low-key grunge minimalist) latex pieces as well.

Two Window Wall Map, 1972, courtesy Rhona Hoffman Gallery