Chicago Artist Writers hosted a workshop with Lori Waxman at Gallery 400 on March 14, 2013. The following is an attempt to collect some of the many illuminating moments of her two-hour lecture and Q&A session.
â€œToday Iâ€™m going to talk about a lot of forms of art criticism that donâ€™t actually exist — yet.â€
Lori Waxman has her feet in two critical worlds. As a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune, she takes on the role of a traditional art critic: she has a large audience, keeps her distance from the artist and organizers of the exhibitions she covers, and maintains an objective viewpoint. In contrast, her personal project 60 Wrd/Min Art Critic takes a more experimental approach. Â The public is invited to come with their work for a review written by Lori live, in person, with a secondary monitor displaying her writing process as it evolves. The project has been featured numerous times domestically and most recently at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany.
Lori posited that criticism has largely not changed much since its first appearance with Diderotâ€™s reviews of the Paris Salon of 1765, and the writing that we see in major outlets like the Tribune or Artforum holds the same basic values of that style to this day. This default approach to art criticism doesn’t reflect the drastic changes in art and technologyâ€™s influence on the contemporary conversation as much as it could.
She used Documenta as a case in pointâ€“-it embodied a sprawling, time-intensive experience for the viewer, and the critical responses to it suffered as their structuring was inadequate to cover the exhibitionâ€™s curatorial conceits. Critics who were only able to visit 3-5 days and print 1000 words were ill equipped to critique the event in its totality. â€œWho goes to NYC for a weekend, and tries to see everything, and if they canâ€™t, itâ€™s New Yorkâ€™s fault?â€ Lori asked. She used Dieter Roelstraeteâ€™s review of the Documenta in Artforum as one example; one of his main critiques was that it had too much going on. Similarly, Roberta Smithâ€™s review in the New York Times was schizophrenic, unable to deal with the scope of the massive three-month undertaking. Lori suggested that despite the stubborn precedent of â€œobjective distanceâ€ in traditional criticism, she herself might be the best critic of Documenta, having spent her entire summer there.
Platforms for alternatives to the traditional model exist in small handfuls but some are promising. Lori noted that online versions of specialty magazines like Artforum fail to leverage the malleability of the web and stick to the values and format of their print counterparts. Websites like hyperallergic, the former artnet.com, and temporaryartreview.com (which covers cities off the major art map) may increase turnaround time and coverage of lesser-known projects, but again resist transforming the dynamic of the critical approach itself. Â Triple Canopy is a capable platform, for not only its scholarship but, in the case of Davidâ€™s Levineâ€™s take on the dissolution of the Rothko estate, its willingness to embrace an insiderâ€™s view at the sacrifice of traditional objectivity. Â Art Fag City features critical writing but is bolstered most importantly by the active comments sections as a new center of gravity in critical writing. Â This very blog (the Bad at Sports blog) also embraces the more diaristic, personality-driven, multi-tangential style of critical reflection over objectively toned assessment. Â In the early 2000s, Lori contributed to Fucking Good Art, a feverishly produced zine spearheaded by Pedro Velez and Michael Bulka. Critics would go out to openings, type up reviews as soon as they were sober (or not), and photocopy and distribute the zine for free the next day. The reviews, sometimes nasty and anonymous, were the main way apartment spaces were getting critical feedback.
Lori wondered if models like Facebook and Twitter could be used seriously as venues for criticism instead of flippantly; these platforms have a multi-directionality that could support a more nimble and relevant conversation to artwork being produced. Â In addition, their immediacy has the potential to be paradigm shifting–what happens if something is written in front of/within the work? â€œGonzoâ€ reviews — long form, unedited stream of consciousness reviews — also have yet to be fully realized in art criticism.
Perhaps criticism that leans towards more relational and embodied writing is called for by today’s art practices. Â Lori suggested â€œembedded criticismâ€ â€“ a term borrowed from journalism, in which journalists are â€œembeddedâ€ with soldiers â€“ as a term for art writing that celebrates, rather than discourages, the subjective experience in order to strike a critical observation. In her piece Practicing Trio A in the Spring 2012 issue of October, Julia Brian Wilson spoke about taking a class with Yvonne Rainer in which she learned how to perform Rainerâ€™s seminal The Mind Is a Muscle, Part I (Trio A) from 1973, and how this direct involvement in the piece changed her mind about it. Hannah Higgins is well known as a scholar and writer about Fluxus in part because of her upbringing in a canonical Fluxus household; her embeddedness creates a unique opportunity for scholarship and complexity. Â Later, during the Q&A, an audience member suggested Kathy Acker as an additional example of someone who writes about artwork while having a close relationship to it.
Art writing authored from a fictional perspective or persona is another area ripe for exploration. Lynn Tillman has written fiction at the artist’s request (perhaps skewing its definition as “criticism,” but an example of a new form of art writing nonetheless). Her short story â€œMadame Realism Lies Hereâ€ from 2002 is composed from the perspective of a woman who dreams she has turned into a Jeff Koons sculpture, experiencing life in a weird and grotesque way that mimics Koons’ work. Tillmanâ€™s series TV Tales about Barbara Kruger from 1976 also is another example. As well, we can look to novelists: Gertrude Stein wrote in a “cubist” style, coming out of a deep experience with cubist painting. This kind of art writing acts as an analog to the work itself. Stein’s unique, unexpected way of using language sidesteps â€œInternational Art Englishâ€ altogether: it doesn’t even require a dictionary. One can hold up a piece of hers in front of a painting and see how they work together. The Family Fang, a novel by Kevin Wilson, consists of a fictional narrative about a family of performance artists. Philadelphia artist Jayson Mussonâ€™s satirical comedy as Hennessy Youngman occasionally offers thoughtful and to the point responses to art, although Lori noted that Youngman can be surprisingly conservative â€“ here she reminded us that a new form doesnâ€™t necessarily mean a radical idea, as form and content are extricable. But an outside-the-art-world persona like Mussonâ€™s can make it easier to call the emperor naked. Another example brought up by the audience was artist Sean Joseph Patrick Carney, who produced a collection of erotic fiction about James Franco.
Lori stressed that to write about museums and commercial galleries is to write about art that has already been filtered and processed, versus writing about experimental spaces showing lesser-known artists who have yet to be critically acknowledged. When writing about the latter spaces, one should remember that criticism of ephemeral or emerging practices may be the only record that exists, and so one must be intentional as his or her writing will eventually become historical fact. â€œSome dogged art historian in 20 years will rely on these reviews, and they will quote [them]; and if you got it wrong and weird, theyâ€™re going to think thatâ€™s what happened.â€ For this reason, she also suggested inventing a way to respond to a work instead of writing something explicitly negative.
Television shows such as Work of Art and School of Saatchi, whether we like them or not, are emergent examples of new forms of art criticism. Â While only persisting for four episodes, BBCâ€™s School of Saatchi featured six artists, asked them to make interesting commissions, and gave them a decent amount of time and money to do so. The show rendered the actual process of making contemporary art transparent, â€œand was surprisingly accessible and intelligent.â€ After the work is completed, a good fifteen minutes of each hour-long show is devoted to serious discussion of the artwork that is then communicated to the artists. The judgesâ€™ remarks are often off the cuff and funny, speaking with authority but sometimes contradicting one another. Their multiple voices created a critical environment similar to a class critique. Bravoâ€™s Work of Art, in contrast, equated art with other subjects like cooking or getting married. Artists were given $100 and 24 hours to make a series of asinine projects. Notable, however, was the involvement of Jerry Saltz, the most recognizable critic in the U.S. Â Most of the criticism on the show was demeaning, puerile, dumb and one-liner; criticism was consistently of the lowest-common-denominator variety. Yet, Lori said, Work of Art nevertheless represents one of the ways that art is being thought about today by the general publicâ€”and perhaps even some parts of the art world; this show is part of the publicâ€™s access to the art world, and it is sadly misrepresentative.
Some of Loriâ€™s more experimental ideasâ€”stolen, she willingly admitted, from her students at SAICâ€”included gif criticism (what can a gif do that words canâ€™t?) or criticism using image combinations (like on tumblr). During the Q&A, the audience pitched in: we suggested hyperlink criticism â€“ a review composed entirely of links, in line with the ways we read, think and click; another participant proposed a review composed over Skype, where one person views the exhibition at home, one in the museum, highlighting the differences; or a (live/recorded) performance positioned as a review. Does criticism need to be site specific to the work â€“ like the precedent of dances that directly respond to artwork?
If criticism can be art and vice versa, how can one be sure these forms donâ€™t stray too close to art and too far from criticism? Where is that line placed and is it important? Lori pointed out that studio experience might be valuable for a critic, â€œand who thinks criticism is so objective anyway?â€ 60 Wrd/Min Art Critic attempts to take some of the agency that the art critic normally assumes away, and to see what happens when itâ€™s given to the artist him or herself. The agency Lori gives up is the ability to choose who and what she writes about. But if this critical agency we assume is important is taken away from the critic, can something of substance still materialize? What happens if criticism is available for the asking? Is it still interesting, critical?
Another participant asked Lori about What Happened to Art Criticism, the 2003 panel discussion and book in which Jim Elkins and others complained that the majority of art criticism being written today is “descriptive.” Lori responded that she believes there’s no such thing as a truly factual description” of something. She pointed out that one can’t recreate a painting backwards from a description, no matter how detailed or “straightforward” it is. A good piece of description, she noted, can do “almost anything.” One can’t have criticism without description; and in shorter lengths, these combinations can be powerful — look at the New Yorker’s 100 word reviews of exhibitions in the Goings On section.
An audience member asked if art history helps or hurts art criticism. “If you love October, you should stay in art history and not try to be an art critic,” Lori responded. Most critics come from art, not art history, and there’s “plenty to make of that, in terms of experience and commitment.” She relayed the under-discussed fact that most of the notable art critics working today do not have art history degrees. Peter Schjeldahl started out as a poet; Saltz was a painter and truck driver; Robert Storr and Matthew Collings trained as painters.
How about artists criticizing their own artwork as an interesting new form of art criticism? Lori responded with an anecdote from her husband, the artist Michael Rakowitz, who had recently been part of a discussion in which the moderator complained afterward that the panelâ€™s artists hadnâ€™t talked more about their work’s problems. Her husband countered that he didn’t know of a professional artist who would do that, that it’s not their job: let the critics take issue, and the artists deal with the problems in their own way. One takeaway for us is that the space for self-criticism in between the artist statement and the art review is ripe for experimentation.
We left thinking about the burgeoning potency of crowd-sourced criticism.Â Mimicking the current form of value-production bolstered by the Internet, where value is dispersed into tallies, â€œaggregate,â€ rhizomatic or crowd-sourced criticism may be starting to replace the good old New York Times review. One audience member wondered if all types of feedback to an artwork could be located in a single place, including documentation, short and long reviews, responses on Twitter, Facebook, etc.? Although Google might seem good for this on its own, it isn’t organized: someone should take advantage of this opportunity for a new start-up.
We found this sentiment the driving force of Loriâ€™s presentationâ€“an implicit and collective call to action:
â€œTechnology has changed and art has changed, and that should be radically impacting the kind of art criticism that we write, how it gets published, how it gets received and who we write it for, and how it gets commented on.â€
Chicago Artist Writers is a platform that asks young studio artists and art workers to write traditional and experimental criticism that serves under-represented arts programming in Chicago. CAW was founded by Jason Lazarus and Sofia Leiby in 2012. This is our first guest post on Bad at Sports.Â www.chicagoartistwriters.com
Click here to download an mp3 of Loriâ€™s lecture.
A graphic, editorial overview of art, artists, and visual art events, found in and around Chicago over the course of the preceding month. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.
Daniel Shea @ Gallery 400
Above: Daniel Shea with his photography in Gallery 400, as seen on April 13, 2013, at the closing of UIC’s third MFA exhibition.
Above: Christopher Ottinger, background, at the opening reception, his uncovered, kinetic light art seen rotating in the foreground.
April 12 – May 2, 2013
Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition
217 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607 http://chicagoartistscoalition.org/
Lossless @ Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition
Above: Matthew Schlagbaum’s kinetic light installation visible within its smoked vitrine housing.
April 12 – May 2, 2013
HATCH Projects Residency
Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition
217 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by MK Meador
Artwork by Jordan Martins, Matthew Schlagbaum and Theodore Darst http://chicagoartistscoalition.org/
The Wail of Silence @ ROOMS Gallery
Above: Alex de Leon lifts her veil in “Ritual No. 4 – Toll of Eyes,” a three-hour performance, 7:00-10:00 PM, March 8, 2013.
Above: “Psychosexual” curator Scott Hunter in the foreground, with artwork, left-to-right, by Nazafarin Lotfi, John Neff, and Peter Otto, visible in the background.
Above: Artwork by Peter Otto, Rachel Niffenegger, and Brenna Youngblood, seen left-to-right in Andrew Rafacz Gallery.
April 6 – May 25, 2013
Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
Curated by Scott J. Hunter
Artwork by Lutz Bacher, Tom Burr, Edmund Chia, Matthias Dornfeld, Jayson Keeling, Jutta Koether, Nazafarin Lotfi, Jeffry Mitchell, John Neff, Rachel Niffenegger, Peter Otto, Kirsten Stoltmann, and Brenna Youngblood http://www.andrewrafacz.com/
Lauren Edwards & Kera MacKenzie @ ACRE Projects
Above: Lauren Edwards and Kera MacKenzie, participants in UIC’s first MFA exhibition of 2013, seen within their subsequent show at ACRE Projects’ home site in Pilsen.
Lauren Edwards & Kera MacKenzie
“Burden of Proof”
April 14 – 28, 2013
1913 W. 17th St.
Chicago, IL 60608 http://www.acreresidency.org/
Michael Ian Larsen @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM
Michael Ian Larsen
“The Tree, the Gift, and the Amphibian”
March 10 – April 7, 2013
3311 W. Carroll Avenue, #119
Chicago, IL 60624 http://www.peregrineprogram.com/
Tina Tahir @ Gallery 400
Above: Tina Tahir at her closing reception with the installation “41.876503,-87.649666,” an ornamental ‘rug’ made of ash and magnetite mineral, whose title provides its GPS co-ordinates. Intentionally made available to foot traffic throughout the course of the exhibition, said piece is shown disturbed from its original state.
“A strange house in my voice.”
2013 UIC Art MFA Thesis Exhibition 2
April 2 â€“ April 6, 2013
College of Architecture and the Arts
University of Illinois at Chicago
400 S. Peoria St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Artwork by Cameron Gibson, Ben Murray, and Tina Tahir http://www.tinatahir.com/
Laura Wennstrom @ The Peanut Gallery
Above: Gallery patron interacts with Wennstrom’s “Block City” during the opening reception; cameras hang ready to document the action.
Jesse Butcher & Anthony Romero
“Cyclical, Circular. Like Vultures.”
April 6 – 27, 2013
Happy Collaborationists, in partnership with ACRE Residency
1254 N Noble
Chicago IL, 60642 http://happycollaborationists.com/
Michael Robinson @ Carrie Secrist
“Circle Spectre Paper Flame”
April 6 – May 11, 2013
Carrie Secrist Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607 http://www.secristgallery.com/
Above: A Co-Prosperity School student’s presentation on March 18, 2013.
Above: “The Index for an Encylopedia” by Daniel Rosen
Above: “Smell.RB.MFA 2013″ by Maymay Jumsai
University of Chicago MFA Show 1
April 5 – 14, 2013
Logan Center Gallery
915 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637 http://arts.uchicago.edu/
Christopher Meerdo @ Document
March 15 â€“ April 20, 2013
845 W. Washington Blvd. Suite 3f
Chicago IL 60607 http://christophermeerdo.com/
Juneer Kibria @ The Sub-Mission
Above: Juneer Kibria in his installation, opening night.
March 8 â€“ April 20, 2013
The Mission (The Sub-Mission)
1431 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642 http://themissionprojects.com/
Rebecca Beachy @ Iceberg Projects
Above: An audience member views “Warm (bed)” through a rectangular aperture just above the floor; 109 dozen factory-farmed eggs, ground, lit by heat lamps, lie within the piece.
Above: Iceberg Projects proprietor Dan Berger within the gallery space on June 23, 2012
March 10 -April 1, 2013
7714 N. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60626
Artwork by Rebecca Beachy and Walker Blackwell http://icebergchicago.com/home.html
Lisa Walcott @ threewalls
“Pretty Good Shape”
Artists in Research – Residency
(Closed on March 21, 2013)
119 N. Peoria #2c
Chicago, IL http://www.three-walls.org/
Paul Germanos: Born November 30, 1967, Cook County, Illinois. Immigrant grandparents, NYC. High school cross country numerals and track letter. Certified by the State of Illinois as a peace officer. Licensed by the City of Chicago as a taxi driver. Attended the School of the Art Institute 1987-1989. Studied the history of political philosophy with the students of Leo Strauss from 2000-2005. Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Motorcyclist.
Following a preview launch at the closing of 24hours/25days at New Capital, Forever and Always, the joint curatorial venture of Billy Joyce and Brook Sinkinson Withrow debuted at their Pilsen location last Friday night with a screening of Dreamgirl by Sarah Condo work and a musical performance by Younger.
Forever and Always curators Joyce and Withrow by Matthew Joynt
While the Forever and Always main focus is on programming (they have a lecture by Willy Smart scheduled for March 5th), the space features an ongoing “exhibition” of artwork as well. Whether or not this is a clever ploy to decorate the curators’ apartment remains unclear.
“Its not like someone is trying to hide that it’s an apartment. The art is just where it is. It’s like a return to not giving a shit.” – unnamed source (Michael Kloss)
They Won’t Roll Themselves
Can’t get enough irreverent internet in your tumblr digest? Is The Jogging becoming too relevant for your taste? Enter #NYCartlife. Just a couple SAIC to NYC transplants and their NY Advanced Painting analogs posting selfies and bad art history jokes. #thankmelaterorneveritscool
At last weeks opening for #WITH at ACRE Projects, exhibiting artist, Kristina Paabus, introduced What’s the T? to “#SOYEAHDUH” and we are forever grateful. After doing a little researchWTT? learned the blog was created by Wicker Park’s Lisa Frame. Frame is also the creator of “Mugshot-Monday,” which is unfortunately just a bunch of people and their coffee cups.
The legislation furthermore provides this blogger with the perfect context in which to repost the recent Temporary Alliegance flag by h.melt. The installation of the flag pole outside of UIC was concieved by Philip von Zweck and functions as an opportunity for others to exercise freedom of expression.
After slamming several prominent galleries, curators and artists in his article “Friends Curating Friends” for New City, local art critic and curmudgeon, Pedro Velez, took to Facebook last week to gloat over his own accomplishments of curating exhibitions and making artists cry while simultaneously chastising more victims.
LVL3 was unharmed.
Velez’s heart failed to grow three sizes that day.
Terry Myers offeres one of the most not-crazy responses to Velez’s article on the illustrious and longwinded Foumberg thread:
What could Nadar have been thinking when he offered his photography studio for his friends to have their first show in Paris? And what about the activities of all of those friends at the Cabaret Voltaire? Not to mention that pointless “Freeze” show in London. Shocking, but thankfully none of these artists had to call themselves curators.
Terry R Myers
February 5 at 1:28pm (7 likes)
All images taken during the opening of the The Couples show at Heaven Gallery last Friday night, unless obviously from @richforever.
Thorne Brandt & Lindsey Regatta
LVL3 turns 3.
Gallery finally lives up to its name
LVL3 is turning three(3) years old and to celebrate, curators and co-directors, Vincent Uribe and Allison Kilberg, are showing five artists who have been with them from the beginning: Michael Hunter, Paul Kenneth, Easton Miller, Liz Nielsen, and Kate Steciw.