NCECA’s Critical Santa Fe October 2010 Brooke Cassady Louisiana State University Breaking It Down • The players: major presenters at CSF & brief bios • The issues on the field • Moments of conflict Sterling Ruby Head Artist (Red) • Times of clarity 13 x 13.5 inches ***The images in this presentation do not correspond directly to the information on each slide, but rather represent work that was mentioned at the conference.*** Who Was There? • Academics • Collectors • Dealers • Artists …Why does it matter? Jeffry Mitchell, Some Aspects of Landscape , 1993 Glazed ceramic Three parts: 12 x 7 x 7 inches; 18 x 14 x 12 inches; 12 x 7 x 7 inches Players Within Academia • Dave Hickey - Professor of English, University of Nevada, Contributing Editor, Art in America, & 2 books of critical essays • Donald Kuspit - Author of more than 20 books on art, artists and criticism, & Professor @ SUNY Stonybrook • Raphael Rubinstein – Poet, critic, curator, Senior Editor Art in America, Visiting Professor at University of Houston, School of Visual Arts • Paul Mathieu – Faculty at Emily Carr University, artist, author, and lecturer • Glen Brown – Critic and Professor of Art History at Kansas State University • Tanya Harrod – Professor at Royal College of Art, art historian, one of Britain’s foremost critics, Co-Editor of the Journal of Modern Craft • Howard Risatti- Professor Emeritus of Contemporary Art and Critical Theory @ VCU, previously Program Director @ VCU, author of many books Players Outside Academia • Janet Koplos – Guest Editor at American Craft, former Senior Editor of Art in America, Co-Author of Makers • Roberta Smith – Senior Art Critic for the NYTimes since 1986, contributor to the Village Voice, Art in America, Vogue and Newsweek , Private Asst. to Donald Judd • Gabi Dewald - Editor Keramik Magazin Europa • Garth Clark – Dealer, collector, writer, critic, project director for numerous conferences, scholar, lecturer, author and editor of a handful of books • Robert Atkins – Former columnist at Village Voice, author of multiple art guidebooks, pioneering websites, regular contributor to Art in America Various Backgrounds and Levels of Experience Led to a Rich Conversation. ARTISTS CRITICS • Neither the academic or • Most critics can’t afford to write consumer market has a monopoly on invention. unless they are attached to an institution. • Academia--the tenured world- -can be seen as more • Should critics and artists talk comfortable, less competitive. about their art and writing. • Outside academia people’s • Part of your job is to assert reputations fluctuate more. what your critical opinion is. Artists are forced to look at the response their work gets. • Artist must be their harshest critic. George Ohr The Issues • The role of writing criticism: Who does it? For whom? How? Why? • Are there conflicts of interest in the world of critical writing? • Does ceramic criticism require new or specific terminology? • How can ceramic work critique and place itself within the greater context of the art world? • How do critics support themselves and what are the best venues for critical writing? What Is the Role of the Critic? Raphael Rubinstein • Need dialogue between artists and critics. • Originally critics were poets who often floated in the same circles as artists. • Disagrees with the “critical mess” in the past 4 years where the critic’s function was to say “good or bad” and teach and make value judgments. • Questions how do you train critics? • The focus should be how critical discourse is transmitted in the digital age. • The internet, Twitter, etc. is not only important for the power of its immediacy, but for its archival capacity. Also see his site, The SILO, a personal revisionist dictionary. Lucio Fontana, Deposizione , 1953 Roberta Smith believes it is the glazed ceramic 19-5/8 x 11-3/4 x 11 critic’s job to decide good or bad. inches Who Should Be a Critic? – Academic: specific methodology, less risk taking Kuspit disagrees, more of an open system than non academic – Non academic is capable of taking on the most risk (Clark) – Artists writing criticism need experience in writing journalism and looking at a lot of art. They need a wide awareness across all disciplines. – Can artists be critics or should that be left to art historians? Should the Critic Be Poet or Analyst? • Greenberg (mathematical) • Baudelaire, Rilke, Paul Valery (poet) • Need both • Most importantly: Should be partial, passionate, political to open up the most horizons • Contemporary poets who write about clay & ceramics: Andrew Lord James Schuyler, Marvin Bell Two modeled skulls and base 2007 (NY school) Ceramic 12 x 13 1/4 x 10 7/8" Effective Criticism… • Invokes analysis • Evokes active exchange • Is a branch of aesthetics and • Opens conversations philosophy • Is understandable but • Is a service field challenging • Is partial/subjective and • accessible and truly informed debatable • a bridge to the work of art • should lead from the • Judges and is subject to subjective to the objective judging • Is passionate • Is all around us • Political • Is valuable “if the language is • Dialectic simple or intelligible.” • Zeitgeist (Howard Risatti) • Written by makers and interpreters Methodology • Dissect the work into a trialectic authorship – Technical/practical – Theoretical/critical – Psychosocial • Mine the work for all its meaning • Reject notions of universalism • Reflexivity: the critic Viola’s Frey’s studio must be aware of subjectivity and context Considerations For Interpretation • Coherence, completeness, and correspondence • Amy Gogarty: If artists are to focus on the “new” how do they keep their work from becoming banal? • Glen Brown: interested in the anthropological and sociological approach. More apt to interpret ceramics than art historian or critic. • Howard Risatti: To present in understandable terms, the role of individual belief & circumstance. Individual belief is problematic, according to Barthes, meaning can change based on the viewer, therefore it is important to practice reflexivity. Donald Kuspit • Brimming with references (Heidegger, Adorno, etc.) • Spoke to the idea that ceramics still suffers from an inferiority complex. • Ceramics is an intimate art, how does it stand up in the world of mass media (see Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle). • Ceramics has a very important psychosocial purpose!! Sort of the opposite of the larger than life media, opposition to the mainstream, but fulfills this human need. So, You Say You Want to Write? Suggestions for getting started • Start with your own subjective response. Sort through it accordingly to connect to a greater objective awareness. • Remember writing should give pleasure. • Criticism helps people begin to get in touch with their own critical instrument. • To develop as a critic learn to trust instincts and start using them. • You can’t look at enough art. • Everyone is constantly looking; constantly evaluating good, George Ohr bad and different. • Everything in this world has visual intelligence, visual IQ. • Everything around you is an opportunity for judgment: How well something has been done, could it have been done better? So, You Say You Want to Write? There’s no money in it….are you sure? What is your job? What options are there for becoming a • Remember artists do not own critic? the meaning of their work. • Artist as critic? Some artists write • Your main audience is not artists. fantastic criticism. • What you are telling artists is • Some people segue in and out of it. how their work is received in the • Some do it primarily, Roberta makes her world. living at it. • The artist can disagree or claim • Biggest problem is that you can’t get paid dissatisfaction with the reaction for it. of the critic. They can take that • Criticism is a demonstration of your information and say “This is not experience for an audience. A big part of the reaction I want. How can I that experience is your judgment. affect this? What am I doing and • A critic’s job is to get others to realize what can I do effectively?” their own critical abilities. Everyone makes judgments all the time. We judge music, TV, jokes, etc. with comfort and ease. “Criticism” vs. “Critical Theory” vs. “Critical Thinking” • Criticism = end product • “Critical thinking is what the embodied mind does, it is what we do, but not what we are for. We do this everyday, if we are not in a state encumbered by critical theory.” Roberta Smith • Critical thinking = Everyone thinks critically, no need for special education, you have eyes, interest, and curiosity--education can do nothing without this. • Guy Brett – ”Can’t we have a discipline that is not taught?” • Gabi Dewald – ” We don’t have to be taught to think or to make art, this is what we do.” • “We don’t need another language, we have enough words and a body to think with” Janet Koplos video drawing printmaking ceramics painting fiber Art world ceramic sculpture photography performance jewelry vessels sculpture pottery Criticism in ceramics lacks the dialogue there is in the art world. Ceramics tends to be somewhat insular. Do other art mediums exist in isolation as well? photography drawing printmakin ceramics g sculpture fiber painting video jewelry video printmakin drawing jewelry g painting drawing Art world sculpture ceramics fiber jewelry ceramics photography fiber printmakin video g photography sculpture painting Instead of comparing and contrasting ceramics within its own field based on material and process, how can we look critically at ceramic work within the greater art world? Shouldn’t concept be a major part? SOCIAL ROLE OF ART Roberta Smith • “Art is something that can’t set out to do that.” • Art has “No social responsibility except to be good…what it does socially…it teaches humans their capacity, learning capacity, you learn to be a better human and to have a better life. Art is nutritional, sustenance, a revelation, food, you have to have it. Like sex it teaches you about yourself and it enables you to be in the world in a fuller way. [This is] part of the tragedy of America right now—a nation in which the majority of people have very little idea of their capacity for feeling, for generosity, for creativity. Part of that is that they are very cut off from culture; they are afraid of art; they don’t read books. Art is a tool for living, but in a very complicated way. It can point out problems.” • “Political art is an effective form of communication, may not be an effective form of art, because it is ephemeral, speaks to the moment. The art we love has been effective for a long time, it has held up.” What/Where to read more? Publications and their mission(s) • Studio Potter - lifestyle magazine, written for free by artists within an intimate community of ceramics • American Ceramics - art model, critical bent, more about formal quality, subjective, persuasive, etc…later changed with new editor, in 80s more of coffee table book to support growing economy of collectors. In 2005 became design focused under Andrew Wagner • Ceramics Art and Perception - multicultural, international archive, containing careful criticism, no grand statements • Ceramics Monthly - ceramic boom after WWII, to address popularity in field, very little evaluations, mostly discuss artists and techniques • “There is no place to publish criticism.” – Dave Hickey Issues With Publications • Be aware of who is writing. • Who is their audience? • What is the agenda of the writer or publication? • The difficulty to support yourself presents why it is clear that publications often have artists writing articles about their friends—articles that are mostly positive and complimentary and lack strong or even evaluative criticism. These articles contain mostly descriptions of the work, the artist’s bio, an interesting story about that person, possibly a story about the process….but very little formal analysis of the work. Things That Make You Go “Hmmm…” • Dave Hickey- “[the] object persists, unlike journalism, the writing becomes attached to the object.” • Garth was told at Royal Academy that ceramics is not art - he didn’t agree, but he still believes ceramicists are treated as the underdogs of art world, a position that Kuspit believes holds ceramics back. • Tanya is supportive of craft. It keeps you on your toes and is redefined in the post-industrial world. • Donald Kuspit - Art can be written about, it is not incommunicable. The visual has never stood by itself, verbal and visual have always existed together. • Garth writes for the act of sharing. It is how he learns. He rarely writes about something he knows about and takes the reader on his journey of learning. • Janet writes criticism to look and learn better. Artists & Shows of Mention • Dirt on Delight, ICA, Philadelphia, NCECA 2009 • Undone: Making and Unmaking in Contemporary Sculpture, 2010 - 2011, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds • Andrew Lord • Sterling Ruby • Ken Price • Viola Frey • George Ohr Ken Price Andrew Lord Between My Hands to Water Falling selected works from 1990 to 2010 Installation, 2010. Courtesy Santa Monica Museum of Art. Photo: Douglas M. Parker Studio Artist Who Use the History of the Medium Consciously: • Ai Wei Wei publicly criticizes ceramics, particularly its representation of China, through his work. • Judy Chicago researched the role of the object and related ideas of domesticity, dishes and the home. • Grayson Perry uses a performative role of transvestite and images of child abuse on traditional forms to address social concerns. • Work that is very empathetic to fine arts • More often found in Europe than in US? Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party 1974-79 The Dinner Party (Hypatia place setting) Combining Feminist concerns, historical imagery , craft and ceramics. Ai Wei Wei Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo, 1994 Grayson Perry Turner Prize Winner 2003 Perry addresses social and personal matters through his surface decoration of traditional vessel shapes. Here he is seen dressed up as his transvestite alter-ego, Claire. Suggested Reading The State of Art Criticism James Elkins and Michael Newsome Personal Highlights at Critical Santa Fe • Discussing conference topics during outbreak sessions during lunch and in the evenings with other participants who were frustrated with the dialogue. The frustration compelled us to discuss the issues further. Perhaps discussion in smaller groups would have been more productive? • Small group critique at the Jane Sauer Gallery looking at Adrian Arleo’s and Irina Zaytceva’s work. - a handful of perspectives including "SPECCHIO" those from Ferrin Gallery, Janet Adrian Arleo Koplos, Elaine Smith, Sherman Clay, glaze, wax encaustic, gold leaf Hall, and many more! 14" x 20 1/2" x 5 1/4" "APIARY TWINS" Adrian Arleo Clay, glaze, wax encaustic 21 1/2" x 20" x 15" Presentation of the work and how that influences meaning. Is this work meant to be viewed in gallery setting? What response would it elicit if viewed in nature? Richard Notkin – Tile Installation Contextual use of imagery, scale, & craft. If some of the tiles can be purchased separately what is the best way to display them? "MERBOY" Box, Irina Zaytceva Handbuilt porcelain, overglaze painting, 24k gold luster 7" x 6 1/2" x 2 3/4" Sergei Isupov, "Shine", teapot, 8 x 10 x 7", 1997. What is the role of the critic in writing about authorship of an art work? Is there concern or mention of an artist’s aesthetic sensibilities if they are similar to those of another artist? Polemics In Ceramics and at Critical Santa Fe • Critic as poet, art historian, or artist? • Who’s writing is valid? • Who should and should not play role of critic? Conflict of interests? • Labels: “Ceramic Art” vs. “Pottery” vs. “Ceramic Sculpture” vs. “Sculpture” • When do these terms serve us well? One of the Pertinent Issues That Was Talked Around and Would Have Been Helpful to Speak to Directly: • How can we effectively create a basis for critical writing that addresses core issues in the work? • Avoid labeling • Spend less time discussing technique and artist’s biography and attend to the core issues in evaluating artwork: – Formal qualities – Conceptual basis – Reason for use of material – The subjective response elicited – Context - How well can it be placed in terms of ceramic and broader art history or contemporary movements?