Critical Santa Fe by wuxiangyu


Santa Fe
October 2010

               Brooke Cassady
               Louisiana State
                    Breaking It Down
                                            • The players: major
                                              presenters at CSF &
                                              brief bios
                                            • The issues on the
                                            • 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
                    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
• Glen Brown – Critic and Professor of Art History at Kansas State
• 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
• 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
                 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
• 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
              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
  (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
• Dissect the work into a
  trialectic authorship
   – Technical/practical
   – Theoretical/critical
   – Psychosocial
• Mine the work for all
  its meaning
• Reject notions of
• Reflexivity: the critic
                            Viola’s Frey’s studio
  must be aware of
  subjectivity and
            Considerations For
• 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,
• 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
• To develop as a critic learn to
  trust instincts and start using
• 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
  “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

                                         Art world
sculpture                photography


            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
                               photography    drawing
                            sculpture                          fiber
                                                    video        printmakin
                  jewelry                                             g
                     painting                drawing
                                     Art world             sculpture
                 ceramics          fiber                               jewelry
                              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
• “There is no place to publish criticism.” – Dave
         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
• 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,
• 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
• 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)

                   Feminist concerns,
                   historical imagery ,
                   craft and
                              Ai Wei Wei
Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995

                                    Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo,
                    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.

The State
 of Art

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"
    Adrian Arleo
  Clay, glaze, wax encaustic
           21 1/2" x 20" x 15"

      Presentation of
         the work and
                how that
      meaning. Is this
    work meant to be
     viewed in gallery
        setting? What
    response would it
     elicit if viewed in
 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
"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
           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
   –   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?

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