August 23, 2008

Plagens novel: It's just fiction

Peter Plagens, painter and longtime art critic for Newsweek magazine, has written The Art Critic, a novel which will be published on artnet. According to Regina Hackett, it's being published in serial form, one chapter a week for 24 weeks. If you see yourself in any of the characters, remember that, as my husband's bestselling tell-all-novelist ex-girlfriend is fond of repeating, " It's just fiction!"

Chapter One:
"Arthur’s recent but rising dyspepsia concerning what he was seeing in the galleries owed mostly to his feeling old and increasingly out of touch with the postmodern art world. He wasn’t that square; he genuinely liked modern art, especially abstract art, all the way up to and including Minimalism. High-end formalism was king o’ the hill back when he was a graduate art history student. Nowadays, Arthur complained constantly (but mostly inwardly): all that goddamned storytelling art that had put him to sleep during any number of slide lectures slipped -- albeit morphed into PC agitprop -- back into fashion at about the same time he’d become a professional art critic. And it had only gotten more pervasive since.

"Worse, all those current artists who indulged themselves in actual words -- paintings with words in them, 'photo-text pieces,' video works stuffed with dialogue, and other works requiring more didactic printed material slapped up on the walls than you’d find in a science museum -- weren’t the worst of it; the sin of language was a misdemeanor compared with whole nihilistic roomfuls of abject detritus, installations with more electronic equipment than an arena concert, and hugely expensive wannabe architecture in which designer drugs were somewhat mitigated by the assistance of a structural engineer. Although the artists boasted in the accompanying press material that the art -- what a big tent 'art' was now! -- 'forces the viewer to confront' some geopolitical issue or another, the local stuff, at least, seemed to be made by upper-middle-class kids who could afford the tuition for a Master of Fine Arts degree and then a studio in some rapidly gentrifying quarter of Brooklyn. The bar for 'oppression' had apparently been lowered to anybody looking cross-eyed at them on the subway. Between the lines, so to speak, their art told whiney stories about putative victimhoods, or self-congratulatory stories about their empathy for other people’s misfortunes. And they didn’t want their messages to be confined to mere galleries, either. You could feel them looking toward wider, more glamorous horizons. 'Face it,' the film critic at the newsweekly where Arthur plied his trade had once said to him when he took her along to a couple of exhibitions, 'they all want to direct.'" Read more.

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