The ArtSeen section of March issue of The Brooklyn Rail is guest edited by critic, artist and curator Robert Storr. Convinced that writing negative reviews is too easy, Storr asked writers to submit only positive pieces. Here's an excerpt from his introduction:
Any writer worth their salt knows how to pan someone or something. If they don’t let me direct them to Nicolas Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective wherein every major composer from Beethoven to Berlioz to Bartók is summarily trashed with readable zest by a critic of their era. Or consider the put-down as practiced by Roberta Smith, who has made it her stock in trade if not her life’s work. [Although she seems to love the Whitney Biennial this year. --ed.] Who else beside her predecessor at the New York Times, Hilton Kramer, has gotten such career mileage out of slamming artists, curators, and other critics or gained such rapt readership among the resentful and such a dubious reputation for being a “good writer” as these two peas-in-a-pod of the Great Gray Lady?
But there I go practicing that minor art myself.
...For this issue of the Rail I have challenged colleagues to attempt the difficult task of bestowing just praise on art and artists that elicit their enthusiasm, admiration, even reverence. The risks entail undermining the positive things one wishes to say by choosing the wrong words, framing the issues in the wrong context, hitting the wrong emotional chord or register and, most damagingly, misranking them as a result of hedging one’s bets through misplaced caution or, indulging in hyperbole through unbridled zeal. Meanwhile, the cost to the critic of such miscalculations is to render him or herself vulnerable to counter attack without being fully committed to the position taken. The after life of such lapses can be truly embarrassing; being dogged by the bold record of an ambivalently held view or worse publically recanting an ostensibly firm conviction...I didn't have time to submit anything this month, but here's what the other writers came up with:
JEAN DUBUFFET The Last Two Years by Valery Oisteanu
SERGEJ JENSEN Sergej Jensen by Linnea Kniaz
THOMAS SCHEIBITZ A Panoramic View of Basic Events by Jonathan Goodman
JOSEF ALBERS Paintings, Drawings, Prints by David Rhodes
FLORINE STETTHEIMER Hieroglyphs of Pleasure by Jarrett Earnest
BILL JACKLIN Recent Work, New York by David St.-Lascaux
JANET FISH Recent Paintings by Vincent Katz
UNTITLED FRIEZE FAIR 2007 Installation by Gert and Uwe Tobias by Anne Sherwood Pundyk
BOSILJKA RADITSA The Nature of Memory by William Corwin
GEORGE ORTMAN by Robert C. Morgan
MAGNUS PLESSEN by Stephanie Buhmann
PATRICK WILSON Color Space by Corina Larkin
LIU XIA The Silent Strength of Liu Xia by Charles Schultz
Image above: Philip Pearlstein, Portrait of Robert Storr, 1988, oil on canvas, 30 x 28 inches. Collection of Robert Storr and Rosamund Morley.
Robert Storr on the talk circuit: Grueling
The Art Newspaper and Robert Storr
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