Dear Tamara, and other letters about art

This month, Raphael Rubinstein is the guest editor of the Rail’s ArtSeen section. Citing letters from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, and the letters that Samuel
Beckett wrote to Georges Duthuit about Bram van Velde’s paintings, Rubinstein asked contributors to write a letter.

Perhaps the most important difference between a conventional exhibition
review and a “letter review” is that a letter implies a response, or at
least the hope for an answer; it is not the last word on a subject, but
the opening of a dialogue.  Lately, as an art critic it has, at times, seemed hard to know who you
are writing for, hard to visualize the audience that is, you hope,
engaged by your writing. And if you don’t know who your readers are,
it’s hard to instigate a productive conversation with them. My desire
with this experiment is to stress the necessary bond between writers and
readers, and to encourage direct relationships between potential
correspondents not via fleeting, truncated messages within a
commercialized network of “friends” but through an altogether different
kind of posting. As Paul Chan has recently observed (in a piece about
his staging of Beckett’s Godot in New Orleans), “a voice that desires a reply sounds different than an echo that wants attention.”

I wrote a fan letter to Tamara Gonzales, who has a show up at Norte Maar through April 29. Rereading it, I realize I probably should have spent a little more time editing (“warmth and fullness?” hmm..not quite right), but I think that’s the nature of letters. Here’s an excerpt.

Dear Tamara,

The other day, when I came out of the C-Town at Wyckoff and Dekalb, I
saw a woman wearing beige leggings made of polyester lace that featured a
big repeating flower pattern, and I thought of your paintings. I’ve
seen your work around for a while—in group shows at Janet Kurnatowski
and the Dependent Art Fair—and most recently took in your solo show at
Norte Maar in Bushwick. As poet Elizabeth Bishop suggested in a letter
to James Merrill after reading his 1954 book, Short Stories, perhaps rather than offering any kind of criticism, I should simply say thank you.Read more

 Tamara Gonzales, installation views.

And here are links to all the letters:

A LETTER TO PHILIP GUSTON from David Rhodes
by David Rhodes
A LETTER TO MARTIN MULLIN from Carter Ratcliff
by Carter Ratcliff
A LETTER TO CINDY SHERMAN from Christopher Stackhouse
by Christopher Stackhouse
A LETTER TO MOIRA DRYER from David Rhodes
by David Rhodes
 SONIA ALMEIDA The Angle of the Sun’s Rays
by Joan Waltemath
JESUS RAFAEL SOTO Soto: Paris and Beyond 1950–1970
by Robert C. Morgan
TAMARA GONZALES Untitled, An Exhibition of New Paintings
by Sharon Butler
A LETTER TO BRYAN OSBURN from Trevor Winkfield
by Trevor Winkfield
DJUNA BARNES Newspaper Fiction: The New York Journalism of Djuna Barnes, 1913 – 1919
by Joseph Klarl
LIONEL MAUNZ Receipt of Malice
by Charles Schultz
A LETTER TO ROBERT SMITHSON from Greg Lindquist
by Greg Lindquist
A LETTER TO RAPHAEL RUBINSTEIN from Daniel Wiener
by Daniel Wiener
JOHN EVANS John Evans: 1984
by Valery Oisteanu
MICHIEL CEULERS Des Malentendus et le temps perdu
by Jonathan Goodman
MISSIVE TO FRANK O’HARA from Vincent Katz
by Vincent Katz
WILLIAM ANTHONY Ironic Icons II
by Dan Tarnowski 
HAPPENINGS: New York 1958–1963
by Kara L. Rooney
THEO A. ROSENBLUM & CHELSEA SELTZER Two Heads are Better than One
by Gail Quagliata
ALEX BAG AND PATTERSON BECKWITH Cash from Chaos / Unicorns & Rainbows
by Eve Perry

——-


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