Village Voice critic Martha Schwendener, in a good piece on the state of art writing and criticism, suggests that, despite the bad economy, things are pretty good right now. “The big narrative in the art world over the last decade has been the market. Money, as you may have heard, changes everything. But now that the market is marching in lockstep with the global recession, the big question for those involved with art is: How’s it affecting you? One population, ironically, has been less affected than others, and that’s art writers: We’re at the low end of the art economy either way….The days of power critics like Clement Greenberg or Harold Rosenberg ended decades ago; writers have been eclipsed by globe-trotting curators, mega-dealers—even, in recent years, collectors. Roundtables and panel discussions have been devoted to the ‘crisis in criticism;’ recent books include titles like Critical Mess and What Happened to Art Criticism?
“But at the same moment that the old guard has been decrying the sorry state of ‘criticism’ (a contested term that’s come to mean everything from academic papers to exhibition reviews), something has been happening in art writing. While James Elkins, author of the doomsaying What Happened to Art Criticism?, claims that art criticism is ‘dying, but everywhere . . . massively produced and massively ignored,’ writers are pushing out in new directions, trying hybrid forms, and blurring the distinction between art writing and art making. And then there are the critical writings of artists themselves. These have ranged over the decades from the prickly formalist criticism of Donald Judd to the wacky manifestos of Ad Reinhardt to Agnes Martin’s poetic texts. Writing was also important for two artists whose work has set the parameters for many contemporary artists: Andy Warhol and Robert Smithson. Warhol’s obsessive cataloging in the diaries and his genre-bending and sleight-of-hand banalities in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975) feel intimately linked to Kraus’s writing, as well as to Wayne Koestenbaum’s Hotel Theory (2007) and Andy Warhol (2001) biography for the Penguin Lives series, and to the novel Reena Spaulings (2005) by the artist-collective Bernadette Corporation. Seth Price, who combines a visual art practice with writing, is perhaps the most self-conscious heir to Smithson’s delirious sci-fi-and-George-Kubler-influenced writing…” Read more.
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