Art Critic Carol Diehl, in her recent post Observation on Observation , has written an excellent essay about the importance of writers talking about the art itself, and not getting distracted by outside BS. Here is a clip:
"Interpreters of art seem unable to deal with the object itself and
instead rely on externals, often having to do with the artist’s
“intention” or political bent or, when dealing with artists like Luc Tuymans or Josh Smith,
how their work represents some kind of reaction to the history of
painting. But it’s really simple. The work is the work, no matter who
did it, when s/he did it, or why s/he did it. Biographical information,
such as the fact that Richard Serra
had day jobs in steel mills is worth noting if trying to determine how
he arrived at his format, but the work itself, that big thing made of
metal, is something else entirely. What does it convey or express?
Nothing. What are its “psychological dimensions?” None."
and most importantly:
"it’s through being forced to describe something that I learn what it is and what I really think about it."
I often get into arguements with my freinds about the quality of talks by (or about artists). My complaint usually stems from not hearing about the artwork, literally. Talking about "ideas, implications, etc…" may be ok for background, but not when this replaces talking about the facts of the physical thing.
When people avoid "description," they are saying that visuality is not important. Or that it gains importance only in relationship to something else. I understand art as "idea," but when divorced from actual "object," this concept becomes meaningless.
Don’t be afraid to describe artwork, and talk about it’s visual properties. These are inherently valuable/interesting. It is always infuriating see a presentation of art, and only hear about "identity politics." It’s like saying art classes are valuable because they somehow improve test scores on Math.