Art Dirt: Why Texas Needs Art Criticism

by Glasstire September 1, 2019
Art Historian Bernard Berenson

Art historian Bernard Berenson

In this Art Dirt podcast, Brandon Zech and Christina Rees talk about how art criticism functions today.

“Art writing has veered in two or three different directions away from what feels like honest and rigorous and thoughtful criticism; it’s become lifestyle writing.”

To play the podcast, click on the orange play button below. You can also listen to it here. You can also subscribe to Glasstire on Apple Podcasts.


Related Reading:
Glasstire Opens Call for Its 2019 Art Writing Prize
Why We Need Art Writers Now (More Than Ever)
Glasstire and Negative Criticism in Texas
What Is Art Criticism, And Why Do We Need It?
Rainey Knudson’s Farewell Lecture
FROM METAPHYSICS TO INVECTIVE: Art Criticism as if it Still Matters


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Matthew Bourbon September 1, 2019 - 12:32

Great conversation. Thanks for taking on this topic.

Todd Camplin September 2, 2019 - 13:52

You talked about how young artists are hungry for criticism of any kind and the old generation “bristle” at a critique that is not favorable. It may be a sign that the myth of failure is a zero-sum game is losing as a paradigm. Failure can be seen as a way to learn and grow. Or maybe young people are hungry in general and need any attention they can get.
I know I need my cheers, but I also need those that are willing to tell it to me straight.

John September 5, 2019 - 17:29

Excellent conversation on art criticism!—why write it, why publish it, who reads it, what purpose does it serve?

As a veteran critic (echoing many of your comments), I’d say the most important thing to do before writing criticism is to identify the motivation to write it: If criticism is a way to externalize an internal response, then try to understand what is behind the response. And then consider whether the writing has captured that response accurately.

If the writing experience is feeling praiseful, ask yourself what internal response elicits the praise (e.g., pleasure, awe, excitement, shock, admiration, identification, zeitgeist, synchronicity, formal mastery or other expertise)? If the writing is feeling critical, what elicits that internal response (e.g., boredom, confusion, disappointment, embarrassment, ridicule, antipathy, formal mastery or other expertise)? Whether internal responses form the basis for evaluative judgments—if a work of art is “good” or “bad”—should be a secondary consideration, if necessary at all.

Next, it’s important for the writer to identify whether the impulse to write is based on any external influence or agenda (e.g., established aesthetics or taste, politics, institutional allegiance, academic orientation, historical documentation, social or cultural bias, editorial input, prejudice, attention or status seeking, cliquishness, vendetta or sycophancy)—that is, of course, to the extent the writer can identify which external influences/agendas have become internalized.

In the end, if a writer of art criticism can understand their own motivations to write, then they can productively dialogue with the work of an artist, who also experiences specific motivations to make art. It’s a complicated way of getting around to something simple and valuable.


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