Monday, July 11, 2011

Where Are the Writers? Part Two

Since writing Where Are the Writers? I have continued to think about the need for more quality writing about art made utilizing textile materials and processes. Several bloggers did comment as to their reviews of such work and left links. I appreciated that.

What information, skills and talents contribute to making it possible for someone to write a good review and/or critique of an art show? (I do see reviews and critiques as two different things. The review tells us what is there and who made it while a critique makes observations and evaluations.)

First I believe the writer needs to have a good idea of what's going on in the art world at the present time and historically. How is it possible otherwise to have a foundation on which you evaluate work? It isn't enough to say you like something or don't like something. It may be true you find work you "don't like" but of course that doesn't make it good or bad nor does that response make or exclude an object from being art.

Hopefully, the art writer is looking at lots of art. All kinds of art. While they will likely have preferences as to medium and approach, all work informs you about what artists are thinking and what is being made. This looking gives you insights as to the crossover between different art areas. It allows you to see connections and make associations.

The writer also needs to be reading; reading art history, current art magazines and art blogs. Most galleries and museums now have excellent websites on which they post statements about their shows. These statements are often written by the curators of the show and explain the focus of the show and why specific artists were invited to participate. Juried show catalogs are great sources of information as to how jurors made decisions and what they observed in the work submitted.

The looking and reading and observing serves to build the "eye" of the reviewer/critic. It gives them a platform from which they can begin to form opinions and make observations.

The last skill I want to mention is the skill or talent of being able to write! Just because I have a blog does not make me a writer.....I do not claim that title. I am an artist who has chosen to share my thoughts and images with you but writing is not my talent. Having said that, I am always delighted when I find well written and informative writing, especially when it involves art made with a textile element.

In my first article I included some links to a few sites I consider places to read solid articles about contemporary art. One of the links was Too Much Art:Writings on Visual Culture by Mario Naves. Mario is an artist, teacher and art critic. His writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, New Art Examiner and ARTS Magazine among others. Currently he writes reviews of contemporary art for City Arts and The New Criterion and his artwork is represented by Elizabeth Harris Gallery.

With permission I am reposting a review Mario wrote this spring about a show at Five Myles in Brooklyn. The show, Art/Sewn: Tradition, Innovation, Expression, features work by a group of artists who use textile processes, materials or have been in some way influenced by textiles. This group show was curated by Ward Mintz who is the Executive Director of the Coby Foundation. The Coby Foundation, Ltd., located in New York City, funds projects in the textile and needle arts field. However, Mr. Mintz was acting as an independent curator for this event.

I chose this article because I enjoyed Mario's comments, it relates to the materials and processes I embrace, and it is well written. I hope you enjoy it as well and will take time to check out some of the links I have included.

Art/Sewn: Tradition, Innovation, Expression
by Mario Naves

In their 1978 essay "Femmage," the artists Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer posited collage as a medium inherently suited to women, linking it to scrap booking, quilt-making and other creative outlets typically pegged as "craft" or "woman's work."

In the brochure accompanying Art/Sewn: Tradition, Innovation, Expression, an exhibition at Five Myles, curator Ward Mintz iterates similar points about Feminism, "women's pastimes" and art historical hierarchies, even managing to slam, albeit obliquely, that perpetual arch-villain Clement Greenberg for daring to distinguish between craft and art. Mintz is worried the viewer won't see the aesthetics for the stitching.

Forgetting for a moment that it's a critic's job to make distinctions, it's worth pondering if categorization does matter particularly in a culture where "anything goes" is a rule of thumb. Mintz states that the eight artists featured in Art/Sewn - Emily Barletta, Denise Burge, Elisa D'Arrigo, Linnea Glatt, Janet Henry, Cyrilla Mozenter, Jessica Rankin and Anna Von Mertens - "inevitably (raise) the question, "But is it art?"

Given the quality of the pieces on view, it's clear that each artist is cognizant of the associations and preconceptions engendered by working with needle and thread. How could they not be, particularly when D'Arrigo cites her grandmother's embroideries as a touchstone and Mozenter confesses to having once felt "sort of snooty" about craft?

Categorical distinctions do matter, if only because every creative endeavor has its own peculiar imperatives; without a thorough grounding in them, an artist is nothing more than a dabbler. D'Arrigo's haunting effigies, Mozenter's stoic deflations of Minimalist precedent and Burge's goofy meditations on the environment aren't hampered by this reality; they're powered by it. And so it goes with the rest of the artists. But is it art? Methinks the curator doth protest too much.

The more pertinent issue raised by Art/Sewn is "When isn't it art?" This seems an altogether more fruitful, if potentially uncomfortable question that Mintz shimmies around. Happily, the artists simultaneously embrace and trample over it.


Thank you to Mario Naves for permission to repost this article and Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you and Remember:

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