I was eager to read this book, a key piece of the art of Sophie Calle. The story is well-known: Calle finds an address book of a man named Pierre D; iI was eager to read this book, a key piece of the art of Sophie Calle. The story is well-known: Calle finds an address book of a man named Pierre D; in an attempt to get to know him, she contacts people in the address book at random and asks them to talk to her about Pierre D.; these interviews are published in Liberation; Pierre D. sees the interviews and is outraged at this violation of his privacy, and shuts the project down; a deal is made that these interviews will never be republished until after Pierre D.'s death.
I expected the book to be a bit more substantial. She hadn't really gotten very far before Pierre D. brought the hammer down. You get an impressionistic, somewhat paradoxical picture of Pierre D. It does show how a person can have seemingly contradictory qualities within one personality--a useful thing for novelists to remember. But one can't read it without feeling a little ambiguous about the invasion of Pierre D.'s privacy and the stalkerish nature of Calle's art....more
I give this book 3 stars not because it's badly done, but because the work of Destroy All Monsters is fairly primitive. Compared to what Jim Shaw andI give this book 3 stars not because it's badly done, but because the work of Destroy All Monsters is fairly primitive. Compared to what Jim Shaw and Mike Kelley did after they moved to California, this stuff seems more like the work of precocious college students, which is what they were. It's interesting because it seems to be one of the first "punk houses"--a shared home for a bunch of nihilistic college pranksters. In short, they adopted a 60s thing--the communal house--but brought it forth into a much more cynical post-60s vibe, one that would become extremely common as punk rock came into being. So it is an interesting artifact....more
What Michael Grenfell and Cheryl Hardy attempt to do in Art Rules is to introduce the reader to the thinking of Pierre Bourdieu about art, specificallWhat Michael Grenfell and Cheryl Hardy attempt to do in Art Rules is to introduce the reader to the thinking of Pierre Bourdieu about art, specifically visual art. Bourdieu was a French sociologist who often found himself at odds with the structuralist and post-structuralist mandarins of the 60s-80s. His work on art is based on study of the things that surround art in our society--the book discusses at great length early work he did on museums involving taking polls of visitors and non-visitors in various locations.
Bourdieu, like most French thinkers, loves inventing jargon, and a lot of the book deals with explaining Bourdieu's complex jargon--habitus (all the specific things about a particular person that give that person an identity--for example, his economic class or his personal sense of style), fields (an area of society relating to one particular thing--like everything that has to do with politics, for example). Habitus and various fields are constantly in dialogue with one another. And in Bourdieu's view, an artist is someone with a particular habitus which is strongly determined by his place in various intersecting fields. These fields bestow on him types of capital--social capital, economic capital, and cultural capital. Cultural capital is useful for artists because it can be used to gain economic capital. In a sense, artists have to convince people occupying certain fields and controlling economic capital that what the artist is doing is "good art".
This seems a bit abstract, but Grenfell and Hardy have many very specific examples. And when you read the examples, you kind of say, oh, duh. This artist went to the right art schools and won the right prizes and was collected by the right collectors and museums. In this way, what Bourdieu was saying is not dissimilar to what economist Don Thompson was writing about in the $12 Million Stuffed Shark, except Thompson approached it from an economics point of view instead of a sociological point of view.
The thing is, when you apply these ideas to the real world, they start out seeming obvious. I think you can drill down to levels where they are more subtle, but from where I sit, I think the response is, so what if they are obvious. If you look at art history through a Bourdieu-ian lens (or a Thompsonian lens), it is going to look quite different than the kind of art history I grew up with. Frankly, I find it more interesting. It requires that you consider the sources of (social, economic, cultural) capital in a society and identify fields that art exists within....more
A sprawling (get it?) mess, and I mean that in the best way. The subject is too broad to be captured in a single catalog (and, in fact, there were mulA sprawling (get it?) mess, and I mean that in the best way. The subject is too broad to be captured in a single catalog (and, in fact, there were multiple shows and multiple catalogs under the rubric of Pacific Standard Time). This is the key text of the whole venture, which was meant to show the importance of Los Angeles art from 1945 to 1980. We therefore get a lot of aesthetic analysis, a lot of social history, a lot of personal history (one of my favorite bits was about a dentist who amassed an amazing collection by trading dental services for art), tons of photos, etc. Occasionally I found myself drowning in information, but generally it was a pleasure to read. ...more
This is the catalog of the recent John Chamberlain exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York. Chamberlain died just a couple of months before this exhibitThis is the catalog of the recent John Chamberlain exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York. Chamberlain died just a couple of months before this exhibit opened, so it ended up being an unintentional memorial to one of the great sculptors.
The book has excellent essay, including an enlightening one by Dave Hickey, as well as a detailed chronology. The photos are excellent, and reading the names of Chamberlain's sculptures will certainly evoke a few chuckles. He had a knack for hilarious, apt titles. As for the sculpture--beautiful. The material is evocative (no way for Chamberlain to get around that), but his handling of it both in terms of the forms created and especially in terms of color is breathtaking. The exhibit was wonderful and this catalog does it justice....more
You won't get what you're expecting when you read this book. At least, I didn't. I was expecting a summary of the mostly French theory that has influeYou won't get what you're expecting when you read this book. At least, I didn't. I was expecting a summary of the mostly French theory that has influenced thinking about art in the U.S. over the past few decades, along with certain Anglo-American followers. I was expecting October magazine for beginners. But Freeland takes a much more expansive view, looking at art theory from Plato forward. So Foucault and Baudrillard are mentioned, but so are Hume, Kant, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Nietsche, John Dewey, Thomas McEvilley, Pierre Bourdieu (who is French, but feels like he comes from a different place than the post-structuralists), the Guerrilla Girls, Linda Nochlin, Leo Tolstoy, Freud, Nelson Goodman, Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan. And the structure of the book is thematic rather than chronological. All this is to its benefit--it doesn't read like a rehashing of Artforum articles. Its major fault is also one of its major virtues. It is too brief to examine any given theory with sufficient depth, but by being so brief, it is a quick read....more
This is a mostly journalistic account of the operations of MICA in Baltimore. It's an elite art school, and it is interesting to read how a school likThis is a mostly journalistic account of the operations of MICA in Baltimore. It's an elite art school, and it is interesting to read how a school like this operates. But Witham doesn't analyze too deeply. He doesn't offer conclusions about what works and doesn't at a school like this, much less offer any thoughts on the efficacy of teaching art or the place of schools like MICA in the evolving ecology of the art world. That said, the data (his reporting) is there--a reader familiar with the art world can draw her own conclusions....more
One can forgive a micro-press book for lapses in editing, but I wish this book felt less like random sweepings of whatever the authors had available.One can forgive a micro-press book for lapses in editing, but I wish this book felt less like random sweepings of whatever the authors had available. This lack of an editorial hand is especially evident in "Doing What Is Necessary and Needs to Be Done," a roundtable discussion with the editor, Steffani Jemison, and the artists who brought Project Row Houses into being. This was a good discussion with a lot of interesting bits, but the problem is that when you bring a group of old friends and colleagues together, they have shared experiences for which they use a kind of shorthand to discuss. Occasionally Jemison will footnote a reference to a particular art exhibit, but that's not enough. She should have, perhaps, written interstitial bits explaining how PRH was being born as it relates to the conversation. Or an introduction outlining the history. As it is, you don't quite know what happened.
My favorite piece was a selection of sarcastic emails from a writer named Egie Ighile. He writes brief responses to pieces that the group has read for the Book Club. His most hilarious response is to an essay called "Reconsidering Metaphor/Metonymy: Art and the Suppression of Thought" by Charles Gaines. One takes it that Gaines thinks "metaphor" is bad and "metonymy" is good. Ighile questions first what these two types of rhetorical devices have to do with visual art (the essay was published in an art magazine) and then demolishes the notion that one type of figure of speech is somehow better than another. He does this through counterexample, with this brilliant but clearly evil metonymic sentence: "The White House believes a healthy Wall Street means a healthy Main Street."
There are many interesting bits in Book Club Book, but I liked Ighile's writing and the PRH roundtable the best....more
Stirring and dramatic. The book tells the story of a sea-change in art by concentrating on two painters, Manet and Messonier. If you've never heard ofStirring and dramatic. The book tells the story of a sea-change in art by concentrating on two painters, Manet and Messonier. If you've never heard of Meissonier, don't worry--few have. He was the most successful French painter in the second half of the 19th century, but his reputation collapsed almost instantly after his death. But choosing these two artists to focus on doesn't take away from the other artists whose stories intersect in the Paris of the 1960s. Courbet is an especially appealing character, as are Gerome and Cabanel, as are the members of the new generation--Whistler, Degas, Monet, Morisot, etc. (Even some elderly old masters make appearances--Ingres and Delacroix.) But perhaps the best part of the book is its explication of the importance and complex politics of the Salon, the biannual then annual art competition held in Paris where the best of the best was chosen first by a jury then by public opinion. The establishment of the Salon des Refuses by the emperor, Louis Napoleon himself, is but one surprise in the book. Of course, economics and international politics play a part--culminating in the Franco-Prussian war (which ends the 2nd empire) and the crushing of the Paris Commune. This book had a novelistic momentum. The birth of modernism turns out to be a very complex human story....more
Alexandre Hogue was an artist based in Dallas (with sojourns in Taos and Alpine, Texas) during the 30s through the 90s. His work gets lumped in with AAlexandre Hogue was an artist based in Dallas (with sojourns in Taos and Alpine, Texas) during the 30s through the 90s. His work gets lumped in with American Scene/ WPA which he apparently didn't really appreciate (He was especially critical of Grant Wood). His best work were his depictions of the dried out farms of the Dust Bowl. He was an early environmentalist, and his paintings were his means of depicting the wages of poor soil conservation, absentee farmers only interested in short-term profit, and drought. He was primarily a landscape artist, creating almost surreal images of sand, mountains, and hills. The few portraits in the book are excellent. His work can be somewhat uneven, and author Susie Kalil has picked the best pieces to write about (this is not a catalog raisonne). Her text provides a lot of biographical information, aided with numerous letters from Hogue and excerpts from interviews. However, the writes about each picture at too great a length with ever-spiraling superlatives. It gets dull after a while. I wish there had been a little less writing and a few more paintings/drawings....more
Intriguing concept. They asked and were answered by 362 artists the question, what do you consider your first work of art. Some gave them the oldest wIntriguing concept. They asked and were answered by 362 artists the question, what do you consider your first work of art. Some gave them the oldest work from their childhood. A few gave them the first work they made after they had formed the ambition of being an artist (often a work from adolescence). Most gave them the first work that they considered a mature work--work that was no longer the work of a student, or the work of a young derivative artist. With 362 artists, working an a very wide variety of media, and from several generations, you get an interesting view of art today, as well as a sense of how artists of different generation and different countries view the process of artistic maturation....more
I read Calvin Tompkins' Living Well Is the Best Revenge, which was written while Gerald and Sara Murphy were still alive. It's good, but Everybody WasI read Calvin Tompkins' Living Well Is the Best Revenge, which was written while Gerald and Sara Murphy were still alive. It's good, but Everybody Was So Young is better--it carries them past their golden decade in France to the more difficult 30s and 40s until their deaths. Murphy was a serious but fundamentally amateur painter whose work is now rightly considered among the best American painting of the 20th century. But his painting was not the couple's primary gift to culture--it was being the hosts for some of the greatest writers and artists of the 20th century. When I imagine how an artist gets to be great, I first think of the artists themselves, and then about the gate-keepers and promoters--the gallery owners, the editors, the curators, the impresarios, etc. But the Murphies were not gatekeepers, and yet they contributed much by virtue of their enthusiasms and friendships to literature, to painting, and to ballet. By covering their post-"Lost Generation" years, Vaill lets us see the tragedies of their lives alongside the golden peak....more