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, specificall...moreWhat 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.(less)
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 mul...moreA 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. (less)
An ok job--it tells the story at a rapid clip. Grind is hampered by a lack of good sourcing--so many people would not speak with her, and insanely, a...moreAn ok job--it tells the story at a rapid clip. Grind is hampered by a lack of good sourcing--so many people would not speak with her, and insanely, a lot of correspondence between the FDIC, WaMu, JP Morgan and the now defunct and discredited OTC have been redacted, as if they were from the CIA. Still, there is enough here to show that the top guys at WaMu were liars, were reckless with OPM, turned the other way so as not to witness fraud being committed by their employees and agents, etc. The only downside (from an entertainment standpoint) is that they weren't colorful characters like, for example, Don Dixon of Vernon Savings and Loan infamy.(less)
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 exhibit...moreThis 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.(less)
Fairly unmemorable, this meandering science fiction story of a nurse who has been sent to Venus to deal with an outbreak of "atmospheric poisoning." O...moreFairly unmemorable, this meandering science fiction story of a nurse who has been sent to Venus to deal with an outbreak of "atmospheric poisoning." Of course, the outbreak turns out to be something more sinister. Skelly has a light touch, but the story doesn't really go anywhere. I wasn't invested in the story. The ending of the story doesn't actually wrap it all up, but I by the time I reached that point, I really didn't care.(less)
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 influe...moreYou 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.(less)
This story of two sisters in the New York Jewish immigrant community of the early 20th century is also a story of early grassroots feminism (there is...moreThis story of two sisters in the New York Jewish immigrant community of the early 20th century is also a story of early grassroots feminism (there is a character who is an abortionist and dispenser of contraceptives--both highly illegal, who trains one of the sisters). One sister drifts into prostitution (which was intimately intertwines with entertainment--the whores gave a singing/dancing floor show in addition to servicing the johns). The other into working with Bronia the "cuziernerka" (a word left undefined and which doesn't exist on the internet!)--first as a student learning to read, then as an assistant dealing with "ladies' problems." Esther, the prostitute, meets a theatrical producer through her job who starts using her as an actress. Fanya falls in love with a boy she knew as a child who comes home from World War I missing a leg. Despite the fact that Fanya knows the illegal means of preventing pregnancy, she manages to get pregnant by her paramour. I won't reveal more. Remember that contraception wasn't universally legalized in the United Sates until 1965. Even condoms were not legal for unmarried persons at the time when this book is set.
Corman's art is loose--so loose that she sometimes loses control of it. The hair of the character Meyer Birnbaum threatens to fly off the page. And in later scenes with Tanya and Bronia, the two women are hard to tell apart. I don't mind loose art--it has been a part of the arsenal of cartooning in the work of cartoonists ranging from Feiffer to Kate Beaton. In Unterzakhn, however, I think the drawing is a liability--but not a fatal one, by any means.(less)
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 lik...moreThis 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.(less)
I give it only three stars because some of the stories of the afterlife are merely clever or cutesy. Still, there were a lot of enjoyable, thought-pro...moreI give it only three stars because some of the stories of the afterlife are merely clever or cutesy. Still, there were a lot of enjoyable, thought-provoking bits. Eagleman aspires to Calvino but achieves Fredric Brown. Which is not too bad.(less)