Sunday, September 20, 2009
Seven Days in the Art World: The opposite approach to the Crit in last posting is Zen Master of CalArts Michael Asher's.
Canadian Sarah Thornton's BA in Art History and PhD in Cultural Sociology mesh quite well with her journalistic presence at the Art Newspaper and other publications for this book, with seven chapters as follows:
1) The Auction
2) The Crit
3) The Fair
4) The Prize
5) The Magazine
6) The Studio Visit
7) The Biennale
James Elkins' second point on Critiques at art schools (see prior posting) is Critiques Are Too Short.
Enter Michael Asher at precisely Ten AM in Sarah Thornton's observance of his "legendary" and "marathon" Critiques at CalArts, with graduate students who vied for place to get into the CalArts tradition of utmost discipline to see if they have what it takes to learn the Zen patience and humility needed to thrive in today's Art World as it has developed over the past decades. There is an entirely illuminating interview with the "Sasquatch Santa" John Baldessari describing his mission in founding Post- Studio crit class at CalArts in 1970, that he adheres to to this day.
Thornton sums up the MFA in one succinct paragraph of this chapter as "the first legitimator in an artist's career followed by awards and residencies, representation by a primary dealer, reviews and features in art magazines, inclusion in prestigious private collections, museum validation in terms of solo or group shows, international exposure at well-attended biennials, and the appreciation signaled by strong resale interest at auction. More specifically, MFA degrees from name art schools have become passports of sorts. Look over the resumes of the artists under fifty in any major international museum exhibition and you will find that most of them boast an MFA from one of a couple of dozen highly selective schools."
I must admit I had been very naive about any of this until going to Skowhegan in 1993, where Baldessari was greeted as the West Coast Guru on arrival and hung around with the already quite present San Francisco mystic David Ireland in a great cabal of minds - revered by most everyone there, even amongst the bell hooks enthusiasts - who were still decidedly more practically interested in the words of that year's designated Paul Mellon speaker.
bell hooks has been a practicing Buddhist and in one essay voiced trying to write academic works in plainspoken terms - and sometimes employing urban language otherwise known as "street smarts." She added that this was deliberate but not easy - that it was the Buddhist way to take a long and difficult path towards the simple. My teacher at Tyler Stan Whitney, after I said I had only read her film criticism in a textbook store for Virginia Commonwealth University I worked for prior to going to Skowhegan, recommended I read her book titled Yearning. If memory serves me (of course it doesn't consistently) in Yearning bell hooks writes about the white art teacher who reached out to her as a child in the Apartheid South at length, after having heard her speak briefly of this at Skowhegan as an opening to her first lecture.