Monday, July 29, 2013

Robert Pincus on The Future of Art Criticism

Photo credit: Ilene Tatro
The 2013 Gotthelf Art Gallery Kick Off Event. got off to a great start at the beautiful home of Caryn and Alan Viterbi in July with a talk from Robert Pincus on the Future of Art Criticism.

We know of Robert Pincus from his 25 years of writing on the SD Art scene in the Union and then the Union Tribune. He is nationally published in various art magazines and has written books and introduction for numerous art catalogs. He is a beautiful speaker, a diplomat and a strong supporter of the arts in San Diego including the San Diego Art Prize.

At the UT he wrote for a mass audience and this talk was about the future of art criticism for that broader area of audience and not the special cognoscenti who is well catered for especially through specialist magazines. He spoke of not using art jargon (art speak) and "writing to communicate and not to impress”, which is advice he gives students. Although he believes art criticism will always survive as a thought process, he was addressing its survival as a profession defined as that which could financially support the writer.

Art Criticism is not art reporting. Art reporting tells stories but "stories don't create the same level or quality of dialogue”, reminds Pincus. We need criticism to jump start that critical process.  Art Criticism just as art reporting does lay a ground work of description of an exhibition, but it expresses an opinion about the value/worth of a particular show or work of art. Hopefully this is well written which is a bonus. We are not just informed but guided to make judgments about the work. In both cases, we are often encouraged to go and see and make up our own mind, but with criticism by a writer we trust, we can be influenced to make an extra effort and stimulated in comparing and contrasting our own views.

There are very, very few city papers that still carry art reviews. The New York Times and the LA Times both still have staff reviewers (as well as arts reporters). The New Yorker Magazine is one of the few magazines that are seen as generalist that has consistent art coverage. As funds are cut, as in education, the arts are the first thing to go. Now that Robert Pincus is no longer employed by the UT, we only see the occasional SD show reviewed by Los Angeles writer Christopher Knight and W.S, di Piero reviews local museum exhibitions occasionally for the San Diego Reader.

In the meantime, we turn to the non-profit to support the arts. Many like SDVAN, does reporting but it takes an art historian and a life time of passion for the arts to do proper art crits. There are a few grants available for art bloggers but not enough to support them full time.  Art Academicians usually have a full load of work and not the time to turn out mass appeal articles. Plus ivory towers offer safety from public controversy and accusations of favoritism.  

The jobs for full time art critics are just no longer there. Will they come back? Only time will tell but Robert Pincus will continue to hold his job as Senior Grants and Art Writer at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and will not be holding his breath.

We were given an opportunity at the end of the talk to peruse the home of the hosts and it was especially interesting to see their collection of limited edition photographs from 1925 on documenting the formation of Israel. By a variety of photographers, these were black and white compositions chosen with a learned eye by the couple whose home collections focused on Israel artists and Jewish subjects.  

Finally we learned about the upcoming programs of the Gotthelf Gallery:
Potiker Family Arts & Culture Complex, Viterbi Family Galleria
Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacobs Family Campus
4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037

September 11 - November 27, 2013 - Lavine/Levine: Relative Viewpoints, which is a collaborative show between Arthur and Dana who turn out to be distant cousins.
December 11, 2013 - February 26, 2014 - smART: The Art of Jewish Educators, which follows a show where they exhibited work from an overwhelming selection of local Jewish doctors who were artists.
March 12 - June 5, 2014 - Transformations: The Butterfly Project and Beyond, which is a show which artist can enter so artist watch for the call asking for caterpillars turning into butterflies as the inspiration.

1 comment:

  1. Comment on Robert Pincus discussion of Art Criticism by Joe Nalven

    Constructive criticism to Robert Pincus on The Future of Art Criticism / Monday, July 29, 2013

    The commentary by Robert Pincus on art criticism is an interesting point of departure for talking about art, art commentary, art criticism, art in storage spaces (like museums, galleries, and homes), curators, etc. etc.

    “Art criticism” has not been around for a long time – maybe a few hundred years. And “museums” as a place to store art objects is also only a few hundred years old. See the Wiki article on Art Criticism.

    So, the evolution of institutional art (from the academia and the museums) continues. This is what Pincus’ commentary should evoke – after all, we have the worldwide net, cable TV, and we have American Idol and Comic Con. All of these impinge on what “art” is and can be in our post-post modern culture (and I don’t mean ‘culture’ as defined by the elites since I am a cultural anthropologist and speak from a much broader constituency of humans who makes art).

    What might “art criticism” look like if two artists were discussing art.

    Here is my two-part dialogue with Jim Bliesner following a presentation by Grant Kester (of the UCSD Art Department) at the Bronowski Art and Science Forum.

    Art Talk: Artist and Community - reinventing the art critic

    Part 1 (dialogue with Jim Bliesner) and Part 2 (dialogue with Jim Bliesner)

    Also, what about considering the evolution of the art paradigm. What might a broader art criticism look like that brought the times of Diego Velazquez (painting with a brush) forward to Francis Bacon (painting with all sorts of objects including a garbage can cover) to me (with my trusty digital toolsets)? Check out my dalliance in this arena: Reimagining Innocent

    The world of art is being reinvented by the worldwide web, by digital technology, by cable TV and by phenomena like American Idol.

    We deserve a robust art criticism that can carry the weight into the 21st century.