A Foot in Both Worlds

February 11th, 2010 § 0 comments

Paolo Ventura Winter Stories at Hasted Hunt

Paolo Ventura

A little over a year in New York City and I have learned a thing or two about the cities art scene, but not nearly as much as I need to know. Though it was not my intention when I moved here, I have started edging my way toward becoming an insider though an opportunity I happened to find in a profession I didn’t study—art criticism. While I originally thought about it as an extension of my blog/thesis, a way to continue practicing writing critically, it has become the dominant perspective from which I see art. At a meeting of Whitehot writers a few weeks ago, as we discussed ideas for the new Op-ed column the magazine is planning, I realized I was the only artist there. Though I know the magazine is a mix of artists, critics, and art historians, I didn’t suspect the artists were so greatly outnumbered. I also found that compared with those who have been art critics living in NYC for over a decade, I am obviously drastically less informed. As talk floated around the table about press lunches and advanced screenings, I felt that the knowledge I have so proudly gained in the past year is just the tip of the gossip iceberg. When asked for ideas for Op-ed subjects I drew a blank—suddenly I was being asked to formulate opinions about the aspects of the art world I try my best to write around in my reviews.

(Joseph Beuys We Are the Revolution at Mary Boone)

Joseph Beuys In certain respects writing is a good exercise. I enjoy keeping track of the art being shown in the city, and writing about it forces me to do that. I am excited about getting paid for my opinions and about being a member of the press, about meeting gallery owners and being offered opportunities such as my last interview. I was even slightly swept away by my experience at a high-rise afterparty for an opening in Chelsea last winter that I attended with my editor in chief, but I wonder now just how deep into criticism I want to go. Participating in the Op-ed means working harder to fill the gaps in my knowledge, which invariably requires investigating those aspects of the art market I have little interest in. I will have to learn, in a crash course that could take years, all that I spent my educational time avoiding. While I spent the winter holidays getting my projects organized and my apartment turned into a studio, there is no denying I have devoted more time to writing than working on my artwork. The art projects I have finished remain in the background still waiting to be edited, printed, and presented. With three jobs, can I be both an art critic and a maker? If those I knew in art school are any indication, I would suggest the answer is no, but I still strongly believe that one will feed directly into the other. Horribly enough, no matter what route I choose to take, even that of the “purist” artist, the names and games I will have to learn would be the same regardless.

sharon lockhart

(Sharon Lockhart Lunch Break at Gladstone)

A few Saturday’s ago I caught the latest installment of gallery shows in Chelsea—the only gallery scene I am coming to know with a growing sense of familiarity—which seems to be the uniting part of my job: looking. Most artwork speaks for itself when given half a chance, even though some of us are expected to elaborate on it afterward. Recapping a day spent browsing the numerous galleries is like remembering any normal day, and you simply can’t remember everything you did, or in this case everything you saw. The artworks that pop back into memory afterward are usually the standouts of the day, though are often not what you thought you liked. Similar to seeing a film, I expect a sort of quiet mediocrity in the work when I set out, but that doesn’t stop me from running across the unexpectedly horrible and surprisingly interesting. I find it is the bizarre picture you viewed distantly from the sidewalk of an unentered gallery, or the show you almost bypassed that you tend regret or remember most. If there is one thing that writing about art has changed, it’s that I enjoy looking at it more. While I have always loved looking, I have also always loved making more. Sitting around the table with my aspiring critic peers, I find my excitement does not lie in seeing the next controversial exhibition, but with the artists involved in it. I should be in these shows, I think to myself, not writing about them.

Josh Keyes

(Josh Keyes Fragment at Jonathan LeVine)

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