A Buried Interview

April 20th, 2013 § 0 comments

Artists Space Books - Talks

Sitting down in the slightly damp, roomy space on 55 Walker Street with the soft-spoken, mild mannered, but extremely articulate curator of Artists Space and the new Books & Talks venue, we discussed the goals of the new program, and how it fits into the ongoing relationship between art and verbiage. 

Tell me a bit about yourself…

Richard Birkett- I am the curator of Artists Space and I’ve been in New York for a couple of years now. I moved from London a few years ago, and have a background as an artist. I had a studio practice in London for a while, but I gravitated more and more toward curating.

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Published—Van Gogh and Vampires

August 4th, 2011 § 1 comment

A part of me wishes that Centerpieces, the latest book by the author Penelope Przekop, and the subject of my latest book review, had actually been what it promised: a historical fiction about Van Gogh. I would have enjoyed it more if it had even reminded me of Van Gogh, his art or life. A cliché artist now as part of the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist pack, he is always an appealing painter. I still remember the old portfolio of Van Gogh prints I discovered during my childhood, hidden away in my mother’s closet. I don’t know where they came from, but finding a whole collection of poster size prints was like finding gold. She let me take them, and for a large part of my childhood colorful, swirling portraits in careful rotation filled my bedroom walls. I’d lie in bed staring at them when I’d take breaks from doing schoolwork. When I started dancing my mother bought me a beautiful Degas print of a little dancer tying her shoe, and framed it on my wall. It’s not terribly surprising that I found myself taking both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in undergrad, where I learned about the dark personalities that made such colorful and seemingly cheery paintings. Both movements were full of moody, brooding men with devoted families they didn’t love. Instead of any of this, however, Przekop gave us vampires, pharmaceuticals, and awkward writing.

Editors & MFA’s

July 10th, 2011 § 4 comments

Editors are a blessing and a curse. They are like the teachers who told us the things we really didn’t want to hear, the ones who said edit, or reshoot, or who asked, why those images? Like teachers, editors promote their own perspective, one that is dependent on what they want their publication to be, or what they want it to sound like. Noah, the editor of Whitehot Magazine, is a self-declared “voiceless” editor. He didn’t design Whitehot to represent a particular point of view, but based it instead on a simple mission: he wanted to create a place where the voiceless could congregate and write about art. He wanted good writing from artists, art historians, and art critics without having to tell them what to write about or how. I never think about who the Whitehot reader is when I write for the magazine, which probably makes it my most selfish, self-indulgent, and satisfying place to write. Nancy, editing for the Times Quotidian, comes from another perspective entirely, where the voice of TQ is dominated by her voice. She has a good sense of order and concise writing, and gives in completely to her own perspective, tastes, and interests. She reminds me of the weaving teacher I had in undergrad who proudly admitted that she had no interest in books, music, or movies. Nancy is good for me the way all vested professors are. For example, my department chair in grad school, having a vested interest in my success, gave me the type of feedback I needed to be “successful.” Nancy is the practical voice that stresses coherence, and the limiting voice that says, I doubt you really need to write about that like this.

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Published—Reviewing Art Books

June 9th, 2011 § 0 comments

My new job with a second new publisher, the sassy and opinionated art blog called Hyerallergic, is to be a weekly (or bi-weekly) art book critic. Starting out with a review of a very accessible, short essay in the exhibition catalog for a rather dull show at MoMA on South African prints, I realized two things very quickly: reading takes far, far long than writing, and 800 words, when you are regurgitating (or assessing) another writer’s essay, is a lot longer than you think. My inability to keep within a certain word count is a constant struggle, but is only a struggle when I actually have a lot to say. Working on this new project I could feel myself sometimes fighting that schoolgirl desire to expand and elaborate for the sake of making something longer. It’s a different format for me, as talking about art through books, a visual medium described in glossy pictures and obtuse words, is not what artists, I included, do best. I welcome the challenge, however, and hope I can learn how scholarly critics write through reading their essays.

Published—A New Publisher

May 18th, 2011 § 1 comment

I enjoy writing reviews of particular shows about particular artists, but I’ve been interested in branching out into writing essays for a while now, and just haven’t found a good place to publish them. While everything written in a review is stuck within the context of that particular show or artist, an art essay is idea driven, and can therefore include a more diverse list of artists, examples, and references. I have many more ideas about broad topics, trends, or problems that I’d like to discuss than I do about current shows I want to cover. I’m interested in a variety of artists, how certain groups of artists relate to each other, and how they relate to current events, and writing about one particular show or artist doesn’t allow me to expand upon my other ideas—it does, however, force me to focus. Struggling through my latest Whitehot review on Kara Walker’s new work, I find myself more interested in how people react to her artwork than I am in her artwork itself. I enjoy the challenge of trying to bring larger ideas or observations into a review, and it seems I’m also going to enjoy the challenge of fitting artists into a compelling, concise argument in my essays. My first art essay and my first essay for a new publication, the arts and culture blog The Times Quotidian, and I can already see the problem I always face: how not to ramble. The longer the essay becomes, and the more ideas I try to compound, the greater the risk I run of turning it all into a muddle of ideas, words, and art. I recently discovered a new magazine published in London called Frieze, and unlike our art magazines (A in A and Art Forum), it has real essays about real issues. I think it’s a good magazine to learn from and aspire to.

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