Lost in a labyrinth of theory

Jonathan Jones in The Guardian:

There is no doubting the importance of Art Since 1900, a massive new volume. For a start, it states its own significance in block capitals on the cover: “A LANDMARK STUDY IN THE HISTORY OF MODERN ART”. Not only have the authors written a landmark study – they’ve reviewed it too! In the roundtable discussion that concludes the book, they congratulate themselves on a history that “might have some liberatory effect”. Some liberatory effect? Who speaks like that?

Art historians, that’s who. The four authors – professors Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster, Yves-Alain Bois and Benjamin HD Buchloh – will mean nothing to many readers, but in the world of art theory they constitute the ultimate team of academic superheroes, mighty wielders of the poststructuralist lexicon…

Well, I have a debating point – this book is the final ludicrous monument to an intellectual corruption that has filled contemporary museums and the culture they sustain with a hollow and boring, impersonal chatter. Art has been lost in a labyrinth of theory. If this sounds anti-intellectual, let me clarify. There is no good work of art that cannot be described in intelligible English, however long it might take, however much patience is required. And yet this book begins with four theoretical essays explaining the post-structuralist concepts the authors believe we need before we can meaningfully discuss a single work of art. It is the supreme expression of an art culture that sneers at “empiricism” as a dirty word.

More here.