good one, bad one

There’s an interesting comparison between good writing on art and not so good writing on art. It’s available by comparing Arthur Danto’s recent essay on Smithson with Peter Schjeldahl’s. The peices actually make some similar points. But in the end, one learns so much from Danto whereas from Schjeldahl it’s just … nothing.

Danto at The Nation:

The Whitney show succeeds, I think, in projecting a portrait of the artist as a restless demiurge whose basic genre was the monument, though none of his monuments can fit the space at the disposal of curators. The museum ought to be saluted for celebrating a figure who sought to invalidate the premises on which the idea of that institution rests. I would add that Smithson has become the beau idéal of young artists, more than Picasso, more than Duchamp the kind of figure they aspire to be–anti-institutional, in touch with the environment, hospitable to myth and ritual, alive to the poetry of the wilderness, ambitious in his desire to touch the public through a vision of monumentality that throws the world of the shopping mall and the parking lot into a moral perspective. In that respect the show tells us something about where we are. Spiral Jetty is a critique of modern life as entropy. The rest belongs to the scholars.

Schjeldahl at The New Yorker:

As a figure of freedom, temerity, and lyrical prophecy, Smithson stirs nostalgia among artists and others in the art world, which, for all its wealth and popularity, feels increasingly constricted, faltering, and prosaic. That nostalgia is like a yearning for a lost frontier, troubling the sleep of care-worn suburbanites. Smithson’s example suggests not only that anything can be art but that anyone, with proper fire in the belly, can become a great artist, even without being much good at it. This fit of romance won’t last. It will count again that the works that are on display at the Whitney are drab and tedious. But, for a while, thoughts of Smithson will continue to fuel a present, perhaps eventually fruitful, mood of burning dissatisfaction.