The Critic and the 2008 Whitney Biennial

My very smart co-editor Morgan Meis in the Smart Set:

It’s not a good time to be an art critic. Much of what’s written is pale. It is weak and descriptive to no purpose. Or at the other extreme it is pure jargon, laughable if read aloud to the uninitiated. Junk. In fact, if art critics actually believed that anything we said or wrote mattered, we would probably be shooting ourselves in droves.

It is, however, a good time to be an artist. The heroic days of hard drinking at the Cedar and a fistfight with Jackson Pollock are over. But on the positive side of the ledger you can do pretty much whatever the hell you want and there’s someone out there fully prepared to take it seriously. Some lament this fact; they want a criterion back. I don’t. Critics are the owls of Minerva, flying around at dusk. We don’t command and determine the facts, and never did. Merely do we pick at corpses, sorting a few things out, making explicit what was already there, etc., etc.

The 2008 Whitney Biennial is a feast and a free-for-all as far as the artists are concerned. You can make a realist painting (for God’s sake) or you can stick some poles and a stretch of metal fence into a block of cement. The latter work being, I mention as an aside, genuinely thrilling in that it successfully evades all possibility of being pleasing to the eye.