The 10 Most Talked About Art Essays for February 2015
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“Cartooning the Body” by Dorothy Howard and Tim Gentles, The New Inquiry
Taking off from the SculptureCenter’s recent “puddle, pothole, portal,” this piece offers some fresh critical insights about why there is so damn much cartoon imagery floating around in contemporary art.
“The Ghost of Prometheus: A Long-Gone Tree and the Artist Who Resurrected Its Memory” by Carolina Miranda, Los Angeles Times
This front-page art piece for the LAT is all the more notable in that it falls so far outside typical art-world fare: the tale of a very unconventional artist, Jeff Weiss, and his tribute to the world’s oldest tree, a 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine, which was felled in the name of science.
“Harun Farocki” by Trevor Paglen, Artforum.com
Short but with an eye fixed on the big picture, this is a tribute to a hard-to-categorize, radical artist from a hard-to-categorize, radical artist.
“How to Start an Art School” by Andrew Berardini, Momus.ca
Add this to the growing pile of essays on the perils of an overgrown art school system. But bookmark it especially because it goes beyond the angst to start considering what alternatives might look like.
“Looking and Seeing: David Hammons and the Politics of Visibility” by Andrew Russeth, ArtNews
What’s David Hammons up to in Yonkers? Russeth uses the investigation of the elusive artist’s mysterious new gallery project as a lens to consider the importance of elusiveness as artistic strategy.
“On the Water: Shrimp Boat Projects” by Nathan C. Martin, Pelican Bomb
A thoroughly amusing contemporary-art tale that strikes me as pregnant with meaning about… something: Houston artist Zachary Moser decides to use his Creative Capital grant to become a shrimp fisherman as a multi-pronged performance/artwork; he ends up just becoming a shrimp fisherman.
“Painter Titus Kaphar Rejects the Myths of American Benevolence” by Jessica Lynne, ARTS.BLACK
How did I miss the launch of Arts.Black, a Tumblr magazine dedicated to promoting the voices of emerging black art critics? Lynne’s essay fuses personal, political, and artistic reflections into one essay on how Titus Kaphar’s angry and elegant work in New York resonates with #BlackLivesMatter. (Arts.Black probably also deserves a shout out for “You Can’t Sit With Us,” an essay from last month highlighting artists of color working in Detroit who might otherwise be lost amid all the hype about its burgeoning scene of transplants.)
“Towards a Theory of the Dick Pic” by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Rhizome.org
“What art essays got you talking this month?,” I asked Twitter. “#Theoryofthedickpic,” Twitter said back. While I am not sure I can agree with the author that “the dick pic functions as our economy’s crowd-sourced logo,” this is an essay for everyone who’s gotten a picture of someone’s junk and wondered, “What would Allan Sekula think about this?”
“Upon Reflection, MOMA’s ‘The Forever Now’ Forever Sucks” by Christian Viveros-Fauné, The Village Voice; “Structure Rising” by David Salle, ArtNews
Two late, very different entries in the review sweepstakes around MoMA’s contemporary painting survey. Viveros-Fauné gives the show the kind of eloquent clubbing that only he can, framing its central conceit of “atemporal painting” as just a lazy repackaging of pomo chic.
Salle—whose own painting might be “atemporal” avant la lettre—agrees on the uselessness of the term, but manages to find evidence of a unique contemporary painterly sensibility at MoMA, describing it with a specificity that only an artist could.
“Material Witness” by David Joselit, Artforum
Artforum is to be applauded for putting an actual topical artwork on its cover: William Pope.L’s harrying image of self-asphyxiation, presented as a comment on #BlackLivesMatter (Dan Duray had a good report from the College Art Association on Pope.L’s take on the cover). Joselit, however, squanders whatever credibility this might bring with a rambling essay about the Eric Garner case that is really just a litany of poorly explained art-theory references. When you unwind Joselit’s musings, they amount to something so trite that the distinguished CUNY Grad center professor needn’t, and probably shouldn’t, have bothered: that activists and artists can be naïve about the evidentiary power of images. I’m guessing that those in the #BlackLivesMatter movement—or most politically engaged artists, for that matter—are quite aware that the criminal justice system doesn’t function in a neutral way, and know that action outside of the “official” sphere of representation is necessary. They don’t really need a lecture on the concept of “the hole.”
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