MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department Chair David Levi Strauss contributed an article on the role of art criticism as part of the Held Essays on Visual Arts series for the May edition of The Brooklyn Rail. With support from the Al Held Foundation, the Rail asks selected writers to explore the state of contemporary visual culture by taking a critical view of ideas relating to art and politics. For his essay “From Metaphysics to Invective: Art Criticism as If it Still Matters,” Strauss asserts that although there is much confusion about what exactly art criticism is, criticism is vitally important to culture. “Rather than a ‘crisis in criticism,’” he argues, “we are currently suffering a crisis of relative values that could be treated with criticism. Without criticism, the only measure of value in art is money, and that measure has proven to be both fickle and stultifying.”
Strauss began writing art criticism more than 30 years ago after studying in the famed San Francisco–based Poetics Program, which was modeled after Black Mountain College. The rigorous and generative education he received there in the early 1980s under poet Robert Duncan’s tutelage has influenced Strauss’s writing and thinking ever since. “I used to think that the plight of criticism was to be always the lover, never the beloved,” he reflected in the essay. “Criticism needs the art object, but the art object doesn’t need criticism. Now I agree with Baudelaire: ‘It is from the womb of art that criticism was born.’ Artists who disparage criticism are attacking their own progeny, and future.”
To read the entire essay, visit The Brooklyn Rail.