The November 2013 issue of Art in America, which features a painting by alumnus Elizabeth Peyton (BFA 1987 Fine Arts) on the cover, also contains an article asking leading arts writers—including MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department Chair David Levi Strauss—to check the pulse of art criticism as an evolving practice and skill-based craft and to weigh in on the future of arts writing in an ever-increasing sea of print and online voices.
Optimistic about the future, Strauss emphasizes importance of quality writing and the growing need for it. “I believe that if you can actually write sentences and put them together, and if you can look at a work of art or whatever is in front of you and account for your experience in looking at it, people will want you,” he said. “Writing as a skill, as a practice and as an art is diminishing. If you can write, there will be places for you.”
Strauss also purports that bloggers are beginning to understand the significance of properly edited, substantive work and is hopeful that arts criticism will pivot away from voices lacking oversight. When asked about how arts criticism relates to journalistic reporting, news and previews, Strauss mentions that critical writing takes time. “If you are running a blog where you have to post every day, you have to publish journalism gossip or whatever. You can’t write criticism, because it takes too long. You have to slow things down for criticism to happen, and as everything else is speeding up, writing seems to be going in the other direction. But that is the nature of the beast.”
Exemplifying the writing style that Strauss alludes to in his interview, Miriam Atkin’s (MFA 2010 Art Criticism and Writing) review of Francis Cape’s “Utopian Benches” at Murray Guy critically engages the utilitarian work of the installation artist’s project paying keen attention to the inherent communalism it represents.
Atkin’s criticism demonstrates a nuanced worldview as she grapples with the “dilemma of the art object that resists identification as such,” suggesting that art that “tries not to be art” may indicate “some large unresolved problems in art practice in the wake of the postmodern.” To read the full interview and Atkin’s review pick up the November issue of Art in America.