Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Holland Cotter and the New Language of Art Criticism

Cotter's recent review of an exhibition of Joan Miro at the Museum of Modern Art was startling. He is consciously taking on the current political language of war and using it to apply to modern art. It works as an eye catching article, but why does it bother me so much?

Here is an excerpt:

"Joan Miro:Serial Murderer of Artistic Conventions"

"Amputate tradition, torture the past, terrorize the present. The impulse to destroy was part of what made early Modern art the guerrilla movement it was.

Cubism sentenced illusionistic art to the Death by a Thousand Cuts. Dada unleashed an anti-aesthetic Reign of Terror: Beauty? Off with its head. Decay? Let’s have more. Surrealism, a slippery business, let the killer instinct run amok. Tossing manifestos, dreams and libidos like bombs, it aimed to bring Western civilization to its knees and keep André Breton in the news.

So in 1927, when Joan Miró said, “I want to assassinate painting,” he wasn’t saying anything new. What was new was the way he carried out his cutthroat task. That process is the subject of “Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927-1937,” an absorbing, invigorating and — Miró would be mortified — beautiful show at the Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition illustrates, step by step, exactly how Miró stalked and attacked painting — zapped its conventions, messed up its history, spoiled its market value — through 12 distinct groups of experimental works produced over a decade."

OK Here is what I think
Yes indeed modern art wanted to do away with the tired academic traditions, yes Dada was opposed to traditional aesthetics, because World War I was proving those histories to be bankrupt, but somehow I feel that Cotter has it all wrong. Even as he quotes Miro "I want to assassinate painting" I still feel that his language doesn't work. It is distracting. It is in the wrong arena emotionally.

These artists were definately committing acts of cultural resistance in response to social and political changes, but these violent contemporary words distort the real meaning of what they were intending to do. It affiliates them with destruction in an entirely different way. In Zurich at the Cabaret Voltaire, the spirit was humorous, spoofing, light, as a counter to war and destruction. Cotter makes it sound like these artists were dark and evil.
I would love to discuss this with other critics.
here is a link

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