When critics run wild

No, this isn't a post about Dale Peck. It's about a review in the NY Observer by Mario Naves of our friend Susan Wanklyn's show at Cheryl Pelavin. I think it's hilarious -- the heart sinks! And it's never bad to have your review next to one about Robert Ryman.

Notwithstanding its virtues, Ms. Wanklyn’s art points to a problem common to artists who have come of age since the rise of Conceptualism: a disconnect between form and content. You remember that old saw—well, it’s been so thoroughly trounced upon by deconstructionists, postmodernists and nihilists of one stripe or another that it’s time to take the saw out of the closet, run a damp cloth over it and look at it anew. The legacy of Conceptual art is not a culture bereft of artistic talent, but a culture that is merely talent.

The scene is full of painters and sculptors with impressive technical skill who have, in essence, nowhere to go with it. So they paint about something, burdening the work with Meaning. The ambition to imbue color or space or shape with meaning—to grace form with a full-bodied and independent life—is alien to a generation conditioned to believe that art is an adjunct to something else. Ms. Wanklyn has done some fine paintings in the past; she’s likely to right herself in the future. But when her snarled doodles reveal themselves as stick figures of riders on horses, the eye cringes and the heart sinks.


Susan Wanklyn Action Figure #7 (2004) 9 x 11.5 inches, Casein on Paper

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It is often said that those who write about art are often frustrated artists who instead of acting as someone in a dynamic relationship with the the artist finds it neccessary to tell the artist what they would do if they were the artist using terms like "...she’s likely to right herself." as if because she went in a direction that he wouldn't have she has wronged herself or more specifically she wronged him and of course he is the ultimate definer of right and wrong God help the artist that wrongs him.....Art is dynamic unfortunately most critics are neither dynamic or very good writers... I find this true as often when the claim to feel the same way that I do about work as when I disagree with them... they are always playing both sides against the middle thus in this case although she has wronged herself he is sure because of the rightness of her past painting she will surely right herself and thus prove right once again......if this sounds like jibberish it is intended to reflect the lack coherence of most art writing in America.


Bill Bartman

Only the artist can ultimately decide what is essential to the making of their art. When a critic attempts to label content as "adjunct" - my heart sinks - as this is a product of the critic's own propensity for representation, abstraction, or conceptualization. Was de Kooning acting too literally when he incorporated a mouth from a cigarette ad into his painting of "Woman I"? Hardly. Form may well undermine content to create a compelling disquiet. Take another look.

A visible process of exploration, pushing boundaries and a sense of moving forward with one’s ideas is refreshing to see in any artist’s work. The implication that this process is a state to “right” oneself from seems to miss the point entirely.

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Published on June 28, 2004 4:08 PM.

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