THE CRISIS OF CRITICISM

CULTURAL CRITICISM TODAY

A collection of provocative, often insightful essays on the endangered state of contemporary arts criticism. Alarmed by critics’ failure to act as —aesthetic mentors— to difficult new work, editor Berger, a senior fellow at the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics, has selected a diverse range of essays that speak to the challenges critics now face. Berger’s contributors, Homi Bhabha, Arlene Croce, bell hooks, Joyce Carol Oates, and Wayne Koestenbaum, among others, all harbor profoundly different opinions on critics’ responsibilities, and Berger highlights those contrasts by launching his collection with a now-infamous article by Croce. The dance critic for the New Yorker refused to see Bill T. Jones’s —Still/Here,— about AIDS, and yet savaged it anyway, calling the piece a prime example of —victim art.— Jones, who is black, gay, and HIV-positive, had committed the apparently unpardonable act of including gravely ill performers; as a result, Croce considered his work to be —undiscussable.— And yet her dismissal provides the grounds for lively debate: Joyce Carol Oates and Homi Bhabha rebut Croce’s points with verve and clarity. The collection benefits from such momentum; unfortunately, it isn’t uniformly sustained—as when the subject changes to fashion, for example. On the whole, however, Berger has chosen contributors fearless enough to question the role of the critic in a society that has become increasingly hostile toward artists and their work and brave enough to implicate themselves in the failing of much art criticism. As he surely intended, their honesty supports his own argument for criticism that —breaks through the constraints of adjectives to inspire, move, and incite the reader.— Although Berger’s outlook is grim, his collection offers the undeniable pleasure of reading intellectually stimulating arguments about the role of contemporary criticism.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-56584-417-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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