10 comments on “We Major??

  1. m.b.g and Salvador,

    I am actually quite shocked, and a bit offended, by your review of “Making it Alone” and its unfair characterization of the art historians, Andy Campbell, Ashley Schmiedekamp, Erika Cole, and Rachel Mohl, who helped to organize the exhibition.

    Not long ago i was an MFA student at UT and helped to “organize” a previous round of summer exhibitions at the CRL as well as show in others. Organizing included visiting studios and writing an essay for the catalog. I say “organize” not “curate” because any PHD/MA/MFA/Design student who wants to can participate in these exhibitions. The organizers do not get to choose who, or what, gets shown in these exhibitions. They are tasked with taking any given number of artists and trying to get often disparate types of work to fit together under the aegis of a “curatorial idea”. With the work coming before the curatorial premise and no say in how many artists exhibit, it is best characterized as organizing, or, curating in reverse. With this in mind “more cryptic artists” that “demand a more controlled environment (and more space)…” know exactly what they are getting into with these exhibitions. Rather than accusing the organizers of attempting ” to remedy this by giving their work extended narration in the catalog.” you should consider that it is the artists who are responsible for working within the context of a particular exhibition and in the confines of a given space. The results you see are their efforts and not the organizers, especially in the case of these exhibitions.

    However, it seems obvious that you privilege the artist over the art historian. Rather than being critical of what really deserved it you chose the writers and organizers instead, without the facts, and without even naming them. All things considered, the last thing that ails this exhibition is the organization, installation and very short catalog essays.

    Your mis-characterization of the relationship between the artists, writers and organizers is troubling. The spirit of these exhibitions since their inception in 2002 has been to foster a symbiotic relationship between the two departments; not a parasitic one as you suggest in your article. If “the historians seem to be using the artists to “make it.””, what is the critic doing?
    Be careful with those stones.

    Eric Zimmerman

  2. First things first. I do privilege the artist. I go to galleries to view artwork and I read articles and publications to consider art historians’/ curators’/ critics’ arguments.

    Summertime is notorious for group shows. There’s usually an agenda. An argument. A point of view. That’s how I see the curators’ contributions, as visual essays. After viewing the work, I didn’t have much to say about them. Each was operating within its own compartment. So I concluded that the work was weakened by the curatorial effort. And instead of adding to the works, the catalogue obliterated the mystique and provided too much information. As an academic activity, I like art to challenge me.

    I have no problems with the individual authors. Its the practice that bothers me. The art should stand on its own. The writing should have its own agenda. Neither is allowed to do so. If the art historians have such a lack of control in this “reverse curating” project, then why are they participating? Is it the protection that the university provides? Is the hippy, utopian idea that anyone can join in on the fun?

    Should I be calling out the University? Why can’t the historian’s pick a couple of artists they like, group them with other artists (outside the university) and have a show like that? Or what if there was a competition between curators? In order to challenge the university, the historian’s can request access to other schools in the system. San Antonio and El Paso can cross-pollinate. Then you have not only a bigger pool, but you build a stronger state community and create more visibility for everyone involved.

    I don’t like being called a critic, but I guess I am. I definitely don’t like stones. I’d prefer to think of it as splashing. I might get some people wet, but it’ll only hurt there egos. They might see how fun it is challenging others to create better work and join in. Isn’t that what your professors and mentors did for you? Challenged you and guided you into understanding what it is you are doing? Isn’t that what your comment is doing for me?

    As near as I can tell, I haven’t “made it”. Unless someone forgot to tell me. I still have to stay up late at night to write because I have a day job.

    Thanks for your concern.

  3. Go ahead and hate the show. Go ahead and blame Andy, Ashley, Erika and Rachel. I think the point is that you faulted “the curators” like they’re “the President” or “the Axis of Evil.” These are people! They have names! It is, in part, your editor’s fault for allowing such an omission, which was also evident in the DAC review in today’s …mbg, which also bagged on “the curator” without even naming the curator. It’s like saying there was a good/bad/ugly painting by “a painter.” Would you say that in a review? It’s a point of respect to give credit where it’s due, even if you’re crediting someone for doing something poorly.

    But this is all beside the point in comparison with your nasty characterization of the curator/artist and writer/artist relationship: “The exhibition catalog comes off as bragging about the writers’ (art history graduate students) access to these artists. The authors use a disproportionately high word count to describe the artists’ works and, in keeping with the exhibition title, the historians seem to be using the artists to “make it.” The bragging comment makes no sense, so I’ll leave it at that. As for the word count, god forbid anyone writes more than three sentences about an artist. These are catalog essays, not wall labels. Worst of all is that last bit, though. Your implication that art historians merely use artists to garner success for themselves is a common complaint that many ignorant people make. I’ve heard it before, and I’m sure I’ll hear it again (you are, after all, talking about me, because I contributed to the exhibition catalog [an interview with Kurt Mueller, actually, and if you count up the words, I think he was the more verbose]).

    It’s your opinion that art historians are parasites, and you’re entitled to it; however, I can tell you right now that at least some of the writing I’ve done for the summer shows over the years, as well as for other exhibitions, has benefited the artists as much as it has benefited me (I won’t venture to speculate who benefited more). I have given permission for my writing to be used as an artist statement for other exhibitions; I have happily tripped across my writing prominently featured on artist websites; my writing about an artist has even been plagiarized by another writer writing about that artist. I list all of this just to point out how useful an artist might find such essays as what Melissa, Edwin, Rachel, Alyse, Tracy, Erika, Alex, Bonnie and Andy wrote in the catalog (never mind what the artist might take away as insight into their own work).

    I’m not saying all of the writing in the Making it Alone catalog is great, or good, or bad. But, at least for me, the writing is always for the artist as much as it is for myself. And some artists, at least, don’t seen to mind what I write. And they use it to further their own interests, which is fine by me.

    [By the way, to imply that any of us “made” anything off that catalog is totally ridiculous, anyway, because it wasn’t a paid gig. Yours is, though, isn’t it?]


  4. Alright, my sincerest apologies for omitting the curators and writers. I’ll extend a gesture of goodwill publicly and privately. Because I agree that it was an insensitive oversight.

    I guess I didnt frame my argument enough for you. My opinion about the artist/ writer relationship comes from the audience perspective. I want to experience the work on its own terms. Those terms are the ones that should dictate the artist’s intent, not the essays.

    The implication that you read about art historians using the artists may sound like a blanket statement, but it is a specific one that I wrote. The exhibition was lame and the supplemental information via the catalogue took center stage for me. I wonder how many ignorant people would praise an art historian if you removed all artists from the equation? Like I said, a curator (or historian) should be making a visual essay with a group exhibition.

    Parasite comes from you. I did not say that. Mr Zimmerman desribed this project as symbiotic and I think both elements failed. I described the art and I tried to describe the writing. Not to discredit your work, (I think you write gooder than me) but your contributions and those of your colleagues would be more impressive if they were not coddled by the University.

    I guess I always imagined I’d be hangin’ with Sean Combs when I made it. I didn’t know the cost of a DVD and a byline was all the bling coming my way.

    Thanks for your input.

  5. No offense, Amanda D, but if you find fault with not naming curators for the show, how do you defend your not naming “the editor” in your diatribe?

    For ersatz effect?

    I admire your conviction, sound and fury and all, but you’re signifying (literally) at this point, sloppiness.

  6. Touché Anonymous. Ersatz effect, perhaps. But if you want to talk naming names and all…I’m sorry, who are you, exactly?

  7. Wow…

    Eric’s criticism was appropriate… but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read a review by Amanda again without thinking about this unfairly targeted rant, and getting very very angry. Too bad as I like her writing.

    No one is calling you a parasite, hon, but your self-defensive slurring makes one think you are having some personal issues.

    Feel wierd about posting this, but I feel strongly about the situation.

    Think about what you say before making something public.

    Otherwise, I like reading this blog and also hope everyone can all get along in the end. No one meant to point fingers

  8. Very very angry. Really? Why?

    It’s good to hear you like my reviews. Thank you.

    I wasn’t referring to my critical writing in that self-defensive rant, though, but to a certain type of curatorial writing (not sure if this is the best descriptor), examples of which appear in the summer show catalogs. For me, writing reviews is something else altogether, a different hat.

    And don’t worry – we all already kissed and made up.

  9. G_D,

    I am glad Amanda is passionate enough to defend art. Even/especially when she is calling me names! She’s part of the team. Austin’s art scene, the A*Team!

    Its all good in the ‘hood. Until they read what I have to say about part 2. dun-dun-daaa!

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