Week in Art Criticism

The Week in Art Criticism

634400330447463750137262 4 elizabethtayler 031803 The Week in Art Criticism

Elizabeth Taylor. (Photo courtesy Patrick McMullan Company)

As we move into the second half of October, much of the art crowd is off in London for Frieze. Next week, a good portion of it will move to Paris for FIAC, returning to New York as temperatures begin to drop and dealers ready their second shows of the season. Nevertheless, critics have been busy on these shores. In The New York Observer this week, Will Heinrich reviewed Algus Greenson’s just-closed “Invitation to the Voyage” and declared that it “could easily pass for a small museum show.” Below we offer a quick look at what critics are saying elsewhere.

Christopher Knight on the Christie’s Elizabeth Taylor Lots at MOCA
In The Los Angeles Times, critic Christopher Knight goes after Jeffrey Deitch, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, for leasing space to Christie’s that the house will use to show off memorabilia from the late Elizabeth Taylor’s collection, including a diamond that is estimated to sell for $2.5-3.5 million. Tickets sold out at $20 each, though with special tickets now available at $50 each. MOCA will get a cut of the sales. “The Christie’s deal is just its usual commercial enterprise, with the auction house doing what auction houses do and MOCA doing what art museums don’t do — acting as a shill, publicist and partner for a business,” he writes.

Blake Gopnik Meditates on Graffiti
Former Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik, who is at The Daily Beast/Newsweek now and runs a really nice, regularly updated blog, takes to the pages of Foreign Affairs to chart the history of graffiti and its role in recent international political uprisings. “By now, grand graffiti gestures are as tired as could be, at least in the context of the Western art world,” Mr. Gopnik writes. “But across the rest of the planet, the static language of the American ‘piece’ has moved on to a second life as the visual lingua franca of genuine political speech.”

Roberta Smith on Braque, “The Other Father of Cubism”
New York Times co-chief art critic Robert Smith is the first to review Acquavella Galleries’ Braque show, which she describes as “a 42-gun salute” to the artist—a gunshot for each painting, which are, she says, “almost all top-notch.” (Dan Duray wrote about how the show was brought together earlier this week.) As Ms. Smith notes, Braque’s later work is not widely known in New York, but she finds a lot to like among those paintings. “It is actually the less familiar, later work in this show’s second half that is most gripping,” she says, “as Braque continues on alone with Cubism, expanding and filling it out, making its intersecting forms and transparencies and free-range details more legible and consequently more engaging and seductive.”

Holland Cotter Judges Bob Dylan’s Gagosian Debut
As Michael H. Miller noted earlier today, Times co-chief art critic Holland Cotter panned Bob Dylan’s current Gagosian painting show. “The color is muddy, the brushwork scratchily dutiful, the images static and postcard-ish,” Mr. Cotter writes. “The work is dead on the wall.” Mr. Miller had some ideas for how Mr. Dylan might respond. Take a look at them here.

Peter Schjedahl on Degas [subscription required]
The New Yorker critic took a trip up to Boston, and found the Museum of Fine Arts’ new “Degas and the Nude” exhibition “wonderful and weird.” The artist, he says, was the greatest draftsman among the Impressionists. “More than a hundred women crowd the walls in paintings, drawings, prints, and pastels,” he writes. “Twenty others hold torturous poses in bronze. The cumulative effect is both steamy and cold, like the clinging efflux of a sickroom humidifier.” Mr. Schjeldahl singles out the artist’s Scene of War, an early work that depicts some women lying dead on the ground, others about to be impaled with arrows. “What to do with this picture, except gawk at it, is beyond me,” the critic writes. “It seems pathological.”

Follow Andrew Russeth on Twitter or via RSS. arusseth@observer.com

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