Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

“Artists who write write for a purpose”

This article launches a new column, BOOKMARKED, in which artists, critics, collectors and other guests are invited to share and comment on their favorite blogs and art-related sites (present company – artcritical – taken as read!)

Front page of Paul Corio's blog, "No Hassle in the Castle"

Front page of Paul Corio's blog, "No Hassle in the Castle"

As an artist I am most drawn these days to reading blogs of other working artists.

In the painter Paul Corio’s “No Hassle at the Castle”, a ‘weblog on painting, horse racing and other subjects’ (the other subjects being mostly jazz and politics) I feel I am in a conversation with an informed and critical mind. Recently, Corio came to grips with Romanticism, in response to Mark Stone’s “Henri Art Magazine”, which has been preoccupied with ‘Romanticism in America” – perhaps the single most enterprising and enlightening analysis I’ve encountered in years on this subject –  one which lurks in the background of every artist’s thinking. Stone writes, for example, about DeKooning, and why he was different, especially at the end, from the other Abstract Expressionists – that his work was both transcendent and physical. More lately, Stone on Courbet is something every painter should read.

I’ve also encountered “Immaterial Culture”, by the pseudonymous d.richmond; this, again, is writing from the heart.  An artist like d. richmond writes out of a need to know, for his work.  Sharon L. Butler’s “Two Coats of Paint” and Joanne Mattera’s “Art Blog” are two others I frequently look at.

What sets apart the artist’s blogs is their earnestness and faith.  Critics analyze and dissect, but do they write from the heart, as artists do?  Artists may wish to promote themselves, but in writing they are usually working, and thinking.

It is the spirit of inquiry that sets the artists apart: they strive to understand, and the blogs give us the conversation, the searching coming to grips that once animated the New York scene when everyone lived below 14th Street.

Artists who write write for a purpose. They may be working out their own trajectories, erratic and capricious, but, mostly, they are writing out of necessity. This is a big part of what now actually moves art along; in my view, we need it.

George Hofmann, Duccio Fragment (No. 12), 2011.  Acrylic on board, 30 x 24 inches.  Courtesy of the Artist

George Hofmann, Duccio Fragment (No. 12), 2011. Acrylic on board, 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the Artist

George Hofmann is a painter who lives and works in Albany, NY.  He grew up in New York, trained at the Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste in Nuremberg, Germany, and taught for many years at Hunter College.  A former director of the Francis J. Greenburger Foundation, Hofmann has served on the board of Art Omi and as a visual arts juror for SUNY/NYFA.  He maintains the website ArtistsResearchGroup.com, on the history of the Hunter College Art Department.


  • http://artinthestudio.blogspot.com Nancy Natale

    Joanne Mattera’s blog is always insightful, interesting, well written and knowledgeable. Besides all those things, you never lose sight of the real living and breathing artist who is doing the writing. She brings a personal perspective to it all and shares her valuable assessments unstintingly. To top it all off, her sense of humor is killer.

  • http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/author/lfendrich Laurie Fendrich

    The question of whether artists are somehow superior to critics (or art historians, for that matter) because they tend to write “from the heart” has always interested me.

    Here’s how I see it. When artists indulge in overt careerism, it’s always tedious. When they try to explain their own art and its purpose, sometimes it’s good, but often it’s bad. The same holds when they write to promote particular aesthetic ideas (e.g., Juan Gris and Donald Judd), or explore the aesthetic ideas of others. Sometimes it’s good, but often it’s bad. Much depends on the quality of the writing itself. Sharon Butler and Joanne Mattera are both interesting artists and excellent writers, and they have a lot to say about the work they choose to write about. This makes it worthwhile to read their blogs.

    Unfortunately, “writing from the heart” is not the sine qua non of good art writing. The sad truth about art, artists and writing about art is that being a good artist, and writing from the heart about art, don’t necessarily lead to good writing. Many terrific artists, writing from the heart, are not good at writing, just as artists writing very well about art are not necessarily good artists.

    Some critics (as well as art historians, while we’re at it) are obsessed with analysis and dissection, but some are not. Dave Hickey’s AIR GUITAR, for example, contains brilliant, moving ruminations on art, with little analysis. Gombrich wrote limpid, inspiring narratives about the history and meaning of art, dipping into analysis only occasionally.

    As a painter who writes essays on art for The Chronicle Review, and blogs for Brainstorm, its blog site, I write on many topics other than art. Although I would like to say I “write from the heart,” I think it’s more the case that being a painter drives me to write with a certain disregard for whether or not I will get approval from others. The experience of being an artist teaches artists how to be loners–to take aesthetic stands that aren’t necessarily popular. Whether they write well or not, they almost always have a lot of interesting takes on the world in general.

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  • Melany Terranova

    LOVE addition of BOOKMARKED to artcritical.com! Interesting reads.
    Thanks. Melany

  • http://www.iskrafineart.com Iskra Johnson

    I love to visit artists and deeply absorb their work in the studio or in performance-space/gallery settings. I do like the comment above about “earnestness and faith:” I’ll happily stand accused of that. I visit other artists and review their work to renew my own faith. It’s the best medicine for doubt that I know of.

    On my blog I post works in progress, thoughts about process, printmaking, photography and mixed media and how the practice of Buddhism informs my work and community. When I see a show that seems to be underexposed I do my best to send out the word and help build an audience. You may visit me at http://www.iskrafineart.com.

    Love “No Hassle at the Castle!”