Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Who's Afraid of Tyler Green?

Part I : What is an art blog?

A blog is a "web log," an online diary. One person's or a group of people's published thoughts about things that interest them. Some have advertising, but few (if any) actually charge the public to read them, so essentially, they're free. They're also fast. Blogs rush to print like no other medium, because they don't have traditional publishing editing processes to slow them down (this is not necessarily always a good thing) and because, well, technologically they can.

An "art blog" is the online diary of someone whose general topic of discussion is art. These run the gamut from those publishing thoughtful, lengthy
essays to those publishing basically only images.

People visit art blogs, first and foremost, because they're interested in learning things they won't find in other resources, especially things that are time sensitive. Moreover, people visit art blogs to "take the pulse" of the art-blog-reading community on issues and developing stories. For the insta-commentary, so to speak.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, blogs are a virtual community, a place where people from around the world can "meet up" and share ideas, learn of news or gossip, or debate the issues. This inexpensive, easily accessible bridging of location for like-minded folks is the true gift of blogs. It's democratic like nothing else out there.

Part II: What is an art blog not?

Art blogs are not a replacement for other existing art-related media. This is a common misconception among people (even among those who read or write blogs). Rather, IMHO, blogs are a supplement to the other media, often serving as a 24/7 online ombudsman, if you will.

Art blogs are not the first place I go to for in-depth criticism. I tend to seek out traditional media, where I know the editing process is still in use, for that. That's not to say that sometimes the most brilliant critique of something doesn't appear on a blog (it can, and does), but that because the raison d'etre for the traditional media that focus on art criticism is to provide a consistently high-quality level of critique, and because they usually provide a wide range of opinions from a wide range of writers, reading them provides a good idea of where the overall critique is at a given time, as opposed to the opinions of one individual.

Part III: Who's Afraid of Tyler Green?

I drag you through this exercise in the painfully obvious in response to a post on Tyler Green's blog responding to a swipe that Peter Plagens took at him in an article about the current state of art criticism:

[Tyler writes:] I think one of the most masturbatory discussions in the art world is about whether art criticism is dead. (Translation: Is anyone reading me?)

In this month's Art in America, former Newsweek critic Peter Plagens broadens that discussion by looking at what's up in the newspaper and magazine worlds. Most of his analysis seemed pretty in-touch, but I respectfully disagree with him on this paragraph:

"Exceptions [to reader disinterest in art critics] exist -- as with the lead critics for a few of the major dailies -- but they don't abound. More and more people in the audience for contemporary art would rather read Tyler Green snark somebody in his blog, Modern Art Notes, than ponder the considered judgment of Michael Kimmelman on a MoMA retrospective. Many art writers have either added unpaid blogging to their activities or been squeezed into it from want of other, traditional outlets -- for which many bloggers don't have enough writerly inclination or discipline, anyway. Each of those art bloggers has a following of fans and other bloggers, and each of those bloggers has... and so on. A growing form of art criticism consists of posting links to other people's criticism, which consists of posting links... and so on."
Tyler can (and does) easily take care of himself in response to this cheapshot, but I can't help but feel Plagens' condescending comments about art blogs stem from misunderstanding what they are (hence the explanation above) and a bit of jealousy at the attention they're currently getting (i.e., art blogs are hot at the moment, but like any new toy, they'll find themselves left behind for the cool newer thing at some point down the road [in fact, there are signs that the major political blogs are already losing their audiences]).

I read both Tyler (who's simply the best art blogger out there, bar none) and Kimmelman. I don't see that as big a challenge as Plagens seems to suggest it is either. Really, who are these hordes of short-attention-spanned art criticism readers Plagens speaks of? In fact, he actually contradicts himself by suggesting it's a sign of intellectual laziness that bloggers post links to others' criticism. Psst...Peter...that means they actually read said criticism before they blogged about it. More than that, if the initial critic isn't flattered that someone thought enough about their critique to open up a forum to discuss it, then why are they writing in the first place?

Critics more interested in traditional media than blogs should not feel threatened by blogs' current popularity. Art readers will follow what's excellent (the number of bloggers who stepped away from their computers to read Jonathan Lethem's extraordinary, but lengthy, essay in Harper's this month is proof).

Finally, and I say this with respect, if there's a downturn in readership of traditional media-based criticism, perhaps it's not evidence of the laziness of the readers as much as it the laziness of the critics who aren't doing the work it takes to spark the imagination of their readers (again, see note on Lethem). Art readers (including blog readers) only want good writing. No, scratch that.... Art readers long for good writing. If you publish it, they will read.

Labels: art criticism, Blogs, Tyler Green


Blogger Mark said...

Respectfully, I believe Tyler is more neosnarkist.

1/31/2007 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm sad that you think Tyler Green is better than I am. Boo hoo! I think I'll have to snark more now.

Just kidding.

Personally, I don't read art criticism online or off, because I'm so wildly far out of the art world loop I don't even speak the language. Anything more complex than Jerry Saltz and I get confused.

My goal is to be the Roger Ebert of the art world. Other people can be the Jonathan Rosenberg or Pauline Kael.

1/31/2007 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous joy said...

Dear Mr. Plagens, a reality check sir: are you really suggesting that Tyler Green trumps Kimmelman in the snark department????

1/31/2007 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

I haven't read Plagens' piece yet, but just responding to Tyler's and Ed's here:

I think snark comprises a bit more than 2% of Tyler's blog, but that's okay. On his blog you get everything: thoughtful criticism, a lot of interesting art world news before anyone else has it, a personal, therefore biased, but well-informed take on people and events, and a little juicy gossip (snark). It's like a whole magazine at one spot. (Tyler, don't cut down on the snark! Who doesn't enjoy a little Page Six occasionally?)

Also, even though he doesn't publish readers' comments, so it's not quite the "virtual community" that Ed mentions, Tyler does respond (promptly and non-snarkily) to email and will correct or update his posts with new information if you call his attention to it.

I'm a regular reader of many art blogs, and also the Times's (and several magazine's) writers and I assume many other people do the same. On a related point, not that Plagens necessarily represents the official position of Art in America, but it is possible for the print mags to start bridging the gap between old media and new by maintaining a website. AiA might want to get on the ball there.

1/31/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Ed you hit the nail on the head.

"It's democratic like nothing else out there."

The points raised by Plagens concerning the usage of ‘links’ is silly. The hypertext markup language (HTML) was designed around the idea of the ‘link’ as a way of allowing information to branch out from the body source text. Anyone who has read a web based article and found themselves following a cascade of links to new information would realize that it is a much more accessible process than trying to find the book or article referenced in a footnote. It is what the wed was initially designed for.

1/31/2007 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

It might be easier to take art magazines seriously if it wasn't for the fact that, for example, Artforum's January cover wasn't the exact same image as the cover for a magazine on movie special effects.

1/31/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Some people may like to read serious art writing online, but I think there's also a big audience for snarks. It's a shame readers have to wade through all the more serious writing to get to the fun stuff.

1/31/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Marc Snyder said...

I frequently search out printed materials mentioned by folks I have come to respect from their blogs - from blog, to amazon, to my mailbox. . . None of these arenas of discussion exist in a vacuum.

And this is a bit off-topic, but what really excites me are the very few cases of blog-as-art (as opposed to blog as art criticism or blog as art gallery).
This is the best one I know:

1/31/2007 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

I wholeheartedly agree with David. The only time I read art criticism is after I have seen the exhibition, and either loved or hated the work. Why read mediocre writing about mediocrity?

Snark, on the other hand, is food for the Dark Regions of the Soul, and thus absolutely necessary for artists.

Marc, I would have to say there is one more category--blogger as Art.

1/31/2007 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

The only time I read art criticism is after I have seen the exhibition, and either loved or hated the work.

PL, I have the same policy, but not only to avoid reading about mediocrity. The main reason for me is that I want to approach things directly, without someone else's opinion buzzing around in my head. This applies not only to art exhibitions, but also to films and books. If I have a strong reaction to something I may want to read criticism afterwards, which, I would hope, might give me additional insight. But never before.

1/31/2007 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/31/2007 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

This is happening in all areas--not just art; "traditional" journalists, critics and others feel threatened by blogs, slighted by them, and feel the need to belittle bloggers, blogging, and blog readers. They don't get what blogging is and isn't (which you spell out quite well here).

One reason for this, IMO, is that they can now be questioned and challenged publicly by anyone. This new, democratic publishing medium is shifting the way we communicate, and traditional media is having a hard time coming to grips with the new reality.

1/31/2007 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I so heartfully disagree with a couple things expressed here:

1) that serious critism is likely to better be found in magazines.

Are you kidding me? I'm fed up with columnism. Some blogs, they are very few but they are the best ones, offer the most lenghty exhibit analysis that you will ever find. You don't get that in Art In America.

Second thing..About snobbing mediocre writting..Or rather, let me use Edward's Style: "In The Defense Of Mediocre Writting"

Mediocre Writting....Hey that is just a LENSE. It's a language.."in my language", said the autist. It is not because someone writes badly (and I know I write badly), that they don't have interesting opinions and points of view about an exhibit (and I'm pretty confident about the pertinence of my views, at place).

I don't think art blogging should be reserved to experts. I got discouraged at blogging because of this general viewpoint, and all the snottism I could sense from a pole distance (and which actually worries), but I know people who are not in the arts that will mention they like to read whatever I blab because they feel they finally can understand something. They are many levels of discourse about art outside the way people who-live-right-in-the-middle-of-it-everyday are talking.

Finally, with no disrespect to Tyler Green, it is not my favorite type of blogging because it is about gathering general news (and opinions) about the art world and not too up to date with Web 2.0 as this blog is, creating a forum and inviting an exchange of opinions, what I think art should be about. It's sad for critics but I think the "I have a great opinion, period" era is over. I think there should be more forums like Art Critical are doing. They don't have to do it in audiences. They could do it on the web and make it happen more often. They also should clash different voices from the connoissors and the dumbfound. Try to respect the opinion of mr. Tourist who never heard about contemporary art (without laughing). I'd be interested in that. How art is functioning at different levels of understanding.


Cedric Caspesyan

(ps, and when I like or hate an exhibit I "technorati" the reviews, and I love all what I read, every aspect, every perspective, be it expert or touristic.)

1/31/2007 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Gary Kamiya has an excellent essay, "The Readers Strike Back", on this topic at Salon. He goes through more reasons for why blogging could be bad for writing besides "authors are jealous pricks who don't like to be questioned". It's very insightful, I think.

1/31/2007 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

The main role that I have for my blog is to expand the range of stuff covered. Pittsburgh has a very insular group of critics that give marginal coverage to work outside of a small group of museums and galleries. So for the most part, what I am trying to do is just make people more aware of what is out there.

One thing that I would do much moere if i had the time, is cover work in artist's studios.

1/31/2007 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

John Morris sez:
One thing that I would do much moere if i had the time, is cover work in artist's studios.

I have the time, but I can't seem to get artists to go along with it. The artists I've asked say they're willing to have me visit, but then they don't get back to me, or we just lose touch.

I think it'd be really great, though.

1/31/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stopped reading TG a long time ago. Am I the exception? No, I don't think so ! I do think, though, for the sake of journalism, Mr. Plagens should arrive at his assumptions by first doing a stat. check.

Chris I consider you a big sweetie. The job is yours: mail me! You start tomorrow--first job, tickling sparribs!


1/31/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also want to mention that while most "art blogs" seem to be "blogs about art," Ed's definition leaves out blogs that are art or a vehicle for art. For example, see

1/31/2007 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

ABS sez:
Chris I consider you a big sweetie. The job is yours: mail me! You start tomorrow--first job, tickling sparribs!

Um, okay. And you are...

1/31/2007 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

It's great that Ed linked to the Detroit Arts Blog. She has a post up that relates to this.

I don't think the potentialy revolutionary power of blogs is being used.

1/31/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

John Morris sez:
I don't think the potentialy revolutionary power of blogs is being used.

Every new Internet widget is the next big revolution destined to overthrow the status quo. If there's anything I've learned after nearly 20 years on the Internet, it's that the market swallows everything eventually. There's no revolution so big it can't be eaten, digested, and spit back out in your face by the engines of capitalism.

The Revolution is a new breakfast cereal.

1/31/2007 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger hlowe said...

...and the imminent website that will pursue daily critique of art critic blogs?

1/31/2007 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the revolution will [not] be televised

1/31/2007 09:44:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

John Morris wrote: I don't think the potentialy revolutionary power of blogs is being used.

I guess it depends on what you mean by "revolutionary power." I think a good start has been made on some of the political blogs.

1/31/2007 09:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Chris Ashley.

1/31/2007 11:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think bloggers should be so defensive! Plagens made a good point about art writing disappearing from the mainstream press--which is certainly the case in my local newspaper--one "arts" writer remains where there used to be at least 3. It makes it very difficult for regional artists--even in NY you must sometimes feel that if a show doesn't get reviewed, it's as if it never happened--

I also think his mention of main stream media writers doing unpaid labor on blogs is worth thinking about--seems like bloggers are often trying to use their blogs as springboards into the very media they deride. It's not my imagination is it--there are fewer and fewer paying gigs for arts writers?

1/31/2007 11:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As print becomes more reified the price goes up. In the future only a select community can afford print. Books and journals , among owners, have always held a precious place. In the new future that precious understanding will turn to gold. Sorry I've let some of the fur-balls out of the cat's entails.

Pure capital understands that you need to invest heavily in both divergences, while keeping address, strategically managing the over-thwart.

My father, a great newspaper man, said to me, "A newspaper is a living manuscript where the news is new and never done, unending." He also mentioned that all things end. Brilliance, he said, is not so much to do with some new fantastic , instead with the spicing of the ends so no-one will notice. His favorite artist was Hundini.

How many artists don't have a monogram?

2/01/2007 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Mike @ MAO said...

Hmmm.... "Really, who are these hordes of short-attention-spanned art criticism readers Plagens speaks of?"

Actually.. that would be Me!
Which would explain the pile of Art In America magazines in my bathroom.

Snarky?? When did Tyler become snarky...?

2/01/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Which would explain the pile of Art In America magazines in my bathroom.

Must... not... take... easy... shot...

2/01/2007 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

What's the future of paper?

What are statistics? Are we able to grow trees fast enough for our art journals?

Is the situation under control?

Cedric Caps

Salon article simplified:

""""Laura Miller: "Blogs, often written by idiots, are bad-mouthing you. You go through this cycle where you get interested, then you get angry, then you just stop reading them.""""

Bravo, Laura-Who's-Not-An-Idiot.

Sorry, that article was a complete waste of time to me as it spreads over 3 pages in saying one sentance (and indeed demonstrated how Nietzche better reduced the thinking process into one sentance). My big problem with "writers" is that they have the skills and the vocabulary, but when I get through the facade and the "craft", I don't necessarely learn anything (apart that Laura Miller is NOT stupid, hear?).

2/01/2007 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

Maybe the future is in a hybrid: online magazines that do pay their writers. I write occasionally for one myself: Artnet.

Now if you'll excuse me I must strategically manage my over-thwart.

2/01/2007 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I think the concept of "click a sponsor" before accessing an article is fair, as long as it's not a series of 12 sponsors.

I presume free readership on the web is exponentially higher than with paper, so perhaps the rates should be reflecting that. You loose the buyer's hand money but then so much of extra expenses with paper publication.

Also "Web 2.0 Whatever" is moving towards video-journalism. There will be less people learning the skills of writting in the future than people learning to master public talk and quick counter-argumentation (at the expense of "thought-out" argumentation).

The fact that people write about art but that we can never see it, that's a little bizarre, from an extra-terrestrial standoint at least. It is probable future artists will be more loose with the idea of art images circulating as this will be the only way to get noticed and talked about.

I often say to artists I meet: Who cares where your images go, as long as people see your work and know your work, than that increase their value. In the end you still have the original product to sell.

So yes, the art of "teasers" might be the future of art journalism.

Cedric Caspesyan

2/02/2007 12:49:00 AM  
Anonymous paintykins said...

The future of art-criticism: Post Its.
Until the trees run out.
Then Sharpies.

2/02/2007 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Love said...

Greetings from New Zealand, Edward & your blog visitors.
I've been wanting to find a blog that discusses (among other things) issues behind the making of art. I need to learn more about the business I am in so I can keep working full-time as a painter.
Many thanks.

2/02/2007 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Cedric sez:
I think the concept of "click a sponsor" before accessing an article is fair, as long as it's not a series of 12 sponsors.

The Web has done many things, some good, some bad. And one of the things the Web has done is pull back the curtain on the false Wizard that is the advertising business. (It's not for nothing advertising is based on the Avenue of the Mad.)

I don't know that everyone's gotten the word yet. In fact maybe I'm totally wrong about this. But here's what I see after engaging in Internet advertising for over ten years:

Advertising is a joke. The only reason paper magazines can even exist is because of advertising. The model works because no one was ever able to really solidly and accurately measure anything. Magazines tout subscription rates and newsstand sales to say that an ad reaches X number of eyeballs. Advertisers pay for exposure to X number of eyeballs on the premise that out of X, some small percentage of them will be interested in what's being advertised.

On the Web, however, everything can be -- and is -- carefully scrutinized. All the statistics are there for everyone to examine: Not just (nearly) exactly how many eyeballs view an ad, but also how many of those views lead to requests for more information, and how many of those lead to sales.

And now that we've got real, reasonably hard numbers, everyone can see that the numbers are far, far worse than anyone realized. Ad views do not lead to sales except in such miniscule amounts that it's only worth it for huge companies.

Now maybe I'm generalizing too much from one medium to another. Maybe ads on the Web are the problem; maybe magazine ads really do lead to sales. But here are some concrete numbers: I have a Website which used to get about 100,000 pageviews a month. Back in the good old days, I was getting maybe $200 a month for selling ads on it. Now I'm lucky if I get $50 every six months. Advertising in a magazine with 100,000 readers per month, by way of contrast, would probably cost around a thousand dollars.

For a while I was able to get more money for text ads because people were paying to game the Google PageRank system; but Google changed PageRank and the bottom fell out of that market, too.

Basically, supporting Websites through advertising is a broken model. Supporting TV shows and magazines through advertising has probably been broken forever, too, but it's held together by blind faith and a lack of imagination.

I can't work out much in the way of solving this. I think we need a culture shift, a complete change in the way the arts -- magazine writing, photography, online projects, TV shows, and so on -- are funded. I don't know how this shift will happen or if it will happen. I know that simply explaining the reality to people isn't enough; try telling someone that they're already paying for network TV, because every Coke they buy costs more to pay for the ads Coca-Cola buys on network TV. I mean, it seems simple enough: Everyone is already paying for media. The only real question is, what model are we going to use to spread the money around? Yet many people persist in the mistaken belief that certain media should be free while being supported by advertising -- as if advertising money was just printed out by a machine somewhere.

2/02/2007 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, granted, I'm no marketing whiz, but can you explain something for me chris? I can see the paying more for your coke reasoning for why we're already paying for network tv. But how are we paying for internet sites if we don't buy any products that are advertised? (I don't buy Coke either, but I do buy some stuff that's advertised on tv; how can you not?)

2/02/2007 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Anon 10:38 sez:
But how are we paying for internet sites if we don't buy any products that are advertised?

I think it depends on which Website you're talking about. A lot of the Web is a hobby. Take my Websites: I have several gigabytes worth of stuff on various topics. Most of it is hosted on a server which is part of my friend's business as an ISP. He gives me lots of free space because he likes me, mainly, although I have been known to contract through his company for work and he gets a cut of that. It's hardly a quid pro quo, though; basically, my Websites are subsidized by my friend's business. My time is paid for by my wife, who works for a living so I can eat.

Or take Ed's blog here. Ed, who's paying you to work on your blog? I'll answer for him: No one.

A lot of Websites seem to think there's some benefit to giving stuff away free. Like Blogger. I remember the joke about when it first started up: "We'll sell every product at a loss, but we'll make it up in volume."

Some Websites are nothing but advertising. Coca-Cola obviously has its own site and it buys advertising on other sites. So your Coke buys support some Websites, also, the same way they support magazines and TV shows.

Pretty much everyone is paying for all this media, except maybe the Unabomber when he was in his hut. Remember that you don't have to buy the products that are specifically advertised, you just have to buy products that are advertised somewhere, and you're paying for someone's "free" media.

Looking at funding this way, the miniscule tax burden of the NEA is a ridiculous thing for anyone to get upset about. Plenty of people are rerouting workers' hard-earned dollars to creations of which they'd never approve.

2/02/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

The writers criticizing blogs live in major urban areas. For those who do not, blogs keep artists in touch with current practice. How many images do art magazines or newspaper reviews have? Blogs have more and then have links to the artists'/galleries' websites. I live in a major urban area (LA) but don't get to NY as often as I would like. Blogs keep me in touch with what's happening there. And Tyler's blog has opened up museums in other cities for me.

This isn't an either/or situation. "Both" is better.

2/02/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To expand on your comment about traditional vs. blog, I know that I find the blog a perfect way to "interact" with the traditional -- to comment on something that caught my eye and evoked a response. The "letter to the editor" department in most traditional journals is not going to publish commentaries from random artists; hence the blog becomes an available discussion forum among its community of readers/participants. And I agree with earlier comments that blog does not imply lesser quality criticism, rather that's a function of the integrity of the blogger. The Warhol Foundation recently affirmed this by putting "new media" as one of the topics they would fund in an arts writer grant.
Peter at

2/02/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Peter: Thanks so much for putting that up. I am totally applying for it!

2/02/2007 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Hmm, Chris, that's a gloomy portrait of web economy that you're painting there.

I know some free web space that "still" make money out of advertising, though that's not those small "google" square in the corners (more like full banner animations).

I wonder how an ad company can judge that someone buys their products or not through web statistics. I can see an ad on the streets any day, and decide to buy the product weeks later. I don't think the "we'll pay you when someone buys it from your website" politic is fair. Advertisers should pay by number of eyeballs. I can see an ad for a new movie on any website and it might entice me to go see it, and no one will know
(actually, that Pan's Labyrinth).

For whatever it was worth, a film like Snakes On A Plane had everyone talk about it because of web advertisements. Than the product was not up to expectations. But that's another problem.

We are not there yet where Web TV is that fluid as to prevent any glitches on opening a webpage commercial, but we are getting there, and I don't see why advertisers should pay less on the web then they do on networks.
It is not fair for advertisers to require paying by sale commissions. Advertising is not sale. It's about getting people to know you, even when they hate you.


Cedric Caspesyan

PS: paying for content is not an option, as people will need to select what they ought to read, and less people will profit in the end. Imagine if you had to pay subscriptions to every art blogs!
You'd be contempt with 5 minutes of reading on one blog each day instead of moving around reading for hours. And the one succeeding blog (the one that gets many subscribers) would feel forced to expell tons of rubbish as to not disappoint their clientele.

We need to keep up with the diversities and divergences of Web 2.0. Besides, we can all return to good old farming and agriculture, and simply write about art late at night.

2/02/2007 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please excuse my ignorance, but what is web 2.0? does it just mean the current state of the internet?

2/03/2007 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Web 2.0 according to Wikipedia.

Personally I think it's crap. Most of the time the term seems to be used sarcastically, though, as in "Beware the shiny red button of Web 2.0!"

2/03/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Sorry for coming late, but back to the original post, I have to agree with Plagens on this one. Blogs are not art-critical vehicles.

Tyler Green writes about news, politics, art current events, but not criticism. He picks winners and losers, he champions certain people, places and things, and -- most often -- denigrates whom he dislikes. As to "snark," Plagens quotes James Elkins referring to the "sarcastic violence" of past NYT critic John Canaday. The label fits Tyler to a T.

Tyler worked for Howard Dean and, before that, some kind of WDC law office with a sociopolitical bent (I think). Anyway he's a political writer who covers art. CNN covers global warming for political reasons, not scientific or ecological ones. Tyler tells us more about the back-room shennanigans of the Still museum or the Getty, takes personal swipes at Anyone But Roberta And Jerry, or tells us gushingly about Yet Another Shirin Neshan Show, but very rarely engages in art-historical or aesthetic discussion. It's all politics to him.

Listen: He provides a valuable and important service, and writes a very entertaining and compelling blog -- I read MAN almost every morning without fail -- but it ain't criticism by a long shot. Nor need it be. Current events are important too. (BTW, many days I wonder whether Tyler's on-going feud with ArtForum's Diary blog shows less an attitude that art blogging be high-quality, than a discomfort that the AF Diary comes uncomfortably close to his. [Likewise for his on-going mini-feud with Lee Rosenbaum]).

Franklin at is the only blogger I can think of off-hand who actually engages art on a historical and aesthetic level. See for example his occasional slideshows, which are -- contra Plagens -- far superior to most news articles offerred by anyone. (Even Roberta And Jerry). But Franklin might be the exception which proves the rule. Art Fag City comes close, but she's also mostly an events journalist, at least on her blog. This blog (Edward's) is one of the best in the business, but it's concerned again with meta-issues, like gallery relationships and art philosophy, not criticism. Again and again I'll say there's nothing wrong with this, and in fact I love this blog to death, but art criticism it ain't.

Plagens just barely avoids using "circle-jerk" (a pejorative previously applied to political blogs by some professional journalist a year or two ago), but as far as I can tell, it's not so inaccurate to say art blogging, when it's not about current events, isn't much more than the posting of links to articles written by paid professionals, and the posting of links to those blogs, and so on. Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn't matter -- personally I love all of it -- but original criticism it ain't.

2/03/2007 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Henry sez:
Blogs are not art-critical vehicles.... Tyler Green writes about news, politics, art current events, but not criticism.

This is why I personally don't read MAN or a lot of other blogs read by the other people commenting here -- I'm not usually interested, except very distantly, about the politics of the art world. I'm interested in actual art criticism.

I attempt to engage art, as you say, "on a historical and aesthetic level". I totally lack any training for doing so, so I probably look like an idiot half the time, but there you go. I'm mostly concerned with aesthetics, though, and I'm not sure you need as much formal schooling for that.

I'm also interested in entertaining writing, which is why some of the political art blogs -- Edna's, Ed's here -- keep me reading.

So what I'm saying is, I see the void you're talking about, and I'm trying to fill as much of it as I can. Whether I'm successful or not, well, that's another issue.

2/03/2007 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Cedric sez:
It is not fair for advertisers to require paying by sale commissions. Advertising is not sale.

I agree with this, and it makes me angry that this is how it works. But rest assured, if it was possible to track magazine advertising as closely as they do Web ads, they would. And magazines, with their higher overhead, would vanish from the face of the Earth.

My opinion, anyway. The Web -- let's say small press content on the Web, like blogs and such -- survives because of how cheap these small sites are for individuals to operate. And don't forget the Web has inherited from the Internet a culture of freely giving back to the community. Keep in mind, also, that the Internet was supported for the first twenty years of its life by the American taxpayers.

But that seems to be the American system: Have the government (the taxpayers) pay to develop it, then privatize it so someone can milk it for as much money as possible and then dodge paying any taxes. Then have the government step in to repair it when it nears collapse.

2/03/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


ED's blog is an extension of his commercial activities people. Plain and simple....ask him?!

Jerry Saltz in Modern! "Poor" Arturo Herrera!

NYT Art Section Feb 4, 2007....about JPEG's! I said it first here!

Blogs are fun until you disagreeee....with them or you are smarter than their authors. What comes first?


2/03/2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

MLS sez:
ED's blog is an extension of his commercial activities people.

Was there some point at which this was not blindingly obvious?

2/03/2007 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

At times artblog writing is much more vibrant and interesting than the print work. Some of my favorite print writing has the personality of an artblog.

Here's an artblog-like print voice: Matthew Collings.

I'd hope that as art writing continues to develop, some of the styles, approaches and voices of artblog writers will flavor the mix.

Have any artblog writers become traditional media art writers?

2/03/2007 08:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally I like the comments from artists or collectors best.
The initial topic posted by Ed, and no offense, is usually a little long for me, and at times convoluted. That said it's still a lively place to visit. Comments make up for the initial drag.

I think it has been covered that Tyler is not a critical writer on art. There is a place for him as a art-o-political blogger, which for me is tedious, but for others it may be just their thing.

The most convincing bloggers / posters aren't the best artists, or their art really pulls down the writing. I find it almost impossible to separate the two.
These are just my observations.

So, what is a critic? Hmmm!

At the moment I still have to go with that a critic is a person who has a paid job writing art criticism that registers timely, whose writing is evocative--able to stand face to face with the art, and talk with it.

The Art is First.

2/03/2007 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Again, I'm being the black sheep here for disagreeing with a few things.

>>>Blogs are not art-critical >>>vehicles.

....and you mention Roberta and Jerry. Are you aware that some people like me only read Roberta or Jerry on Artnet or through the web what would not be too different if it was on blogs.

I've read articles on John Perrault's web diary which were more thorough than anything Saltz ever written. Same for Haber, Art Critical, and a couple others. They are not that many people who devote their blogs to critize specific art exhibits, but IMNSHO
they are among the best blogs out there, and counting those who never criticize specific shows, they are many blogs who do an excellent job in being critical or even COUNTER-CRITICAL (giving a response, another voice, to the more official views) in regards to the current states of art.

>>>I love this blog to death, but >>>art criticism it ain't.

Oh yes, it is. I wrote some darn hellish criticism right here myself. Too bad if people didn't catch when it was criticism. It really depends of what is the topic of the day, but the critism here happens collectively. We are discussing together on diverse art issues, and sometimes they involve history and aesthetics.

>>>ED's blog is an extension of >>>his commercial activities people.

For him, perhaps. For me this blog
and the gallery have nothing to do together. The blog might help the gallery to be known, but it's not THAT evident...not like it's blogspot.winklemangallery.

>>>Comments make up for the >>>initial drag.

I think a couple of us (that includes me) are nearly doing parasite blogging on Edward's blog, but hey, as long as we're having fun together.

>>>a critic is a person who has a >>>paid job writing art criticism

Hmm...I don't think a good art critic necessarely means he is paid for it. Some bloggers write better than art columnist newbies.


Cedric Caspesyan

2/04/2007 01:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned artnet. I think artnet would be better if it had readers' comments and maybe some blogs, like artsjournal is sort of like a magazine, with links to news items from other publications, plus blogs (including tyler's).

2/04/2007 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to say this chris, but you're no art critic. i've taken a lot at your blog, which is fine for what it is, but you don't write with any sense of art history, so your views are just one person's views, one person with no particular expertise. sorry if that sounds harsh, but a critic is more than just someone with an opinion. a critic has a knowledge of history, something to refer back to when discussing work.

2/04/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger hlowe said...

I will have to reiterate:

Why would anyone want to spend their time criticising art criticism? All good critique stands the test of time; blogs with politcal bent ---hey!--why not? Printed exegesis? again-- why not? There is no tabula rasa -- "criticism must have a historical base in the discussion?"---if you want to go that route, you will have to tell me what historical base is the correct historical base.
It's all good, It's all bull***t
As an artist: the more avenues available, the better.
I am going to go read some poetry.

2/04/2007 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Anon 12:06 sez:
a critic has a knowledge of history, something to refer back to when discussing work.

Well, I'm learning. It's a process. Figure I'm in my freshman year of art history. Another couple of years and I'll have improved. I mean, I'm not literally in school, but I'm teaching myself.

2/04/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Dear anon 12:06,

you said:

"sorry to say this chris, but you're no art critic. . . a critic has a knowledge of history, something to refer back to when discussing work."

You do realize that that is just your opinion? Learning it in school doesn't give it more weight than that. What a critic really needs, in my opinion, is humility when confronted with the unknown. That is a rare quality that Chris is careful to include in every comment he makes. It is the single pre-requisite of learning without bias and beyond memorization of platitudes.

and isn't it fun to make snarky comments when no one knows who you are? The height of mature and considered criticism, in some camps, anyway.

2/04/2007 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, didn't mean to be snarky. I agree that Chris has humility and is a valuble contributor to the discussion, but I don't read his blog for real criticism. But chris, keep on keeping on, learning is good.

and i agree that school is not the best place to learn a lot of things. life is the best place, so chris, you're in the right place.

2/04/2007 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Tim sez:
That is a rare quality that Chris is careful to include in every comment he makes.

I'm touched, really touched. Mostly people just make nasty comments about my messages online. The only nice messages I get are from confirmed friends like Tracy Helgeson. It's heartening to see something positive from someone I don't regularly swap e-mail with.

2/04/2007 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Anon continues:
I agree that Chris has humility...

...which is rapidly draining away...

2/04/2007 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, never-mind Chris. the point is do we need a critical view of any kind to move art?
The Answer: No! A Vitae is enough, and a jpeg.
Today, who is the critic talking to? Anyone? Someone? A classical music buff? A gallery operator who doesn't work enough hedge stuff? An interested artist? They are all good people but are they the ones that can ultimately move stuff, the only proof that the critic has done well. I think cultural theorists are about to move back in. I think they are the only ones who can go forward beyond something that is well-paced, fine, and delicately driven.

2/05/2007 03:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Anon 3:34 sez:
the point is do we need a critical view of any kind to move art?

Move art in the sense of move product, like selling art? Or move art in the sense of propel art as art forward?

I think criticism is important for the practitioners of any art or craft. Whether it's customer feedback for a plumber or an art critic's essay for a painter, criticism helps improve the state of the art while providing a gateway, an introduction, for anyone just starting out. Good criticism lets us know where we've been and where we're going. It helps us figure out where we want to visit and what stops to bypass. Good criticism is a guide and an overview, a list of suggestions and a catalogue of hopes. Good criticism is vital to producing good art.

I've seen a number of photography books and articles lately which feature some beautiful woman being photographed by some guy and the text claims that this woman is the guy's "muse." But a muse is not some skinny chick who takes her clothes off for a mope behind a lens. A muse is a spirit who guides an artist, who provides direction and acts as someone to reflect ideas and conceptions. Every true artist has a muse, whether it's a wife or husband, or a patron, or some internal or spiritual voice.

Good art criticism is a muse once removed, a muse for the wider culture.

2/05/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

From Cedric:

Are you aware that some people like me only read Roberta or Jerry on Artnet or through the web what would not be too different if it was on blogs.

Yes, of course. But it would be extremely different if it was on blogs. That was Plagen's whole point! You can only read a professional critical opinion in a blog after a professional journalist's mainstream media article has been linked from that blog.

Artnet -- which is not a blog, but a commercial media outlet with advertisers, products and full-time employees in multiple countries -- republishes Jerry Saltz's articles only after they have been originally featured on The Village Voice. If you read the Voice's website you'll see the articles when they're originally published. Like you, I happen to find artnet more convenient, but if I cared to, I could read Saltz's articles when they're fresh.

I do agree that Matthew Collings would make a great blog. I almost considered maintaining my subscription to Modern Painters just because of him -- I really hate the new large-sized cheap-paper format -- but ultimately it wasn't enough. I hope he makes a blogs soon. (BTW and FWIW, Modern Painters republishes the same Saltz pieces too).

Chris: Great comment at "2/05/2007 09:24:00 AM". Nicely said.

2/05/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Jerry's pieces for Mod Painters are different, no?

2/05/2007 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>you don't write with any sense >>>of art history, so your views >>>are just one person's views, >>>one person with no particular >>>expertise.

I do not agree with you at all. I think it is stubborn to only expect criticism from academics. I am interested in what anyone has to say about art and that a good portion of art (not all) should be addressed to the public in general in ways that it can trigger interesting reactions from just about everyone. The "art critic" often is too spoiled to actually have fun when looking at art. Or they make ridicule unnecessary connections to sound like they have done their homework.

I mean, it can be great to hear them, but that don't make the connections people without knowledge of art can make any less interesting.

I can differentiate the POV of a connoissor, but that remains a POV.
The world is not made around POVs.


Cedric Xaspesyan

2/07/2007 09:58:00 AM  

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