That phone really bothered me « PREV | NEXT »: Collected Stories

October 6, 2010

Words to Work By

From Peter Schjeldahl's review of a controversially uncanonical 2000 Guggenheim show called 1900: Art at the Crossroads, which of course I missed--review and show both. Due to the magic of a technology called the book and an economic risk called the essay collection--Schjeldahl's 2008 Let's See, which reads just great two years late--I recently came across the following quote and feel I can still do a service by sharing it with you a week later:

[Organizer Robert] Rosenblum's brand of art-love vexes me with its levelling embrace of the good, the bad, and the kinky. Liking so much, can one care for anything? But such caprice is a timely antidote to the ten-best-list mentality in a field where most people's attention flags after the top two or three items. We need to recover the pleasure principle in our experience of art and in our public talk about it. Taste cannot be exercised too often or on objects too lowly. Art works are like people who are mysteriously possessed of a will to please us. Perhaps they fail--they may be fools, for example--but how can we not be touched by the effort? Grateful tact is most in order when the intention succeeds to a degree, but less than wholly. That's where art's engines of pleasure are most instructively exposed. A cultivated appreciation of the pretty good sets us up to register the surprise of the great, which baffles our understanding and teaches us little except how to praise. Greatness, a bonus for those who are in the game, can occur only when the game is widely and gladly played.

Though it omits the cleansing catharsis of the well-earned, sharply worded pan, hell, it's only a paragraph, and as such can serve as a credo--one among several, in the best case--for anyone on the criticism beat. What Schjeldahl doesn't mention is that it's best to write as sharply as he does when putting it into practice--or at least to try. So I'll mention it for him.

October 6, 2010 9:30 PM | | Comments (1)


Taste cannot be exercised too often or on objects too lowly.

fine, but just who gets to decide what is to be considered as being "too lowly"?

(also: what is "taste," and can i buy some cheap?)

Leave a comment


Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


    ARTicles ARTicles is a project of 
    the National Arts Journalism Program, an association of some 500 journalists in the United States. Our group blog is a place for arts and cultural journalists to share ideas and information, to celebrate what we do, and to make the case for its continuing value. ARTicles is edited by Laura Collins-Hughes. To contact her, click here.

    ARTicles Bloggers Meet our bloggers: Sasha Anawalt, MJ Andersen, Alicia Anstead, Laura Bleiberg, Larry Blumenfeld, Jeanne Carstensen, Robert Christgau, Laura Collins-Hughes, Thomas Conner, Lily Tung Crystal, Richard Goldstein, Patti Hartigan, Glenn Kenny, Wendy Lesser, Ruth Lopez, Nancy Malitz, Douglas McLennan, Tom Moon, Abe Peck, Peter Plagens, John Rockwell, Werner Trieschmann, Lesley Valdes and Douglas Wolk. more

    NAJP NAJP is America's largest organization dedicated to the advancement of arts and cultural journalism. The NAJP has produced research, publications and discussions and works to bring together journalists, artists, news executives, cultural organization administrators, funders and others concerned with arts and culture in America today. more

    Join NAJP Join America's largest organization of arts journalists. Here's how more

see all archives


Recent Comments