Wow, those Anthony Caro sculptures on the rooftop of the Met look awful. I’ll have to see them in person when I get back to have a real opinion (for now I just have the Times review and commentary by Andrew Russeth at Sixteen Miles) but his work’s always been a little too contained for my tastes. This doesn’t look much different than what I’ve already seen.
Russeth doesn’t talk too much about the quality of the work, but does discuss Caro’s relationship with Clement Greenberg at length, which he notes, has gotten a lot of attention over the years. The Times Ken Johnson reminds us of this in recent review, which mentions Greenberg and Russeth adds a relevant quote from the Voice’s David Bourdon. The question is, why do people care about critic-artist discussions and collaborations? According to Russeth, one explanation might be that Caro-Greenberg relationship was the last of its kind: a major artist and a major critic working together, “forging art and theory in unison.”
“Clement could somehow get you to develop [the work],” Caro says later in the interview. “Get you to go that one stage further. That, I think, was his thing. He was in the studio, it was in the studio he was good. But you had to do it. He didn’t do it.” I cannot think of any other interview in which an artist emphasizes that a sympathetic critic is not actually making his work.
Caro’s comment has the ring of teacher-student exchange, which from what I’ve heard would have been typical of Greenberg though of course it’s not a particularly common relationship these days. Being told what to make isn’t exactly collaboration in the traditional sense of the word.
As for the unusualness of the relationship today, so long as we’re talking actual discussion and actual collaboration, I’d argue there’s far more of that going on between critics, artists, curators, dealers and any other art professional than ever. Firstly, I don’t think a critic can reasonably be expected to do their job without at least a couple of professional friendships with artists. This doesn’t mean I endorse discussing the work of friends without the necessary disclaimers — I don’t — but I also don’t think it’s possible to respond to art well without maintaining at least a few close relationships with artists. Second, I don’t want to endlessly blow the internet’s horn, but let’s face it, it makes nattering all day with whomever one pleases easier. Of course, whether all this activity often amounts to anything more than noise is debatable, but on good days, I know nothing could be further from the truth.