The Week in Negative Reviews

by Paddy Johnson and Corinna Kirsch on October 15, 2012 The Firing Line

Donald Moffett, "Call the White House", 1990

Jason Foumberg, “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s,” Frieze

Jason Foumberg does not like “This Will Have Been”, an exhibition curated by Helen Molesworth at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. He writes that the exhibition presented the 80’s as though it were a happening, and laments Molesworth’s narrow vision. “‘This Will Have Been’ mainly tethered its critique of mainstream culture to the familiar parade of museum-friendly, market supported art objects,” writes Foumberg.

The review comes with seemingly countless brilliant turns of phrase; “Art history needs the type of beating that Jones’s S&M lesbians administer,” writes Foumberg as he complains that this inclusion is the only example of anti-art subculture.

Read the piece. There’s plenty more where this comes from.

Roberta Smith, “The Message Over the Medium,” The New York Times

Roberta Smith went to the Hirshhorn for their sprawling Ai Weiwei retrospective, and she came back less than impressed. Everyone’s damned in this review; she calls out Ai and the show’s “less than keen” curators for turning the artworks into “window dressing that is all but overshadowed by the celebrity, pronouncements and predicaments of the artist himself.”

Adrian Searle, “Frieze London 2012: The speed-dating Approach to Art Fairs,” The Guardian

Adrian Searle wove his way through last week’s Frieze art fair, carrying what’s best described as a narrative prop: a warm, slowly curdling bottle of milk. It’s a pretty good metaphor for the fair experience, which involves viewing things no serious adult ought to want to own (a pink baby seal, stranded on the floor of the Gagosian stand; a searing fluorescent pink floor, by Korean artist Koo Jeong-A; a life-like and very hairy naked humanoid mannequin at some gallery or other.) A lot of the stands, let alone the art, quickly homogenise.”

Ned Holte, Made in L.A. 2012, Artforum

Ned Holte wonders why Los Angeles needs a biennial. In his critique of the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A.”, he observes that not much “made this exhibition LA beyond the mailing addresses of its artists.” It’s the same sort of generic formalism that you’d find anywhere, made by any MFA students.

Holte could have been more upfront about the exhibition’s invisible display of LA-ness; instead, he buries his thesis at the end of the review, leaving readers to suffer through seemingly endless run-on sentences, all filled with qualifiers. Where are all these Artforum editors who claim the prestige of their publication is based on writing quality?

James Panero, “October 2012 Gallery Chronicle,” The New Criterion

James Panero bashes the city’s museums for putting on some pretty dull shows in October’s issue of The New Criterion. The Brooklyn Museum made Brooklyn-based artists into “pawns in a museum’s marketing campaign [for GO]”, the Met keeps on churning out one “dumbed-down spectacle” after another and the New Museum may not even be one of the city’s “real museums.”

Over dinner, an independent curator explained to me that she would now rather organize an exhibition at a respected gallery than at The New Museum. With its hacked-up walls, its self-dealing, and its parade of second-rate shows, The New Museum has become such a pariah that (as an artist recently confirmed to me) to exhibit there is to blow your shot at a real New York museum show.

Oh geez. Panero overstates the problem here; the New Museum’s exhibitions are simply inconsistent, not wholly unredeemable. Shows like Ghost in the Machine, Ostalgia, and Lyndia Benglis were critically acclaimed for good reason!

Most of Panero’s griping served to underscore the point that he likes what’s in galleries better. The rest of the piece is dedicated to lauding the art work he’s seen around the city lately.

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