Disarticulating Porous Membranes And Other Adventures in Art Writing

There are worse role models: Bill Murray

* * *

Art writing has a reputation for being reliably nondescript or notoriously impenetrable. Either way you cut it, the reputation is deserved. Someone with more patience and intestinal fortitude than I can muster will have to pinpoint when and how this most transitory of literary enterprises became a running parody of itself.

Occasionally, I’ll collect samples of art writing that defy readability or exemplify jargon above-and-beyond the call of pretension. I tell myself that these dribs-and-drabs of tortured prose will be of some pedagogical use, but mostly I gather them in the cause of cruel self-amusement.

Masochism in small doses–it works for me.

Here are some recent excerpts culled from press releases, catalogs, magazines and the like. I’ve excised the names of the artists and the scribes, not out of kindness, but because the words make a hash out of work that’s over-hashed to begin with. Otherwise, every garbled phrase, tired buzz-word and proud declaration of aesthetic purpose is guaranteed verbatim.

“[The artist’s] work opened up the semantic rules of identity and linguistic construction by virtue of its syntactical disposition towards subject-object relations based on appropriation of language, sign, text, and speech as material for his painting practice.”

“[The artist’s] formal mediation of the art historical trope of the nude allows for the collapse of figure and ground into a myth-laden expanse of colonized psychic and formal impulses. Her anatomy becomes both a part and the principal organizing matrix of the landscape, as the fields and lakes of her environs seem to issue directly from the serial contours that formulate her composition.”

“[The] work shows that words, signs and marks come to mean more, over time, in this symphony of diversity, both incongruous and in harmony, that surrounds our contemporary life.”

“Concerned with an increasingly homogenized visual culture, [the artist] disarticulates the primary communicative function of electronic media by playing with sound, speed, and sequence, to produce not only radical ruptures within our normative processes of perception, but also news ways of encountering meaning.”

“Just as [the artist] has shown how bodies can be so violently acted upon by interior and exterior forces, in his new work the apparent neutrality and solidity of architecture is shown to be unable to contain the overflow of ideologies and agendas embedded within–the body of the space bursting and the walls becoming a porous membrane.”

“[The artist] salutes Bill Murray for providing a model of what a man can be.”

Postscript: Laurie Fendrich has a few words about the current state of art writing, along with a kind mention of yours truly, at her invaluable blog. Like Fendrich, I deplore the word “practice” as a description of what happens in the studio. But I dislike the word “gallerist” even more. Am I the only person whose delicate literary sensibilities are rankled by this ungainly and high-falutin’ turn of phrase?

© 2011 Mario Naves

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  • Rob  On April 17, 2011 at 5: 46 pm

    Why don’t you like “gallerist”? I like it because it’s shorter than “gallery owner.”

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