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Re: [BKARTS] Telling of the Book Arts World



    Scott,
    
    Thank you for your excellent explanation and for sharing the Saltz
column. I believe Saltz is close, but doesn't get the cigar.
    Although quoting Melville's ideas about art and extending them to
criticism, in his final summation he leaves out half of Melville's first
balance of qualities, the one thing that seems to elude critics: "Humility
-- yet pride and scorn." It is this lack of humility, I believe, that hurts
art criticism, including that of Saltz. Pride and scorn, however, seem to
come easy to many critics. That lack is no less offensive than the abundance
of false objectivity.
    
    Buckley Jeppson 
    
    -----Original Message-----
From: Book_Arts-L [mailto:BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Scott
Teplin
Sent: Saturday, December 31, 2005 12:51 PM
To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [BKARTS] Telling of the Book Arts World
    
    (I'm re-replying so this has the proper subject)
    
    Dear Judy,
    
    I'm sorry that you took my criticism of the state of artist books 
    personally. It wasn't aimed at your site or your collection (and 
    certainly not you). Just seeing the THEMES listed on 
    artistsbooks.slq.qld.gov.au  really hit home for me - and got me to 
    express my frustrations for artist books in general - ie:  "sadly 
    telling of the book arts world." I think it's very nice that you have a 
    collection, a site and are interested in education. My "somewhat 
    negative comments" (what ever happened to ART CRITICISM? - see below) 
    were reflective of the state of what is produced by most of the book 
    artists that I have seen the last 12 years that I have been taking the 
    medium seriously (I was involved in Booklyn (booklyn.org) from their 
    beginning to address the concerns I have stated). Maybe I was just 
    raised in a world of MTV quick-cut editing and bright and shiny colors, 
    but in art - I want something NEW. Something exciting, something that I 
    haven't seen before and will make me think about things differently. 
    Michael Andrews' point is well taken (by me), "A clever binding 
    utilizing a passport that refers to immigration issues is not a 
    substitute for dealing with the issue."
    
    I think it would be useful for book artists and other members  of this 
    list to read the critic Jerry Saltz's excellent column on art ciritcism 
    (from this month - bold emphasis is mine) :
    
    SEEING OUT LOUD
    by Jerry Saltz
    
    This month is my seven-year anniversary at the Village Voice, so I 
    thought I'd use Frieze magazine's recent queries to me about the 
    "de-skilling of art criticism" and "our post-critical era" as a way to 
    write about what I think I'm trying to do here. First, I fretted I was 
    the kind of "de-skilled" critic Frieze was referring to. I have no 
    degrees. I started out as an artist, stopped painting, and became a 
    long-distance truck driver. My CB handle was "the Jewish Cowboy": 
    Shalom, partner. I didn't begin writing criticism until I was almost 
    40. All I knew was I loved art and had to be in the art world. The 
    truth is, I wasn't sure what Frieze meant by "de-skilled." It sounded 
    vaguely bad. But to me de-skilled means unlearning other people's ideas 
    of skill. All great contemporary artists, schooled or not, are 
    essentially self-taught and are de-skilling like crazy. I don't look 
    for skill in art; I look for originality, surprise, obsession, energy, 
    experimentation, something visionary, and a willingness to embarrass 
    oneself in public. Skill has nothing to do with technical proficiency; 
    it has to do with being flexible and creative. I'm interested in people 
    who rethink skill, who redefine or reimagine it: an engineer, say, who 
    builds rockets from rocks.
    
    The best critics look for the same things in contemporary criticism 
    that they look for in contemporary art. But they also have an eye. 
    Having an eye in criticism is as important as having an ear in music. 
    It means discerning the original from the derivative, the inspired from 
    the smart, the remarkable from the common, and not looking at art in 
    narrow, academic, or "objective" ways. It means engaging uncertainty 
    and contingency, suspending disbelief and trying to create a place for 
    doubt, unpredictability, curiosity and openness.
    
    Dishearteningly, many critics have ideas but no eye. They rarely work 
    outside their comfort zone, are always trying to reign art in, turn it 
    into a seminar or a clique, or write cerebral, unreadable texts on 
    mediocre work. There's nothing wrong with writing about weak art as 
    long as you acknowledge the work's shortcomings. Seeing as much art as 
    you can is how you learn to see. Listening very carefully to how you 
    see, gauging the levels of perception, perplexity, conjecture, 
    emotional and intellectual response, and psychic effect, is how you 
    learn to see better.
    
    Art is a way of thinking, a way of knowing yourself. Opinions are tools 
    for listening in on your thinking and expanding consciousness. Many 
    writers treat the juiciest part of criticism, judgment, as if it were 
    tainted or beneath them. The most interesting critics make their 
    opinions known. Yet in most reviews there's no way to know what the 
    writer thinks, or you have to scour the second-to-last paragraph for 
    one negative adjective to detect a hint of disinclination. This is 
    no-risk non-criticism. Being "post-critical" isn't possible. Everyone 
    is judging all the time. Critics who tell you they're not judging or 
    that they're being objective are either lying or delusional. Being 
    critical of art is a way of showing it respect. Being subjective is 
    being human.
    
    Yet people regularly say, "You shouldn't write on things you don't 
    like." This breaks my heart. No one says this to theater critics, film 
    reviewers, restaurant critics, or sports writers. No one says, "Just 
    say all the food was good." Nowadays, many see criticism mainly as a 
    sales tool or a rah-rah device. Too many critics enthuse over 
    everything they see or merely write descriptively. This sells everyone 
    short and is creating a real disconnect. People report not liking 80 
    percent of the shows they see, yet 80 percent of reviews are positive 
    or just descriptive.
    
    Obviously, critics can't just hysterically love or hate things, or 
    assert that certain types of art or media are inherently bad (e.g., no 
    one has actually believed that painting is dead since the Nixon 
    administration, yet writers regularly beat this dead horse). Critics 
    must connect their opinions to a larger set of circumstances; present 
    cogent arguments; show how work does or doesn't seem relevant, is or 
    isn't derivative; explain why an artist is or isn't growing. As with 
    Melville's ideas about art, criticism should have: "Humility -- yet 
    pride and scorn/Instinct and study; love and hate/Audacity and 
    reverence." Good criticism should be vulnerable, chancy, candid, and 
    nervy. It should give permission, have attitude, maybe a touch of 
    rebellion, never be sanctimonious or dull, and be written in a 
    distinctive, readable way. Good critics should be willing to go on 
    intuition and be unafraid to write from parts of themselves they don't 
    really know they have.
    
    If criticism is in trouble, as many say, it's because too many critics 
    write in a dreary hip metaphysical jargon that no one understands 
    except other dreary hip metaphysicians who speak this dead language. 
    They praise everything they see, or only describe. These critics are 
    like the pet owner who sews up the cat to stop it from fouling the 
    sofa: Tbhey keep the couch clean but kill the cat.
    
      C2005 Jerry Salt/ Village Voice
    
    Best-
    -Scott
    
    On Dec 31, 2005, at 11:00 AM, Michael Andrews wrote:
    
    > Scott
    >
    > You have the subject's nail on the head.
    > Themes do sound a lot more like interior decorating,
    > bookshelves by size and color scheme,
    > rather than a serious concern for issues and content.
    >
    > A clever binding utilizing a passport that refers to immigration
issues
    > is not a substitute for dealing with the issue.
    >
    > So, where's the beef?
    >
    > Paul's analysis smacks of the tenedency
    > of a marketplace trying to establish a canon
    > ( a way to up the price to support an industry of economic parasites )
    > which is usually a death knell for any art form
    > and for the makers of art.
    >
    > Oh well, homo sapiens - go figure.
    >
    > michael
    >
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: "Scott Teplin" <teplin@xxxxxxxxxxx>
    > To: <BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
    > Sent: Friday, December 30, 2005 2:20 PM
    > Subject: Re: Telling of the Book Arts World
    >
    >
    > It's tricky - because books often need to be more rigidly categorized
    > with the need for cross referencing - unlike paintings or sculpture. I
    > tend to see artist books less like literary books - and more like
works
    > of art. My point was, that when artist books are classified into
themes
    > - the most mediocre subjects always prevail. I mean - 'alphabets'?!
    > What grade are we in here? It makes me wonder what audience these
books
    > are intended for. My guess is that they are for the same circle jerk
    > crowd artist books always tend to swirl around in. I'm just saddened
    > that most of the time, when I see a book arts show - its with artists
    > books that are so painfully lacking in ideas. Innovative content is as
    > important in art as form is, and most artist books usually ignore one
    > for the other. It is for this reason that artist books will never be
    > taken as seriously as other forms of fine art by the established art
    > world.
    >
    > -Scott
    >
    > On Dec 30, 2005, at 11:02 AM, Lisa Beth Robinson wrote:
    >
    >>> It's sadly telling of the book arts world though, that under 'Find
    >>> artists' books by Theme,' the categories listed are:
    >>
    >> Dear Scott and Community,
    >>
    >> what are other categories you propose?  How do you envision a
    >> collection being categorized/organized?  By media and technique? Date
    >> published?  Subject-theme?
    >>
    >> For those of us starting collections, what do you suggest as a
    >> framework to use for organizing and cataloging a collection? (aside
    >> from Library of Congress and OCLC)
    >>
    >> Take care and have a peaceful new year,
    >> Lisa Beth
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >>
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    > _____________________
    > Scott Teplin
    > Photo/Graphics Editor
    > New York Times News Service
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    >
    _____________________
    Scott Teplin
    Photo/Graphics Editor
    New York Times News Service
    229 West 43rd St., Rm. 943
    New York, NY 10036
    Phone: (212) 556-4204,
    (888) 603-1036
    Fax: (212) 556-3535
    
    
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                          Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
                                        
              See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information
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Now Online - The Bonefolder, Vol. 2, No. 1 at <http://www.philobiblon.com/bonefolder>
                                    
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