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Three Great Art Critics


I read a lot of art criticism and find much of it pretentious. Not only pretentious but also indecipherable. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by those who are clear, witty, passionate and learned and best of all, good writers. Among them are Arthur C. Danto, Robert Hughes and Peter Schjeldahl. All of them wrote or write for well-known publications, The Nation, Time Magazine and The New Yorker respectively. I think reading their books and essays is wonderfully illuminating and offers a great and idiosyncratic education in art.  Even when you disagree with them, it's impossible not to enjoy doing so.


Biographical information.


Arthur C. Danto: Since 1984, he has been art critic for The Nation, and in addition to his many books on philosophical subjects, he has published several collections of art criticism, including Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism; Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992); Playing With the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe (University of California, 1995); and, The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000).  A favorite: Unnatural Wonders : Essays From the Gap Between Art and Life. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061127/danto


Robert Hughes: He left Australia for Britain in the early 1960's, writing for such publications as the Spectator, the Telegraph, the Times and the Observer, before landing the position of art critic for Time Magazine in 1970.  Books include The Shock of the New (1981), The Fatal Shore (1987), his study of the British penal colonies and early European settlement of Australia, which became an international best-seller, Culture of Complaint (1993) and American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America (1997).  He provided commentary and highlights on the work of artist Robert Crumb throughout the 1994 film "Crumb", calling Crumb "the American Breughel". His 2002 documentary on the painter Francisco Goya - Goya: Crazy Like a Genius—was broadcast on the first night of the BBC's domestic digital service. He created a one hour update to The Shock of the New. Titled The New Shock of the New, the program aired first in 2004.  His first volume of memoirs, Things I Didn’t Know, was published in 2006. My favorite is Barcelona (1992), a cultural-political "biography" of the great Spanish city, which won the El Brusi prize at the Barcelona Cultural Olympiad. A conversation with Robert Hughes on Charlie Rose: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/119


Peter Schjeldahl has spent four decades writing for publications like ARTnews, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and The Village Voice. At The New Yorker since 1998, he moved from writing weekly to bimonthly copy, while zeroing in on his favorite subjects. There is painting, on which he has had a schoolboy crush since ogling Piero della Francesca's Madonna del Parto in Italy (he describes a second life-changing epiphany, seeing Warhol's flower paintings in Paris, as "someone kicking open the doors of a blast furnace"), and beauty, a concept he describes as "the A-bomb of art criticism." "Paintings are the longest, most important vacations from myself."  On aesthetics, he can be just as personal: "Beauty is as important to the organism as digestion." Books include Let's See: Writings on Art from The New Yorker, Thames & Hudson, 2008; De Kooning and Dubuffet: The Late Works, Pace Gallery Publications, New York, NY, 1993; The Hydrogen Jukebox: Selected Writings of Peter Schjeldahl, 1978-1990. Edited by Malin Wilson, University of California Press, 1991, The 7 Days Art Columns,1988-1990, Figures Press, 1990, Jean Dubuffet: Recent Paintings, October 31-29 November 1980 The Pace Gallery: Exhibition, The Gallery. New York, NY, 1980.  www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2009/04/20/090420craw_artworld_ schjeldahl -


 

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