Shotgun Review

West Coast Critical?

By Shotgun Reviews October 24, 2010

“Art Publishing Now” was a weekend-long event at Southern Exposure that showcased publishing projects currently active in the Bay Area. “West Coast Critical?” provided the most sensational moment of the program. The panel was a discussion that generated a variety of viewpoints and explored the validity of new generative modes of art criticism versus the recognizable forms of the status quo.

The panelists were well selected. Gallerist Steven Wolf admitted that he never really reads art criticism and that when he did he usually found it boring. Melissa Feldman, a regular contributor to Art in America, spoke briefly on the credentials that got her invited.

Curator Matthew Post’s presentation was an example of the kind of new critical gestures needed to untangle our current knots of understanding. Post’s fable about a time-traveling art historian who gets trapped in the past and is left with no choice but to adopt the identity of the artist he once studied was meant to illustrate his dedication to a form of criticism that is a hybridization of curation and creation. Post’s message was the medium. And while his story served to underscore the fact that now the editor is also the artist, the actual moral of his tale was that it has never been any other way.

Anne Walsh’s contribution to the panel added real evidence for this point of view. She discussed her time as an editor at X-TRA, a once alternative art journal that has since defected to the mainstream. Or as Walsh put it during her presentation, X-TRA slowly gained in legibility it also gained in legitimacy.”


Disclosure: Art Practical’s editor-in-chief, Patricia Maloney, was on the advisory committee for Art Publishing Now. Shotgun reviews are open submissions, and not solicited by the editorial staff.

Art Publishing Now logo, designed by MacFadden & Thorpe.

Mark Van Proyen’s clever slide lineup paired Lynda Benglis’ infamous Artforum ad of 1974 with a few similarly structured, lesser-known images. It was humorous. But during the moderated discussion, at the close of his well-articulated response to a question, Van Proyen blurted out, “If you want to read tabloid art criticism, read Jerry Saltz!” Van Proyen’s belittlement of an already embattled art critic, one who received zero praise for a recent stint on reality television, should demonstrate a point hidden in his slide show: the things that shock us no longer look like shocking things.


“Art Publishing Now” was held at Southern Exposure, in San Francisco, on October 9 and 10, 2010.


Joel Dean is an artist. He lives and works in Oakland, where he helps to operate an experimental art space called Important Projects.

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