In Charles Willeford's great novel The Burnt Orange Heresy, the indifferent, arrogant art critic James Figueras, musing on his own success, observes,You may read the rest here, if you wish.
Only twenty-five full-time art critics in America, out of a population of more than two hundred million! This is a small number, indeed, of men who are able to look at art and understand it, and then interpret it in writing in such a way that those who care can share the aesthetic experience.The critic occupies a rarefied place. At least, the paid critic does. The man or woman who commands pages in publications such as, oh, let's say The LA Weekly, or, to choose another publication totally at random The Washington Post, is automatically looked at with unique authority because those particular publications have history, prestige, and money behind them. Someone who rises to the position of a food critic, or a television critic, in publications such as these, is expected to have atypical expertise that will inform his opinions. Most of us have real jobs, and have a limited amount of time to spend puzzling over the subtleties of this particular coq au vin, or what makes that ratatouille more desirous than this one over here -- or what makes "Mad Men" so good, or why you should be watching "30 Rock" as opposed to "Jersey Shore."
Clive Bell claimed that art was "significant form." I have no quarrel with that, but he never carried his thesis out to its obvious conclusion. It is the critic who makes the form(s) significant to the viewer!
Critics who make a living as critics get to spend all their time educating themselves on their particular métier. They become experts whose opinion can be sought out by others who aren't as knowledgeable, so that we can get a bit of wisdom for ourselves, and maybe be turned on to new experiences. A critic can be a great councilor.
Monday, April 11, 2011
New When Falls the Coliseum Piece: The tedium of the provincial critic
I got all offended and whatnot by a couple of critics' essays last week (one about the television show "Extreme Couponing," the other a "review" of the Olive Garden), and wrote a long diatribe, with some NSFW language. A brief taste: