This is how it works

- or at least how I work

Some notes on writing a review

 

  • My preconceptions about an exhibition – what I expect to see, feel and think – rarely turn out to be in accordance with how I actually experience a certain show when in it.
  • When I exit an exhibition I have to be alone for a while, doing something else, preferably walking – without giving the exhibition just seen a single thought.
  • Then, after a few hours, bad thoughts start to sieve in, followed by a very bad mood. The world closes in on itself, I go down into my mind.
  • There is nothing I can do, nothing to say – I will never be able to write about what I have seen. Language has deserted me.
  • Then words starts coming, word by word, a line, maybe two – and finally a good sentence I can build my review upon. A foundation. Something that rings true about the seen, and what I have to say about it.
  • The rest is hard work = craft. Writing and re-writing, again, and again … and again. And a lot of reading out loud – listening to/for the rhythm and music in my own text.
  • When everything sings the text is finished.
  • I hand my piece over to the editor.
  • Then it immediately starts to fade, in a surprisingly short while it will disappear completely from my mind, be forgotten.

this is how I work

- how it works

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A poem is like an eye chart

The job of the poet is to seduce the reader – 

- According to Billy Collins it is “about achieving a balance between “clarity and mystery. It’s important to know which card to turn over and which to lay face-down. But the beginning of a poem should always be very clear, to get a reader on board, and only then can you be confident that when you move into less obvious areas of metaphor or fantasy that they will go with you. It is like an eye chart, with its big E at the top, and the letters getting less legible as it moves along. A poem should be like that.”

Collin’s view on poetry is interesting also from the point of view of the critic, and for ‘the art industry’.

“I have spoken a lot about willful obscurity in poetry – where the poet is hiding behind language, using it as camouflage – and I don’t have much tolerance for that kind of poetry,” 

We find exactly the same problem in the art world; critics and curators obscuring the art for the viewer. I have just recently started to wonder if this is a negative inheritance from Arthur Danto … but have to make more research to know for sure.

 
Collins says: A poem is a projection of the most private aspects of the self, which has the capacity to move even – or especially – a stranger.
 
 

Opinions underpin attitudes

Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turned based on indifference to what other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them.

I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allow them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.

 Daybook, Anne Truitt

(Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, July-August 1974)

anything but reductive

I have never seen any of Truitt’s sculptures other than in photograps, she came to me through her writing. A mature woman’s literary reflections on motherhood and art, such a rare story to be told, was what initially got me interested. I find her work, seen from a very long distance, really beautiful, but believe the greatness in her sculptures lay in a subtle play of color-tone, in details one actually have to view on site to get a grip on.

Her journals have many readers, but for some, like the critic Peter Plagens, Anne Truitt was first and foremost an artist. In a review of her exhibition A Life in Art, at Baltimore Museum of Art in 1992, he writes:

Anne Truitt is an artist of the old school. That she was born into genteel circumstance in Baltimore in 1921 and graduated from Bryn Mawr during World War II are only indirectly connected. Yes, Truitt is a grandmother who lives and works not in Soho but in Washington, D.C., reads the classics, and is given to saying things like “I have a friend in Horace.” (“I like to smoke when I talk,” is about as downtown as she gets.) Of course she writes well, having published two critically praised memoirs, “Daybook” (1982) and “Turn” (1986). But what really marks her as an orphan of the current cacophonous scene is her beautiful sculpture.

Anne-Truitt-Threshold-Installation-view-via-Matthew-Marks-21He continues …

Truitt’s remarkably consistent sculpture first surfaced in New York in a gallery solo show in February 1963. The exhibition was badly (in both senses of the word) reviewed by Donald Judd (who showed his first minimalist work 10 months later). Truitt has been underrated ever since. Perhaps it has to do with her use of romantic, nonprimary colors on the kind of basic geometric forms other sculptors prefer to render in black or white or naked steel. Maybe it’s her work’s inescapable allusions (to a place, a season, a time of day) that cause theorybound critics to see it as too much heart and not enough head.

 
The rebuttal that this exhibition gracefully offers is that Truitt’s art is anything but reductive. She doesn’t whittle down material excess and then call a halt just before the sculpture disappears. She builds up from an emotion until she’s made her poetic point, and then lets her objects stand there and sing. For those who choose to listen, it’s more than enough.