Home » VoCA Loves…Jonathan Jones on Criticism

VoCA Loves…Jonathan Jones on Criticism

Guardian art blogger Jonathan Jones defends criticism, reflecting a stance that VoCA has long championed:

“There is an opportunity for critics again – and a need….It really is time to stand up for what is good against what is meretricious. And it really is possible to find examples of excellence as well as stupidity. In other words, this is a great time to be a critic – to try to show people what really matters…”


Image: easyart.com

“Yes, there’s a staggering volume of mediocre art being talked up by fools. But there are real talents and real ideas too. The critic’s task is to identify what is good and defend it come hell or high water – and to honestly denounce the bad….”

Read the full article HERE.

9 Responses to “VoCA Loves…Jonathan Jones on Criticism”

  1. Bill says:

    I totally agree! Though, in Canada, we have the problem of many outlets not wanting to publish “criticism” that isn’t positive, or people are too worried about their careers/reputations if they put their name to a piece of writing that’s negative. So, I’m glad that VoCA occasionally goes out on a limb and loathes things.

  2. Leah Sandals says:

    I feel the love for loathing too, Bill.

    Though I tend to Jones’s views, I can also appreciate there are different ways of doing criticism. Some people are really good at that “I’m illuminating the work of artists I think are really amazing. Period.” style.

    But I agree we kind of have a lot of that in Canada and it would be good to have more critical opinion at time. I know some people in Britain occasionally complain about the reverse — too much opinion, not enough illumination.

    Jerry Saltz is also super-strong on these points that criticism shouldn’t be afraid to be critical.

    One more stream of consicousness thought: with print column-inches shrinking for all topics, particularly the arts, I think it actually encourages less negative criticism. Some writers feel “well, I only have space to do one story this week, so I’d rather talk about something I find interesting rather than something I don’t.”

    In other words, if there was more print space for criticism in general, we just might find more space for negative criticism. Or not. But it could partly account for why more critical views can be found online, where paper costs are not an issue.

  3. Andrea says:

    Hmm, I don’t think space has much to do with it. As long as the critic is smart, balanced and knows what he/she is talking about and is WELL INFORMED, I actually prefer to read less text-heavy criticism, at least online. On a Sunday afternoon on my sofa with the papers..maybe I could get into longer pieces.

    That’s why I love Jerry Saltz. He gets right to the point, and does it well, in an informed, smart, snazzy way.

    I agree with Jones 100%. I think there’s more room for critics now. A very good thing.

  4. Bill says:

    Yah, the only space that doesn’t seem to be shrinking in newspapers are the ‘condo living’ and automotive sections, it seems!

    I totally understand the “why waste what little space we have with negativity” argument, but don’t you think that Canada’s relentlessly positive arts coverage actually kills the dialogue about art that I hear people so frequently cry for on this blog? (And yes, thank goodness for some of the better art blogs.)

    R.M. Vaughan’s piece in Canadian Art a few years ago about Vancouver’s “hot” art is the last time I can recall someone putting their name to a not completely positive take on Canadian art in a national publication. Some people loved his critique, some people (i.e., every artist in Vancouver) hated it, but, boy, people actually talked about it!

    Jerry Saltz is terrific, as is Peter Schjeldahl.

  5. Leah Sandals says:

    Hey dudes, I’m on your side here with the desire for more lively (ie. openly critical) writing in print and otherwise.

    I just also know why some people go the other way.

    So you know what this means then…. I expect to see more knives out on your part! : – )

  6. Bill says:

    I am sharpening them as we speak. (Insert sound of maniacal laughter…)

  7. Leah Sandals says:

    Good to hear, Bill… I, er, think.

  8. What frustrates me the most about the writing of art these days is context over content. In the video ‘Shut the Fuck Up’ By General Idea (btw available online through Artforum) we are reminded of readily society jumps on context rather than content in art. This feeds the bubble that we have seen in the art market over the past 5 years. Let us talk about the real issues that artist’s are questioning.

  9. Nick Brown says:

    I agree with Leah’s first point. For my part, I don’t appreciate lazy, negative criticism– the sort where a critic doesn’t have time to say much so they just go “ah, not much there.” I’ve had moments in reviewing exhibitions where I felt I had a negative opinion that I needed space to justify, but just didn’t have it at my disposal. It sucks when you have to withhold your opinion in a critical piece, but I think it’s irresponsible to spout lazy negative opinions without doing the public the service of rigorously justifying them.

    The R.M. Vaughn piece is just such a case in point. I don’t think everyone in Vancouver was strictly hostile to negative criticism, I think they were appalled that such a broad, leveling attack was put forth with such atrocious style and dearth of rigor. It was a sorely missed opportunity for real exchange, rather than just a back and forth lobbing of silly polemics.

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