The Washington Post’s influential art critic, the Canadian Blake Gopnik, offers some thoughts on critical opinion. He is “quite certain that the works of…Canadian Brian Jungen are about as good as it gets in contemporary art,” he says. “I’m sure I must have been right. My memory and instincts tell me I was.”
Brian Jungen, Prototype for New Understanding #1, 1998. Image: curatedobject.us
But then he questions himself: “What if I wasn’t? What if I…(now) reach whole other conclusions?”
He concludes that part of being a critic is being open and strong enough to change your mind.
Brian Jungen, 2 works from the Prototypes for New Understanding series, 2005 and 1999.
VoCA thinks that, since some shows and bodies of work by an artist will be better than others, the danger is in calling an artist’s work great when in fact he or she may have had one, or only two great ideas. Whether that will translate into a career of great ideas is another question.
Also, a critic must have a clear understanding of what is greatness in art, by which he or she judges new work. This will allow the critic to be more confident in his or her opinions. Of course, that understanding has to be flexible and open to change as the very nature of art changes. Nonetheless, this understanding makes it less likely that the critic will have to backtrack on his or her opinions, because they are always relative to an understanding – at that time – of what great art is.
Read Gopnik’s full article HERE
In a 2006 issue of Fillip, Kimberly Phillips writes: “Far from a simple comment on the commercialization of First Nations culture, Jungen’s work reveals the production and circulation, aestheticization, and politicization of native objects as a complex and unstable field of negotiation.”
VoCA would argue that she should have said as well as, instead of far from being a simple comment on the commercialization of First Nations culture. Because like it or not, one thing about Jungen’s work is that it is easy for people – museum-goers, art collectors – to understand.
This doesn’t stop writers from complicating things, though, shrouding this work – which is, let’s face it, not all that complicated – in mystery. In the catalogue for Jungen’s 2005 show at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2005, his pieces are described as “games that mobilize aesthetic and cultural misunderstandings to explore ways to politicize cultural stereotypes in the age of global capitalism.”