Smackdown: David Pagel vs. Diana Thater

February 3, 2010 at 3:22 PM Leave a comment

I guess I’ve been under a rock.  I missed David Pagel’s review of Diana Thater’s current exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the subsequent backlash in the comments and on Thater’s blog.  I wanted to leave a reply to one of Naomi Treblaine’s comments on Culture Monster, but the comments have been closed (why Culture Monster?), so I’ll post it here:

“A newspaper is not the place for a mean ‘critic’ to attack an artist. It is to present work, describe and analyze.”

Describe and Analyze? Wrong! This is exactly what is wrong with criticism today.  Most critics kowtow to the advertisers or higher ups and turn in a few paragraphs with absolutely no opinion whatsoever.  Pagel’s review contains plenty of description with no personal attacks.  I have to admit I haven’t seen the show yet, but lambasting rehashes of academic post-structuralist critiques is par for the course nowadays, and a genuine assessment of the work.  I have read the numerous defensive comments and Thater’s own history on her blog and there have been a few nasties slung on both sides.  But notwithstanding, it is the critic’s charge to evaluate works of art.  Chiding a critic who pans a show for being “mean” is just silly.

For some kindred thoughts, check out this blog post from Bill Wheelock who also thought Pagel’s review was “about the work, not the person.” (via @KnightLAT)

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Entry filed under: Art Blogosphere. Tags: , , , .

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