Why Warhol Mommy
“Why Warhol Mommy”. Click on image to see the full-sized version.

A custom art-criticism graphic by me. I’m reading some essays on contemporary art, and I came across this hypothetical conversation in an excellent NYTimes essay from 2005: State of the Art, by Barry Gewe. I thought it merited a handy graphic. And by the way, almost every graphic you see on my blog was created by me. I don’t just hijack other people’s content.

I think this quote sums up something I’ve been thinking about, and that is that it’s not so much the art criticism I sometimes find difficult to understand, it’s the use of the English language. Many authors hide the shallowness of their ideas behind a nearly impenetrable shield of jargon that spins off into meaninglessness. It often gives the impression of profundity, while offering blubbering idiocy.

7 replies on “Mommy Why Warhol

  1. … and, thus, you lay bare not just pathologies of art, but of my own profession (statistics) within science. Still, it’s an extremely good point. Such jargon does feel good when spoken as a member of some inner circle, though. I actually enjoy art jargon, though, not as real communication but as unintentional Dada.


    1. Unintentional Dada. Good one. I think I would challenge artists and art critics (according to the article they have died off), as well as some philosophers, to try to express their ideas in everyday English. Then they can doctor it back up again in art-speak. But if they can’t put it in simple English, or if simple English renders it simple-minded or obvious, then there’s a big problem.


      1. Definitely! I agree. I’d sacrifice my fun for such clarity any day. Not everything can be dumbed down but a lot can, more than the in-crowd would ever believe.


  2. But does clarity mean “dumbing down”? I don’t believe it necessarily does. George Orwell, rather well known for his writing, argued that a writer should “Avoid using a long word where a SHORT WORD will do, unless the longer word conveys your meaning more clearly or more emphatically (if emphasis is what you want in that particular sentence)”, and “If it is possible to cut out a word without changing meaning or emphasis, always cut it out.” A writer can (and sometimes should) be eloquent, Down with jargon!


  3. Well, if that’s how you feel! Seriously though, try operating from the perspective of an outsider artist, which is what I consider myself. I am teaching myself as I go along and I am starting to see that I am getting better. But what would an art critic say about my work? And imagine what these buffoon-types of critique would have said of Paul Klee or van Gogh or Kandinsky back in their heydays. Happy Christmas!


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