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Entries in art criticism (4)


The Teaching Cycle

  1. Introduce "The Why": Why are we here in this class? Make eye contact. Learn and use names.
  2. Assess Students: Motivations may range from the purely intrinsic (to get better) to extrinsic (to get rewarded). Do the students' interests overlap with "the why"?
  3. Determine Goals: Then blend what the students want to do with what the class aims for them to do.
  4. Present Information: Show (visual), tell (auditory), and perform or model (kinsethetic)
  5. Guide Practice: Let the students work under some amount of supervision.
  6. Check Understanding: Does what their doing make sense to them? What have they learned? Get and give feedback.
  7. Summarize and Debrief: Were the goals and motivations met? Create an ending that gives closure to the class. Without proper closure, the work is forgotten, like a good movie with a bad ending.

Writing Workshop at Columbia Center for the Arts

I'm taking the writing workshop into the art museum. Should be fun!

Putting Art Into Words: 
A Community Writing Workshop with Kevin Fann 

March 2 & 3, 2013

About the Class

In this group writing workshop, we will use art in the Columbia Arts Gallery’s local artists' exhibit as our inspiration. Not only will we freewrite in class and talk about writing as a group, but we will also talk about art and compose an artistic essay over the two-day session.

We will have fun.
We will hope to learn.
And maybe, just maybe, we will find something beautiful in the process.


Ai Weiwei

photo from PDX Window Project

"You cant just say the system is flawed. You have to work through it to refine your critique."

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said that, and it seems to sum up the best thing a contemporary artist can do for our world right now.

Art does not come from street fairs or home decor stores or gossamer reflections on disposable income.

Art means sitting at the public health office to apply for health care, knowing you will be rejected due to volume. It means getting a pink slip for no real reason. It means asking the big elephant-in-the-room question when the floor is open and everyone is supposed to sit quietly for three seconds and adjourn like little mice.

It means the only thing you should expect for your pains are goods non-exclusive (like roads) and non-transferable (like freedom of anything).

Contemporary art means doing what the system says in order to point out the nonsense of it. It means never giving up and never providing any excuse for what they already planned to do with people like you in the first place.

Ai Weiwei's life is that kind of art—a personal activism he will die for.

He and his work are featured in an excellent documentary film in theaters now called "Never Sorry."


Writing Art Criticism

Refrigerator DrawingCriticism is not negative. Criticism is debatable, uses evidence, and attempts to persuade you to see what the critic sees using a mix of description, analysis, and evaluation.

  • Description proves the critic can discern form from how the artist treats subjects and how we perceive the world.
  • Analysis is the interpretation of meaning from the form based on clues found during the description.
  • Evaluation is a judgement of whether the form was successful in conveying meaning within its own criteria.

Criteria is the curator: the difference in how we evaluate art for the refrigerator, for the best works of the 21st century, and everything in between. Criteria is the heart of good criticism.

When in doubt of what to think about a piece of artwork, begin by describing what you see "in the frame" and trust the art will coax an idea about meaning to emerge.

That trust, when met by genius in excess of our expectations—when we must reevaluate criteria itself—is the bliss of it all.