Peter Plagens had a long article on the state of art criticism in February's Art in America to which I've seen several people refer without linking to it: here it is, or at least the bare text. It's long, and I read it late last week, so now it's a bit hazy in the mind. If I remember correctly, I thought it mostly good, if entirely familiar. It refers to and seems occasioned by the new book Critical Mess: Art Critics on the State of their Practice, which I have not read. I . . . probably will, eventually, I guess. The sentences of Plagens' article that received most attention among online writers, of course, were those in which Plagens performed a fairly predictable dismissal of blogs. To repeat them:
More and more people in the audience for contemporary art would rather read Tyler Green snark somebody in his blog, Modern Art Notes, than ponder the considered judgment of Michael Kimmelman on a MOMA retrospective. Many art writers have either added unpaid blogging to their activities or been squeezed into it from want of other, traditional outlets--for which many bloggers don't have enough writerly inclination or discipline, anyway. Each of those art bloggers has a following of fans and other bloggers, and each of those bloggers has ... and so on. A growing form of art criticism consists of posting links to other people's criticism, which consists of posting links ... and so on.
Tyler defended himself, as he's quite able to do. More recently, Charles Giuliano has delivered a one-two punch, first reviewing Critical Mess, and then reflecting on his own experiences in a changing world of art criticism while defending blogs and online art writing more broadly. I'm not going to dwell on any of this, at least at the moment, except to say that to the extent that professional art writers have begun blogging, it's probably been to their benefit (I'm sure the added work isn't always fun, but then, it isn't always for the rest of us, either.) Nor does Plagens' "turtles all the way down" view of the internets really do him much credit--I'm not sure there's any online regressions happening any more extreme than writing an article of meta-criticism that mentions a volume of the same in which one of your own essays appears. The idea that linking actually constitutes a form of criticism, rather than being a way that people organize and, well, link information online is also a silly one. He's definitely right about the lack of discipline, though, I'll grant that. Anyway, it's one churlish moment in an otherwise sober look at the field. If you like jeremiads about the state of art criticism, then it's the sort of thing you'll like.