Who are the best art critics and what are the best books of art criticism? Here are some of the books I own:
Robert Hughes, Nothing if Not Critical – The sort of critical anthology I’m currently most interested in (it contains reprints of Hughes’s reviews across several years at Time magazine). Hughes is devastating when he goes in for the kill (Julian Schnabel—ouch!), and his fetching descriptions generally pan out for me when I reference whatever detailed brush stroke he’s describing.
Hughes, The Shock of the New – Generally not interested, for practical reasons, in coffee table books, but I’ve read a fair bit of this, and have watched parts of the corresponding documentary on YouTube. Not as obviously critical as Nothing, but Hughes’ voice nevertheless shapes the thing.
Harold Rosenberg, The Tradition of the New – Haven’t read it but my sense is it’s the sort of polemic that might interest me—but which will also intimidate me and slow me down because I too often won’t know who or what he’s actually talking about (not just the paintings and the painters but the art/critical world terminology). I’ll be forced to try and zero in on ideas while lacking familiarity with examples. (In other words, this one’s going to insist that I work.)
Dave Hickey, Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy and The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty – Enjoyed about half the essays in Air Guitar and found Invisible a bit of a slog, but I definitely feel like I’m not done with Hickey yet, and I plan to revisit these. He’s great to listen to, for what it’s worth (I’ve heard various talks online).
Marshall McLuhan and Harley Parker, Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting – A poem or a painting on the left hand page, with various aphoristic critiques and commentaries (or quotes) on the corresponding right hand page. Some stunners (Seurat as anticipating TV, Whistler’s Mother as a rejection of the public), lots of head-scratchers, typical McLuhan unease.
Camille Paglia, Glittering Images – Say what you will about Paglia, but Break, Blow, Burn, her critique of poetry is (at least for this poetry novice) fab, not because her interpretative powers are spot-on but because her methodology is so inspiring. So why did her follow-up art book (gorgeously designed though it is) fail to incite much more than a yawn? What the hell happened to her voice? (As with Hickey above, I may not in fact be done with this, but the textbook flavour of the writing is—well, given the source, a little bizarre.)
Hmm, there may be a couple others. I have several Warhol and Warhol-related books on my shelf, but none, so far as I’m aware, meet my criteria of art criticism (The Philosophy of Andy Warhol is a kind of criticism—a critique of authenticity?—but does not speak to art and aesthetics per se).
What is the Psychotic Reactions (or Aesthetics of Rock or Deeper into Movies or Christgau’s Record Guide or…) of art criticism?