Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Canadian Art thinks that these are the best things


Now I shouldn't really be bashing the magazine called Canadian Art. They published an amazing article about Zeke's Gallery written by R. M. Vaughan back in 2001. However, while I appreciate what they are attempting to do, there are times when I disagree with how they go about it.

They are celebrating their twentieth anniversary, and as a consequence have decided to republish (on the web) "articles that highlight the main players and events that have shaped the Canadian art scene over the past two decades."

Article number one, from 1987. 3,397 words written by Peggy Gale. The whole article can be summed up by the final paragraph:
In a world of power and commodity, the photograph itself is commonly undervalued, seen as a mere tool. But in the hands of Jeff Wall, the iconic, the powerful, the useful are compounded in large and brilliant photographic images. In Ian Wallace's work, coolly detached, the intellectual, educator and flâneur notate the city and history. The work is making its impact, but elsewhere.
I'm never a big fan of the big word, especially when used in a context such as this. But what am I gonna do? Write a letter to the editor, seventeen years after the fact. Also, in going through Google, I came across this interview with Mr. Wall.

Article number two, from 1984. 3,613 words by Gary Michael Dault. It is a profile of Philip Monk. It touts him as a full-time art critic, I imagine that the money was so good, that he felt like he was slumming when he got the gig at York University. Although my memory doesn't stretch that far back, I am certain that twenty years ago there were at least another dozen people in Canada who were "professional art critics." Although, I find it very interesting that Mr. Dault doesn't count the fine folk who write for newspapers as critics.

Article number three. 3,991 words by Susan Crean from 1986. Now this is where I see that Richard Rhodes (the editor of Canadian Art) might be pushing things. The article is titled "The Declaration of Independents: How freelance curators are turning Canadian galleries inside out." Professing to be a profile piece about Renee Baert, Elke Town and Peggy Gale, I can't help but thinking that the fine folk at the Canada Council are likely to be reading these articles at the very same time that they are making decisions about various changes that have been proposed. (See previous posts here one, here two, here three, here four, and here five) Something along the lines of, things are finally good now, why mess with success?

Article number four, 4,700 words by Richard Rhodes, from 1995. It is supposed to be a piece about some exhibition by Noel Harding in Russia. But somehow Mr. Rhodes forgot to mention Mr. Harding's name in the first five paragraphs (almost 800 words), and the whole article comes across more as a travelogue of Communist Russia instead of a detailed piece about a wicked cool exhibition.

So, if I get this right, Canadian Art magazine thinks that it more important to be a curator in Canada as it is to be an artist. There are articles profiling four curators/critics and articles profiling three artists, and one of those is more like a travelogue. They promise more, hmmm.

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