Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hello Nicolas Mavrikakis Goodbye


Yesterday I burned one bridge, by calling Jerome Delgado's writing on art for La Presse irrelevant. Today I elaborate and then burn another bridge.

La Presse touts itself as the best read newspaper in Montreal, from that I get the impression that it is fairly populist - hence Cedric's comments lauding M. Delgado for doing what his bosses want him to do. Fine, maybe more of my beef is with the editorial policy at La Presse than with M. Delgado, on the other hand, from my understanding, visual arts critics in this town have an incredible amount of freedom to choose what they want to write about. I have never heard of any other writer for a newspaper, anywhere, who is given almost free reign to choose what they want to write about. (Can you imagine a film critic telling their editor "No, I don't wanna do another film festival! I wanna review this.")

On the other hand, you got Voir, which touts itself as being the best read entertainment weekly in town - and it is definitely large enough page-wise not be disputed too much. So, I'd assume from that bit of information, it is populist, too. As it has been an extremely long time since I have written the words "Nicolas Mavrikakis" (actually, that was a copy/paste) I figured we could do a compare and contrast on the reviews that M. Mavrikakis did over the same time span.

30 juin 2005 - la Biennale de Venise
21 juillet 2005 - Galerie Art Mûr
28 juillet 2005 - Fonderie Darling
4 août 2005 - Maison de la culture Plateau-Mont-Royal
11 août 2005 - Centre Saidye Bronfman
18 août 2005 - Galerie René Blouin
25 août 2005 - Musée des beaux-arts
1 septembre 2005 - La rentrée en arts visuels
1 septembre 2005 - À surveiller en Arts visuels
8 septembre 2005 - Galerie de l'UQAM
8 septembre 2005 - Galerie Trois points & la Galerie Leonard et Bina Ellen
15 septembre 2005 - La Centrale
22 septembre 2005 - Musée des beaux-arts
22 septembre 2005 - Occurrence
29 septembre 2005 - Galerie Graff

How do you like that! 15 articles, too! Hey, check this - 9,104 words, or 15 words less than M. Delgado. I wonder which paper pays better? No need to do the quick math, because it is exactly the same as the quick math from yesterday.

Obviously there are differences in their style of writing, that I will get to later, but if you look closely at what they are writing about, you will see that over the same three month period 40% of what they wrote about was the same darn thing (6 of 15 to be exact). Now if they are duplicating themselves to that extent, you'd get the impression that there ain't a whole heck of a lot of art happening here in Montreal.

And even where they don't duplicate themselves there are other similarities - M. Mavrikakis writes about an exhibit that he could only hope in a million years get to see (the Venice Biennale). While M. Delgado writes an article about an exhibit in Val David. Six of M. Mavrikakis' articles are about museum (or museum-like) shows. Four are artist run centres (50% of those are the same darn shows).

And while I'd give M. Mavrikakis some points (but not many) for travelling further afield - we all know how far it is to hike to galerie Graf and Art Mur, I'd actually give M. Delgado more points for his piece on the art at the Rosemont metro.

But, my basic point is this: There are over 800 places to see contemporary Quebecois art here in Montreal, why is it always the same places over and over and over that get reviewed? If La Presse and Voir covered art like they covered film, then I could understand, ie every darn film playing here gets reviewed by both of them (sometimes twice). At which point I would be expecting radically different voices and views from the two of them. But despite the differences in their writing styles, they don't differ from each other all that often. I'll get into the details below, where you can watch me burn that second bridge. Also, I've taken the liberty to add the "readers" of Voir's grades on the reviews, when applicable. I put readers in quotes, because every last one of the comments is read by someone at Voir, before being posted to the website, to make sure it passes some test, and as the whole point behind these comments is to win "cool!" things, there are an awful lot os social constraints preventing these from being fake and manipulated means to make something look better than it really is.

30 juin 2005 - Rebecca Belmore in Venice. I've already been chastised for commenting on an article that I scanned and did not give a close read. And you gotta admit, even when shooting from the hip, it makes sense. So then how the heck are you gonna review a show you haven't seen? F

21 juillet 2005 - Les Paramètres de la peur. Sorta there, sorta not. The long editorial commentary at the beginning I find panders slightly too much to my intelligence. B-

28 juillet 2005 - Débraye: Voiture à controverse. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the concept of only describing the art (or reviewing the art) that the reviewer thinks is good, is ridiculous, and in my eyes makes the reviewer lose all credibility. While M. Mavrikakis waxes long and hard over the suspended Citation done by Doug Scholes & Dominique Toutant (although he misses the main thrust of what they were doing) and positively gushes over ATSA's contribution (again without noting its history), all he does is type the names of eight of the artists, withough saying a darn thing about their art. Heck I can do it again, too! "Cooke-Sasseville, Red, Vincent Ganivet, Margaret Lawther, Philippe Meste, Art orienté objet, Cindy Dumais, Katie Bethune-Leamen" What purpose does that serve? C+

4 août 2005 - Dépaysements des sens. Umm, M. Marikakis himself organized an exhibition at the MdC Plateau last December. Any wonder that he thinks that this is the most amazing thing since sliced bread. [Note to other arts writers: All you gotta do to avoid that dreaded conflict of interest is tell people about it] F

11 août 2005 - Janet Werner. OK, on one hand I want to applaud the guy. He finally gets around to saying something isn't good. On the other hand, the method he uses to say it is freakin' ridiculous! He takes more than the first half of the entire review to launch on this very long winded, unfocused and pathetic attempt at a rant on how all women painters now-a-days do is criticize popular culture in a realist manner. It borders dangerously on the misogynistic. C- [3/5 stars by 4 readers]

18 août 2005 - Natures. Hoisted by his own petard. (Does anybody actually know what a petard is?) So if I am to understand the subtext of M. Mavrikakis' writing, if he doesn't describe the art in someway, he doesn't think it is worthy, right? Well he then either slams most of Rene Blouin's roster of artists, or he suddenly flipped everything I knew about him on its head. 'Cause all he does is write "The list is more than respectable. Judge for yourself: Nicolas Baier, Geneviève Cadieux, Patrick Coutu, Pierre Dorion, Charles Gagnon, Betty Goodwin, Geoffrey James, Rober Racine." And I would've thought that he would've been observant enough to realize that this was an easy summer show of stuff that M. Blouin had hanging out back in his stockroom. C-

25 août 2005 - Sam Borenstein, Edwin Holgate & Gravures et dessins de l'âge d'or hollandais (1580-1660). Hey! I finally like something M. Mavrikakis wrote!! Woo-Hoo! He questions why the Musée des Beaux Arts did the Borenstein exhibit, not quite as closely as I did, but hey, I'm feeling good, I can cut the man some slack. He doesn't like the Holgate exhibit either, and doesn't quite explain why, but then and goes all misty-eyed over some Rembrandts. B+

1 septembre 2005 - La rentrée en arts visuels. This could be the type of article that I've been suggesting that M. Delgado write, except that all M. Mavrikakis does is talk about the same old, same old again, and again, and again. Besides the museums, and the Mois de la Photo which are all large and in charge in this article, the only "new" place he mentions is La Fabrique. I bet they were giddy as all get out when they read "Trevor Kiernander à la Galerie La Fabriq (du 15 septembre au 15 octobre)." If he had done any research he could've made scads more galleries and artists as happy. B-

1 septembre 2005 - À surveiller en Arts visuels. Sorta similar to the above article, but focusing on three women artists (none of them painters...). He gets one fact wrong - Andrea Szilasi has had numerous solo shows - and it will be interesting to see what he has to say about their shows once he reviews them. B+

8 septembre 2005 - Michael Snow. Windows. Not a bad review, not a good review. Just sorta there. Some simplification for his readers that isn't quite pandering. B

8 septembre 2005 - Evergon. M. Mavrikakis doesn't add anything new to the discussion on Evergon's photographs, and doesn't risk annoying anybody. Another sorta here, sorta there review. B-

15 septembre 2005 - The Myth of Sexual Loss. I dunno, maybe the pictures turned M. Mavrikakis on, he writes a very nice review of Karen Brett's show at La Centrale. 'Nuff said. A. [5/5 stars by 1 reader]

22 septembre 2005 - Sous le soleil. See what I wrote about the Evergon exhibits. B- [4/5 stars by 5 readers]

22 septembre 2005 - How to Eat Light. See what I wrote about the Michael Snow exibit. B- [4/5 stars by 1 reader]

29 septembre 2005 - The Freud Cycle. I wanted to like this review. It's about an exhibition at a place I like that doesn't get an awful lot of press. It's about an American artist, that on the surface looks like it could be interesting. But something gets lost in the translation (or maybe I'm getting tired after reading 15 reviews by Nicolas Mavrikakis). B-

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