I unearthed a great 2005 article by Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones. The article called “Lost in a labyrinth of theory” had some great gems.
Among my favorites were:
Art today likes to think of itself as very, very clever. I understand the insecurity, but it does little for the work.
Well, I have a debating point – this book is the final ludicrous monument to an intellectual corruption that has filled contemporary museums and the culture they sustain with a hollow and boring, impersonal chatter. Art has been lost in a labyrinth of theory. If this sounds anti-intellectual, let me clarify. There is no good work of art that cannot be described in intelligible English, however long it might take, however much patience is required. And yet this book begins with four theoretical essays explaining the post-structuralist concepts the authors believe we need before we can meaningfully discuss a single work of art. It is the supreme expression of an art culture that sneers at “empiricism” as a dirty word.
At one point the authors dismissively describe how the romantic, subjective approaches of bourgeois criticism have been replaced by a scientific method based on psychoanalysis, feminism and Marxism. As a bourgeois critic, I must take exception to this. Art criticism is not, and can never be, a science. But insofar as art criticism is an intellectual discipline – and it is – it depends totally on empirical data.
Art today likes to think of itself as very, very clever. You can understand this insecurity, in a world where people are discovering superstrings and mapping the human genome. But what the ever more arcane books and talks and curatorial styles whose high temple is Tate Modern do is not to think, but rather provide a facsimile of thinking. You can learn all these big words – “narrativisation” is a good one – and actually feel you know something.
Knowledge, however, only comes from a sensory encounter with the world, and knowledge of art from a direct study. Forget the visual theories. Go and see Tate Modern’s brilliant exhibition of August Strindberg’s paintings and look at them, hard, for a long time. Or, as Leonardo da Vinci, a truly intellectual artist, wrote 500 years ago: “Beware of the teaching of these speculators, because their reasoning is not confirmed by experience.”
Read the full article at the Guardian.