Monday, November 9, 2009

Truitt, following up...

Actually the comments to the post before last, have turned out to be more interesting than the post itself. There appear to be those who think I’m “overreacting” – a term that has been applied to feminists since the beginning of feminism. Sexism, however, is not dead, as many would like to think, and until it is (assuming that happens in my lifetime) I will continue to make essential distinctions. The catalogue essay for the Truitt exhibition is only the tip of the iceberg, but takes priority as it was officially sanctioned by the museum, and will stand to represent Truitt for years to come. The more ephemeral writing, however, was even more blatant. Along with the Charlie Finch diatribe for Artnet I previously cited, there was Blake Gopnik’s rant in the Washington Post, which counts as the most scathing and sexist writing I’ve ever encountered about an artist, seconded only by Mario Naves when he wrote about Nevelson. Not to speak of Post staff writer Mark Berman‘s appalling article about Truitt entitled “A Dutiful Wife Who Sculpted Her Own Identity” (hard to believe in 2009, but there it is). Even now I’m wondering what it is about Truitt of all artists, that raises the male hackles and causes even women to deal with her on sexist terms.

I’m reminded of an incident that happened 15 years ago (I hope I’m not repeating myself here), when I wrote an article for Art & Antiques about my great-grandmother, an artist and early chiropractor. When it came to the contributor’s blurb, which I insisted on vetting, the twenty-something female editorial assistant had written something like “Diehl has recently gotten a grant to do some paintings of her own. Will they be in the style of her great-grandmother?” I made the magazine pull it, saying that I wouldn’t let the piece run otherwise. That night I was at a dinner with Louise Bourgeois, with whom I was working on another article, and told her what happened. She started pounding the table saying, “It’s not about promoting our art, we must defend it. We must defend our art!” So that’s what I’m doing, for all of us.


CAP said...

Wow 31 comments Carol!

And er... slightly OT - but did Truitt know Jo Baer in the early 60s?

Anonymous said...

I didn't read anyone say you were "overreacting" to anything.

I still find it strange that you're focusing on a couple points in an essay you don't like rather than on the redemptive exhibition, that is, on the work itself. Writing about the response to Truitt rather than about the work itself is certainly your prerogative, but I'd like to think the work matters most.


Carol Diehl said...

To CAP: I have seen no evidence that Truitt knew Jo Baer. She was not entrenched in the NY art world, and met Judd only briefly.

To Tyler: You don't think I'm "overreacting," just giving more attention to something than you think it deserves.

I have given a few examples, but my quarrel is with the whole premise of the essay because it exemplifies the kind of "personalization of art criticism" that the artist herself found "particularly common and subtly condescending in criticism addressed to the art of women." In other words, sexist. I'm surprised that one could read this, quote it, and still make the decision to write an essay based on attributing possible biographical motives to the artist.

I don't review art on my blog--that's an endeavor I save for art magazines. However I do often comment on how art is interpreted by institutions, a subject I find important and rarely discussed elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

What you do not say and what might be noted is that in writing that ill-considered essay and then promoting it in public as the authoritative interpretation of Truitt( since it is most recent and having the imprimatur of a museum)it must necessarily downplay and often ignore the factual terms of Truitts sculpture's relevance to post-war abstraction. Meyer was rarely referenced (see google) though he has placed Truitt at center of the crucial early days of Minimalism. There is plenty that could be explored by that for example. Unfortunately, it was not his exhibition and not his PR dept.

So into this fluffy void of Perception and Reflection critics and others are invited to diminish the work by scoffing at the artist. What could be easier? Saying it is sexist is only the half of it. The other half is a distrust of culture as understood by some elites but not all. Few working at the Washington Post as a staff writers do not also carry establishment credentials even if they peddle a fake populism. How was this possible? Because the curator herself was doing the very same thing.