AICA-USA's regional representatives report on the state of the arts and art criticism in their area in order to bring wider awareness of important exhibitions, events, and the accomplishments of art critics throughout the country. The following notes were compiled and edited by Jean Bundy and Susan Platt, AICA-USA's regional representatives for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
Hello from Anchorage,
As an art critic writing for The Anchorage Press, the past few months have been COVID-19 challenged. I looked at locals sheltering in place and focused on American artists who have visualized our amazing landscape, interpreting what makes the United States unique—not always in a good way. My regular beat is the Anchorage Museum (commenting on Indigenous artists residing in the Eight Arctic countries, and contextualizing climate change) which just reopened with reduced-ticketed hours. I serve on the AICA International Board, cataloging artists specializing in global warming. I am also working on ways to improve the AICA International annual awards. Meetings are all coronavirus-pending. In late May the international board held a 5.5 hour Zoom meeting, where 63 art critics worldwide tuned in—Amazing! The group voted to buy e-voting software (using it must satisfy French governance).
Hello from Seattle,
In Seattle the art has come out of the galleries and into the streets. I am busier than I ever was before. I visited three neighborhoods filled with COVID-19 murals on my blog, and then documented them. CHOP zone (Capital Hill Organized Zone) is actually in my neighborhood. All of these posts are on my blog.
I also publish a monthly column in a local newspaper. My May column, written after the galleries closed, was on discovering obscure public art via bicycle, and my June column was on the COVID-19 murals. Aditionally, I have been collaborating with Mark Auslander (an anthropologist) and Pamela Allara (art historian, art critic, and fellow AICA-USA member) on another blog, Art Beyond Quarantine, which includes art from many parts of the world addressing COVID 19.
From David Berger:
The release of my new book Persimmon and Frog (Chin Music Press) was caught up in the COVID-19 maelstrom. It was meant to launch April 7th, but all marketing efforts were put on hold as the country entered into lockdown in early March. Persimmon and Frog addresses the life and artwork of Fumiko Kimura. I am the co-author with the now 90-year-old Sumi inkn artist. The text is based on interviews and snippets of her writing. I was the main writer, though it is in the first person and told from her point of view. The book also includes some of my haiku poetry.
A long time ago I was an art critic for The Seattle Times, then contributing editor at Reflex magazine, then a freelancer, and these days I’m more interested in books with the occasional freelance project.
Chin Music Press has a bookstore and offices in the Pike Place Market. They specialize in Asian-related topics. Lucia | Marquand, producer of many museum catalogs, did the design. The books were printed and bound in China. We fortunately pushed the production timetable to finish ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday—the books were boxed and on a boat to Seattle when the Middle Kingdom came to a halt due to the virus. Kimura was born in Idaho to farming parents, and at age 10 was visiting relatives in Japan with her family when Pearl Harbor was attacked. She was stranded in Japan for seven formative years, an American youngster who looked completely Japanese. She returned to America at age 17 without her parents and made her way. She became a research chemist, and then, against her husband’s wishes, returned to school in her forties for a master’s degree, studying in a Western tradition. She soon came to embrace the Japanese sensibility and calligraphy she had experienced as a child and built a career as an artist. The book will be distributed around the country and available online.
From Maria Porges:
California shut down quite conclusively in early March, and that has meant that the only "reviews" that anyone could be writing was of virtual exhibitions. My review of Donna Ruff's show at Jack Fischer Gallery appeared in the April issue of Artforum, but of course that was written early in the year. Similarly, Sculpture Magazine is supposed to run an interview I did a year ago in their summer issue—If it still comes out. Unfortunately, the Bay Area's few remaining publications are slowly (or quickly) disappearing. ArtPractical.com has been publishing online under the umbrella of California College of the Arts for a few years, but it has never been self supporting, and the school apparently can no longer afford to keep it going. It will be mothballed in June; hopefully, all articles will be archived.
Square Cylinder, an online reviews magazine for northern CA, is putting up various things besides reviews: chapters of an unpublished novel about the SF art world by Mark Van Proyen and installments of curator and museum director Renny Pritikin's memoirs. They also published a chapter of my book-in-progress, which is about mending as an art practice across media—social and psychological as well as physical. I had previously put this chapter up on my writing site, as I have with other chapters. At the moment, Square Cylinder's publisher and editor, Dave Roth, feels that it is hard to be talking about art... when current events are clearly so much more compelling.
I've written two essays about artists for my book since the lockdown began, and I am working on two catalogue essays—one for a show featuring five Scandinavian artists whose work focuses on alarming environmental change in the far north, that will take place in Reykjavik in the fall, and the other for Chicago artist Rory Monaghan's website. But frankly, it's hard to concentrate. Galleries here are starting to reopen and I am glad. But there are still so many uncertainties, and so much work that needs to be done.
From Kenneth Baker:
I haven't seen any art eyes-on (except what's on my walls) since early March. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't consider viewing art online "seeing" it, except in cases of work made for such a platform—not to say that I never look at what comes available. As for output, I reviewed MOMA's Judd retrospective for The Art Newspaper online in March. I followed that up with this article, which ran in TAN's May print edition. I am currently working on a review of Robert Storr's new Guston monograph for TAN's July print edition.
From Lisa Bloom:
I’ve been busy finishing a 7000 word article titled “Planetary precarity and feminist environmental art practices in Antarctica” for the Journal of Postcolonial Writing (Taylor and Francis) and trying to write a conclusion to my book, Critical Polar Aesthetics: Ecological Art, Feminism and the Climate Crisis in the Arctic and Antarctic (Duke University Press, 2022), that examines aspects of feminist and environmentalist art in the Arctic and Antarctic. I am also preparing three lectures that I was invited to give virtually at at Hunan University in China. Afterwards I’m collaborating with the artist Isaac Julien for a project coordinated by Lisa Cartwright at UC, San Diego, on Oceanographic Art and Science proposed to the Getty Foundation for inclusion in Pacific Standard Time Art x Science from July 2020 through December 2022. In addition, I was commissioned to write a chapter on Matthew Henson that deals with visualizing exploration and includes examples from various art works for a book series (5 volumes), recently commissioned by Bloomsbury, to be titled "A Cultural History of Exploration." The series editors are Martin Thomas in Ireland, Lauren Beck in Canada and Fabio López Lázaro in Hawaii. I’m involved with a "decolonize the museum" research group at UC Berkeley that is getting funding for next fall. All the projects I’m currently working on came out of assignments prior to COVID 19.
This forthcoming anthology might be of interest to fellow AICA-USA members:
“Traumatic Landscapes, Transformed Selves: Intersectional Approaches to the Psychological Violence of the Climate Crisis in the Arctic through Film.” Eds., Subhankar Banerjee, TJ Demos and Emily Eliza Scott. The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Art, Visual Culture and Climate Change. Routledge, London, forthcoming 2021.
From Charles Desmarais:
As the art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, I have been writing one or two pieces each week. Most of that has been reporting rather than criticism, describing the challenges faced by arts groups and artists. I have, though, also written some book reviews. In June I announced my retirement. One important consideration was the boredom of dreaming up writing subjects when there is no art on view. (Of course, some art is actually made for the Internet, and that would be a legit subject for me, but I don’t review reproductions.) I plan to continue writing the occasional freelance piece in future, for the Chronicle, for the new Alta magazine, and other venues.
AICA supports art writers around the world through public programs and membership that includes free access to museums across the globe. Since its formation in 1950, AICA has been committed to elevating the values of art criticism as a discipline, and acting on behalf of the physical and moral defense of works of art.
AICA supports arts writers around the world through public programs and membership that offers free access to museums across the globe. AICA-USA represents the largest national section of AICA International with over 450 distinguished critics, curators, scholars, and art historians working throughout the United States. As part of the international organization, we benefit from a global reach in presence. AICA-USA is intent on international communication, elevating the values of art criticism as a discipline, and acting on behalf of the physical and moral defense of works of art.
AICA's membership card is recognized for entrance to museums around the world. Members are invited to attend the annual AICA International Congress, hosted each year by a different member nation, and the AICA-USA annual meeting, which is held every year in May.
Organized in collaboration with CUE Art Foundation, this program matches emerging critics with experienced AICA-USA members who guide them through the process of writing a catalogue essay.
A partnership between the Arts Writers Grant Program and AICA-USA that gives art writers the opportunity to strengthen their work through one-on-one consultations with leading art critics.
Every fall, in cooperation with the New School's Vera List Center for Art and Politics, AICA-USA presents a Distinguished Critic Lecture.