Call Yourself a Critic?

The untidy tradition of criticism

In 1976, Peter Schjeldahl resolved to abandon art criticism for good. He only lasted a couple of years, but when he quit he wrote a deeply ambivalent farewell. The result was ‘Dear Profession of Art Writing’, a long poem which ping-pongs between mea culpa and critique, as Schjeldahl – who would later join The Village Voice in 1980 then The New Yorker in 1998 – weighs up the life of a jobbing critic. It’s an odd piece, apologizing for over-hasty trashings while at the same time scattering barbs about peers and elders. Some of those mentioned include Hilton Kramer (‘makes art sound as appealing as a deodorant enema’), Harold Rosenberg (‘honey-tongued blowhard’), Rosalind Krauss (‘let me out of here!’) and Clement Greenberg (‘worm-eaten colossus’).

 

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