Embattled Critic: Views on Modern Art

Embattled Critic: Views on Modern Art

Embattled Critic: Views on Modern Art

Embattled Critic: Views on Modern Art

Excerpt

Most of the essays collected in this volume were written in the course of duty for The New York Times, and hence were produced under circumstances that most people do not think of as applying to a writer. When you work for a newspaper, you do not sit down to invoke the muse at your, or her, leisure. A critic on a newspaper is subject not only to short deadlines but also to the journalistic institution called "the news peg," a current event upon which his essay must hang.

Sometimes this means that an exhibition by an important painter gives you the chance to write a general discussion of his art. Or several exhibitions opening by coincidence during a single week will suggest, in combination, a subject. And occasionally there appears to be nothing to write about yet there is still your space waiting on the page, so you have to find some nominal connection between the calendar and something you have wanted to say for a long time, and you have a chance to say it.

On the whole, the news peg is a rewarding discipline. It forces you to extend your boundaries because it may demand that you look into a subject you would otherwise neglect. But after a few weeks, the topical reference is superfluous to anything the essay manages to say of lasting interest, so I have eliminated the pegs from the majority of the essays here. For instance, the piece on "Children, Amateurs and Artists" was originally pegged to a convention of teachers held in New York City and a display of art-education techniques held at the Museum of Modern Art for the delegates. No reference to these facts remains. On the other hand, difficulties were involved in excising references to the exhibition that occasioned some comments on Miró and Calder . . .

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