Bill Berkson and the beauty of Art Writing not Research

Sudden-Address_4156

“Frank O’Hara was born in 1926, a good year for births, it turns out: Marilyn Monroe, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, Wallace Berman, Joan Mitchell, Fidel Castro, Tony Bennett, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Michel Foucault, Morton Feldman . . . Pretty good for openers, no? Doubtless, there are more.”  Bill Berkson- Sudden Address (p. 77)

I revamped my main website today.

In the revamp I pondered how to describe the stuff that might be considered ‘art criticism’ up to and including the Interview with Mathew Collings that was published in the first issue of Modern Matter magazine. A section that withered and died in the 7 years of being driven like a weary sheep down the road of ‘academic’ research. Now that I have finally got to escape into pastures new for a while I have at last had time to realise that ‘Academic Research’ means limiting oneself to something particular and narrow. This is why too much art research is by its nature closed off from the world and frankly irrelevant to most people as well as frankly being nonsense in most cases where it designated as fine art.

matter1

In the revamp I retitled the ‘art criticism’ blog to ‘Art Writer’ because writing about art is what it contained.  I then found this post on artcritical webzine (a fab resource by the way which I found through a link from Painters Table blog again an excellent resource for painters) about the poet and art writer ‘Bill Berkson, a friend of one of my favourite painters Philip Guston. What he stands for and reveals here is his insistence on ‘art writing’ not criticism and in another interview (Third Rail) he says such wonderful sensible things it was a joy to read.

This led me to the wonderful Cunieform Press website and his book Sudden Address:

http://cuneiformpress.com/?product=bill-berkson-sudden-address

On artcritical this is David Carrier’s description below:

Emphatically not art history, this certainly isn’t normal art criticism. No one else, except maybe Adrian Stokes, whom Berkson loves to quote, writes even a little like this.

Art writing is a strange sort of creative literature. Within the commercial art world, it is a comically marginal activity. But doing it well is oddly difficult, as every editor knows.  And so it is surprising that there are very few really good art writers. When we praise Diderot, Pater, Adrian Stokes, Roger Fry, Clement Greenberg and Arthur Danto, we acknowledge that whatever our disagreements with their tastes, they are grand writers. Berkson belongs in their company. Do you think I exaggerate? Well!, we art writers are much given to hyperbole. And so read for yourself and tell me if I am correct.  Koch’s conception of poetry, Berkson writes, “made me see not just poetry but the world in and outside poetry differently.” (p.94-5)

That seems to me to be as sensible a way to go as any..in fact the only way to go…

Do you know I really don’t give a shit about referencing or come to that about the shits who do give a shit about referencing either. In other words not only is most art research worthless anyway but that which exists will be mostly full of broken links in a few years..houses built on sand:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/cobweb

I would rather be scholarly and interesting like Berkson.

Published by

Shaun Belcher

Contemporary art critic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.