Kudos to your paper for the insightful inclusion of an art section and for allowing criticism rather than the simple reporting that has become the norm in most daily and weekly papers. Criticism, positive or negative, can be a strong service to the artist, the public, and the presenting institution.
The process of analyzing an artist's work, however, involves much more than standing in a gallery or studio and deciding what one thinks. In the case of Charles Yannopoulos's review and criticism of the exhibit This Side Up at SPACES ["Prattle of the Sexes," January 21], the smallest attempt to back up or confirm his opinion would have (one hopes) caused a drastic change of mind.
I will deal only with inaccuracies that pertain to my work:
Everything Mr. Yannopoulos said regarding my work is completely discounted by the fact that he has mistaken a man for a woman. This also weakens his attempt to weave sexual politics into the exhibit as his own superimposed theme.
My name is spelled correctly throughout the gallery, but not in the article. It is on the title wall, in the press releases, and on every one of my wall labels. Perhaps Mr. Yannopoulos chooses not to cloud his vision by referring to this type of support material either.
The title and subtitle of the exhibit were not addressed in the article. Curators work long and hard to assemble meaningful exhibits to present to their audience. These titles are usually carefully crafted keys to the thinking of the curator and the artists. To discount or ignore this is ridiculous. The staff at SPACES took great care to assemble a book containing resumes and artists' statements from everyone in the exhibit. Further keys to the people and philosophies represented in the gallery are in that book.
My strategy as an artist is a broad one, and not something that we need to discuss in this forum. Mr. Yannopoulos chose to discuss (actually, deride--no, oafishly claw at would be a better term) two of my five pieces included in the exhibit. One of the pieces not addressed is a 40"x30" color photo of me carrying a console stereo on my shoulder. I'm six feet tall, bald, male, and weigh 230 pounds. Perhaps since this piece could not be squashed into the writer's critical premise it was ignored. Amusing.
I have been exhibiting as an artist for more than twenty years. My work is not "pretty pictures," and viewers do tend to love or hate what I do. That is fine. To be completely misunderstood and misrepresented is not fine, and this critical review is the worst misrepresentation I have yet to experience in my career as an artist.
I suggest that all arts organizations in the greater Cleveland area purchase a great length of heavy rope and keep it near the front desk. There's a loose cannon in the streets of Cleveland that goes by the name Charles Yannopoulos, and it may be rolling into your arts organization sometime soon. Get a photo--since he doesn't talk to people, he probably won't be introducing himself.
via the Internet
Personal Isn't Always Political
I would like to start my letter on a positive note, and let you know how pleased I am that Scene has hired an art critic and added an extra page to the visual arts section. As a Cleveland artist, art organizer, and former marketing and public relations coordinator for the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, I am well aware of the limited number of outlets for reviews and art criticism--any addition to the art scene is a welcome addition.
However, Charles Yannopoulos's review in the January 21 issue must be critically addressed. Most intelligent art critics rely on their own experience with and knowledge of contemporary art to interpret, deconstruct, describe, and criticize an exhibition. A balance of knowledge, intuition, and opinion/interpretation is necessary when writing about contemporary art. In the This Side Up review, Yannopoulos's scales are heavily weighed toward personal opinion/interpretation.
I agree with Yannopoulos's observation that some of the work deals with personal relationships, identity, and gender. Defining the artists as "protest artists" (a term I find rather sophomoric and demonstrative of a writer who is unfamiliar with the current critical terminology used to describe contemporary art) is incorrect. The artists in This Side Up were chosen because of the materials that they utilize to create works of art, not because their work has any political agenda.
I am in no way saying that work that deals with issues of personal identity (gender, race, sexual preference, etc., being a part one's identity) is without political elements, but this does not warrant a categorization of the work as entirely political.
As an individual who is involved in the arts personally and professionally, I clearly understand the ramifications of a negative review. If the negativity is insightful and based on knowledge, intuition, and personal opinion, it can be thought-provoking (to the reader of the article, the viewer of the show, and the creator of the works of art). In this case, the negativity appeared to serve only the critic.