Author: G.H. Hovagimyan --- Date: 5/19/97 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

Artforum - A Love Song

A Review by

G.H. Hovagimyan

Artforum, May 1997

I love Artforum. I'd love to write for Artforum. I'd love Artforum to write about my work. Alas, I fear my love will remain unrequited. At least for the foreseeable future.

Something has happened to the magazine recently. It's been redesigned. Lot's of bold type and snappy graphics. When I get down to reading the actual pieces, well..... It seems there are more and more sections and columns and book guides and lists and web guides and on and on. I have to really search to find anything resembling critical discourse. Or maybe my love has become jaded with age. Was I hallucinating? Or did Artforum once publish theoretical writings by Robert Smithson?

Now there's a style guide to keep up with the latest underground music/ fashion/ film trends. This shift is perhaps due to the hermetic marketing subtext inherent in Artforum. The magazine presents the products/ young artists/ emerging whatevers and produces value for the presenters/ purchasers/ sellers. The other thing one notices is the amount of advertising in proportion to editorial. This is not a bad thing. It means the magazine is successful. However the editorial has been cut down to oftentimes one page pieces. Is this because the cost of paper has doubled? Or is it perhaps to allow more writers to have a position in the crowded milieu of hip discourse?

The latest issue seems to cleave to the diurnal rhythms of the New York art world, the ones that dictate frantic activity surrounding the Fall and Spring contemporary art auctions followed by Summer in Europe at the art fairs. Indeed, Artforum has taken all the guess work out of Summer planning by publishing a handy dandy Summer preview of 32 shows worldwide.

Of a more revelatory nature is this quote taken from an interview/ dialogue between two curators Robert Storr of MoMA and Catherine David the curator for Documenta;

"CD... The art world, at the moment, is becoming a little autistic, because it has no real connection to the outside world. So it was very important for us to reposition contemporary art within contemporary cultural practices as a whole.

RS: Certainly in this country there are a slew of critics who are doing exactly that. I don't think you can look at the 80's and 90's and say that people are only talking inside the small circle of the art world. The largest portion of American art in the last years, and also criticism, is precisely about trying to look outside this restricted community. Whether they've succeeded or not is another story.

CD: What I mean is that the art world has become highly instrumentalized: it's all about producing new objects. What we're interested in is the debate in terms of cultural emergencies - and certain moments in the process- the presentation, the discussion, the possibility or impossibility of disseminating a project. "

One begins to notice there is not a lot of primary theory going on. Instead there is a dialogue by the presenters of art about marketing position. The previous issue of Artforum was able to present the Whitney Biennial to the public before the show actually opened. This by way of an interview with the two curators. If one were to look at what's really going on, the conclusion would be that the presenters are the main characters in the "art world" the artists and art works are ancillary. How did this happen?

I believe this is due to our information environment. This environment is an extension of corporate marketing procedures. Indeed even our political discourse is filtered through spin doctors and media consultants. What happens with art and artists is rather sad in a way. The artists is simply an object/ fashion/ commodity with a certain amount of information heat. The work produced starts circulating through the image/ media/ market apparatus. In this way content in art has more to do with a particular appeal to marketing concerns than to real discourse with art history, between artists and across generational esthetics. One can see why pluralism is the reigning style. It's an efficient way to test product. In the corporate world the saying goes, "run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes it."

G.H. Hovagimyan

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ben kidsont -- bekjamin

daniel --

nice thoughts. I was studying in new york a few years back. It was my first exposure to the city and to the larger art world as a market. the question the experience left in me, a sculpture by training, was "when does the statagey stop and the true discourse as to the nature of an object in space (not reliant on a narrative framework) begin? who out there talks about the sensual experience of body in space? I am open for suggestions, or conversation. e-mail at P.s. if you live in the houston area, I'm new to town- where is a good spot to meet people.


Jonas Lindberg --

YOU are certainly right in the respect that the quest for invention in the artworld is quite hysterical, but I do not think the good artworks are less likely to be found. It is not a question of theory or marketing. By the way; ARTFORUM STILL RULES

Dooley --

I agree! It's getting more like Lilliput every "season". This obsession with marketing is doubly pathetic and tawdry as it means galleries and publications get closer to "Bed Bath and Beyond" and People/collectors who would like to be engaged and supportive on a serious level lose interest and respect when treated to all this lame. pointless work. I know I have. Have you noticed that as the work gets more and more like a teenager with a summer holiday "entepenurial" idea, that critics have started to write about how many of them (artists) there are out there as if that were a good thing! (eg the Voice review of the working in Brooklyn Show by Bill Arning. The AD for The DownTown Arts festival notes with hypy enthusiasm that 1,000 more just graduated!

Montserrat Soto --

Dear Sirs, Would you be so kind to tell me how to get the password to enter artforum magazine? Many thanks Montserrat Soto


bdonovan --

Does anyone know where I can get some writings by Rene Ricard? Has he written any books?