December 23, 2008

Enrique Chagoya's Talk

Personally, Enrique Chayoya's presence in the Art Department was a refreshing and renovating experience for me. Since the beginning of his lecture, I felt connected, engaged, and somewhat identified with his career evolution and life experiences. I just loved that, despite the fact that he is been living in the United States for several years, his personality still reflects a unique perspective and reveals some of his own Mexican roots. An example of this was the smooth pace and length of his lecture, specially at the beginning when he started narrating the life events that made him become what he is now: 1.An artist, and 2. A person engaged with political issues. Thanks to this introduction about him and his life experiences, the works (slides) he presented throughout his presentation were strong and easy to understand and appreciate. I also enjoy how confident he was and how good he was as a story teller. Being able to talk about your own life, work and interests through a nice accessible tale, is an element that make people feel less distant from the artist who is talking to you. I really admire this.
On the other hand, I also enjoyed the fact that he showed his early work, and not only the work he has recently done or his "famous work". I consider that, specially in an academic context like ours, showing different samples and stages of work is very valuable.

December 19, 2008

earth eater

Enrique Chagoya

I imagine it would be difficult for someone who has had such a vast career as Enrique has to decide what to include in his artists talk. I thoroughly enjoyed his relaxed approach to presentation and his ability as a storyteller. He definatley took me on a journey through his past and through the history of Mexico. My favorite story was the one he told about deciding to become an artist. He was engaging, funny and confident in his presentation. It was evident he had been doing this for a long time but he still had a sense of enthusiasm which is essential.

However, he went well over an hour and a half and no matter how fascinating someone is that is too long. You could feel the audience start to squrim and people started leaving. An artists talk should be no more than an hour max and with a question period at the end.

Thank you



I like to think that when I come into someone's studio that I am able to give them info that they want. Sometimes it is hard to see what an artists wants though, as I am learning more from my own experience. I think about critiques that have really helped me and what about them were helpful. In my undergrad we often teased my ceramic mentor about his crit style. He would really in a sense bring you down and rip you apart, but before you realized it he was bringing you back up and appraising you. You left the crit thinking wow he really likes my work, but then after some thought you realized the whirlwind that just happened. The most important part was that it made you really think. Having crits that are hard I find helpful, but they should be to help the artist continue and strengthen their work. They should not break down someone into not wanting to work at all.

I think graduate school is a funny place. It is strange to have people in your studio to crit ideas that are fresh and maybe have not even really culminated to much yet. I have really thought about what was said in our last meeting about the fact that so many great ideas have probably occurred but have been pushed aside mostly because of the situation that we are in. We are in training for our thesis year and are striving to have a successful cohesive culmination of 3 years. I think that it would be really interesting if we could put in every idea we never did!

I have gotten away from the my crit philosophy... I say the best crits are ones that have a lot of energy and can make us think. Having people that are supportive is key and pushing us to really challenge ourselves is important as we are young ones trying to find our way. If you are the one critiqueing you should be open and come into the studio with fresh ideas about the work. It is also helpful to ask the artist if there questions that they are asking themselves about the work. This can help direct the crit in the direction that would be most helpful to the artist.

A Quick Guide to the Practice of the Studio Critique

8410 class is a "studio based critique to foster critical dialogue about art practice across media/disciplines. Colloquium for ideas/theories that migrate between artistic practices and influence studio work."

What is studio critique? Studio critique is peer review by fellow artists, a constant dialogue between artistic and curious minds, inquiry about cultural, history, and memory behind particular works, and, not infrequently, "attack" and "defense" of a particular idea, concept, approach, or technique. Artists reply on studio critique to understand how their work resonates with others. Studio critique shall be done in a constructive manner, but not necessary in an ultra-friendly collegial atmosphere. Exchange of ideas and serious debates on aesthetics and creative value are encouraged. Excessive personal monologue without interaction with fellow artists, or neglect in scrutinizing artworks shall not be indulged.

How studio critique is done? Is there any protocol should be followed? Are there any rules? The simple answer is studio critique can be done in any creative way; there is no rule or protocol. But keep in mind the definition of studio critique, and keep in mind you are engaging in a creative activity as an artist.

Nonetheless, there are a few common approaches have been demonstrated valuable in making studio critique effective:

- Describing the artworks in detail and an objective way: tell us what is observable and tangible, tell us what you see and what we shall be able to verify. This process avoids any fundamental misunderstanding and ambiguity. This process is a good training in particularity by giving the critic (you) an opportunity to see from a professional perspective.

- Anatomizing and analyzing the artwork like a surgeon: you are encouraged to focus on the form, the textual quality, the composition, technicalities of the work. You shall be able to reverse-engineer the artwork and break it done into pieces- elements, then re-compose them back to one entity, and tell us what you might do differently in composing these elements, compare you choice with the artist's choice.

- Interpreting the artwork using a critical theory you see fit: including but not limited to post-modernism, feminism, deconstructionism, or psychoanalysis. Investigation into artist's background, pre-history of the artwork is valuable but not absolutely indispensable. Over-interpretation sometimes is a necessary evil.

- Evaluating the artwork based on aesthetic significance. Craftsmanship shall be considered but shall not be the sole factor. Stating your opinion firmly, make a clear judgment, tell us what you like or dislike about the artwork. Again, be professional and constructive.

Meng Tang

December 18, 2008

My feelings on critiques have always been mixed. Sometimes I feel like it matters other times I don't. I often have come to a critique hoping for some kind of answers and have realized I already knew the answers to the questions I was asking.

For me the bottom line is to try to come to a critique situation wide open with out any baggage, to try to see the artist and what they are trying to do first and foremost and respond to that. However I find being put into a sitiuation where one has to respond immediatly taxing. I prefer to see the work, hear the artist and go away for awhile and think about it and then respond either through a meeting or text. For me this natural not forced. I also feel that this is closer to an outside the institution art experience.

While I've been at the U the crits I've enjoyed the most have been one an one converstaions with people I have invited to my studio. Where we not only talk about art but other interests. I feel in these situations the conversations can be larger and there is a greater chance to develop a connection with someone.

Having said all of this I thoroughly enjoyed my last critique with the class and think that that critique system is the most effective for large groups.

Thank you everyone for all of your feedback!!!


December 17, 2008

My perspective of critique

Critique is a respond from the viewer. Since the viewer is part of the artwork, so critique become very important for both audience and artist today.

For me I have a very complicated feeling about critique from my personal experience. I went to Beijing Film Academy in China for my undergrad. During that time all the critiques were about if your work looks “professional�(technically) or not. What means “professional� in term of this situation is kind of skill which the people who are not in art field couldn’t learn by themselves without some kind of training. Normally the professor of the class led the critiques, and what he or she focused on were always about technical things. They paid less attention about concept. He or she had power to say right or wrong.

A few years ago I went to NYU for grad school. We had many critiques there as well. I found out that people paid more attention about concept instead of technical professional things. The value of artworks is so different between the two schools. Frankly both kinds of critiques were very useful for me. When I was in BFA, I need to learn basic and fundamental skill for practicing art. But after a while I need to be a really artist, I need to have my independent ideas about art. The NYU critiques fit my requirement at the right time. Suddenly I opened my mind, and felt I got more freedom and less limitation for practicing art.

Today we still have many critiques for being professional artists. Recently, I found out that critiques could go to two directions.

At the university, critique is used as the tool to assign a grade as well as create a dialog between classmates and instructor. People would like to get the positive feed back since they want to get the good grades, therefore they have to choose some faster and popular way to please the group people even they don’t realize they tried to do so. Nothing is wrong about that, after a while the same group people ‘s art works will stay in the same level and no one even can feel the critiques goes that way. In term of this situation, I really appreciate that we had many artist guests in this semester. Since they came from different background and had different ideas and opinions about art. I personally think that the most helpful critiques always come from the people who are not familiar your works and even not come from the same filed.

Critiques also could go to another direction, which is “saying art more than practicing art� When artist making art, sometimes they didn’t think too much. But when people critique the artist works, sometimes they give over explanations.

Personally I think critiques are still very useful anyway. But artists themselves should know what are more important. I mean making the artwork, which you feel satisfy is always the most important thing for artist.

Meng Tang

December 12, 2008

The Studio Critique

-a crit’s purpose is to help an artist better understand their work, to instigate new ideas or directions, to constructively determine what the work does and does not convey.

-The studio critique can be what the artist wants it to be--in progress, finished work, or mapped ideas of work. It is the artist’s job to determine what is necessary for the audience to evaluate a specific piece. How might they introduce their work, should they provide any background information, does the work has a specific context in which to be viewed, or a specific place to be viewed?

-the artist should remember that the visitor is giving them their time and attention and should be respectful to their audience. Likewise, the audience should keep the conversation from too distantly leaving the work presented. The length and context of the critique are important to consider.

-Be prepared. Background information on your visitor can encourage what you want to discuss or arouse specific questions. The artist should also mentally prepare themselves and have written questions to for lulls in conversation. They should have an idea of what they want from the critique but be open if the conversation takes another direction.

-The artist should first introduce themselves and explain what they want from the critique without directly addressing their work. A time period of silent investigation of the work should follow. The visitors should begin the conversation. Explain their experience with the work; provide allusions, criticisms, etc. At some point midway through the conversation, the conversation should turn to the artist where the artist can provide explanations and ask questions. The second half of the critique should more of a back and forth conversation between the artist and the audience.

-the artist should experiment with different methods of critique. These varying experiences can help the artist determine a format for a specific work or body of work to be critiqued.

-it is important to thank the audience.

tj's crit guide

Critique is a conversation between the art, the viewers, and the artist. The quality of art is assessed according to the critic’s own experience, knowledge and bias. Work is evaluated by looking at the bad and good qualities as well as relevance. It is then up to the artist to decipher the criticism weighing the differing aspects and perspectives given in the conversation.

At the University, studio critique is used as the tool to evaluate performance and assign a grade, as well as create a dialog between classmates and faculty. Power is in the hands of the instructors in the University critique. It is their views that decide what mark is recorded. Instructors at the U have a responsibility the look at various modes of thought, art history and contemporary art practices to evaluate a student’s work. It is also necessary for an instructor to maintain a serious art making practice to be best suited for the role of critique authority.

Rules for critique:
Make good work don’t half ass be truly committed.

Be open to it all

Know your company. Know the historical reference points as well as in depth details about your influence.

Know your audience. Look at the work, previous criticism and opinions of those involved in the crit know where their voice is coming from.

Listen. People are giving their views don’t try to change their mind with gibber gabber let the art do your talking.

A visiting artist/curator critique can add an outside voice to a nearly closed system. Take advantage of their voice seek approval they are a stand in for the whole world outside of the U.

Have the conversation you need to have: if the talk goes to far out reel it bake in with some direct questions.

Be able to verbalize the questions you have been pondering.

Don’t be a know it all.

Be humble and gracious.

Food goes along way.

Don’t allow any one to claim you are insignificant or your path is not of any value.

As a critiquier have some manners the artist has ripped this thing out of their soul and spent many hours doing it.

It is easy to say something mean in a kind way. No one likes a bully

Don’t change their work into your work

Follow up if something comes to mind after the crit

Each and every person can teach us something about our work

Method of formal studio critique:
Start in silence and spend some time with the work. Have a conversation about the work. Let the conversation expand beyond the art. After these steps ask questions of the artist. Next the artist should ask questions. End in some positive manner. After crtit crit go and reflect with people close to you about the experience.

Critique Phil & Guide

My current philosophy on group critiques:
The group critiques I gain the most incite from are when the viewer’s react and discuss the presented work without guidance. By choosing to listen to my audience, I learn how the work operates and what is or is not effective. I find it imperative to take notes including questions that arise. This style of critique allows the artist to take a step outside of the creative role and become a silent viewer.

I suggested this model, if your willing to let your art communicate for you for the majority of the time with the group (I would not suggest this format with an instructor, Visiting Artist, or one-on-one discussions). If you feel time constraints, cut steps one and six.

Step One:
The viewers take 2-3 minutes to write initial impressions of the work on a paper to be given to the artist after the critique. These notes indicate the level of engagement from each person (author can be anonymous).

Step Two:
If the artist is looking for comments regarding a specific aspect of the work, express this focus point for the discussion. Otherwise, continue to step three.

Step Three:
The viewers will discuss the work to evaluate strengths and weaknesses through constructive criticism. Be honest and offer considered opinions you can justify if challenged. If you disagree with someone else’s statement, express why. Offer personal and objective responses that you would value in a critique of your work. The conversation should include references to other ideas, experiences, history, artworks, artists, and so on (whatever makes senses).

During this time, the artist takes notes and evaluates their work from an outside perspective. This style of critique is meant to provide the artist with a variety of information from which they may choose the ones that fit their artistic goals.

Step Four:
The artist expresses his/her vision for the artwork. Describing the content through the current manifestation allows the viewers to understand the artist’s perspective. Respond to the important questions and discussion points.

Step Five:
Open the dialog to the entire group. The artist should asked questions they want answered.

Step Six:
Conclude by taking another 2-3 minutes to write down final responses to the work and resulting critique. Give your sheet to the creator. In this format, everyone can contribute opinions.

Of course, this format does not work in every group consider your audience.

My critique philosophy

During this year and a half in Graduate School the most valuable thing I've found is the experience of being part of a critic environment. In my case, to learn how to listen and how to talk is being an amazing constant process. And I am not talking about the evident language challenges, I am talking about the most literal meaning of learning how to listen other people's points of view and reactions, and how to talk to other people who may or may not understand and be engaged with my own points of view and reactions as well.

I have a few things to say regarding my hypothetical critique philosophy:

1. It is fundamental to be open-minded and to not take comments personally.
2. It is very interesting to first listen for a while and then talk. However, I consider important to always inform the group the "critique dynamic", so everybody goes in the same direction.
3. To ask questions without expecting an immediate answer is a great way to contribute to the artist process after having a critique with other people.
4. To recommend some references is also important but I think it is always important to make clear and explain how that reference fits the artist needs.
5. I think it is always good to try to meet the person a little and not just the artist. It helps to build a more "familiar dialogue", more trust, and of course, it helps to understand and get a better sense of the artist interests.

Thanks for all your great contributions to our critique dialogue!!


My Philosophy on the Studio Critique

Paul Klee said "We do not undertake the analyses of works because we want to copy them or suspect them. We investigate the methods by which another has created his work, in order to set ourselves in motion."
I have had this quote on my computer for some time now, and I came back and read it again when this seminar began. I guess it was the closest thing I had ever read to something that described my own feelings about why we have critique. I think the best critiques are the ones that leave me set in motion to continue to create works whether I am the one presenting work or not, and I want that goal to be in mind whenever I participate.
With that said, I feel that a conversation can happen in any number of ways if all the people involved are interested in this goal. It's really a critique model designed with artists in mind, and not centered around any movements towards judgement or acceptance. I really like the idea of allowing artists being critiqued to have control over what kind of conversation they would like to have, and really appreciated being given that opportunity to ask for what I needed throughout this semester.
It is a conversation though, and the times this past few months when I really was set in motion were the instances where a work was presented and a lively discussion ensued. It was the times when the group seemed in the moment, and it didn't feel like we were talking about how to make our works "better", but simply what that work was doing for people right then and there. This is the personal model for studio critique that I will take away from this seminar, and I look forward to many more lively discussions with this group before our time is done.

Talk it out, Pht

Grad school has been a change from my life as an artist before. Primarily because I was not seeking out much in the way of critical feedback when I was not in school and because it had been a long time.
Consequently, it has been in some ways like starting again. I think there are two ways to talk about crits that we experience here, this is aimed at the idea of the Studio Crit, which in most instances seems more like a conversation, between the artist and the visitor (I mostly think of this in terms of there being only two people present). Then there is perhaps what could be termed the Formal Studio Crit, where the parameters are set by the artist and there are more critiquers. Because a conversation is between two people, I feel that I don’t need to apply any kind of philosophy to that mode but concentrate below on some ideas for the Formal Studio Critique.

The first basic rule: We should all care when looking at one another’s work because we have made a pact, we are all here as students, we have made the choice to study and to study together. As part of that we are duty bound bring whatever we can to a discussion of each other’s work.

Second basic rule: beginner's mind

1. The artist should set the parameters.
2. I think that it is better to listen first.
3. I think it works best if there is some level of trust between artist and critiquers.
4. Try other forms of critique and do away with the idea that this is meant to
toughen us up for the real world.
5. Try to create a situation where the “ideal speech act� can take place.
6. Talk at the end, answer questions.

“Thus their legitimacy is based, not on the universality of the knowledge
produced through discursive action, but on the perceived universality of the
process of human communication itself.� Grant Kester referring to theorist
Jurgen Habermas in Kester’s book, Conversation Pieces.


Heading For Critique Critical Mass

The second year of this program has been rather densely populated with crits for me so far. More so than last year by far, and I'd guess this is probably true for many of us. I suppose that makes sense in the second year of a three year program. It's a lynchpin year in a way and it's important to get as much feedback as possible before settling on thesis material. Still, I find myself dealing with a little burnout and looking forward to a month off. Such is life. Of course the good thing is that it's a perfect time to set for ourselves a personal way to approach critiques. Not that this won't change over time, but for now, here are some of my conclusions on what a studio critique should be.

Philosophy of the Practice of the Studio Critique:

Foremost, I think studio critiques should be with people you trust to be professional and thoughtful. This has nothing to do with whether or not they are inclined to like your work. Obviously, we want affirmation to be part of the process, but I don't think these should always be with people you already know are or would be in your corner. Most crits should be with people that you know would understand your aesthetics and dialectics, but I think it's healthy, if maybe unpleasant, to have a few with people who don't speak the same language as you (figuratively) (and maybe literally).

I believe that the artist's primary role in the crit is to be an editor of input. This is what we do as artists everyday with the world at large and it should be the same when someone is talking to you about your work. It is important to listen carefully but equally important to freely disregard things you don't agree with if you are confident in certain choices you've made. Often, if they are in your studio, they are seeing unfinished work and it is not always possible to clearly communicate your vision for what something will be. Also, people bring all kinds of their own baggage to studio critiques and not all of it has to be carefully considered. Although I try, I know I'm not always saying the most constructive things to others in crits of their work, but I have to trust that they can filter that and have some grace for me. I know we mentioned in class that often a crit turns into people telling you what they would do with your project and some people saw this as a bad thing. Personally, I'm fine with hearing those impulses. If something isn't me, I won't do it, but I don't see anything wrong with liking someone else's idea and adapting it.

Obviously, when something is repeated about your work by multiple people, you need to address it. The first thing is to figure out whether or not it's a bad thing that some aspect keeps coming up. Then you can either diminish that aspect or push it farther. If you hear something in multiple critiques and you're still deciding how to deal with it but you want to discuss other aspects of the work, I think it's perfectly appropriate to pre-emptively ask at the beginning that other things be discussed.

As far as structure goes, I find I lead the conversation too much if I give a spiel to start. I think there's merit in letting someone spend time with your work and sort things out by themselves for a little while before you provide information, but I wouldn't be strict about that either. When I save all my talking till the end, I still sometimes give too many random thoughts that may or may not be apparent in the work and soon the conversation is going in a direction that I don't want and the crit ends on kind of a note of confusion. For this reason, I like the to answer questions as they come up organically and only share my more outlying thoughts or research if there's a natural place in the conversation to do so.

I'm not really sure if this qualifies as a "reference to a view that informs your own", but a piece of advise that I have taken to heart came from Chris Larson last year. This sort of applies more to the studio visit/critique when a curator is interested in your work, but I usually end up doing it for nearly every critique. He suggested that if we know someone is coming to our studio, we should bust our butts to make something new before that visit specifically. That way, along with everything else or maybe just by itself, they have something totally fresh to look at and talk about. Also, this is a way of challenging yourself both in making a new piece and having a chance to talk about it right away. More specifically, he was observing that this is something that midwesterners are less likely to do while it's common practice for many professionals elsewhere. Personally, I thought it was good advise.

Guide to the Practice of the Studio Critique

1. I think it is important to do a little self editing in the studio before someone arrives. Sometimes things up on your walls and reference images strewn about can be helpful and sometimes not. Control the conversation a bit right from the start by removing things you don't want drawn into the conversation. I usually prefer not to even have the critique in my studio.

2. Decide how your work should be presented. I like having a combination of actual objects and slideshows of the larger body of work or of related work for context.

3. Set everything up including yummy treats and tea for your visitor and yourself (tip from Andrea Stanislav).

4. Let the visitor take in your work for a little while.

5. Answer questions as they are asked, unless you want to see if they will work something out themselves. In that case, respectfully decline to answer. Let the conversation be give-and-take as far as who controls the direction it goes. The point of this is communication, so listen as well as direct. Be gracious and consider what is being said, but don't be afraid to ask them questions to see if what they are saying has weight to it. Let them test you, but test them a little back.

6. Go out for beers afterwards. Tell stories and laugh with a big open mouth. (optional)

December 9, 2008

studio crit

Studio critique philosophy:
1. Before the viewers says anything, I think it is important to ask the artist what type of critique he or she is seeking, unless they wish to not speak.
2. Because it is a “studio critique,� I don’t know if it is necessary to show completed work.
3. Comments about work should be helpful, not inconsiderate and demeaning,
4. The question concerning the “real art world� should be banished.
5. I think it is important to remember this is graduate school, a place where experimentation, failures, and success coincide.
6. When speaking about work that’s sensitive, I still think it is important to consider its content and form.
7. I think it is important to step of into an abyss of questions. Swimming in such a place could evoke a number of important discoveries.
8. It is important to remember who is the artist.
9. Trust is important. Do I trust this person’s opinion? This is a good question to ask.
10. Its good to not have all the answers.

Jason Gaspar