Art Criticism


For this week’s blog post, we’re supposed to write about our processes, methods or theories for critiquing art.

I don’t consider myself an art critic or anything like that, but I actually have quite a bit of experience analyzing and writing about art. I wrote a series of articles on the website Forces of Geek where I selected the top ten greatest animated films of a given year and wrote a lengthy piece about what made each film so effective / important. I wrote articles for every year from 1930 to 1950. You can look at a sample here.

When writing those articles, I tried to balance my personal enjoyment of the films with technical aesthetic standards and historical significance. I wanted to dig beneath the surface to talk about how those films function, but I tried to avoid reading so far into the works that it became totally divorced from the intentions of the artists behind them. I enjoyed writing about how Chuck Jones’ Fresh Airedale is a blistering satire of prejudice and unearned respect beneath the cat-and-dog slapstick, and how Jack Kinney’s Goofy cartoons serve as a subtle critique of society and the institutions we take seriously. But, at the end of the day, when Tex Avery made a Screwy Squirrel cartoon, he was trying to score laughs first and foremost, and I tried to keep that in mind while writing.


In terms of the critiques we have in art school, I similarly try to look at what the artist was going for and offer suggestions on how they could make that even more effective. I don’t really think I’m that great at critiques, to be honest… saying things like “that looks cool” isn’t very helpful, but I feel like my expertise in, say, photography or fashion is pretty limited compared to some other people’s, so I’m not always able to dig as deeply as the more fine arts-based people. In animation classes, critiques are oftentimes more technical; they tend to offer suggestions like “push the pose more” or “you need more anticipation on that jump”, not so much of the “I feel anvils are a recurring motif in your work; is that a subtle critique of patriarchal power structures?”. But, ah well, I’m working on it.

By the way, the above article is extremely trite, lacks textual resonance, and fails to establish an essentialist notion from an authoritative position of selfhood that effectively defies hetero-normative transculturalization in reverse, rendering the point moot.


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