PRINT March 1999




To the Editor:
As I read Lisa Liebmann’s article on the work of Thierry de Cordier [“Sermon on the Mound,” January 1999], I was struck by an uncannily familiar urge: to close the magazine and throw it away. This urge is at the root of the approach/avoidance conflict I have with art magazines. Usually, this conflict manifests itself to me as a general frown: sort of disgusted, sort of bored. Same old thing—what lame shit is out there, why it’s out there, why it’s being shown, why it’s being reviewed. Generally there are a few shining nuggets and that's enough to hold me over. But in this case, the conflict was much more immediate. I felt offended and sad.

I had never seen de Cordier’s work before, and it was such an awesome surprise to see his beautiful mound drawing on the cover. I did not know whose drawing it was, and I did not make any immediate associations with anyone. I was actually excited and couldn’t wait to find out more. I hurried to Liebmann’s article to have its thusness revealed to me—to hear about the immensity of the work As I read on, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. She didn’t say anything that was so bad; she just didn’t say anything that was so good. She wrote a list. She listed all the names of the artists and movements that she knew she could relate to this work (this work that, to me, looked like no one else’s). Her writing seemed motivated by the sets of information and ideas that she had digested in the past. As she viewed de Cordier’s work she found a place to put these sets of information and she began to plug them in like coordinates on a graph. To me, this seems so limited, like playing in a sandbox that’s sitting on the beach.

My question is this: Should not a critic function as a poet as well? To shed light on the work of an artist in an intimate and personal way? I believe that the least interesting way to talk about art is to make endless comparisons to what came before it—what led up to it. Tell me on its own terms. Fuck history. In critical practice, it seems that history sometimes becomes nothing more than a convenient format, a tool that functions as a divining rod—groping in the vastness for meaning—all the while preventing the viewing of art in a present way; a finger pointing at the moon.

We’ve all scraped our ankles enough because we’ve been wandering around in these massive piles of history. We can barely walk any more. Let’s stop talking about Beuys. Beuys rocks, but we need to be here now, now. Yes, I call for more poetry and less Beuys in 1999.

Carrie Bloomston
New York

Editor’s note: We are certainly delighted that you discovered the work of Thierry de Cordier in the pages of Artforum. Lisa Liebmann is in fact the first English-language critic to engage the work at length. As for the poetry, it is always a handy rule of thumb to remember that de gustibus non est disputandum.


Dear Sir:
Re: “Kick the Cat,” Thomas Frank’s Top Ten [December 1998]. The UAW strike referred to occurred in part of 1994,1995, and was over in January 1996! I fail to see how this ’zine’s activities pre-1996 qualify it for “The Best of 1998.” Perhaps it’s just another example of New York being two years behind Decatur!

Mary Stamberger
Decatur, Illinois


To the Editor:
Your review of “Speed” [December 1998] in London overlooked one important fact. Not just limited to London, the exhibition was an international collaboration with the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in Guelph, Canada. Cocurated by Nancy Campbell for the MSAC and Jeremy Millar in London, the exhibition included a coproduced exhibition catalogue and a website produced by the McLuhan Institute in Toronto.

The Guelph exhibition balances the historical with the contemporary, the international with the regional, and fine art with design. Artists represented include Etienne Jules Marey and Giacomo Balla, and contemporary artists Graham Gussin and Karen Eslea. Providing a uniquely Canadian aspect, the exhibition also included work by contemporary Canadian artists such as Wanda Koop and Micah Lexier, Inuit work from the Canadian North, and examples of historically important design such as a guided missile design by Guelph-born Rolph Scarlett and a locally produced formed-plywood chair from 1947.

As the exhibition and publication were sponsored by a special grant from the Ontario government, and the Canadian component of the exhibition program/website was an integral one, I feel that a clarification to your readers is important.

Gregory Klages,
Promotion Coordinator
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Guelph, Canada