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It’s Bad Review Time Again!

February 23, 2009

Ever vigilant of badly written reviews, Tyler Green mentioned this terrible review in the Houston Press.  Sometimes I wonder why the public has such a hard time grasping contemporary art.   After reading Troy Schulze’s ramblings, I think the answer lies here:  some of the blame goes to critics guilty of dereliction of duty.  Click here to read Troy Schulze’s underinformed, overly personal, review of Paul Villinsky’s Emergency Response Studio.  Look for the apparent total lack of knowledge about historical precedents like Duchamp and the readymade, failure to mention other contemporary artists working with the exact same materials and even ideas, and finally ceding his critical voice to a local bar owner/artist.  If he doesn’t feel qualified to begin with, don’t begin!

This review was so bad, I had to add a comment on the review:

This review seems written by someone that lacks a very basic grounding in twentieth century art. The argument about whether Paul Villinski’s Emergency Response Studio “is this art” is besides the point and tragically outdated. I mean has this critic even heard of Duchamp? Can we expect equal outrage over the MOMA’s snowshovel (In Advance of a Broken Arm, 1915) displayed as art? Not only do the antecedents to this piece lie over a century ago, there are also artists currently working in a similar vein, even explicitly examining mobile living units. In fact Andrea Zittel exhibited in Houston in 2005! Yet the author makes no mention of other artists working in similar modes and instead chooses to attack Villinski in an outmoded language about a “lack of art product.” Perhaps Mr. Schulze would prefer a banner saying ART draped over the piece, so he is less confused.

Schulze also accuses Villinski of: “backhandedly suggest[ing] that rescue workers, medical professionals and city planners don’t think inventively to solve problems.” When all the artist ACTUALLY says is: “It also suggested that the inventive, nontraditional thinking practiced by visual artists can be a valuable part of the mix as we attempt to heal.” How does that statement backhandedly suggest anything? It doesn’t single anyone else out, doesn’t disparage the work in New Orleans, it merely suggests that artists “can be a valuable part of [that] mix.” What a egregious misreading by Schulze of a SIMPLE statement!

I’m also not convinced that Troy Schulze understands Prospect.1’s goal, to let artists create work which would then bring tourists and money to the city. It was very baldly commercial, rebuilding the tourism industry and simply bringing in money to the city was a stated goal. So when Schulze cuttingly states: “Villinski’s swanky pad remained parked in New Orleans, attracting onlookers and the press.” The artwork is actually accomplishing its goals in the city, but Schulze doesn’t see or understand that, a dangerous thing for a critic.

Also by implying that the artist should have left the work in New Orleans, the author overlooks the fact that by bringing it to Houston, Villinski is reminding a different geographic area again of New Orleans. Attracting the press and bringing attention to New Orleans is a very large aspect of the way this functions. Another piece Schulze overlooks.

Ironically, the first comment from New Orleans artist ‘Sidonie’ showed a better grasp of the artwork itself, its context and its wider function than the author of this article ever came close to.

What a disappointing, personal attack on the artist and what a disappointing, uninformed review.

–Abraham Ritchie, Chicago

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