Holland Cotter

Holland Cotter - art critic



Anonymous said...

My favorite art critic at the Times, hands down. He has reviewed me a few times, and maybe that's why I like him so much, but I liked him before that too. The stuff he writes about generally is really interesting to me. He stays off the mainstream grid a bit and seems to promote a more diverse, chaotic/messy vision that is basically the opposite of what Roberta Smith might care for.

Anonymous said...

Ditto previous comment. I always read everything he's got up.

Colin's Ghost said...

Well . . . Holland's a wonderful man, but his love of Hernan Bas has had serious effects.

Now that poor guy is stranded with Lehman Maupin!

What can Holland do when that blimp comes crashing down?

Anonymous said...

Holland Cotter needs to retire.

In a recent NYT column he talks about the absence of diverse (especially African, S. Am.) art in NY. I can think of a lot places in the city to find it, notably at an established institution of art on 125th Street.

I really have to wonder about his journalistic neutrality in some reviews as well. Full disclosure would be a good thing. Someone should tell him.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Holland Cotter writes for the Times...he has put together some truly inane sentences that mistake taste for aesthetic judgement. The use of the verb "like". Anyone who writes "I like so-and-so's piece" should leave that to their own personal notebooks. Show and tell.

Despite his support for underrepresented minorities, it's as if he'd left his brain in a to-go bag at some restaurant then went back to retrieve it after submitting the pieces to his editor.

The pieces clamoring young artists making doodles and "full of talent" in some way contributed to the loss of boundary between concepts of promise and delivery widely espoused by the genius writing of Sotheby's afternoon sales catalogues.

By siding with a common market technique - selling promise as delivery - he has completely supported the trendiness that plagued so much of what has been shown in the galleries in the past 4-5 years.

It's as if the support for queer artists was enough - in his own mind - to make up for the lack of coherent sentences in his own writing. I am not a writer in any professional capacity, but I do remember from high school that statements must to be supported by something more than hot air. It's too bad because his pieces on non-contemporary art are much better and actually have descriptive sentences.

Angry Painter said...

I would like to submit this letter that I have anonymously sent in to the Times in response to the Recent Writings of Holland Cotter. As the art world is insular and the words of one powerful figure can affect all those within the art world I think it is fitting to disseminate this letter to as many places as possible.

In Response to Recent Writings by Holland Cotter

I know there have been a lot of reactions to Holland Cotter's Feb 15th article, "The Boom is Over", but having read his most recent piece on the new retrospective of Martin Kippenberger, I felt I had to finally write in. I am an emerging artist currently represented by a gallery which Holland Cotter, most likely, loathes with an undying passion. So please pardon me if I am sending this email anonymously since critics' words can have a great effect on my career.

I don't know where to start--I have so many problems with the inaccuracies, offenses and naive rantings in some of Cotter's recent work that I could write a book. First let me begin with what he seems to think is the graduate school experience. I went to the evil school in Connecticut that breeds artstars, it starts with a "Y" and rhymes with "Sale". Regardless of what Cotter seems to think happens in school, even in a single-discipline painting program like Yale, one has to fight for the right to make a simple representational painting. Very few people these days know how to talk about painting, let alone representational work, as I'm sure Cotter knows, and in grad school you are constantly being told, "take this off the wall", "loosen up" or my favorite, "this is end-game painting, you can't sustain this". The only reason why someone like me makes it out of school with dreams of representational painting intact is because we simply love doing it. It is simply something we have felt in the deepest part of ourself for most, if not all our life. It is not some conspiracy of marketability, and in fact few schools give any official post-graduation career guidance at all. Cotter needs to stop spewing this nonsense about what the evil schools are doing to "narrow talent to a sharp point". The truth is that a lot of the students that do what the faculty tell them to do, never make it as artists. A lot of my friends from my graduating class that are doing well now, ignored the majority of the instructors. If most professors in institutions had their way, all you would see was messy, slap-dash, installation art which I'm sure Cotter would love.

Holland Cotter is hell-bent on removing talent and skill from the discourse of contemporary art. For some reason talent is seen as elitist and evil to people like Cotter. Of course this sort of thinking is like any other trend in the art world and it waxes and wanes like any other part of the market. The Holland Cotters of the world are always there though, like wolves, waiting for the chance to strike when one's guard is down. It is very telling that Cotter chose to highlight the only photo-realist painting in the Martin Kippenberger retrospective. It's a self-portrait, but the artist hired someone else to paint it since he couldn't have done it himself. Actually, there is another photo-realist painting in the show, a Gerhardt Richter that Martin Kippenberger bought and turned into a coffee table to suggest that "painting as a form, while useful, was overrated". Very clever I must admit, but also a perfect example of how Cotter feels towards skill and talent. It's something that an intelligent person pays to be done for them, or something to mock in the work of others. Now forgive me if I'm just a naive painter with technical skills, but that truly does seem elitist.

Next lets talk about how absolutely ridiculous it is for Cotter to pine for the days of the "artist with day job". First of all, an artist should be able make a living at what they do if they're good at it. This is simple and not a lot to ask for-- it's natural. I'm not going to argue this point because it doesn't deserve to it. Secondly, the examples of artists cited in his article, "The Boom is Over..." are misleading. As everyone knows, Van Gogh only sold one painting and never made a living from his art in his time. He also committed suicide at the age of 37 due to depression and mental illness. Jackson Pollock may have been a busboy at one point in his career but he made his revolutionary "drip" paintings when he was already established and financially secure with help from sugar-mama Guggenheim. Then, at the age of 44, he ended up killing himself in a car accident due to alcoholism and mental illness. In fact he was classified "unfit" for military service in 1941 on "psychological grounds". And finally, Henry Darger was a schizophrenic, pedophilac, outsider-artist who wasn't trying to make "Art" in the first place. It is insulting that psychological train-wrecks such as these should be used as examples of what we as artists should be modeling our lives after and it truly speaks to the depth of Holland Cotter's ego and condescending attitude as a critic. I would also like to point out that Martin Kippenberger, Holland Cotter's most recent artist to champion, died at 44 from alcoholism and mental illness. It seems as though Cotter would prefer artists were mentally ill and suicidal for his own amusement. The Times needs to consider the agenda behind someone like Holland Cotter. He is a negative and spiteful man who not only dances as Rome burns, but kicks the bodies of those dying in the street.

Cotter is the sort of individual who feigns an attitude of genuine optimism when his agenda is petty cynicism. An art critic could probably transition to writing about something other than art, but for whatever reason have chosen to be an art critic, and are in turn dependant on artists to have something to write about. Some critics like Holland Cotter seem to resent this and whether it's simply because of their personality or something more sinister, try to destroy the art world from the inside. Art criticism can be very beneficial to artists, as well as the people who appreciate art, but the critic has to actually like art in the first place. I truly question whether someone like Cotter even likes art because to like art you have to appreciate the breadth of art. I don't want to read a critic who only likes figurative painting and I don't want to read a critic who only writes about installation or purely conceptual works. Their opinion is meaningless unless it comes from a place of thorough knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for the history and expanse of art in its various and multitudinous forms. I would finish this letter with a quote from Ayn Rand's "The Fountain Head". It comes from one of the secondary villains, Jules Fougler, who while a theater critic, is a perfect reflection of Holland Cotter.

"What achievement is there for a critic in praising a good play? None whatever. The critic is then nothing but a kind of glorified messenger boy between author and public. What's there in that for me? I'm sick of it. I have a right to wish to impress my own personality upon people. Otherwise I shall become frustrated--and I do not believe in frustration. But if a critic is able to put over a perfectly worthless play--ah, you do perceive the difference!"

Anonymous said...

Whoaaa there Angry Painter. I also went to the "Y" school you mention and I am not a huge fan of Cotter. However attacking Kippenberger reeks of provincialism. One of the sad things about "Y" was how insulated that was, I remember thinking how it was as if Kippenberger had never existed. It's sad that in order to make some kind of argument you have to say I went to "Y", as if as a person you couldn't do it alone...you really identify with the diploma. As Paul McCarthy once said, to some people "Y" was the highest they ever achieved in life.

Actually Kippenberger was a visiting artist there in the mid-90s. Gee I hate the loans too but "Skill" art has pretty much been overdone since early 20th century, as far as critical attention is concerned (with the exception of the Nazi period in Germany. Nazis also loved classical tastes, and hated non-"skill" art)

You "Skill" people should go work for Jeff Koons for $8 an hour. You shouldn't complain. All the clueless collectors loooove figure painting. Most people in fact, esp. those not very involved in the arts. Skill and "talent" cannot be removed from contemporary art discourse because neither has ever really been part of it. Any interesting work has to go **beyond** skill and talent. How can you accuse Cotter (or anyone) of elitism if you went to "Y"?

Greater New York 2005 is over, Okay?

You must be making a lot of money now (or up to 8 months ago). As a huge Kippenberger fan ( btw Van Gogh is also "mentally ill" but somehow OK in your opinion) I find your letter funny and sad. Who cares if your (maybe mine too) friends are doing well now regardless of professors. That had a lot to do with the now-crumbling art market for the young and flippable.

Kippenberger would have used your art-hero lines in some really "bad" painting while hungover from major partying.

We have gotten out of school a few years ago at the most (judging from the fresh anger you still carry) and 10-15 years down the line none of this will matter, at all.

Kippenberger was an active, inspiring artist who laughed at the ridiculousness of self-importance and used it constructively in his own work. Perhaps you should learn from him as well. All the best to you.

PS: Don't open your mouth to attack Kippenberger - the K Family is ever growing and the laughter only growns louder with each attack. HAHAHA.

Angry Painter said...

Dear Anonymous Fan of Kippenberger,

Thank you for taking the time to read through my letter! I appreciate your excitement and zeal and hope that you can some day funnel that energy into the creation of truly great art!

Kindest Regards,
Angry Painter

newcleanwars said...

Kippenberger is of no interest to me, however the day job is something I know for a fact most of the artists who are over a certain age have maintained through teaching, a dollar a word art writing however and whenever they can find it , and full time grant writing forever, and circualting amongst their solid friendships, after working an incredible amount of other jobs in the sped up eighties and trying everything to get their work out and advocate for others work. Angry Painter and all other young painters and installation artists and media artists and sculptors of all kinds, you have to deal with your own delusional world of what it is to be a lifer as a painter or anyone (poet? have you ever thought what it might be like to be one of those?) and not your envy of certain classmates from your schools such as Cal Arts and Yale, or the biases towards certain ways of artmaking in and of themselves. "It is natural for an artist to get money for what they do?" Oh yes that biological imperative has historically been proven over time. Get a grip!

newcleanwars said...

I also take umbrage at Angry painter's assumption that Darger was a pedophile. I know a very good singer personally who wrote a song about Darger's wish to save the little girl and she has gone on record at women's shelters with what she went through as a girl. Adolf Wolfli on the other hand was put in a mental institution for what Roberta Smith called three "attempts" at molesting girls. what exactly would she have preferred with this way of saying he is an alleged pedophile? That they waited until he was successful to incarcerate him? You should not throw around pedophile in this manner Darger of all artists does not deserve it, with his brave girls fighting off warring and torturing and murdering men. It is obvious who he identifies with and sad that people might project their own or the culture's own illnesses on to him.

Anonymous said...

You give Cotter way too muich credit, he's a journalist, he writes on other things than art? He is an imbecile: in an article on Latin American Art he described it as being non-Western? This despicable term is usually branded onto "tribal" art??? And as to the commentator who wrote that "skill and talent" are useless in contemporary art??? You don't think Fountain, for example, has a level of conceptual density to it that is a sign of talent?? Kippenberger was the Bukowski of the artworld, sort of, although I think he is overarated; and as per Roberta Smith's commnet: she was fantasizing.

Jennifer said...

I suppose Cotter is a critic for those who think art is "fun" or something like that.

I have nothing against him personally, but his reviews just make me cringe. It's more than "off the mainstream grid" as another said. Unfortunately a lot of art people, including artists, don't have as much knowledge of art history and cultural issues as they should. Cotter's reviews make this seem okay or that such a position is some kind of "vision." But really, I don't think it is. It's just sloppiness.


Anonymous said...

Holland Cotter is bored!

Bored! Bored! Bored!

Like the rest of our disposable, use-once-and-discard-like-a-snotty-tissue society, if he is not constantly entertained by something that *he* can judge to his complete satisfaction as genuinely new, he will hold his breath (or do the adult equivalent of the aforesaid) until someone presents him something he wants. Everything that’s gone before is quaint, & if an artist’s work has the taint of quaint, LOOK OUT! He’ll crush it underfoot & walk away from it, honestly thinking he’s done society a solid.

Mr. Cotter is not a disease. At best, he’s is a symptom of a societal sickness: The desperate, pathological need to be constantly introduced to something totally different from what’s gone before. He expresses & reinforces these anti-social (yes! anti-social, in that our disposable, consumerist society is fundamentally unsustainable) tendencies of society itself. But he doesn’t do it satirically, holding a mirror to our ennui-filled faces, hoping to awaken us from our stupor & get us to recognize the need re-evaluate. Rather, he pats us on the back, congratulating the jaded among us, egging us on to dispose of yesterday’s news in an eternal quest to find something new to consume & walk away from. He is an enabler of dysfunction, & the art-world is his co-dependent.

The sad part of all is, that it truly doesn’t have to be this way. In previously used the word “pathological” to make a point. The mere interest in new things is not, in itself, pathological, any more than consuming alcohol is intrinsically deviant. But the driven, incessant, compulsive, one-sided need to only accept the new . . . **that** is indeed disordered & unhealthy, whether it’s reflected by Mr. Cotter’s mind-state, or by the pubescent kid who throws away the PlayStation game he just bought a week ago, in favor of a newer, more bloodthirsty version. Holland Cotter’s mechanical, knee-jerk, & selective contempt for what’s come before is a kind of misosophy.

I’m not trying to declare that, “It’s all good.” It isn’t. Rather, I’m trying to say, “It’s all worthy (of consideration).” Mr. Cotter (and others who repeat his party line) rejects talent & skill as valid expressions in contemporary art. Evidently, it’s all been done before, & these things get in the way of more important art-making goals. But this is a bit like saying: “I just had a terrific plate of fish & chips. It was very good indeed, & every plate of fish & chips that comes after it, is undeserving of consideration. Therefore, I shall never again allow myself to lay eyes on another plate of fish & chips (or anything that looks like it). I’m done with fish & chips. Eating fish & chips is going to get in the way of appreciating food & enjoying what I eat, so I’m going to start looking for soufflĂ©s (unless they remind me too much of fish & chips).” Such absolutist attitudes are silly & irrational, & lead to the intellectual anorexia that Mr. Cotter, & his legion of followers, are doubtless suffering from. How wonderful that artistic expression overseas is superb & worthy of discussion in his critiques. But how sad that he has turned his back on so many worthy horizons in the USA.

[Comments continued below.]

Anonymous said...

[Continued from previous comments]

Mr. Cotter’s goal should instead be to examine **all** contemporary art in the context of what the piece purports to be. One should view a work & ask one’s self, “Given the kind of painting/installation/performance that it is, does it work? Does it succeed & deserve respect for what it is?”

A performance exhibit by Marina Abramovic deserves equal, but uniquely-tailored & different consideration & analysis, when compared to Richter’s work. Either one is capable of being good --- or bad --- for what it is. So what if a work is all about skill & talent? Analyze it from the standpoint of what it purports to be, & judge the skill & talent. So what if a sculpture or installation knowingly de-emphasizes (and is all about the lack of) skill & process? Examine the goals that come through in the work & help the reader understand what it is. For purposes of what both art-works try or wants to be, are they worthy of recognition in achieving their respective raisons d’ĂȘtre?

It’s a shame that Mr. Cotter seems powerless to drop the mannered & practiced dismissiveness --- the absoluteness with which he unbendingly turns his back on entire varieties of contemporary artistic expressions, merely because they are influenced by or reflect that which has come before. He & his new-at-any-cost school of thought should abandon the tiresome elitism of scripted, self-limiting criticism, & allow himself permission to look at everything & anything without contempt or self-indulgent jadedness.

Please understand, I’m not one of those right-wing nut-jobs that wants a return to the days of the Hudson School. What I reject, is rejection, & the beliefs that our predecessors are disposably irrelevant to current thinking, or that only one expression (a new one) is best. Everything should have a place at the table: The new which seeks to express a break with the past, as well as the new that honors the past & seeks to integrate it, & put it to work in the expression of current idioms of art.