February 8, 2013

Back Against A. Walleston

In Aimee Walleston's rather sour reply to my published letter in Art in America (Vol. 101, No. 1, Jan. 2013) she recklessly claims that my critique of her misguided review of work by Nicolás Guagnini at Miguel Abreu Gallery (AiA, Vol. 100, No. 9, Oct. 2012) was "predicated on a false assertion."(1) Ms. Walleston goes on to firmly state that she "didn't write that Guagnini's paintings were an instance of détournement." Au contraire, Aimee, your exact words were: "Thus, the artist [Guagnini] détourned Debord's work, exploiting it for capitalistic purposes and forcing it to bite the hand of its master."(2)

Walleston goes on to dig herself into an even deeper hole by first rejecting my chief contention that Guagnini's paintings actually express the opposite "Debordian terminology" of recuperation - but then seemingly agreeing with me, and I quote: "I do think it superficially mimics the concept."(3)

Deeper still, Walleston attempts more weak defense of Guagnini as an artist "who makes critical work, often about capitalism." How utterly naive Walleston must be to believe that Guagnini's making of multiple paintings "to watch how quickly they sell" inherently expresses "implicit criticality in this gesture."

In January, when my AiA issue arrived and I read Walleston's defensive riposte, I immediately wrote to David Ebony, Managing Editor at AiA, to indicate my willingness to engage Walleston in her offer of a "lively debate." Certainly, I told him, further published discussion between us would clarify our differences of opinion (and art theory) and would be "undoubtedly beneficial for your readership and the discourse surrounding contemporary art issues." As I wrote Mr. Ebony, "I believe it's important to periodically address the historicity of art theory; relevance and precedence grants theoretical grounding in the narrative of contemporary art."

But that was three weeks ago. Having received no response from AiA, or from Walleston for that matter, I am back against Walleston.

First and foremost, the tone of Walleston's published reply suggests a "lively debate" between us would very well be disastrous; her idea of defending her intellectual position is to resort to the Philistinism of describing my critique as "trollish rhetoric." And she has the audacity to believe that I should hold myself to "a higher standard?" But we can't take expressions like these seriously from a woman who denies using Google, can we?

Secondly, if you review art for a national publication like Art in America then we hope you are ready to endure negative criticisms. My "rhetoric" may be perceived as sometimes harsh, I will agree. Yet my critiques of art reviews and my own original posts on this blog are healthily substantiated with art theory and history. My "nostalgic longing" is fueled by my defense of the critical hierarchy of theory and I am charged with correcting those lazy enough to practice a "studied ignorance." My purpose is ultimately educational, to enrich the discourse of a "Blogosphere" I find severely lacking in relevant facts and attribution.

Finally, I have uploaded a brief presentation on situationist theory, with acknowledgement that Debord's theories have been "dumbed down" and his radicality eviscerated in the Twenty-First Century. I hope readers of this blog enjoy it and will direct Ms. Walleston's attention to the link below:

 "Situationist Theory: for Dummies."


1. "Letters," Art in America; Vol. 101, No. 1, Jan. 2013; pg. 14. (I posted an earlier draft of my letter on Oct. 8, 2012.)

2. "Exhibition Reviews," Art in America; Vol. 100, No. 9, Oct. 2012; pg. 171.

3. Ibid., 14.

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