In this week's New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl reviews a Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. He also puts into words something that I have been struggling with for years-- the ability of art language and art writing to suck the life out of art. He starts off by quoting the wall text:
"Masquerading as a myriad of characters, Cindy Sherman invents personas and tableaus that examine the construction of identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography." The images do no such thing, of course. They hang on the walls. The pathetic fallacy of attributing conscious actions to art works is a standard dodge, which strategically de-peoples the pursuit of meaning. Such boilerplate language has trailed Sherman since her emergence, more than thirty years ago, in the "Pictures Generation" of media-savvy artists who tweaked conventions of high art and popular culture, sometimes in tandem with theory-bent, iconoclastic academics and critics. The association made for a rich episode in the history of ideas, and a spell of heady distraction in that of art. The intellectual vogue is long over, though the pedantry lingers, presuming that the mysteries of Sherman's art-- photographs that are like one frame movies, which she directs and acts in-- demand special explanation. (She is remarkably tolerant of interviewers who keep asking her what she means, as if, like any true artist, she hadn't already answered in the only way possible for her: in the work.)
The rest of the article is pretty great too.