The Interpreters: Shaping American Art, panel discussion

April 30, 1998

Panel Discussion:“The Interpreters: Shaping American Art.” Moderated by Steven Vincent, Wall Street Journal, Art & Auction. DACTYL asked five writers: Do your essays and reviews reveal or conceal your process of interpretation? As interpreter you shape the way art is perceived: as a self-evident sign or image; as a mysterious code that requires a professional interpretation; or as an “inkblot” in which one may find any meaning one likes. In your opinion, what is the best approach for engaging or creating a serious art audience? Over forty art professionals attended the discussion. Here are some quotes from the panelists:

Carter Ratcliff, whose books include: The Fate of a Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Postwar American Art (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Andy Warohl, John Singer Sargent, Pat Steir: Paintings, and Robert Longo, and is a regular contributor to Art International, Art in America, Artforum, Art & Auction, ARTnews, remarked, “The first responsibility of the art writer is simply to keep track of things. The larger purpose is speculation, a specialized kind of mind-reading.” Said Rosie Schaap, French NY News, Unmuzzled Ox, “When I was young I faced Abstract Expressionist art with the excitement of not knowing how it worked. I was filled with wonder, but this doesn’t move me any longer. Meaning doesn’t matter to me the way it once did. These days I’m against interpretation.” Sarah Schmerler, ARTnews, Time Out, argued that “Providing multiple readings is a way of inviting the viewer/reader to contribute her own reading.” Grady T. Turner , Curator of Education New-York Historical Society, ARTnews, Flash Art, Art in America, ironically noted, “It is necessary to translate the art object into a language that Art History will understand.” And Alexi Worth, ARTnews, Art New England, Slate pointed out that “Because the image is immediately available people get a false sense that they understand.”