Thursday, August 13, 2009

lively critique sessions

Elizabeth Catlett (American 1915-2012)
Glory (Glory Van Scott, b. 1941, producer, performer, educator, and civic activist)
Cast bronze, life-size, 1981

Muskegon Museum of Art, permanent collection
Drs. Osbie and Anita Herald Fund purchase, 2000.1
Photograph by David Versluis and taken with MMA permission.

The MMA website (the collections menu), states the following about Catlett’s piece: “The Elizabeth Catlett’s work is bold and powerful, shaped by her social viewpoint to reveal the strength, character, and struggle of African Americans. Glory represents a frequent theme in Catlett’s work, transforming the idealized classical bust into the image of an African American woman; and, in so doing, reveals a powerful dignity, serenity, and hope.”

Paul’s reference to humor in the previous post, “Design Police” is an important consideration when discussing art and design critiques. As many of you know critiquing design is challenging mainly because the needs of design students are not like those of the fine artist. The “website” is very helpful because it highlights rules in a lighthearted parody format.

But, I thought of something about the correlation of art and design critiques when reading the exhibition catalog by Melanie Anne Herzog titled, Elizabeth Catlett, In the Image of the People. Catlett who as a master printmaker and Mexican citizen began working with the Taller de Gráfica Popular (People's Graphic Arts Workshop), a community of printmakers committed to using the messages of graphic images to support social change. Much of the success of the Workshop was because of the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork in which critiques were conducted for works-in-progress. In Herzog’s 1991 interview, Catlett explained something of what the group’s lively critique sessions were like:

The criticism in the Taller was always positive, like somebody would say, “I think that you have a very good design, and it’s very clear, but why did you hide the hands?” And so they would say, “I can’t draw hands.” “Well, I’ll help you, or I’ll draw the hands.” Or they would say, “This symbolism has been used over and over, it’s time we had something new,” and so then they would have a general discussion of what you could use.… And it didn’t matter how many people worked on something, as long as it came out the best we could make it (Page 27).
Perhaps this description could serve as an exceptional critique prototype?

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