Influential critic dies at 82

Dave Hickey, an art critic whose polarizing writings found cult status, has died. Daniel Oppenheimer, who that year wrote a biography about Hickey entitled. published Anything but respectable: Dave Hickey and his art, reported in Texas monthly that Hickey died last month at the age of 82.

Though Hickey wrote cultural criticism for decades, it wasn’t until the 1990s that he gained a large following. His criticism mixes high and low, often juxtaposing well-known works of art with thoughts about basketball and fast food, and often refuses to respond to the sensitivity of the art world’s intelligence to which it might one day be directed. Dedicated, concise and sometimes contrary, Hickey wrote very differently from others of his generation – or any other that followed. Critic Peter Schjeldahl once called him “the philosopher king of American art criticism”.

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Hickey wrote two criticism books that gained widespread notoriety: Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (1997) and The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty (1993), a broad collection of reflections on Hickey’s various aesthetic interests and defense of beauty in contemporary art. However, both were not widely read after their release. Earlier this year, in one Art in America Reviewing Oppenheimer’s biography, critic Travis Diehl remembered that he was his tattered copy of The invisible dragon from an artist’s recycling bin.

Still, a number of loyal followers had been silent on Hickey’s writings for years. 1995, in Kunstforum, Schjeldahl labeled with foresight The invisible dragon “The greatest little book of our time.”

The invisible dragon illustrates Hickey’s sensitivity. It argues that at a time when it was considered an abomination to relevant art, beauty was still important, and it was elegant and seemingly effortless. In an essay, he compares Robert Mapplethorpe’s sexually explicit photography of queer subcultures with Caravaggio’s religious paintings. In a language indebted to post-war art theory, he ponders smooth Mapplethorpe images that were the subject of a culture war in the early 1990s, and writes that they “seem so obviously to have come from somewhere else, down by the piers “. , and to have brought the aura of knowing smiles, bad habits, rough language and smoky, overcrowded rooms with raw brick walls, sawhorse poles and hand-lettered signs into the world of ice-white walls. They may be legitimate, but like my second cousins ​​Tim and Duane, they’re far from respectable. ”Such a statement came with an honest revelation: He had these works for the first time in a penthouse Seen the coke dealer.

Evidence that the art world did not accept Hickey’s views on beauty can be found in a response from Amelia Jones, a feminist art historian. She once wrote that Hickey’s letter was intended to “please a certain group of critics (almost all white men) as an approach to the truth”. The book remains divisive to this day.

Air guitar, on the other hand, has a firm place in the canon of art criticism. Between meditations on Stan Brakhage’s experimental films, the technique of basketball player Julius Erving and the drip paintings by Jackson Pollock Air guitar synthesizes Hickey’s personal life with its artistic influences. Importantly, this is less due to accepted forms of criticism than to the kind of casual, if subtle, conversation one can have over a drink.

Greil Marcus praised the book as “often perfect,” wrote in Kunstforum, “His writing is like a great conversation – especially a great student conversation, where the smallest details of speech or clothing can take on impossible meaning, only to be cut from a joke break at the knees and then picked up again by ‘But what I really?’ mean is-. ‘”

While Hickey is often viewed as a prominent art critic, he had an unusual and sometimes ambivalent relationship with the art world. In his own writings, he portrayed himself as an outsider confused by the contradicting social mores and money obsession of the art world.

On behalf of the openings of Frieze London and Art Basel Miami Beach for Vanity fair In 2008 he wrote: “Think of the art world as the beach and money as the surf. Waves roll in, but they keep sucking out, leaving behind a few masterpieces and taking some beach with them. When a really gnarled monster rolls in, we can only hope that in addition to the rubble and corpses, it also leaves a beach and a few treasures in the sand – because the wave will suck itself away. And when it does, as is currently the case, the whales will either stop or tip over. If they last, art remains a stable, poorly liquid good. When the whales dump at low prices, the art world experiences its first catastrophic value adjustment in 40 years. It won’t be nice, but it will be exciting to see. “

In 2012, Hickey announced that he was retiring from the art world entirely. “I intend to disappear like Marcel Duchamp, which should not go away completely,” he said observer. “I’m about to leave … oops, I haven’t left, but keep looking.”

David Hickey was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1938 and lived “everywhere” as he lived in one in 2014 Los Angeles times Profile. His father was a musician, his mother a painter and teacher. They moved to Los Angeles, although Hickey didn’t talk often about his childhood, which was marred by many unhappy memories, including his father’s death by suicide when Hickey was 11 years old.

In short, Hickey has taken a turn in the art market. In 1967 he opened the short-lived A Clean, Well Lighted Place gallery – the name of which is a reference to a short story by Ernest Hemingway – in Austin, Texas. Although it was only in operation for a few years, the gallery became known for displaying quirky contemporary art. When he moved to New York in 1971, Hickey ran the Reese Paley Gallery. He reportedly left when his boss said he would show Yoko Ono’s art.

Also in the 1970s, Hickey was editor-in-chief at Art in America (this is currently ARTnewsSister publication). Writings from this period predict the style Hickey would later become known for. In an essay on Land Art published in Art in America In 1971 he mentioned the artist Dennis Oppenheim in the same breath as the country singer Terry Allen. Hickey’s writings also appeared in ARTnews, the Village voice, Rolling Stone, and other publications.

In the 1990s, Hickey accepted a position as professor in the art department of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where his personality stirred up colleagues despite his reputation in New York. He became the first curator of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and made a name for himself in the city. When Hickey and his second wife, art historian Libby Lumpkin, left Las Vegas for good in 2010, Las Vegas sun dedicated a full profile to the couple, which the newspaper said “will go down in Las Vegas history”.

Meanwhile, Hickey’s fame rose in the international art scene. In 2001 he won a MacArthur “Genius” grant, the most prestigious of all art awards in the United States, and in 2004 he curated the SITE Santa Fe Biennale.

In his final years, Hickey tried to undo some of the perceptions about him and his work that he believed to be wrong. One was the idea that he wrote only about men. To remedy this assumption, he published 25 women: essays on their art (2015). “Most of my favorite people are women,” he wrote in the introduction to this book. Despite the feminist underpinning of the book, some critics discovered an air of disguised sexism. Chloe Wyma, writes in New York Times, said the book “makes him look less like the enfant terrible of the art world than his filthy old uncle”.

All of Hickey’s writings are characterized by a direct engagement with art itself. Without the art world that surrounds it, good art evidently makes itself known for being just that: good art. “If the work is not visible, it just doesn’t matter,” he said in 1995 to the critic Saul Ostrow Bomb Interview. “It’s not an interesting art for me.”

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