Pick a Theme

John Haber
in New York City

THEORYHaber's Reviews . . . by Postmodern Ideas

The art I love best catches me by surprise. It is the surprise of understanding—or not understanding—and it takes words and not just looking. That is why good criticism means sharing ideas. So pick a theme, and see if it can bring art more alive.

Post-This | Why Critics? | Feminism | Politics

New Media | Authenticity | Expression

Art as something tied up with words and ideas—it sounds very Postmodern, and so will my themes. Oh, sure, Postmodernists are supposed to distrust grandiose words like authenticity and expression. Oh, sure, they worry about gender, politics, and new media. I do, too, but I revel in some old-fashioned tastes and distinctions along the way. If I lose the experience of art, I am done for.

Is it Postmodernism yet?Is it Postmodernism yet?

Surely someone can define Postmodernism—or at least Modernism? That way, I could remember which one is dead and which is still fighting to save alive. I argue that Postmodernism makes sense only as a perspective on the past. Conversely, Modernism remains crucial, but as an eye to turn on the present:

Practice     My reviews often take on the birth and survival of modern art. I argue for its vital interest today, while questioning the institutions keeping the patient alive:

Why art takes wordsWhy art takes words

Who needs critics anyway, and why all that theory? "Why not say what happened?" as Robert Lowell agonized in a poem about Vermeer. My site offers a hymn to intellectual beauty. I want to show how good writing, like art, can be an eye-opener.

Practice     Sure, I mean to help people, by evoking shows that interested me. The public mostly mistakes art before Monet for dead history, modern art for a hoax. But I also mean what words can do for anyone excited by art's imagination.

Why feminist criticism?Why feminist criticism?

Because it is the most important postmodern perspective, hands down. By conviction, I see artists as disturbers of the peace—sexism, sexual desire, and all. But when art history lets in women, what happens to work by men?

Practice     Naturally, I have to argue for men in feminism, and I demand a feminism that sees new value in old art. My reviews, however, more often point to biases in artists and institutions:

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