Thanks for Brendan Bernhard's insightful and incisive response to art writing at MOCA and the Charles Ray exhibition ["English as a Foreign Language," March 511]. But he passed over the sentence that turned me off the most. On the wall text at the beginning of the show, the first sentence reads, "Charles Ray is the most important California artist working today."
Even if it were the role of a museum to decide who is the most important artist, for anyone to make that statement up front strikes me as presumptuous. Duchamp was ignored by France even at his death; Picasso was trashed in the '70s, and then there's van Gogh . . . Given the uncertainties, the tendency to categorically valorize some artists and hastily reject others is an unfortunate aspect of art institutions, and not something to unleash in the gallery of a major museum.
Your article, and MOCA's writing, also reminds me how strongly contemporary art has been affected by academic practice since the late '70s, and how self-conscious so many people in and out of the profession are about their command -- or lack of it -- of discursive writing or speaking. This has generated an atmosphere in which specialized language presents itself as a self-validating emblem whose authority often depends on a kind of bullying obfuscation, rather than on the more difficult achievement of discursive clarity.
--Donald Denardi Los Angeles
I want to thank Brendan Bernhard for ferreting out the "stylistically impoverished," trash-talking MOCA critics and curator. Luckily for those of us who enjoy the museum, there will be some time between the current exhibit and the next -- within which MOCA can send its upper echelon back to Rhetoric 101.
--A.B. Tierney Venice
The Charles Ray retrospective is an uneven survey of accessible and often comic work. Why those who've come down from their Olympian perch to explain it to us need to shadowbox language and logic to death is a mystery to me. We could chalk it all up to egghead elitism, but what is the elite even getting out of this tangle of verbiage?
--Van Arno Atwater Village â
With the descent of industrialization and the ravenous engulfing of formalism by the post-postmodern strategy of annihilating and manipulating the existential paradigm, one wonders why and how one would use gender to question anything. Hey! This is fun! Maybe I could get a job at MOCA, too! Thanks, Brendan, for the pie in the eye of the emperor. You know . . . the naked one.
--Dianne Lawrence Los Angeles
Congratulations to Brendan Bernhard for a superb article on lousy writing. I would urge those who would write about art to remember the old maxim "Better to keep one's mouth closed and be thought a fool, rather than to open it and remove all doubt."
--Michael Bolton Los Angeles
I read an online article by Judith Lewis called "The Loneliness of Linux" [March 511]. Bravo. I think it is one of the most courageous and truthful looks at the rising Linux phenomenon, and reflects truly the feelings of those who are caught between the opposing forces of conforming to standards and striking out on your own. While it is true that Linux is rising in popularity, unless it succeeds in becoming the de facto standard à la Microsoft, it cannot and will not replace anything more than the boxes of a few nerds and far-out companies trying to be different.
--Puneet S. Sethi New Delhi, India
I find it refreshing that someone has the temerity to "use" Linux. So many journalists will install Linux just to publish a couple of articles and explain what their experiences were, without ever seeking to put the OS to use. Lewis' comments on script writing and using "vi" are proof that she sought to understand the culture behind the hype. I applaud her efforts and the article.
--Jerald Jackson Peoria, Arizona
Judith Lewis' writing is succinct and informed, and illustrates a style seldom seen in today's media: "Tell the story, don't steer the reader."
--Colin J. Raven Costa Mesa
Just finished Judith Lewis' story about her Linux machine. Very good. A friend of mine told me once about his company. Most of the engineers use MS Word to write documentation, proposals and such; all day long, he hears his cubemates cursing at the program. "God damn it, another #$@*! screwed-up format!" And so on. "But they keep using it," he says, "even though they have Frame-Maker running on the Unix systems!" As for me, Windows just makes me angry: It's so slow, clumsy, unstable -- GUI for dummies.