The Critical I was a five-week course for the public held at Tate Modern in February and March 2013. Its 30 participants were given the unique opportunity to explore the art of criticism, hone their critical eyes and the skills to develop their approach to the artworks in front of them.
Set after hours in a different part of the gallery each week, we explored the idea of criticism from the different perspectives of the curator, the audience, the artist or artwork, and the critic. Taking inspiration from works in the Tate collection, as well as the exhibitions A Bigger Splash: Painting After Performance and Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, participants then produced their own critical responses to the pieces on display. We are delighted to present a selection of these here on the website.
The week that inspired the majority of these responses was spent in the Lichtenstein retrospective. How lucky we were to enjoy the exhibition after hours when the space was near-deserted! The War and Romance room gave rise to three fascinating pieces: Paul Meakins’ well-argued analysis of how these most recognisable of Lichtenstein’s paintings critique the notion of clichéd gender roles; Gary Burns’ gloriously impassioned reaction to Lichtenstein’s appropriation of other artists’ images (although he assured me he very much enjoyed the exhibition overall); and Tal-Anna Szlenski’s wonderful feminist take on the room.
Looking at other aspects of Lichtenstein were Navann Ty, who added to the debate with her interesting piece on his appropriation of popular culture as well as the styles of his predecessors, paying particular attention to Portrait Triptych (Study) 1974; France Leon’s elegant review of Entablature 1975, the study of which, she confessed, made her look with renewed interest at the architecture of the city around her; and Leo Stortiero’s powerful response to Laocoon 1988, aptly a piece about the power of Pop Art.
Others responded to works of art found in the Collection Display Poetry and Dream. Lindsay and Camilla Hamilton collaborated to produce a sophisticated appreciation of Barkley L. Hendricks’ magnificent painting Family Jules: NNN (No Naked Niggahs) 1974; while Bree Sims eloquently evoked Dylan Thomas in her review of Joseph Beuys’s awe-inspiring piece, Lightning with a Stag in its Glare (date unknown). Our collection then draws to a close with Ali Coco Epps’s thoughtful meditation on the relationship between legend and critique, specifically the role of the critic in creating legend, using Man Ray’s Cadeau 1921, editioned replica 1972, as her foremost example.
I do hope you enjoy reading through these responses and feel inspired to leave your own thoughts and comments below.
- Download the Critical I anthology (PDF, 116 KB)
Lucy Scholes, Tate Modern course leader.