Did you ever want to use the term “negative space” in a sentence? I just did. Art critics do it all the time. Why should they have all the fun with phonics? I have recently cracked the code on how to write art reviews. Many years ago I took a course on medical terminology so that I could understand medical reports. Today’s lesson will teach you, the readers of Up & Coming Weekly how to understand and write art reviews yourself for fun and proﬁt.
I became interested in writing art reviews when I read an article about a newly discovered self portrait that Rembrandt painted three years after he died. This self portrait is now on exhibit at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York on loan from England. The painting is considered one of the ﬁnest examples of post-mortem art ever produced in the history of mankind.
To write publishable art reviews, all you need to do is put words together that mean the opposite of each other, or even better, make no sense when read together. Using this simple technique makes you sound cultured, classy and complex. It will cause you to daintily hold up your little ﬁnger when drinking a frosty mug of Red Bull. I ciphered out this key to writing art reviews while reading a New York Times article about Rembrandt’s posthumous self portrait.
Let us begin with the basics of writing an art review. Handy phrases to toss into your art review are: “antagonistic conciliation, ephemeral solidity, lucid incoherence, visual silence and emotional gravity.” If the picture is dark, either in terms of color or subject matter it is always a good idea to use phrases like “psychic complexity, random coherence and radiating an inner yet not visible revelatory revolution.” If the painting has bright colors say it is “wreathed in light, has robust delicacy or is palely noir.”
One of the most well known paintings in America is the Indian Maiden on the box of Land O Lakes butter. We have all enjoyed seeing this picture many times in the local dairy case and perhaps gracing our own butter dish. If you have an Exacto knife, you can cut an outline of the maiden’s knees and with some clever folding turn the Indian Maiden into a naughty picture. But I digress. Let us write a review of the Land O Lakes butter box as it would be written in the New York Times. To wit:The ﬁrst thing that strikes one when in the presence of the Land O Lakes box is the patently elusive quality of the Indian Maiden’s eyes. Her visual orbs shine with an ambivalent conﬂ icted glory that belies her rustic position kneeling by a pond. The Maiden herself is a vision of ethereal loveliness brimming with pulchritude. She is that, yet so much more. Our Maiden is looking off into the distance above the viewer’s left shoulder into a lost horizon of frolicking glumness.
The vertiginous ﬂatness of the butter box she holds at chest level speaks with a geometric clarity daring the viewer to enter her world of exquisite commonality with the archetypal universal soul. The box of Land O Lakes she is holding has a picture of herself on it, holding a smaller box of Land O Lakes, which in turn has a picture of herself holding yet another smaller box of Land O Lakes stretching out into an inﬁnity of repetition. This self referential altruism confronts the viewer with the profound banality of an unending set of alarming spatial ambiguities. Where does the box of Land O Lakes end and where does the viewer begin? The organized randomness of this question haunts the viewer long after the box of butter has been tossed into the blue recycling maw of Waste Management.
The Maiden kneels on a verdant grassy mound of horizontal verticality at the edge of a lake of cloistered openness, which stretches out to a horizon of gleeful depressiveness. The trees looming on the edges of the box impute a claustrophobic vastness extending far beyond the edge of the box. The ferociously bashful expression of the Maiden exudes a frenzied calm that draws the viewer into a deeper contemplation of the complicated simplicity of bovine byproducts sequestered in America’s dairy cases. She asks the viewer to decide a multitude of existential questions: Butter or margarine? Salted or unsalted? Flavor protected wrapper, spreadable with canola oil, whipped or regular? Box or tub? Plain, cinnamon ﬂavored or roasted garlic?
The Maiden asks many more essential extraneous questions than cannot be answered by a single viewing of the box. She dares us to think inside the box even if it gets our minds sticky.
Her buttery archetypes emit thoughts and choices like ﬂowing ribbons of cholesterol sinking deep into the arteries of the viewer’s soul. Sacriﬁcial egotism, thy name is Land O Lakes.