I chose to look at Art in America when choosing a contemporary art journal. Art in America is an international magazine that includes reviews of exhibitions, news and features about relevant happenings in the art world. Generally, Art in America seems to be geared towards art collectors and professionals in the art world. It seemed to cater to ordinary people as well and anyone who is interested in learning about upcoming shows, new artists, and general exposure to the art world. When investigating the webpage of Art in America, I thought about what Phong Bui said when we met with him. He stated that The Brooklyn Rail is a resource for anyone who reads. I think that in a sense this is true for Art in America as well. It seems as though everyone can find something they are interested in. However, I think that it might be challenging for those who are not connected in the art world, or have no prior knowledge of the platform to come across Art in America. There also seemed to be a level of pretention and deliberate distance in some of the reviews that made me question the intended audience. Additionally, I thought about how not everyone who reads Art in America will be able to attend all these exhibitions. This magazine therefore becomes a way to allow a critical lens for readers to formulate their own perspectives.

I noticed how the website featured a variety of reviews of different types of exhibitions. They seem to be well-rounded in trying to incorporate different artistic means of expression. For example, I noticed reviews about film and painting, photography and architecture. There was not one singular type of art that the platform focused on which I think is very important in trying to reach a variety of people.

Different writers reviewed different exhibitions. For example, from the shows that we saw, there was a different writer for each. Walker Downey wrote about Manfred Mohr; Michael McCanne wrote about Christian Marclay; Zachary Fine wrote about Aliza Nisenbaum, and Rahel Aima wrote about Wael Shawky. It is important to have many different perspectives when reviewing art. If it were a very limited amount of journalists writing about the shows, Art in America would not be successful because it would be very biased. While the individuals who write in the magazine may share similar viewpoints and values, such as being liberal and generally open-minded, they are all writing through the lens of their own experiences and opinions. This allows for a comprehensive and complete investigation into how people perceive the art world. Not only that, but these differing perspectives can help open readers’ eyes to things they may not have noticed in their own visits to the galleries or research on exhibitions.

The article that stuck out to me the most was “Sultans, Hybrid Creatures, and Richard Nixon Mingle in Wael Shawky’s Fantastical Gulf Landscape” by Rahel Aima. This article reviews Wael Shawky’s “The Gulf Project Camp” at Lisson gallery. For me, this exhibition was one of my favorites that we have seen. I thought that the use of color and the level of playfulness of two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms to project serious and pressing issues in Middle Eastern history was very exciting and unique. I thought that the way the exhibition was curated was interactive in the sense that it created a sense of movement for the viewer to follow a path and consider the work. It seemed ornate but not overwhelmingly so. There was a sense of camp, but seemed very deliberate and refined. It was very interesting to see what Aima thought of the exhibition and to see how her opinions contrasted from my own.

The article seems critical, sarcastic and tongue in cheek due to the somewhat casual language that Aima uses. While the article is extremely descriptive and creates imagery for the reader, it is also cynical. When creating an overall description of the show, she remarks, “What at first suggested the venue for a turbocharged gender-reveal party was in fact a lavish installation offering a deep dive into Middle Eastern history.” The way in which she alleges that the show is reminiscent of a “turbocharged gender-reveal party,” does not cast the exhibition in a positive light. Rather, Aima seems to be referencing the notion that the exhibition borders on cliché and unsophisticated. She continues to highlight Shawky’s other works, and explains how the works in this exhibition are related to Shawky’s forthcoming film series, “The Gulf Project.” This is important for providing readers with a comprehensive insight into Shawky’s resume as an artist. This is necessary for Aima to discuss, especially if this is readers’ first exposure to learning about his work. She gives context to the show in this way, which thereby makes her review credible.

Aima then asserts how the “show felt like a stage set,” but lacked actors to interact with the scenery and props. She describes the show as both “theatrical and impotent at once” which she asserts is meant to serve as a metaphor for the Gulf. In this way, she is acknowledging how the show is dynamic and reads in a way that is obscure, but has an overall message it is attempting to project. After this, Aima maintains how the blue structure which was at the center of exhibition added to the dramatic and theatrical feeling the show evoked. From this, Aima continues to describe the show as if the reader is walking through it. This way of using writing to create a visual map makes her review both inviting and informative.

In the remainder of the article, Aima seems to be impressed with what Shawky was able to accomplish. Yet, she still discerns that the exhibition seems highly exaggerated and even fictional, which in turn distracts from the overarching message of his work. Aima seems to be impressed by the overarching cohesion of “The Gulf Project Camp,” but acknowledges the aspects that are less successful. I found this article to be interesting and informative. However, I think that having seen the show helped to make the review more understandable. I wonder if I would have received the review in the same manner if I had not had prior background knowledge.

 

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