In a series of unattended lectures at the University of Toronto, art critic Douglas Moskovitch read from his self-titled anthology of art reviews. The man who crystallized the “vague appraisal,” as he termed it, was given a vague appraisal of his own–an abstract audience. Empty chairs and untouched coffee dispensers. It is perhaps ironic–or, as Douglas Moskovitch put it, “not ironic at all”–that his first talk should have been scheduled at the exact hour when Noam Chomsky was across campus lecturing to a sold-out hall of enraptured university intelligentsia. Nonplussed, Moskovitch decided to proceed with his planned two-and-a-half hour address. He even provided his own “Q&A” dialogue by running back and forth between the lectern and theatre-seats. This mishap should not prevent the general public from experiencing the profundity of the critic’s works, even if they decided they didn’t want to experience it the first time. With Moskovitch’s permission, we reproduce here some choice excerpts from his most iconic exhibition reviews.
May 1962, Bulling Around at the Lascaux Caves!
The French child that I have hired to be my guide from Brive-la-Gaillard has made away with the five francs which I paid in advance. I spend four hours waiting for him at the door of my lodgings until I hail the driver of a rickety old cart full of somber farmhands and caged chickens. I embrace the au naturale scents of my journey! I am dropped at my destination with only thirty minutes to spare before the cave’s visiting hours are finished for the day. I enter among a fresh wave of tourists. Mud-coloured bison, horse, cattle, and bulls flicker on the walls around us. A strong theme, but very one-note. The artist only seemed content to depict the entrée of his menu. I long for the greens of his salad, the berries of his dessert! His fluidity of line really is impressive, though, and overall I look forward to seeing more from Monsieur Lascaux.
June 1970, Barbara Hepworth’s Family of Man
Hepworth’s bronze block pieces are scattered about a hilltop in the Yorkshire Sculptural Park. As I wander past the haphazard totems, I can’t decide whether the English dame has constructed an abstract tour-de-force or a very lazy Stonehenge. Like so many other homages to the genealogy of man, Hepworth’s message takes a positive course. We are all the same! her sculptures cry. This would be a sound and valuable sentiment, perfectly expressed, if we were all shaped like great big heaping blocks of bronze.
January 1953, Jackson Pollock in New York
Pollock’s newest solo-exhibition makes me worry that the artist is losing his touch. His past three showings have all been lacking in variety and this presentation is no exception. Everywhere the same gradations of blue and green and red and yellow and brown and orange and purple and mauve and pink and taupe and grey; splatters and drips, sand and glass, in this new Pollock exhibit the only colour is that of a single spectrum trying to encompass all the hues of the rainbow. Try as he might next season, his reputation in New York has been shaken.
Amanda Abdelhadi is a writer, humorist, and editor based in Toronto, ON. Her website http://badcritic.ca is a collection of her absurdist essays about her strange experiences in the fine art community.