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Re: “At Space, Hot Metal puts the thermometer through its paces

I'd like to say that I agree with much of what 'Ladd' has to say. As I've previously stated, Lissa Brennan's careless comments in regard to the fire are, in fact, inexcusable. Yet, Mr. O'Driscoll repeatedly defends these statements, despite the fact that the vast majority of the commenters herein take great offense and express strong disapproval of these flippant remarks. You may claim, Mr. O'Driscoll, that these comments were written before Brennan was informed of the fire. But this detail only functions to reinforce previous suggestions that she has done no research to support this article and that she didn't even give her full attention to the exhibition while she was there in the first place. 'Slinky' claims 'There are signs and a big donation box at the front desk and they have been there the entire show.' If Ms. Brennan was so interested in getting more information on the exhibition, how is it that she missed this 'big' display? After all, she apparently paid some serious attention to the boy who was sitting in that very desk. In any event, as 'Dinardo' first stated, it is shameful that you as an editor allowed these comments to go to print. I also agree with Ladd's second point, that Brennan's comments in regard to the gallery's attendant are rude and completely inappropriate in the context of an art review. But again, Mr. O'Driscoll continually defends these comments while the majority of the posters here describe them as 'childish', 'petty', 'unprofessional' and 'juvenile.' Ladd brings up some interesting thoughts when he asks if Mr. O'Driscoll would object to the critique of a music promoter's attire in the review of a recent concert. Of course his answer should be no, but he's already compromised his integrity by defending Brennan's writing. So I am certain that the answer to this question will be thoroughly entertaining, if not a depressing reminder of the depths to which Pittsburgh's art criticism has sunk. I do, however, disagree with Ladd's acceptance of Brennan's article as 'art criticism.' I maintain that this article fails to meet the criteria of art criticism. Nowhere in her article does Brennan attempt to understand the artwork conceptually. She even mentions Carly Jean and Ed Parrish's fire-damaged piece, "Shadows of a Place We Knew and Together We Move Through," the title being an OBVIOUS reference to their recent tragedy. How can you allow your writer to make specific mention of a piece such as this without discussing its meaning, when four paragraphs later she brings up this very same tragedy only to give the opinion that it isn't an acceptable excuse for a supposed lack of follow through? Again, as editor, dealing with discrepancy and disrespect such as this is your responsibility. If he wants to, Mr. O'Driscoll can defend Brennan with claims that she was uninformed when she wrote the article. But either way, Lissa Brennan is at fault for one of the following: extremely lazy journalism or heartlessness. My guess would be both. However, Bill O'Driscoll, if you truly want to defend this article then you can take responsibility for it. At this point in the conversation I can't help but wonder what the state of art criticism in this city would be if certain past art reviewers at the Pittsburgh City Paper had been properly edited or properly qualified to write in the first place. As other commenters have already mentioned, I, personally, didn't think that I would ever be more offended or disappointed in a Pittsburgh City Paper art reviewer than I was with Gregory Knepp. But as poster 'Video' has suggested, Brennan seems to pick up where Knepp left off, describing pieces in great physical detail, but never even attempting to discuss the work conceptually. Also like Knepp, Brennan makes room for personal attacks in her article. The real shame though is that she has perverted an already perverse practice by redirecting this negativity toward the completely irrelevant desk attendant. Like 'Ladd', I wonder now if this trend is actually a shortcoming of yours. If you truly think that this type of writing is passable as an art review then perhaps you are part of the problem at the City Paper. That, of course, is assuming that you personally choose who writes in the arts and entertainment section. I also agree with Ladd as he notes that it's interesting that you're doing all of the talking here while Brennan remains mute. If Ms. Brennan hasn't lost her keyboard since she wrote this article she might apologize for her apathy, her false sense of entitlement and her distasteful comments, or at least attempt to defend her indefensible words.

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Posted by bill o'driscoll on 03/08/2008 at 9:12 PM

Re: “At Space, Hot Metal puts the thermometer through its paces

But Bill, there simply are not 'glowing descriptions of several artworks' featured in this article. There just aren't. There are, at most, 3 positive descriptions of specific artworks in this review and none that I would classify as 'glowing.' 1. 'Skill and beauty overflow in several works by Oleh Bonkovikyy.' 2. 'Tim Kaulen's "Go Finch," a man-sized bird lit from within, is colorful and cute in its features...' 3.' Cal Lane's "Wheelbarrow" upends the hardy apparatus and beautifies it with lacy floral filigree...' First of all, 3 doesn't qualify as 'several' and 'cute' doesn't qualify as 'glowing.' I'm not trying beat this to death but this just isn't a positive article. There is just as much or more negativity than positivity within her text. She has criticized a piece simply based on it's price and its materials. She has disrespected the curator. And we have already noted her unnecessary smear campaign on the gallery via the attendant. Add to all of this the fact that she has all but ignored the artwork for the entire second half of the article and you can begin to see how someone might view this a negative article. And, again, to simply give a physical description of a work of art is not to review it. You should know this as 'Arts and Entertainment Editor' of the City Paper. But this is exactly what Brennan has done and what you've allowed her to do. She has merely given physical descriptions of the objects in the gallery without discussing them conceptually at all. She has not made the effort to understand the work. She prefaces her review by saying, "the impetus behind these works, and the exhibit as a whole, are something you'll have to guess at." The problem is that Brennan herself has not made a single 'guess' of her own even though she is writing a supposed critical review of the artwork. In order to review a piece of artwork you have to THINK about the artwork. You have to make an effort to UNDERSTAND the artwork. Brennan should ask herself WHY an artist might decide to build 'Mobile Suit Gundam Japanese-anime figures' out of tin-foil instead of jumping to the conclusion that the artwork is worthless. I can understand that the average viewer may need a little guidance when viewing artwork but what excuse does an art critic have for not even attempting to understand the artwork she is reviewing? Can you answer that question? So, I'm sorry prolong this debate, but I think that you may be the one with the most novel interpretation of our English language if you actually believe that this review is 'glowing' or if you call this article a 'review' at all. It is both far from glowing and far from a review. Surely as 'Arts and Entertainment Editor' you know what constitutes Art Criticism. And surely you know that this isn't it. If the City Paper wants to publish edgy material by being rude, that's fine. But don't publish writing that is tantamount to a high school student's myspace blog and call it art criticism. Because as you can see, it isn't going to fly.

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Posted by bill o'driscoll on 03/07/2008 at 6:48 PM

Re: “At Space, Hot Metal puts the thermometer through its paces

Mr. O'Driscoll, I would like to correct a couple of misconceptions that you yourself seem to have about this review. The simple inclusion of the sentence 'there is more good than bad here' does not make an otherwise negative review into a positive one. And just because Lissa Brennan hasn't trashed most of the artwork specifically doesn't mean that the review isn't negative. The fact is that she has NOT critiqued the artwork at all. So, how can a review be positive if the review doesn't actually exist? I think the problem everyone has with this article is just that. She hasn't critiqued the artwork at all. She has simply said that if you go to this gallery you will find some metal sculptures, some of which are hot and some of which cast shadows. This is not a review. This is not analysis. This is not thoughtful. This is barely informative. But the clincher here, and the thing that makes this review so negative and insulting, is that she actually DOES eventually critique something in her article. It is sadly ironic, however, that she has decided not to critique the artwork but rather to criticize a desk attendant's outfit. It is not 'curious' that many people seem to have a problem with this. This was a petty, personal attack which detracted significantly from the rest of this nonexistent critique and it is insulting to your readers for the bulk of a review to be devoted to counting labels and giving fashion advice in an art review. Literally HALF of Brennan's Article discusses irrelevant topics such as the gallery's windows, her disappointment in the labeling, the prices being so high that she wants to hurt someone, her fashion advice for the desk attendant and finally her suggestion that he should be out of a job. I mean, are you kidding when you say that these things should be taken into account when reviewing someone's artwork? These things have nothing to with the artwork or even the artists whatsoever. And to make matters worse Brennan DOES brush aside this tragedy of the fire. You ask if a review should not be critical simply because the curator has had a hard time. Of course not. But what Brennan wrote was disrespectful. Why would she complain about a lack of documentation to a man who has just lost his home and studio due to a fire, a fire which was most probably caused by his working on this very same show?! This is beyond distasteful. She knew why there was a lack of documentation but decided to complain about it anyhow. Her writing shows that she has no real sympathy. Mr. O'Driscoll, admit it. This is a poor excuse for art criticism and you know it. She has NOT reviewed the art. She has spent half of her article discussing superfluous and inane details about the venue. She's disrespected a man and a family who have lost their home and their livelihood. She's made claims that the artwork isn't worth its asking price. She's attacked the poor kid who staffs the desk at the gallery. Her article was indeed overwhelmingly negative and way out of line. Brennan seems to have no business writing art reviews, period. She obviously has no interest in or understanding of contemporary art. What appreciation for art can a person possibly have when they claim that a piece of artwork isn't worth its asking price because it is made of tin-foil? And what kind of journalist then writes that they'd like to 'clothesline someone' because of this price? There is literally something wrong with every aspect of this review. Please stop defending her embarrassing article. You know that your readers aren't as stupid as Ms. Brennan would like to assume we are.

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Posted by bill o'driscoll on 03/07/2008 at 3:02 PM

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