What is Art Criticism?

As a photography major, I have no idea how to be an art critic. I do not even wish to be an art critic, honestly. I feel it is important for anyone reading this to know the truth of where this writing comes from before continuing. I took this class as an elective and other than the five art history classes I have taken, my experience with art is mostly my own. However, being introduced to this class I realize it could be a valuable tool for anyone in the art world.

Having Chad Dawkins, an actual art critic, talk to the class seemed like a really great way to be introduced to the concept. He spoke about the three approaches that can be used when writing about art: descriptive for facts, speculative for more of the art jargon, and critical which actually makes a judgement of the art. I did not realize that art criticism did not have to be critical. It was interesting to hear Chad’s view point and see what he has actually published. It made me think that writing about art does not have to be a formal, boring essay to be worth anything. I think people should give their opinion on things even if it upsets people. We cannot spend every aspect of our life trying to please people, especially when we are doing something that we love. That is something I have realized more and more during my college career. Chad was real about the hardships of the profession, he did not try to convince any of us that it would be fun or easy and I can appreciate that. My only negative comment would probably be that a lot of the terminology was really over my head.

-Caylee Davis



  1. This class is also my first encounter with art criticism. Chad Dawkins was able to shed new light on my perceptions of art criticism and what it is about. He mentioned that not everyone reads this genre of writing, which to me justifies the idea of writing to fulfill one’s self. One thing though, is that at the end of the session everyone in „the middle class“ was lumped into the same pile of mundane. People aren’t all the same, and I find it inaccurate to assume they are. Only since 100 or so years has it become possible for many to overcome poverty. Why does this have to be called mundane?

    –Natasha M. Helms


  2. I mean, the middle class is the majority of America so obviously we’re not all the same. I think considering the middle class to be mundane would come from the fact that the majority of us are doing what’s expected of us. Going to school, going to college, getting a full time job, getting married, having 2.5 kids, retiring, and dying. Just typing that out felt like a boring waste of life, especially considering the people who instead spend their lives traveling the world and doing things that aren’t predictable. Mundane doesn’t mean bad though, after all it’s what makes you happy that matters in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, but it’s precisely that last bit which gets me! Middle class people can do things that are unpredictable. They do / can have the resources to travel the world. I feel that sustaining a family — no divorce, all “2.5” kids (In Europe mainly 1 child is the average) from the same parents etc is something unpredictable these days! It can surely be seen as artistic in the way two people in the middle class fall in love, work diligently, travel, are determined to do well in life…What about “middle class” people who are from different countries/cultures? They have many exciting things to share with each other despite both being from the mundane.


  4. Well sure. That’s great for them. They’re beating the stereotype. My parents are divorced though and I’m a college student in debt. I’m white. My middle class life is mundane.


  5. I’m glad that you mentioned the terminology used to describe art criticism as “going over your head”, I do think the description can be just as convoluted as writing or reading actual art criticism. It was refreshing when Chad Dawkins mentioned that every article you read on Artforum or E-flux all sound the same, and that you could go back one hundred years to read the same theories and critiques. There is an exclusivity that comes with reading art criticism, which is why no one reads art criticism for pleasure, and I’d like to see that change.


  6. I really appreciated your honesty about how art criticism is merely just a class for you but how you still have a respect for it. I also agree with you about Chad Dawkins view point on art criticism, he madesomthing that is often looked at or discussed in a negative way feel more approachable and even enjoyable. I found his discussion to be very informative as well as humbling, in the sense that it is all the same and in the end people in the art world just want their name out there and share their opinions. Also that if you want to become an art critic do not expect anything too quickly you will have to work from the bottom up and that usually means for free but if you are interested in it that is what matters at the end of it.


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