Moira Dryer

In the last few weeks I have had a number of conversations with artists and gallerists (using that term freely) about changes that are coming at us, each with its own velocity. Some are moving like a sea change, some are seismic. But the old forms are morphing, of that I am certain.

From pop up shows to self curated online exhibits to different distribution channels to alternative models (like gallerists Baang and Burne who describe the white box gallery experience as, “This is not what art should be. Why am I filled with dread and confusion when I should experience elation?” and are creating a different model) the old institutions are looking a bit rickety and outdated.

More evidence: Art historian and critic Raphael Rubenstein is the guest editor of the Brooklyn Rail’s ArtSeen section this month. Pointing to how a letter can be a powerful form of art sharing (which certainly was the case in the correspondence between Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo,) Rubinstein invited BR readers to use that form to participate in writing about art:

Perhaps the most important difference between a conventional exhibition review and a “letter review” is that a letter implies a response, or at least the hope for an answer; it is not the last word on a subject, but the opening of a dialogue. Lately, as an art critic it has, at times, seemed hard to know who you are writing for, hard to visualize the audience that is, you hope, engaged by your writing. And if you don’t know who your readers are, it’s hard to instigate a productive conversation with them. My desire with this experiment is to stress the necessary bond between writers and readers, and to encourage direct relationships between potential correspondents not via fleeting, truncated messages within a commercialized network of “friends” but through an altogether different kind of posting. As Paul Chan has recently observed (in a piece about his staging of Beckett’s Godot in New Orleans), “a voice that desires a reply sounds different than an echo that wants attention.”

What a great concept, and already the results of that invitation have been eye opening for me. Some were familiar figures, like David Rhodes writing to Philip Guston and Greg Lindquist to Robert Smithson. But Rhodes also wrote to the extraordinary Moira Dryer, a young artist who died in 1992 at the age of 34. Unknown to me previously, Dryer’s work now has me fascinated. And there are letters to living artists as well, like Sharon Butler‘s letter to Tamara Gonzales whose work is also very compelling.

More possibilites, more permutations. All good.

Here are a few letter samples:

Letter to Philip Guston from David Rhodes

Letter to Robert Smithson from Greg Lindquist

Letter to Moira Dryer from David Rhodes

Letter to Tamara Gonzales from Sharon Butler