Criminal art?

I guess I didn't provoke much of a discussion with my post on the 18th about Clinton Boisvert's art, his jailing and a piece in the NYTimes written by their chief art critic.

The paper did not print my letter of outrage over a totally inappropriate attack on Boisvert, on his inappropriate art, and by implication on all inappropriate art in these times and this place, so now it's safe to post the letter here.

Yes, of course I had an opinion all along. What follows is essentially the text of my letter to the paper, edited for this space and for certain style adjustments, and stretched a bit.

Michael Kimmelman's piece on Clinton Boisvert's "FEAR" art project hoped to lump the artist with criminals or loonies, but succeeded more in betraying Kimmelman's own inadequacies and fears as a critic, both cultural and social.

The Times' chief art critic comes across sounding more like a Soviet apparatchnik frightened by the creativity and the outrage which threatens his comfort and his system than a man who might do something to help us understand this new world of ours.

In addition, he creates and repeats falsehoods in order to marginalize, denigrate and criminalize as one of those "hapless, fledgling art students" a man who managed to help us to understand ourselves, our world and our relationship to it, at a time when few have been so successful. Reactions since the discovery of "FEAR" have clearly shown how much we need some enlightenment.

Boisvert's boxes did not "spread panic," contrary to Kimmelman's hysterical assertion. They were installed in full public view by two young men in the middle of the day in a well-lighted busy subway station of the world's art capital. They were not hidden, not unmarked, not labelled "anthrax" and not labelled "free candy." The artist's and his friend's actual activities failed to alarm the thousands of New Yorkers who passed them by as sufficintly suspicious in nature to report. Only later in the day did a passer-by became interested and concerned enough to point out the boxes to a guard. The rest is now art and political history.

Four days ago I posted a reference to this story on my website and asked artist friends and others to express their opinions of the events, including their opinions of the NYTimes article. My initial puzzlement at finding only two brave comments was replaced by chagrin when I learned from another friend that it would be dangerous for many in the visual arts to cross Mr. Kimmelman, because he was simply too powerful in their world.

I'm admit I'm naive, but I still have to shout: What a terible indictment of the free and creative society we have built, and now think we are defending from the barbarians, that apparently art and even art commentary can be intimidated, and from inside the gates!

I've seen a number of good posts on the issues surrounding Boisvert's project and reaction to it, but one of my favorite comments is Barry's cautionary verbal take, "Especially while living under the Bush regime, I'm alarmed by art critics talking about art being criminal."


I was glad to see someone do something like this, finally.

Nevertheless, I was happy that he was a artist by profession, not one of us -- not part of the "peace and justice" community.

If he were, he really would have been in trouble!