The Critic Bites

“The Critic” at Matthew Marks

September 13, 2019 – October 26, 2019


The sculpture of a woman dressed entirely in black, with a black bowl on her head and cling wrap around her head is shown from behind. The back exposes around twenty talismans stitched to her tunic in a loose grid.
Who is the critic? A show curated by Alex Kitnick at Matthew Marks last fall held the mirror to the critic, who was acting in this instance as curator. To criticize — “to separate, to decide” — once implied independence and a public function that gave reviews some bite. However, this has all but vanished with the waning of the public sphere, the commodification of discourse and the widespread precarity that inhibits open debate. The works in this exhibition lash out at an image of critical authority now in crisis: The Critic Smiles (1966), Jasper Johns’s toothed brush, snarls at the contradictory hygiene of the critical service economy, in which writers are expected to smile while they clean, and somehow eat; The Critic Laughs (1980), Richard Hamilton's mediatized parody recasts Johns's object-paradox as an advertisement for a plastic chattering machine; Rosemarie Trockel’s sentinel, The Critic (2015), stands guard over the back room, conjuring apotropaic mystique and clad with the teeth of her victims as bounty. Marcel Duchamp’s alchemical Tzanck Check (1919), drawn to pay his dentist, haunts these works at the threshold of art, criticism, and money. Criticism, like art, is currency. The curator cashes in, appropriately so.