Lori Waxman has been the primary freelance art critic of the Chicago Tribune for the past decade. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has a Ph.D. in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York. Her "60 wrd/min art critic" performance has been exhibited in dOCUMENTA (13) and a dozen cities across the U.S. She has received a Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and a 2018 Rabkin Foundation award, and is the author, most recently, of Keep Walking Intently (Sternberg Press), a history of walking as an art form. For more information, please click on the Resume link above.
The 60 wrd/min art critic was originally produced with no budget and the very generous help of its various hosts and receptionists, many of whom filched the necessary office supplies from their day jobs. Since spring 2009, the project has been generously funded by a Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant, enabling the 60 wrd/min art critic to travel to ten venues throughout the U.S. For dates and locations, see Venues: Upcoming Performances on this site.
The 60 wrd/min art critic is many things: an exploration of short-form art writing, a work of performance art in and of itself, an experiment in role reversal between artist and critic, a democratic gesture, a circumvention of the art review process.
For two to three days the critic is available, in a given location (usually an artist-run gallery or non-profit arts center), to any artist who wants a review. Artists bring in their work and, on a first-come, first-served basis, the critic spends twenty minutes writing them a review of one to two hundred words. She guarantees a thoughtful, critical but not necessarily positive review. The text is then “published” by the receptionist and posted on an adjacent wall for everyone—critic, artist, receptionist, audience—to read. Eventually all or some of the reviews are published in a magazine or newspaper. In three days in Knoxville, TN, the critic saw work by a total of thirty-six artists—professional, amateur, self-taught, MFA, even work by an incarcerated felon—and wrote as many reviews.
Why do this project? Because too much art goes unrecorded, and habit often dictates what a critic sees and therefore writes about. To push short-form writing as far as it can go. What is lost and gained as texts get shorter and faster, and potentially more prolific? In terms of quantity, the project deals comically and literally with the idea that there are too many artists and galleries, and not enough critical venues to cover it all. To circumvent the Catch-22 that can leave regional and emerging artists outside the loop. To see what happens when the byline becomes a face, the solitary writer works in public. To find out what a review is worth, and to whom, if made on demand.
Ultimately the 60 wrd/min art critic doesn’t solve criticism’s problems; it makes them visible through experimentation.
The 60 wrd/min art critic was featured on the NPR program Studio 360 on May 15, 2009. To listen to a podcast of the segment, called "Reinventing the critic," follow this link.