New American Paintings/Blog

Artist Statements…Yea or Nay? (POLL) by New American Paintings
February 15, 2012, 8:15 am
Filed under: Poll | Tags: , ,

Every edition of New American Paintings features 40 artists who are given a four pages of coverage in which they are represented by 3 full-color images, an edited CV, and a brief artist statement. We are constantly looking for feedback so that we can improve the experience our readers have with the publication. So the question we pose to you with this poll…Artist Statements, Yea or Nay??

Please vote below and be sure to tell us why you voted the way that you did in the comments section.


29 Comments so far
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Artists statements are important in that they can (briefly) give the viewer an insight as to what, why, how the art is conceived, etc. in this 21st century socio/polit/enviro/econo/relig/geo/natural arena against the canon of the world’s art histories.- Craig Cheply

Comment by Craig Cheply

We have all read our share of ridiculous and convoluted artist statements. A lot of times they confuse rather than clarify. They can at times seem to function as something kin to a sleazy defense attorney who knowing full well their client is guilty as hell, will nonetheless fight to argue their innocents.

Recognizing the high level of bullshit in a good deal of these statements shouldn’t lead one to conclude that the artist statement isn’t helpful, at least for some.
Ultimately, I believe it’s a visual thing and ideally no words should be needed, realistically…ey, sometimes we need a little help. Plus, it’s important to slow down from time to time and ask ourselves, as artists what it is we are doing.

I say, leave the statement in

Comment by Ed Valentine

My sentiments exactly, Ed Valentine!! Many statements leave me scratching my head, while others are clear and have meaning. An example of good art writing is this blog.

Comment by Patricia Rivard

Great point, Ed. Thanks for joining in the discussion.

Comment by New American Paintings

Artists’ statements are expected to explain the subject and meaning of their art. But while intentions may be necessary to create art, and do identify subject (which is evoked by or as media) they are never sufficient in explain meaning because each beholder constructs and projects meanings to artworks.

Comment by William Conger

The work should stand alone. Most artists do not talk about their work well. It usually sounds like art school drivel. Blech.

Comment by Samantha Fisher

Some artists do try but are simply not as good at writing as others. It is unfortunate for those artists that really want to compliment their work with a concise statement but don’t have the experience necessary to do so. We are looking into providing some editorial assistance to the artists in case they are having trouble expressing themselves.

Comment by New American Paintings

I think the quality of artist statements is the key. Frankly, I stopped subscribing to your publication because you provide no intellectual or creative context for the work you publish. The artist statements fail to situate the work historically, intellectually, or creatively, and the curators offered no insight to their thinking either. The era of painting “speaking for itself” ended quite a few decades ago. Artists are expected today to be able to speak and write about their work with clarity. Supporting the process of writing might be as important for your publication as showcasing painting.

Comment by Pete

I’m sorry we lost you as a subscriber! We hope that the context you are after is portrayed in the Juror’s Essay at the beginning of each issue. But that is really up to the juror. In the past we have also considered asking the juror to make quick and concise comments throughout the publication which would appear randomly next to certain artworks. Perhaps we should revisit that discussion…

Comment by New American Paintings

Painters are hopefully better at painting than writing. However, it is important to be able to articulate some explanation, reasoning, background, or supplement to the work. Statements serve different purposes for different artists. What they choose to expose can tell you about the artist, the work, or the process.

Comment by Shannon

Generally speaking, I hate most artist statements that I read. Statements (often) too academic, full of fluff, over-thought b.s. that makes me want to puke. In the end, it’s all about the work itself. You should get a gut reaction from the art, unless, it’s so goddamn conceptual and aloof you need the damn statement.

Comment by Juniper

Nay. Viewers bring a tremendous amount to the work when left alone. While a general idea of areas that inform an artist’s project may be helpful, exacting, specific information can diminish the experience a viewer might have had prior to gaining that knowledge.

Comment by snlombardi

You have a sophisticated connected audience. If they want to read a statement they can find it on an artist’s website.

Comment by Ben

If it isnt broke, dont fix it – NAP is a great publication that places the artwork first, not the words of the artist. We are Visual Artists – we CAN write, but this magazine has always given priority to the work. It is one of the ONLY reasons why I continue to read NAP – Do Not Include Full-length artist statements – the brief “artist’s words” section is all that is needed.

Comment by Vin

I read the statements of the artists whose work I am attracted to because I am interested to find out more about process, concept and the person behind the work. I read the statements of the the artists whose work I initially dislike or have little reaction to in order to see if further insight into what they are doing will broaden my perspective and possibly change the way I see the work. I would be disappointed if the statements were left out. It’s a more satisfying experience to share in both the images and the ideas.

Comment by ssstephg

Ive been reading New American Paintings for years and the artists’ bios and statements are very important to me. It would be weird to not let an artist talk about their work. Please don’t change a good thing. Keep it real.

Love, Ruthie J.

Comment by Ruthie J.

Yea…for a lot of work, the artist statement gives insight into the process and intent. Without it, the viewer has no entry way in which to engage the work aside from the photograph of the painting or drawing.

Comment by Rene Trevino

No way, artist statements are stifling. They rarely do anything to help the work and shouldn’t be needed to do that anyways. They are always boring and make the work seem simple minded, even if the work isn’t. It is an unnecessary problem for artists to fuss with – let the work speak for itself. I think it also leads to lazy viewership…

Comment by Josh Reames

I agree that statements can lead to lazy viewership. Viewers shouldn’t expect to be told the meaning of work. I disagree that statements are “always boring” and that it is an “unnecessary problem for artists to fuss with.” Artist should be able to make a statement about their work. Why artist statements are generally put forth in formulaic paragraphs is beyond me. If an artist chooses to talk about their work in a dull format that indicates to me that the work isn’t coming from a very interesting place. I appreciate artist statements as a way to gage the artist not the work.

Comment by Amber Renaye

Unless one intends to stand next to one’s painting in the gallery at all hours and explain to everyone what it means then I feel artist statements to be a strange exercise. I suppose I don’t mind contextual references, but too often a statement ends up telling ME what I should think of a PICTURE, which defeats the purpose of making pictures in the first place. They’re open ended. There’s no “right” way to see a painting.

Comment by Maggie

The artist statement provides context for the works, career and lends a perspective for who the artist is. Words are another visual device.

Comment by Tess

I bought an issue of New American Paintings specifically for the Artists Statement. They helped me organize and articulate my thoughts when it came time to write one of my own. Keep them!

Comment by Kelly

Thanks! It is good to know that they add value to our publication for some.

Comment by New American Paintings

Statements can be useful to gage the artists awareness, understanding, and/or influences of their work. While I think the work should be engaging without a statement I find value in the artists ability to discuss their work. On the other hand, however, a portfolio of x amount of images and a paragraph statement gets really boring. A statement can be interpreted in a variety of ways – unfortunately people tend to stick to the standard i-am-interested-in-format when the word “artist” is attached; which is ironic and why the statements get boring. Perhaps, instead there could be an optional area/column for text – not necessarily for a statement but an idea, a comment, a question…etc. This could potentially add variety throughout the publication as well.

Comment by Amber Renaye

agreed. when I read Josh Smith’s 1000 words essay in the Feb 2008 Artforum, I fell in love with his work. I didn’t like it when I saw prior to the essay but when I understood what he was after, I became hooked. His writing was simple, clear, and sincere. His way of speaking was more rooted to his way of working and supplemented his work well. I think an optional area/column for texts, ideas, or comments is fantastic.

Comment by francisco moreno

That was a good article and a great example of the potential for what an artist statement can be. As I just posted on FB, I find the opposition to making a statement very funny. I speculate that the resistance is because institutions require them but the irony is that many people respond to the demands for an artist statement with a very formulaic response. I am confused by the general assumption that an artist statement has to take any particular form. Statements are made in a variety of ways.

Comment by Amber Renaye

Thanks for the suggestion. An alternative to an artist statement will be a possible scenario we take out of this discussion. It seems like even those that oppose the statements don’t necessarily dislike the contextual references, rather the method in which it is presented. Great conversation here, obviously this goes well beyond our pages…

Comment by New American Paintings

They are another form of the Artist’s self-expression which complement the visual presentations. They make sense to the Artist even if they don’t make sense to you. You don’t have to read them; Google the Artist’s name instead and read what people have said about the Artist and the art.

Comment by Jack Gallagher

I would say leave them in. The best artist’s statements I’ve read in NAP offer me a concise summation of the artist’s process, intentions, and interests, and can sometimes prompt me to take a second or third look at art that I was on the fence about initially. Some of the worst stand out in my memory years after I’ve read them — usually rambling political screeds or meandering tangles of jargon that leave me scratching my head when I compare the art to the statement. The good and bad statements both can be pretty instructive.

Comment by Aric Calfee

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