How to Write about Contemporary Art

Gilda Williams. Thames & Hudson, $24.95 (264) ISBN 978-0-500-29157-3
Artforum correspondent Williams (The Gothic) applies lessons in graceful prose to the field of art writing. Contemporary art prose regularly tends toward dense, labyrinthine text that does little to illuminate the work, impenetrable to those who don't know the jargon and tedious to those who do. As Williams shows, the anecdote is less about secret, insider knowledge and more about the basics of clean prose. The guide's brief chapters cover topics such as "How to Substantiate Your Ideas," "How to Write a Press Release," and "Explaining vs. Evaluating." Readers with basic writing competency will have to wade through a good portion of obvious advice, like cautioning to avoid adverbs and encouraging multiple revisions. Williams excels, however, when looking at excerpts from accomplished critics, including Rosalind Krauss and Walter Benjamin, and when giving nuts-and-bolts advice for crafting specific genres of art-world documents (catalogue essays, short news articles, academic essays, and the like). At conclusion, a smart list for beginning a contemporary art library provides a useful point for novices looking to move forward. While a good deal of the basic prose advice is well-covered by any number of grammar and style guides, Williams's how-to provides enough art-specific insights to cut through the garble so common in the field. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/03/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-500-77217-1
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