Monday, January 22, 2007

Robert Hughes, "Things I Didn't Know"

Few people have done more than Robert Hughes to bring casual readers closer to understanding art. His reviews in the magazine usually alone made TIME worth the cover price.

Mia Fineman has an article in Slate that captures what I admire about Hughes. In part:
Hughes is a bravura performer, both on the screen and on the page. He writes with astounding verve, in a voice that slips easily between boisterous vulgarity and polished eloquence. In Things I Didn't Know, which chronicles his career through 1970, he says the single greatest influence on his approach to criticism was George Orwell. For Hughes, Orwell's no-nonsense prose style and clear, everyday language offered an astringent antidote to the "airy-fairy, metaphor-ridden kind of pseudo-poetry" that filled the art magazines of the early '60s. As a result of this early training—and probably also as a matter of temperament—Hughes' writing is muscular and dazzlingly lucid; he refuses to indulge in sublime metaphysical musings or languid adjectival swooning, opting instead for precise, verbally nimble descriptions of art's effects. His critical perspective is that of an erudite outsider, which makes him immensely appealing to a mainstream readership: He knows his stuff, but he hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid.
Read the entire article.

Late last year Rachel Cooke interviewed Hughes for the Observer.

--Marshal Zeringue