Caroline Busta '01 addresses the past and present of contemporary art criticism: Assistant editor of Artforum discusses the discourse behind contemporary art

Posted by Sandy Zhang

Last Thursday, Caroline Busta, class of 2001 and assistant editor at Artforum magazine, gave a lecture in the Tang Teaching Museum on the past and present roles Artforum magazine has played in the contemporary art world.

Appropriately, Art History Department Chair Katie Hauser, who was Busta's advisor, introduced Busta. Professor Hauser said that in Busta's senior year, Busta curated a well-received art show in her apartment.

Busta started the lecture with a brief history of the magazine's early years, chronicling its founding in San Francisco in 1962 and its subsequent moves to Los Angeles and New York. In light of Artforum's looming 50th anniversary, Busta painted a picture of the magazine's founding purpose by reading the mission statement of its conception. She explained that in 1962, a surge in consumption of fine modern art necessitated a community that objectively dialogued about art. Discourse about fine art in a circulating object form was needed to establish value for artists and consumers alike. Artforum sought to be this nexus point where artists, critics, art dealers and galleries co-existed.

Busta went on to reveal that Artforum continues to act as a host to the relationships between its editorial board, galleries, artists and art dealers, which often become twisted and convoluted.

In 1974, the magazine wanted to publish a naked photo of artist Lynda Benglis holding a double-sided dildo. Busta explains that the work interrupts the normative hetero fantasies that pornography encourages because she is shown as an object of male desire and the prop signals that she is sexually self-sufficient. Because of its explicit nature, the magazine refused to publish the photo. The solution was for the artist to ask the Paula Cooper Gallery, which was representing Benglis at the time, to purchase advertisement space so the photo could run as an ad instead.

"However, the spread (a full two pages, as a centerfold photo would appear) was not taken out to advertise a forthcoming show, but rather, to present this photo. For Benglis the work wasn't just the photo, but the photo-as-circulated was part of the magazine," Busta said.

The lecture addressed more current issues when Busta declared that the Occupy Wall Street movement is creating and circulating quirky dialogue, art and criticism. She presented examples of the spontaneous art the movement has spurred. For example, Joie de Vivre, a 70-foot red steel sculpture by Mark di Suvero that resides in Zuccotti Park, has been altered to resemble a bulletin board – sporting an anarchy sign, stickers and notices.

"Showing Joie de Vivre was intended to demonstrate how, like the pages of a magazine, a physical site could also be a vital place for discursive exchange. And what better than a site that is also the very art object that is being contested," Busta said.

Busta also showed a photo of two hand-written posters on top of each other. One reads "TAX DAT ASS," and the other, "ASS DAT TAX." The poster represents a more straightforward form of discourse. "This demonstrates another form of direct criticism, one that doesn't need further mediation via a publishing vehicle, such as a magazine, to exist." Busta said.

In her discussion of the art that surrounds the movement, Busta acknowledged that blogs and micro-blogs like Twitter are attaining increasingly influential roles in the continuing dialogues of the contemporary art world.

Before ending the lecture with a 20-minute question and answer session, Busta briefly outlined the magazine's standard editorial operations and procedures. "To make sure that a plurality of voices is represented, no artist can be reviewed by the same writer twice in a row," Busta said.

During the question and answer session, Busta spoke more specifically on her role and duties at the magazine. She also walked the audience through her own career, describing the trajectory to her position at Artforum.

After graduating from the College in 2001, Busta moved to New York, where she worked as an assistant to former Skidmore Professor Rob Linrothe at the Rubin Museum of Art, received an MA degree in Art History from Columbia University, and began freelance writing. Busta also served as a co-director of Miguel Abreu Gallery and co-curated an exhibition at Orchard, galleries located in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She joined Artforum as a full time staff member in July of 2008.

Dylan Lustrin '13, an art history major, was pleased with the lecture. "It was refreshing to hear someone speak who not long ago was also a Skidmore student. Having attended the Living the Liberal Arts panel just a few weeks before her lecture, hearing about her career experience fit nicely with the Art History department's valid questioning of the real-world utility of an Art History degree," Lustrin said.

The Alfred Z. Solomon Residency, which has also brought artist Nicolas Guagnini and writer Jessica Lott to campus, sponsored Busta's visit to the College.

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