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In praise of "difficult" art

Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled, from the kitchen table series, 1990/2010

At the Los Angeles Review of Book, Peter Coviello offers a stirring, deeply thoughtful review of Jennifer Doyle’s book Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion on Contemporary Art. According to Coviello, Doyle’s book calls for—and attempts to construct—an entirely new art critical apparatus to deal with works that have been simplistically described as “difficult” by prevailing art discourses. This includes works by Ron Athey, James Luna, Carrie Mae Weems, Nao Bustamante, and David Wojnarowicz. Coviello writes:

Hold It Against Me is a coruscating assault on the state of contemporary art critical practice, and especially on what Doyle reads, with demolishing exhaustiveness, as its genuinely outraging incapacity in relation to racially engaged, feminist, and queer art and artists. As Doyle reads it, this is a failure rooted in impoverished conceptual frameworks and broken institutional practices and lived out in encounters with individual artists and objects. You will not, I promise, emerge from this book with your sense of the conditions that mediate engagements with contemporary art, from the local to the mass-marketed, unshaken or unrevised … Hold It Against Me is a revelatory book of art criticism and politically astute theory. But I think it may also be a book about a certain mode of love — critical love — as counterhegemonic practice.

Read the review at the LA Review of Books’ website here.