My name is Harbeer Sandhu. My friends call me Herb. Some people call me “Harb” but I don’t like those people. I write fiction and poetry and criticism. I got my M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco and my B.A. in English with a Specialization in Creative Writing from New York University. This is my art blog. It is a project of the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program.
I love when visual artists ask me “You can get an MFA in writing???” because I see it as their quick way of telling me they’re stupid and I don’t need to waste any more time with them. Yes–the Master of Fine Arts degree was invented by the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1936. Yes, visual artists, there was no MFA before the writing MFA. (MFAs are also available in dance, theater, film, basket-weaving, and a host of other arts.)
I don’t have much formal education in visual art, art history, or art criticism, but my best friends have always been visual artists so I have been going to galleries and museums and waiting for fools to wrap up in the studio for most of my life–in Houston, in New York, in San Francisco, and in most cities I’ve had the pleasure to visit. I have picked up some knowledge and vocabulary by osmosis, just from meandering through that milieu, I suppose. Sometimes I spend more time reading the information panels at museums than I spend looking at the art–I’m that guy.
I will be publishing one or two posts per week. I do not intend to keep up with current shows. I want to make a hard distinction between Art (with a capital “a”) and art events. This is a place for art criticism, not for show reviews. So let’s start with this quote from Conversations With Capote, an edited collection of interviews with Truman Capote by Lawrence Grobel, to illustrate the difference between “Art” and “art events”:
Truman Capote came into our area to speak at a college, but when he lurched onto the stage at eight that evening he was potted [drunk] and began by abusing the students in rather colorful language. “Why,” he wanted to know, “if you want to be writers, aren’t you home writing instead of crowding into this hall to listen to an old crock like me?” At that he staggered about, collapsing at the foot of the podium, from where the harassed head of the English department with two helpers lugged his inert body from the stage. End of lecture.
Art happens in artists’ studios, not at art events. Openings are a shitty time to look at art–they’re loud and crowded and don’t allow for reflection, meditation, viewing objects from multiple perspectives or even for the dialog between multiple pieces in a single show. If not for free booze and sweaty cheese, openings are a waste of time. If you want timely reviews of current shows–there are many other publications already doing that. I aim to write long-form criticism and independent ekphrastic responses of literary quality–I aim for depth, not breadth, and certainly not currency–and I hope these essays will remain pertinent and interesting long after the artists they discuss have moved on to new projects. So make some popcorn, pull up a chair, kick off your shoes, sit back, get comfortable, leave some thoughtful comments…and tell two friends to tell two friends.
And here are links to some of my previous art writings: