Art writers and critics lost a rock star on the second day of the year. Words shifted from obit to reflection. Here are a few:
"If Sister Wendy Beckett is the kindly grandmother who takes you by the hand, and leads you, beatifically, through the wonders of art history, John Berger was the hippie-Marxist uncle who gave you the red pill and told you it was all a mirage. In other words, he set my teenage mind on fire."
Carolina A. Miranda, "Art's red pill: An appreciation of critic John Berger" for LAT / January 5, 2017
Berger’s essays and books on the photograph worry at the political ambiguity of meaning in an image. He taught us that photographs always need language, and require a narrative of some sort, to make sense.
Yasmin Gunaratnam and Vikki Bell, "How John Berger changed our way of seeing art" for The Conversation / January 5, 2017
"A true listener, he said it was what his storytelling was all about. He listened with an ear for everything, not only what was spoken. And he managed in his encounters and in his stories, as well as his essays, somehow to confront despair and turn it into hope"
LIsa Appignanesi, "Letter: John Berger's European haunts." The Guardian / January 05, 2017.
Everything Berger wrote was simultaneously subjective, aesthetic and political. He was a European writer born in England who had to migrate into the margins to be at home.
Phillip Maughan, "John Berger, the art critic in the margins" New Statesman / January 5, 2017
"It is very short, for one thing, and it moves very quickly. In fewer than 200 pages, Berger whips the curtain back on contemporary advertising’s roots in European oil painting. He explains the difference between the painted nude—seductive, objectified—and the naked human being. He tells us that still-life painting did not depict objects qua objects, but as items to be owned. European conventions on perspective, he argues, offer the world up to the covetous viewer with a deference found in no other tradition. Berger points out that the globe hovering behind Holbein’s The Ambassadors refers to incipient empire and so to racist violence. The book concludes. There are no endnotes."
Josephine Livingstone "Beyond John Berger’s 'Ways of Seeing'" for New Republic / January 4, 2017
"Berger’s art criticism succeeds, I think, because of its tangibility — it is grounded in human experience, specific historical events, and always the physical marks on the artworks"
Elisa Wouk Almino "John Berger’s Rare Art Criticism" for Hyperallergic / January 3, 2017
John Berger graphic: PtD
Above: Stephen Hendee created sculpture for the celebration of 30 years of public art programming in the City of Las Vegas.