Redwood Library and Athenaeum: Since 1960- Contemporary Art and the Stakes of Criticism

Newport, RI

October 25-26, 2018

Incubator Grant

To mark the donation of New Yorker writer Calvin Tomkins’ art book archive, the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport, RI partnered with the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to present a day-long symposium on art criticism “since 1960,” the year Tomkins began writing for the New Yorker. The event commenced on Thursday October 25 with a keynote by renowned art historian and critic Richard Shiff, and was followed by two panels on Friday October 26: “The Place of the Self” and “Artist-Writer.”

The symposium addressed the relationship of Tomkins’ signature mode of writing – the profile– to other types of contemporary art writing. A range of voices, including critics, curators, artists and scholars asked: what is the place of artistic subjectivity in contemporary art criticism? Participants include leading figures such as Roberta Smith (New York Times Co-Chief Art Critic) and internationally acclaimed curator, Massimiliano Gioni (curator of the 2013 Venice Biennale and artistic director at the New Museum, New York), Randy Kennedy, former New York Times art world reporter, and currently head of special projects at Hauser & Wirth, and John Miller, artist, writer, Barnard College professor and RISD alumnus. To further commemorate the gift of Tomkins’ collection, renowned contemporary artist Ed Ruscha has created a painting titled EX LIBRIS (2017) and a limited series of interpretive lithographs after it, which are on view at the Redwood until October 28, 2018.

Founded in 1747 as the country’s first purpose-built library structure, the Redwood Library and Athenaeum is the nation’s earliest public Neoclassic building, as well as the first art gallery in Rhode Island (1865), and a designated National Historic Landmark since 1966. Functioning today as a hybrid historic site, research center, museum and lending library the Redwood promotes lifelong interdisciplinary learning in the humanities in the service of public education and civic engagement. The symposium is a project of the Redwood Contemporary Arts Initiative, founded in 2017.

Image: Ed Ruscha, Ex Libris, 2017. © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.