On holiday I brought two books, precisely because of the excruciating contrast between them. The criticism of Patrick Heron is on a very high level, of both insight and rhetorical skill. It’s inspiring, and what more could you ask? It doesn’t inspire you write, but to make art, the only justification for criticism that I can understand. Lane Relyea’s recent book,
Your Everyday Art World, is also pretty great, not because it inspires, but because he tells it like it is, and one thing he is clear eyed about is the passing of people like Heron, a type definitively obsolete. The end of the authoritative, masterful critic is naturally consequent on the disappearance of the artist-genius, but even though he or she may be out of fashion, I wouldn’t bet that the artist-genius is really gone. Mere social changes in the constitution of the artworld cannot eliminate human capacities.