Washington City Paper’s new gallery guide, “Beneath Contempt,” is unprofessional and irresponsible. Glenn Dixon did not review art exhibits in the column, he hurled insults at them. There was no reasoning or criteria in any of his criticisms.
I contend that Dixon does not have enough knowledge of the current art scene to write an intelligent review of it. In his own words he “slighted the local gallery scene in ’96,” and then spent “a little over 24 hours” in visiting at least 16 galleries. This is simply insufficient time to make an informed decision as to the quality of the artwork he viewed.
On average, City Paper devotes one page to review two works of film, music, theater, and literature. In the 1/10 issue, one music review covered six albums in one page. “Beneath Contempt” reviews 16 art exhibits and a multitude of artists in one half of a page. This is further proof of the unprofessional attitude with which Dixon approached this column. Furthermore, by titling the guide “Beneath Contempt” the critic has thrown away even the illusion of objectivity. Dixon has already decided that he will never see any artwork worthy of respect in the District. Is he under the delusion that he knows the work of every artist that will ever show here? Or does he simply like to write inflammatory and sarcastic remarks because he thinks they make him appear sophisticated.
One wonders if you would allow a critic to take a similar slant in reviewing film, theater, music, or literature. I’m sure you could find writers who believe that all the movies that come to town are beneath contempt, but would you devote a monthly column to their complaining? Be reasonable! If you truly believe that the other publications in town have had low standards for art reviews, then you should find a critic who will explore that issue and attempt to raise those standards. You should not allow a critic to cover one page a month with slanderous remarks. If he despises the Washington art scene so much, maybe Dixon should move to New York City and see if he could survive as a critic in the “serious art press.”