|from the writers perspective
by Todd Camplin
Often times in a review, I will give a laundry list of the works and artists in a show, some description of my
experience of the gallery, and a little bit about ideas that are being explored in the show. But essentially
I talk about the objects on display. This is standard for a lot of reviews because many writers want you to
go out and see the show rather than experience the work from the gallery’s website. Art writers want you
to be enticed by the art objects on display which takes a lot of space in their articles. This leaves less room
for strong analysis of the ideas going on in the show. Sure I am guilty of this style, but it feels good to give
my impressions of a show in a casual way. And because I write an article weekly, to be honest, not that
many shows in a given year really unpack big ideas or show us an aspect of an idea in a new light.
Some shows are just fun or the style or application of the material is interesting, but not all shows push
the limits of what works in art.
As a writer, I think the big ideas of a group show are the hardest to discuss. Even though the theme is
set, the different voices speak loud or soft about the theme, and sometimes description becomes an
easy default. This descriptive approach can hide a writer’s passion about the art and might not
inspire people to see the show, because they get bored with the article half way through. Listing
top shows is catchy and helpful for a quick overview, but once again, it just highlights the art and
is less about the ideas. I will likely stick to my “best of” list for the year, because it is nice to reflect
on those shows, but now that we are in the digital age, at least I can link to the articles I wrote
about earlier in the year, so the reader can go deeper into why the shows were so good.
If you haven’t noticed, I generally don’t write negative reviews. Mostly because there are enough
shows out there that are worth seeing. If I see a show that isn’t working, I tend to not write about
the art. Unless, of course, I see a show at an institution like a museum or an art center, and the
exhibit is less than par. These spaces represent the art scene on a different level and should be
putting out the best art for the public to see. I must say, I put institutions on a higher standard
than a commercial space, because their mission is more about educating and less about experimentation.
If a commercial space falls flat, at least they are taking a risk. I am not
advocating against institutions taking some risks, but they should be mindful about how they
are presenting the artworks in order to keep people well informed about their aim for
I have been writing for ModernDallas.net since 2011 and I hope I have added a unique voice to the
Dallas art scene conversation. As an artist, seeing so many shows, I know I have grown as an artist. My
hope is that my writing informs and entertains my readers. I feel passionate about the art scene and
I want to do my part to elevate the conversation. If you ever have any comments or complaints
about my writing, feel free to vent at Todd@modmedia.net. I will continue to push myself to write
more complex stories that address the big and small ideas that are being explored by artists.
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