Community, Meta-Practice

Shaping the art criticism that we would like to participate in

Art Practical's first issue on its redesigned site.

Art Practical’s first issue on its redesigned site.

Have a look at the re-design of Art Practical, an online art criticism platform with reviews and features focusing on San Francisco Bay Area art.

Five years ago, there was a dearth of art criticism in the Bay Area. The chances of having a review written about your work seemed maddeningly infinitesimal. I think all that has changed because of Art Practical, with its diverse base of contributors and regular bi-weekly publishing schedule. It’s better edited than most metro dailies and stays focused on substance..

Art Practical can’t single-handedly cover all the shows in the Bay Area, but does more than any other publication or platform. It also centralizes an archive of Bay Area art activity, and cultivates a new generation of critics.

Art Practical is a perfect example of what happens when dedicated people actualize an aspect of the art world they want to participate in.

If Bay Area artists still feel like there isn’t enough art criticism there, I’d challenge them to submit a Shotgun Review. Complaining about the lack of criticism won’t result in better or more criticism, as legions of Bay Area artists and art students have shown. Taking a position and crafting a review requires risk and responsibility, just like building a new platform to enhance a local art ecology.   

The latest issue features a history of Bay Area art in eleven shows.


11 days left: Art Practical’s Mail Art

Four years ago, the state of art criticism in the San Francisco Bay Area was dire.

Artweek folded. Shotgun Review and Stretcher were inconsistent volunteer efforts. Alan Bamberger diligently documented openings with minimum critique. A few local critics contributed to national monthlies, but they could anoint only one artist from a rapidly expanding fray.

Artists’ and curators’ best hopes for critical reviews were the local dailies and weeklies. But ambitious exhibitions far outnumbered the paltry column inches.

Enter Art Practical.

Art Practical is a different kind of volunteer effort—one with a professional editorial process and a strict publishing schedule. Posted semi-monthly, each free issue includes in-depth features, contributors’ reviews of local and national exhibitions, as well as shorter Shotgun reviews.

Contributors include current MFAs as well as established curators and critics. Grassroots Bay Area art initiatives can be art-school-partisans, but AP’s contributor base is wide enough to constantly expose me to new artists, spaces, and thinkers. I’m a contributor, so I may be biased, but I think it’s not an overstatement to say that Art Practical has significantly increased quality critical reviews, as well as the diversity of critical voices, in the Bay Area.

Further, Art Practical builds bridges. It started by partnering with Shotgun, Happenstand and Talking Cure Quarterly, and later with Bad at Sports, Daily Serving, KQED Arts and The Bay Citizen, which has a relationship with the New York Times. By multiplying critical outlets, the audience for Bay Area art expands.

For me, Art Practical has become a trusted, central source for staying informed about Bay Area art, in addition to a valuable training camp for advancing my critical thinking and writing. If you can, please consider supporting them. Now, with their new Mail Art Subscription, you’ll receive limited edition art in addition to the satisfaction of supporting this valuable resource.

In conjunction with our 50th issue, “Printed Matter,” Art Practical is producing a Mail Art Subscription [featuring] a piece of correspondence from each of six artists, starting in March 2012. Participating artists include … Martha Rosler, as well as local favorites Anthony Discenza and 2010 SECA awardee Colter Jacobsen.

Subscribers will receive a limited-edition print, a copy of the original Art Practical article, and a return postcard once a month for six months (March to August 2012) for a total of six installments of Mail Art. Subscriptions can be purchased for $150; proceeds from this project will support Art Practical as the publication embarks on its next fifty issues.

To subscribe and for more information, please visit:

The subscription offer closes March 15, 2012.