Thomas Mc Evilley, the internationally esteemed art critic, cultural historian, and scholar of Greek and Indian philology, died Saturday morning at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York.His good friend, the poet Charles Bernstein, published the first obituary online, in which Mc Evilley's passing was confirmed as due to complications from cancer.In addition to the essays and books on art criticism I comment on below, Mc Evilley authored , 2012.Among his noteable monographs, catalog essays, and critical reviews are those on the artists James Lee Byars, Carolee Schneemann, Julian Schnabel, Les Levine, Pat Steir, Antoni Tapies, Sigmar Polke, Dennis Oppenheim, Kara Walker, Nancy Spero, Thornton Dial, Leon Golub, Richard Tuttle, Agnes Martin, Joseph Beuys, Paul Mc Carthy, William Anastasi and many others. Toward A New Global Criticism: The Influential Essays: 1980-1995 The Thomas Mc Evilley best known to the world was active as a publishing art critic chiefly between 1980-2000.
I'm referring to what is perhaps his best known essay, "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief: 'Primitivism' in Modern Art at the Museum of Modern Art." Published in the November, 1984 , as the title acknowledges, Mc Evilley responded in print to what the Mo MA curators regarded to be a seminal survey of the art in its collection, supplemented by loans of the leading Modernist painting and sculpture, along with a parallel selection of tribal art from America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceana.
But Mc Evilley also targeted the commercialism, academic entrenchments, and ideologically-stalled thinking that made other criticisms offered at the outset of the 1980s appear logically flawed and narrow in their proscriptions.
By contrast, Mc Evilley's writing held out encouragement for a wide array of artistic developments in its capacious surveying of inquiries and productions, and as such indicated art should expand beyond the commercial and positivist fixations of a Western modernist sensibility that was in danger of settling for art that was increasingly shortsighted and devoid of pleasures--at least for the emerging generations of artists around the world.
His criticism embodies the difference, say, between placing the contributions of an artist such as Ad Reinhardt in a context shared only by contemporaries like Barnett Newman and Kenneth Noland, or even with precursors like Malevich and Mondrian--as did a writer like Clement Greenberg--and placing Reinhardt along with both his contemporaries and the writers and artists of Buddhist texts and Taoist mandala manuals.
By the early 1990s, the most renowned and influential of Mc Evilley's essays were assimilated into two titles published by Mc Pherson & Company: , was published in 1994 by Cambridge University Press.