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Monday, August 8, 2011

Oscar Wilde Performance Crucifies -- and Deifies -- the Arts Critic

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Oscar Wilde
  • Oscar Wilde

The role of the critic is a passionately debated subject in cultural circles. Should critics merely report what they see, or is it their duty to also provide extensive historical context and constructive feedback? And should artists pay close attention to their critics, or is it better for them to create their work in a vacuum, free of distractions? Lest you think these are new questions, it should be noted that Oscar Wilde wrote a dialogue on the subject called The Critic as Artist in 1890. It's the subject of a reading Tuesday night at the San Francisco Art Institute. It's among a number of free public events at the school this week as part of its 25th annual Art Criticism Conference.

Clayton B. Hodges
  • Clayton B. Hodges

The Critic as Artist was published the year before what is probably Wilde's best-known work, The Picture of Dorian Gray, along with three other pieces that go into detail about the author's philosophies on aesthetics. The Critic as Artist brims with the writer's trademark wit as two friends, Gilbert and Ernest, discuss the importance of criticism not only to understanding art but also in grasping the entire world.

Nick Childress
  • Nick Childress

Wilde makes sport of subverting the classic conventions of the Socratic dialogue -- a number of characters argue a certain issue by asking questions of one another -- and his insights remain so relevant that for the past eight years the institute has used the play to kick off the its annual Art Criticism Conference.

Join local actors Clayton B. Hodges and Nick Childress as they assume the roles of Gilbert and Ernest in a staged reading, bringing Wilde's work vividly to life for the 21st century.

The Critic as Artist starts at 7:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut (at Jones). Admission is free.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Heidi De Vries

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