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Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy

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The 23 essays (or "love songs") that make up the now classic volume Air Guitar trawl a "vast, invisible underground empire" of pleasure, through record stores, honky-tonks, art galleries, jazz clubs, cocktail lounges, surf shops and hot-rod stores, as restlessly on the move as the America they depict. Air Guitar pioneered a kind of plain-talking in cultural criticism, will The 23 essays (or "love songs") that make up the now classic volume Air Guitar trawl a "vast, invisible underground empire" of pleasure, through record stores, honky-tonks, art galleries, jazz clubs, cocktail lounges, surf shops and hot-rod stores, as restlessly on the move as the America they depict. Air Guitar pioneered a kind of plain-talking in cultural criticism, willingly subjective and always candid and direct. A valuable reading tool for art lovers, neophytes, students and teachers alike, Hickey's book--now in its eighth printing--has galvanized a generation of art lovers, with new takes on Norman Rockwell, Robert Mapplethorpe, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol and Perry Mason. In June 2009, Newsweek voted Air Guitar one of the top 50 books that "open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways," and described the book as "a seamless blend of criticism, personal history, and a deep appreciation for the sheer nuttiness of American life." Dave Hickey (born 1939) is one of today's most revered and widely read art writers. He has written for Rolling Stone, Art News, Art in America, Artforum and Vanity Fair among many others.


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The 23 essays (or "love songs") that make up the now classic volume Air Guitar trawl a "vast, invisible underground empire" of pleasure, through record stores, honky-tonks, art galleries, jazz clubs, cocktail lounges, surf shops and hot-rod stores, as restlessly on the move as the America they depict. Air Guitar pioneered a kind of plain-talking in cultural criticism, will The 23 essays (or "love songs") that make up the now classic volume Air Guitar trawl a "vast, invisible underground empire" of pleasure, through record stores, honky-tonks, art galleries, jazz clubs, cocktail lounges, surf shops and hot-rod stores, as restlessly on the move as the America they depict. Air Guitar pioneered a kind of plain-talking in cultural criticism, willingly subjective and always candid and direct. A valuable reading tool for art lovers, neophytes, students and teachers alike, Hickey's book--now in its eighth printing--has galvanized a generation of art lovers, with new takes on Norman Rockwell, Robert Mapplethorpe, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol and Perry Mason. In June 2009, Newsweek voted Air Guitar one of the top 50 books that "open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways," and described the book as "a seamless blend of criticism, personal history, and a deep appreciation for the sheer nuttiness of American life." Dave Hickey (born 1939) is one of today's most revered and widely read art writers. He has written for Rolling Stone, Art News, Art in America, Artforum and Vanity Fair among many others.

30 review for Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I was first introduced to Dave Hickey through one of my painting classes - my professor, who was found of giving supplementary readings, handed out a xeroxed chapter from this book. I hated it. I found Hickey to be smarmy and reactionary, and I disagreed with almost everything he wrote. A few months ago, however, I was reading a symposium in Art in America about the state of MFA programs. Hickey was one of the contributors, and much to my surprise, the most compelling. I still disagreed with him I was first introduced to Dave Hickey through one of my painting classes - my professor, who was found of giving supplementary readings, handed out a xeroxed chapter from this book. I hated it. I found Hickey to be smarmy and reactionary, and I disagreed with almost everything he wrote. A few months ago, however, I was reading a symposium in Art in America about the state of MFA programs. Hickey was one of the contributors, and much to my surprise, the most compelling. I still disagreed with him on many, if not all, of his points - he argues, for example, that a school attempting to shield its students from the art market is only doing a disservice to its students in the long run. Yet I found myself coming back to his piece several times - I enjoyed disagreeing with him more interesting and thought-provoking than nodding in complacence with some article I agreed with. Determined to give Air Guitar a second chance, I picked up a copy the next time I saw it in stores. Hickey remains a reactionary, but he's not a reactionary who wants to go back to the good ol' days of a simpler life. Rather, he longs for a time of rebellion - Hickey values Democracy as the highest possible value, and thinks that the best parts of human life flourish in the near anarchy of complete freedom. This is a far cry from someone like Tom Wolfe, who has simply ossified; his writings barely-shrouded complaints against "the kids these days" - generally as wrong as they are offensive. One of the strengths of Hickey's writing is that he makes no attempt to separate his artistic and cultural criticism from the autobiography in which they were formed. His views on the art market, for example, flow from his early involvement with hot-rodding cars - a group of DIYers using individual expressions as a way of subverting the hegemony of Detroit and the auto industry. Though one may not agree with his ultimate conclusions, they are such a logical outgrowth of his personal experiences that it's hard not to stop, and for one brief second, re-evaluate one's own position.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Living proof: don't judge a book by its cover. A Glass-Bottomed Cadillac is one of the greatest things that I have ever read...and all that it essentially is is a story about Hank Williams Sr getting blown in the storage room of a greasy diner, then marveling at the myriad of soaps available to clean his soiled pants with. Now THAT is skillful writing. Living proof: don't judge a book by its cover. A Glass-Bottomed Cadillac is one of the greatest things that I have ever read...and all that it essentially is is a story about Hank Williams Sr getting blown in the storage room of a greasy diner, then marveling at the myriad of soaps available to clean his soiled pants with. Now THAT is skillful writing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve Turtell

    Hickey is one of my favorite critics. He's read all the important theorists and he doesn't simply regurgitate "a storm of abstract nouns"* onto the page. He's absorbed the ideas so well he can restate them more simply than the theorists (most of whom can't write for shit) because he's a good writer. Highly recommended. * I have to admit I stole that phrase from Quinten Crisp. Thank you (and sorry) Quentin! Hickey is one of my favorite critics. He's read all the important theorists and he doesn't simply regurgitate "a storm of abstract nouns"* onto the page. He's absorbed the ideas so well he can restate them more simply than the theorists (most of whom can't write for shit) because he's a good writer. Highly recommended. * I have to admit I stole that phrase from Quinten Crisp. Thank you (and sorry) Quentin!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark Gowan

    Air Guitar seems to be a collection of Hickey’s thoughts on art, music and “coolness”. The essays are short and easy to read. I don’t know much about Dave Hickey, but this book seems to have a lot of Jack Kerouac influence in that it reads from the point of view of a person who wants to think that they see the world from a different point of view, one that is both much more enlightened and the most morally justified view. Kerouac, unlike Hickey, is however one of those special authors that can a Air Guitar seems to be a collection of Hickey’s thoughts on art, music and “coolness”. The essays are short and easy to read. I don’t know much about Dave Hickey, but this book seems to have a lot of Jack Kerouac influence in that it reads from the point of view of a person who wants to think that they see the world from a different point of view, one that is both much more enlightened and the most morally justified view. Kerouac, unlike Hickey, is however one of those special authors that can actually do it in an entertaining rather than preachy way; simply because he wrote in a way that overcame the human weakness of compartmentalizing and judging everyone according to his own viewpoint. Dave Hickey is no Jack Kerouac. In my viewpoint, Hickey is full of hot air, guitar or otherwise. He throws names around as well as titles seeming to want to impress his readers with his special insights and understanding. He makes it a point to mention his father playing with black musicians that smoked marijuana, and how this was so over the heads of his white neighbors in Fort Worth. I imagine if his father was a “true” jazz musician, that his father was not concerned about anyone’s color or their smoking habits as long as they played well and did it consistently. His attacks are unwarranted and irrelevant. Throughout the collection, academia becomes synonymous with “uncool” simply because those in academia have evidently not lived the type of life that Hickey deems as worthy, or they disagree with him and his opinions. Dave Hickey attacks the social norm, not because it is wrong or right (something that is actually worth discussing) but because to do so seems like the best way to make an impression. In fact, Hickey seems to be about nothing more than how to impress the reader with his intellectual depth and out-of-the-box perspective. Unfortunately, he does so in a very un-intellectual way and very much within “the box”. Throughout, Hickey takes the easy way out, attacking any art/music authority/critic, musician/person/artist as being somehow out of the “true” artistic understanding loop if they do not adhere to his very limited and prejudiced viewpoint of art and music. Hickey’s idea (I believe), that art and music transcends public and popular opinion, is lost in the barrage of attacks on all that he deems unworthy. The word “of course” shows up in many of his essays in essence asking the reader to not ask questions, but to simply accept his point of view because, of course, he knows or knows of all the right people and places. I have been a musician since I was seven years old, and have played professionally for many years. That being said, I have a feeling that if Mr. Hickey showed up he would be deemed as a “blowhard”, asking for rare and esoteric songs that he ran across on the internet and that very few people have ever heard of simply to impress my fellow musicians, and telling all the musicians in the band how each song they played is really a “rip-off” and a way that they all could catch the “true nature” of the tune if they only “understood”. There may be some who are impressed by rhetoric and name-dropping; there may be some who are intrigued by the concept of rebellion, and it seems obvious that Hickey is one of those people. I am not, and as a result I was not impressed with Air Guitar.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was a dense book, to say the least. A colleague of mine (with a BFA and MFA in tow) mentioned that he read a good bit of Dave Hickey in art school. I can believe it. I spent much of my time during the reading of this book thinking, "Jesus, I need to write this stuff down, otherwise I'm going to forget it immediately." Unfortunately, I didn't, so I did. I'm left at the end of this book feeling profoundly changed, yet I can't put my finger on the reasons why I liked this book so much. The wri This was a dense book, to say the least. A colleague of mine (with a BFA and MFA in tow) mentioned that he read a good bit of Dave Hickey in art school. I can believe it. I spent much of my time during the reading of this book thinking, "Jesus, I need to write this stuff down, otherwise I'm going to forget it immediately." Unfortunately, I didn't, so I did. I'm left at the end of this book feeling profoundly changed, yet I can't put my finger on the reasons why I liked this book so much. The writing was beautiful and complex, wistful and damning at the same time. Hickey comes down hard on the "art world," with its methods of education, the dogmas of collecting, and its reactive frenzy around criticism. I'm disconnected from many of the things that he writes about - I can count on one hand the number of times I've been in a gallery. But I found his commentary so entertaining, so erudite, that I immediately felt immersed in this world. But he writes about more than just vagueries of art. My favorite essay in this book was "The Heresy of Zone Defense." I made copies of it and forced my basketball obsessed co-worker to read and comment on it. Hickey details the differences between college and professional basketball, speaks about the invention of the game, details a seminal basketball moment between Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in game 5 of the 1980 NBA finals, and compares all of it to interpretations of Jackson Pollack. Genius. The best moment of this essay comes at the end - he adds his own commentary to the original guiding principles of basketball as outlined by its inventor, James Naismith. A taste: 5. The goal shall be horizontal and elevated. (The most Jeffersonian principle of all: Labor must be matched by aspiration. To score, you must work your way down court, but you must also elevate! Ad astra.) Other gems include the essays "Air Guitar", where he compares literary criticism to the "flurries of silent, sympathetic gestures" of the faux musician; "A Rhinestone as Big as the Ritz," an essay on the realities of Liberace; "Pontormo's Rainbow," Hickey's first encounter with an adult who Knew What Was Good For Him. Not every essay was a resounding success, but I enjoyed enough to recommend this book highly. Even if you aren't taking an art class. Or have never taken an art class. Nor are particularly interested in theory. It's still good.

  6. 4 out of 5

    R Strange

    He reads like a mentor I never met. First encountered his editorials in archives of LA magazine Art Issues, striking, rambling essays. It makes sense that most find his views surprising. In my view he is a Perennial thinker, which is why he is at once successful and unpopular. His business sense is also too pragmatic to appeal to the fantasy lottery economics many artists prefer to hear. Even his detractors are passionate about it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    Besides his discussions of culture, this book contains a wonderful short story called Glass-Bottom Cadillac , which is about Hank Williams. For me, that short story alone was worth the price of admission. It remains one my favorite short stories and ought to be enshrined in one those thick-as-a- brick anthologies that are used in university undergraduate courses.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    I like how this book didn't talk down to me when it came to art criticism made by professional critics or the general public. I like how this book didn't talk down to me when it came to art criticism made by professional critics or the general public.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    This book is beautiful and a rollicking good time. It is one of my favorite books of all time and probably the book I think of most often. It impacted me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Benoit Lelièvre

    An oddly profound book about the nature of reality. Both a memoir an a collection of essays on experiencing culture as a critic, Air Guitar covers a wide array of subjects ranging from feeling at home in Las Vegas to the changing role of criticism in society. Some of them date a little bit. Some of them are not as successful as others (the essays narrated from the perspective of Hank Williams and Lady Godiva), but it's always insanely comforting to me when someone makes the world a little more m An oddly profound book about the nature of reality. Both a memoir an a collection of essays on experiencing culture as a critic, Air Guitar covers a wide array of subjects ranging from feeling at home in Las Vegas to the changing role of criticism in society. Some of them date a little bit. Some of them are not as successful as others (the essays narrated from the perspective of Hank Williams and Lady Godiva), but it's always insanely comforting to me when someone makes the world a little more magical than it ought to be and gets me a little more out of my head and into the space I share with fellow human beings. It's a 1997 books, so it's not going to be political enough for certain people. But I don't believe this book speaks to anything outside of personal experience of the world. Let's appreciate it for what it is.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike Polizzi

    It took a little patience but it’s a great collection of critical thought. It’s aged a little, but what he lays out regarding the art market and investment of commentary and capital is spot on given the online communities that flourish around art in all its forms. It’s best when he invests his time talking about Siegfried and Roy, Glow, Perry Mason and basketball. I appreciate the transparency he provides on his struggle with Cezanne and Ricky Jay and the detailed modernist reads he’s able to st It took a little patience but it’s a great collection of critical thought. It’s aged a little, but what he lays out regarding the art market and investment of commentary and capital is spot on given the online communities that flourish around art in all its forms. It’s best when he invests his time talking about Siegfried and Roy, Glow, Perry Mason and basketball. I appreciate the transparency he provides on his struggle with Cezanne and Ricky Jay and the detailed modernist reads he’s able to stand beside and reconsider. I really have the sense of strain he felt as a voice from both inside and outside academia and the art world.

  12. 5 out of 5

    James

    “I still believe that the primary virtue and usefulness of criticism resides precisely in its limitations—in the fact that the critic’s fragile linguistic tryst with the visible object is always momentary, ephemeral, and local to its context.” title essay (?) is really good

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pablo

    Sorry too pretentious😭😭😭idgaf

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Masterful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Insufferable old-man-yells-at-cloud style cantankerous essays, anti-elitist, very concerned with being cool.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I feel a little bit like putting off writing about this book, but it's not as if my thoughts are likely to become any more clear, at least not till I read this book again two years from now.... I really really liked this, though it is not as advertised, at least not to me. I might be the only one, but I thought a book called _Air Guitar_ would be a celebration of exuberance, an embrace of amateurishness and passion and whatever else. Instead, it's kind of an indictment of the same: in the title I feel a little bit like putting off writing about this book, but it's not as if my thoughts are likely to become any more clear, at least not till I read this book again two years from now.... I really really liked this, though it is not as advertised, at least not to me. I might be the only one, but I thought a book called _Air Guitar_ would be a celebration of exuberance, an embrace of amateurishness and passion and whatever else. Instead, it's kind of an indictment of the same: in the title essay, Hickey compares criticism to air guitar to take both down, as being non-productive, non-contributing parasites on the real thing. Of course, he says this because he wants criticism to do something better than that-- he doesn't want to write that kind of critcism, and by and large he doesn't. He also, and I think this is a separate strain, and not a part of the critique above, to break out of academic criticism, which he sees as he sees all academic-university pursuits, to take lessons from artists about what can be done, which he characterizes as freedom, and then education makes them rules: this is what you must do. The famous example is Pollock: Pollock shows you can drip paint, an increase in freedom, and the art teachers who follow him say you must drip paint. In essence, Hickey's book is a staged series of encounters of that sort: he'll engage an artist, or something like one, and try to discern what is the freedom behind the original impulse, as a tonic to the way that event or object or individual has been portrayed till now. It's site specific in that way, though also rooted in the larger progress of Hickey's life: child of bohemian parents, art student, then art dealer, musician, and now, I guess, an academic, but not of the sort he derides. Maybe the most surprising thing about the book, and it says something that it's a surprise, is the degree to which Hickey tries to persuade the reader, in the classic rhetorical sense: I'm so used to essayists being sort of free agents. Whether you're talking Ander Monson or Carl Wilson, it's like they are astronauts in this weird cosmos you'll never visit (even when you live there, you're not them, so it doesn't matter what they say) and they are sending back transmissions at a rate that it's too late to do anything about them..... In contrasts, though Hickey's book is dated (from 1996, I think, it feels at least a decade older than that, which might be the actual original pub date of some of the pieces) he really makes an effort to make you assent to what he's telling you. He really wants you to come along, which I don't know, it's kind of brave. Maybe it's because he wants me to agree that I find myself disagreeing with him, in a way I'd never disagree with Monson or Wilson, because with those two, there'd be no point in disagreeing. Or maybe it really is because of what Hickey says. But my experience of the Universities is really different than Hickey's. I mean, I know he's older than me and has more experience with these things. But I still can't help but think his experience of that level of freedom-denial is as idiosyncratic to his experience as anything else, and that Us can serve a different end, where they support and encourage stuff that doesn't belong on the market. But that's getting into a fairly complicated and lengthy disquisition, and no longer has much to do with what I thought about this book. And think about it I did-- it's a challenging read, or it was for me, and I'm nowhere near done thinking about it. So there's that. Until I read it again....

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    THIS is how you write criticism- personal, eclectic, funny, subtly insightful and poetic, socially conscious and aesthetically committed. True and beautiful. And easy to read, and get lost in.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mikey

    2 for the fiction, 5 for the Vegas defense

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Here's what's great - it's theory without being getting caught up in the jargon and allusion of theory that requires you to be an expert before you even begin. And hell it's theory that speaks to concrete ideas and objects and people. Funny, smart and erudite without being shitty. There's enough going on here that you can read entirely different things than I did - I saw mostly cultural critique than art, and I've heard others talk about the optimism and perscription for the art world that I did Here's what's great - it's theory without being getting caught up in the jargon and allusion of theory that requires you to be an expert before you even begin. And hell it's theory that speaks to concrete ideas and objects and people. Funny, smart and erudite without being shitty. There's enough going on here that you can read entirely different things than I did - I saw mostly cultural critique than art, and I've heard others talk about the optimism and perscription for the art world that I didn't see. I can also imagine someone more involved in jazz or music to find that to be Hickey's main thrust. I'm also touched by Hickey's modesty - his name dropping isn't name dropping, and his descriptions of the incredible things he's done don't feel patronizing or bragging. But when he gets out of the concrete examples, I get a bit confused. Hickey's primary concerns are democracy (everything from the democratization of art to the democracy that must exist in jazz) and sincerity, and I don't know what the hell he means by either of those words. I'll bet someone else does, and I'd be happy to hear it, but let me point out my confusion and maybe you (yeah you, who's reading this with that raised eyebrow and coif) can see why I'm asking what I'm asking. Democracy - I guess what he's saying here is that art requires involvement from everyone (as opposed to his Looky-loos) and must be 'of the people' instead of 'for the people.' Fantastic, but hard to really understand from many of his essays. Sincerity - I have no idea. Liberace is sincere? even though he was 'an open secret,' which is still a secret? A sunset has a false sincerity, and neon lights have a sincere falseness? I guess what I'm saying is it would've been nice for him to include an essay defining these terms, because they're confusing and they seem like such linchpins throughout the rest of his arguments, and I just straight up don't get it. (I won't add on to the complaints that he is now part of the institution that he seems to oppose or that he talks about his upbringing as being part of a secret, neither of which were very democratic, other than to say I noticed them and it added to my confusion of what democracy meant in his context)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The 2008 Carnegie International’s curatorial theme was inspired by David Bowie’s song, Life on Mars. While I’m a huge fan of Bowie (and his turquoise suit and eye shadow in the 1973 video by Mick Rock), I was mildly skeptical when the Carnegie’s head curator, Douglas Fogle, decided to use this song as a point of thematic departure for what was supposed to be a significant survey of contemporary art. On further contemplation, I had to give points to Fogle for his brazen ability to harness Bowie’s The 2008 Carnegie International’s curatorial theme was inspired by David Bowie’s song, Life on Mars. While I’m a huge fan of Bowie (and his turquoise suit and eye shadow in the 1973 video by Mick Rock), I was mildly skeptical when the Carnegie’s head curator, Douglas Fogle, decided to use this song as a point of thematic departure for what was supposed to be a significant survey of contemporary art. On further contemplation, I had to give points to Fogle for his brazen ability to harness Bowie’s optimistic confusion and even saw how the expanse of Bowie’s repertoire could fuel years of curatorial inspiration. Visual art is dangerously close to a point where it may be viewed as largely elitist and self-referential and pulling it back into the realm of rock stars’ musings can only be a good thing. It’s not banal, it’s genuine and unpretentious and I feel that David Hickey would wholeheartedly agree. It’s this genuine and unpretentious outlook on art which is so appealing in Air Guitar, Hickey’s seminal text on contemporary art and culture. Hickey took the shopworn dialog about blurring the distinction between high and low art to a magnificent new level in this work. Infused with optimism and wit, Air Guitar takes an honest and insightful look at the dependency of fine arts on popular culture. Unlike Chuck Klosterman who seems to drop cultural references for the sake of dropping them, Hickey manages to use references to create a connect-the-dots map of a democratic art world. He manages to create a no-nonsense picture of art in America without cheapening it, using things such as a German semi-automatic pistol, Tom and Jerry, and the American automobile as devices to segue into truly delightful dialogs about commerce and representation. Throughout, Hickey’s tone drips with non-ironic optimism, a rarity to find in any text about contemporary art and culture. And, oh my, the end papers in the 1997 edition I’m reading are embossed with a floral design. What can I say -- I’m a sucker for expensive flairs hidden a modest trade paperback. It’s like a detail found in a teenage girl’s diary and is in keeping with the exuberance of the text within.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patty Gone

    I began reading this last year per my friend David's suggestion, and got through a few essays but was bogged in other things, yet over the course of the year, I'd think of it: I'd encounter art or beauty in something without artistic intention and be blasted to Hickey's appreciation of Rockwell and of The Strip, his repudiation of self-righteous sentimentalism and the academically obscure. I returned to it this summer, and its views burst my synapses again. Hickey's strength is his parallels, ho I began reading this last year per my friend David's suggestion, and got through a few essays but was bogged in other things, yet over the course of the year, I'd think of it: I'd encounter art or beauty in something without artistic intention and be blasted to Hickey's appreciation of Rockwell and of The Strip, his repudiation of self-righteous sentimentalism and the academically obscure. I returned to it this summer, and its views burst my synapses again. Hickey's strength is his parallels, how the plot of every Perry Mason episode is a model for the rock'n'roll band and the democratic family unit, how zone defense in basketball aligns with risk-averse art institutionalism. It's a playlist of love songs, but all songs are sad songs, and he mourns a time when one could make a living on writing alone, an autonomy free of the tenure-track, free of the Whitney Museum acting as General Motors, homogenizing art, leaving no room for the tricked-out car or the magazine writer.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wiebke (1book1review)

    I feel weird rating a non-fiction about art. Not only because I can't comment on the quality of the content, but also because it is not comparable to any other 4 star books. Now why did I give this 4 stars? Mainly because I liked what I took away from reading this book. I learned a lot about art criticism and a different way of looking at it, than art critics may suggest/imply. I feel more confident about my thoughts on art and voicing my opinions. The writing in the book is also very enjoyable, n I feel weird rating a non-fiction about art. Not only because I can't comment on the quality of the content, but also because it is not comparable to any other 4 star books. Now why did I give this 4 stars? Mainly because I liked what I took away from reading this book. I learned a lot about art criticism and a different way of looking at it, than art critics may suggest/imply. I feel more confident about my thoughts on art and voicing my opinions. The writing in the book is also very enjoyable, not all essays are great, or interesting but they tell you about his life and his perspective on it. I found Dave Hickey's life inspiring and calming at the same time, as well as fascinating. If you are interested in reading books about the art world I think this is a good one, as it looks at the way art is criticised and perceived differently, as far as I know.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Troy

    In this book Dave Hickey covers the connections between art and democracy. Basically he talks about the way art (and culture in general) creates "cults of desire." Basically cults of desire, while nominally constrained by background, can also cross cultural divides. So a group of people from various backgrounds can from a cult of desire around an art work that they all love. (Imagine, for example, a group of rich, poor, black, and white kids all joining together in their love of hip hop.) Anyway In this book Dave Hickey covers the connections between art and democracy. Basically he talks about the way art (and culture in general) creates "cults of desire." Basically cults of desire, while nominally constrained by background, can also cross cultural divides. So a group of people from various backgrounds can from a cult of desire around an art work that they all love. (Imagine, for example, a group of rich, poor, black, and white kids all joining together in their love of hip hop.) Anyway, these groups subvert the standard divisions and can have wild effects on the larger culture. Of course, it's a lot more than that, and Hickey is a fantastic writer who is full of fascinating anecdotes.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Deland

    This is simply my favorite work of art and cultural criticism ever, period. A blurb on the back of the book declares that compared to Dave Hickey, reading any other art critic feels like doing your taxes, and that sums it up quite neatly: Hickey writes about Las Vegas, Perry Mason, Liberace, and other cultural phenomena that some may hesitate to include under the banner of "art," but he does so with such devilish wit and evident joy that you won't really care. Hickey is a critic with a gift for This is simply my favorite work of art and cultural criticism ever, period. A blurb on the back of the book declares that compared to Dave Hickey, reading any other art critic feels like doing your taxes, and that sums it up quite neatly: Hickey writes about Las Vegas, Perry Mason, Liberace, and other cultural phenomena that some may hesitate to include under the banner of "art," but he does so with such devilish wit and evident joy that you won't really care. Hickey is a critic with a gift for fiction, which is especially evident in an essay within this volume in which the author assumes the perspective of an angel Hank Williams, ruminating from a rather banal heaven. This essay honestly brings tears to my eyes. A must read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christopherseelie

    I read this in one sitting. A modern day Stones of Venice. The memoir sections are used to illustrate larger topics of conversation with a vivacity usually limited to great poetry or fiction. The art world, which I was totally ignorant of outside the Art History vacuum, is made coherent and the place of the critic in its cosmos is validated without aggrandizement. Hickey's views on art and democracy are not without flaw, but his position is defensible and whatsmore, enjoyable. I don't really car I read this in one sitting. A modern day Stones of Venice. The memoir sections are used to illustrate larger topics of conversation with a vivacity usually limited to great poetry or fiction. The art world, which I was totally ignorant of outside the Art History vacuum, is made coherent and the place of the critic in its cosmos is validated without aggrandizement. Hickey's views on art and democracy are not without flaw, but his position is defensible and whatsmore, enjoyable. I don't really care if he's absolutely correct in his view because the picture is so complete that I can't help but regard it as a new work of art. Easily one of the best books I have read in a long time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lunnon

    It has its moments-Dave Hickey is an art critic who teaches at UNLV, which frees him to write long essays on Siegfried and Roy and Perry Mason as well as Renaissance painting, often linking the two. I got sick of the constant references to the Sixties, but that's just because I hate hearing about the Sixties in general. And some of the linkages seem to be a bit of a stretch. And he seems to be a bit in love with himself. But for an art critic, he is very readable and I did find myself underlinin It has its moments-Dave Hickey is an art critic who teaches at UNLV, which frees him to write long essays on Siegfried and Roy and Perry Mason as well as Renaissance painting, often linking the two. I got sick of the constant references to the Sixties, but that's just because I hate hearing about the Sixties in general. And some of the linkages seem to be a bit of a stretch. And he seems to be a bit in love with himself. But for an art critic, he is very readable and I did find myself underlining sentences which just grabbed me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Read this one years ago. Dave Hickey is one of the most funny, irreverent, and brutally honest art critics whose work I’ve read: He is known as the critic that all other art critics hate and that all artists love. Hickey’s Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy covers topics ranging from Hank Williams to the art market, Madame Bovary to muscle cars. What I love about Dave Hickey is that his writing is beautifully textured, he has such an authentic voice, and he really does defy the dominant New Y Read this one years ago. Dave Hickey is one of the most funny, irreverent, and brutally honest art critics whose work I’ve read: He is known as the critic that all other art critics hate and that all artists love. Hickey’s Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy covers topics ranging from Hank Williams to the art market, Madame Bovary to muscle cars. What I love about Dave Hickey is that his writing is beautifully textured, he has such an authentic voice, and he really does defy the dominant New York criticism community.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Wilner

    Amazing combination of redneck persona, highbrow critical intelligence and surprising connections. Possibly the only remaining American critic connecting with the vital tradition of, say, early Pauline Kael. The fact that he's an "art critic'' is almost superfluous; the epigraph is from Keith Richards, and he writes about Warhol and Waylon Jennings with equal fluency, lack of pretension, anger and insight. Amazing combination of redneck persona, highbrow critical intelligence and surprising connections. Possibly the only remaining American critic connecting with the vital tradition of, say, early Pauline Kael. The fact that he's an "art critic'' is almost superfluous; the epigraph is from Keith Richards, and he writes about Warhol and Waylon Jennings with equal fluency, lack of pretension, anger and insight.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    This dude and tom wolfe are the only sincere art critics I have ever read. He has a great essay on Liberace. He argues that neither the practice or the study of art is inherently good. How refreshing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenifer Hanen

    Dave Hickey is a genius. I wish he would put out a few more collections of his essays.

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