The conservative art critic Jed Perl reveals in The New Republic today that, as one might have guessed, he is not a fan of the self-styled Painter of Light, Thomas Kinkade. Mr. Perl adds that there are people that he dislikes almost as much as Mr. Kinkade: the “liberal-spirited or politically correct academics” who have stepped up to discuss–and, in some cases, defend–the artist in a new essay collection that is richly titled Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall.
“Can the intellectuals who have apotheosized the strip malls be wrong?” Mr. Perl writes. “Can the millions who have purchased a Thomas Kinkade of one sort or another be deluded?” His answer is pretty much, “Yes.”
In his rollicking tour of the The Artist in the Mall, Mr. Perl singles out artist and art critic Jeffrey Vallance as among “the most unabashed of the cheerleaders” who contributed to the anthology. Apparently, Mr. Vallance proudly shares that he owns a “Kinkade La-Z-Boy recliner” (which sounds amazing) and argues that the infamous episode in which Mr. Kinkade urinated on a Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland in 2006 qualifies as “performance art.” Needless to say, the critic is not pleased.
Mr. Perl almost manages to finish his book review without firing off shots at the contemporary art world, but he just can’t help himself, writing:
“At a time when Lisa Yuskavage, an artist no more or less schlocky than Thomas Kinkade, is exhibiting at the blue chip David Zwirner Gallery, which also represents the estate of an old fashioned austere modernist such as Donald Judd, the wonder may be that anybody feels any need at all to justify their interest in Kinkade’s crap.”
He has an opinion on the peeing episode too:
“My own feeling, after contemplating the Kinkade industry, is that, so far as the Painter of Light is concerned, we are all a bunch of Winnie the Poohs and he has urinated on us all.”