Dave Hickey, the totemic cultural critic whose quick-witted work both democratized and split the art world in two, has died at the age of 82. Hickey died in his Santa Fe, New Mexico home. The cause of death was heart disease.
Armed with humor, a deep intellect, and an alchemical ability to mix up and down, Hickey was not afraid to incorporate discussions of sport and food into his discussion of the fine arts, concocting a sort of intentional bathos all his own. He saw art not as an intellectual disruption of our lives, but as an everyday event, a vision that gave shape to prophetic claims such as “the title of artist must be earned” and “everything we do. ignoring the living effects of art is removing the fact that these experiences, in one way or another, inform every hour of our awakening ”.
Hickey was born in 1938 in Fort Worth, Texas. Her father was a jazz musician and car salesman, and her mother was a painter and businesswoman; none of them had great commercial success thanks to their artistic activities during their lifetime. As a child, Hickey traveled the country with his father, who was often on the road in search of work. When Hickey was only 11, his father committed suicide. After a period of living with his grandparents, Hickey enrolled at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1961, and then received his masters from the University of Texas in 1963.
In 1967 he moved to Austin to pursue a doctorate in linguistics, when he opened the ephemeral but influential gallery A Clean, Well Lighted Place, which is named after the story of Ernest Hemingway. The gallery closed shortly after Hickey dropped out of the doctoral program and moved to New York City in 1971 to take a position as editor of Art in America. In New York City, Hickey quickly became a major figure in cultural criticism, which prided itself on creating works that possessed one trait uncommon in the art world: accessibility.
“Most of the writing on art these days is so bad that my lay readership is gone,” he lamented in a 2014 interview. with New York Observer. “No one other than professionals and graduate students is watching it. So no more emails from civilians, no more notes from John Updike or Steve Martin, no more crazy Berkeley hipsters knocking on my door.
In New York City, he began writing for just about every major media outlet at the time, including Art Forum, Harper’s, Maintenance, the New York Times, Rolling stone, Vanity Show and the Voice of the village.
“His essay made the paintings I loved intelligible in a simple, even obvious, way that the critical baggage of high art pretensions had so far obscured,” writes Christopher Knight, the Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic who was a friend of Hickey’s, in an elegiac room. for the Los Angeles Times. “But it was the music in his writing that kept me going. Hickey, a bright and cantankerous mind, wrote for the ear. His work needed reading, not digitization, and rewarded effort with pleasure.
In 1993, Hickey published The invisible dragon: four essays on beauty and in 1997 he published Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy, with the University of Chicago Press and Art Issues Press, respectively. Books, in particular Imaginary guitar, which Knight describes as “easily the most widely read art critic’s book to appear in our time.”–mixed criticism with Hickey’s memory tendencies. Incorporating discussions of basketball, Liberace, and Hank Williams alongside artistic writing of the highest caliber, these books are often seen as seminal, albeit bifurcating, works of the genre.
Throughout the 1990s, Hickey continued to write but devoted an increasing amount of his time to teaching. First at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where he taught for 20 years, then at the University of New Mexico in Santa Fe, with stints at Harvard, Yale and the Otis College of Art and Design.
While he often avoided the art world, his belief in art propelled him to other books and accolades. In 1994, he received the College Art Association’s Frank Jewett Mather Prize for art criticism. dollar prize in video poker machines, ”by Knight) and in 20016 he was awarded a Peabody.
“That’s why I became a cultural journalist. I wanted to write, but I wanted to have adventures – I wanted to sit on the beach with Keith Richards and a guy playing the trombone, ”Hickey told novelist Sheila Heti in an interview in 2007 with The Baffle. “I wanted to be where it was, and sacrificed a lot of literary value for it, but I had a lot of fun. In the 1970s and 1960s, if you could do that long and on time – and not many people could, and neither can they now – then you could go anywhere you wanted and watch whatever you wanted. But it makes me happy that I decided to live my life as a writer and I did. Not a good life, of course, or a famous life, but really cool. Culture has allowed me to do this, and I am sad that this life is disappearing.