Art Critic and SAIC Professor James Yood Dies

Chicago-based arts writer and School of the Art Institute professor James Yood died yesterday, April 21. He was born in 1952 and received a BA in 1974 from the University of Wisconsin, and received his MA in 1976 and was a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago. He most recently taught Art History, and Theory and Criticism at SAIC and headed the school's New Arts Journalism program. He also taught at Northwestern University.

Yood was very well known and admired throghout the Chicago and national art community.  He wrote for ArtforumGLASS; art ltd; and Visual Art Source. He wrote several books, including Gladys NilssonSpirited Visions: Portraits of Chicago Artists, and Second Sight: Printmaking in Chicago 1935-95. Yood was also the Chicago managing editor of the New Art Examiner, which led to writing to Artforum and other international publications. 

Yood spent his career sharing Chicago art and artists with the world. He challenged artists to look at their own art more critically in order to strengthen their work and gain broader attention around the country. 

Artforum's tribute to Yood referenced an early essay for the New Art Examiner, which they cite to as a turning point for his own wider recognition: "[Yood] challenged a local trend of exhibiting group shows of “emerging" artists: 'It would be, quite simply, impossible to gauge trends in Chicago art by the work of these emergent artists, besides noting that young artists are the same everywhere: anything goes,' he mused. 'Perhaps part of the cosmopolitanization of Chicago will be the loss of what some see as its idiosyncratic and fussy style.' The piece made an impression, and soon after it was published in 1986, he began reviewing for national and international outlets like Artforum and Aperture."

In an interview by Tom Burtonwood for Chicago Artists Resource in 2008, Yood said, when asked what critics contribute to the arts community, "We're part of the mix—along with artists, dealers, curators, and collectors—that in the aggregate help create the context of contemporary art. We can help conversations get started, and (sorry if this sound pretentious!), we're part of the peer group that begins the process of evaluation, of historical reckoning. It's an awkward process, sometimes painful and unfair, and sometimes altered by subsequent events. But it's the system that has evolved steadily over the last two centuries, that artists create art and then it leaves the studio and enters the world where it becomes a commodity, both financially and intellectually, that gets picked at and assessed, consumed in a way by its diverse audiences. I'm part of that audience, with the astounding good fortune that some art magazines, etc., are willing to let me think out loud, so to speak, about what I see."

Details on a planned service on April 27 may be found here

Click here for the Artforum tribute. 

Photo courtesy of SAIC