What I Like about Artists’ Websites : by Jason Foumberg for OtherPeoplesPixels

OPP: Today we have something special for you! A guest post from OtherPeoplesPixels' pal: art critic, writer, curator & all-around gentleman, JASON FOUMBERG. We're excited to have his experienced take on what makes a great artist's website. If you’re interested in writing about artists’ practices for the OPPblog, you can send a proposed topic and links to work samples to blog [at] otherpeoplespixels.com

JF: Hi, I’m an art writer based in Chicago, and I often work on special research projects that detail currents in contemporary art. For example, I might get an assignment from an editor like this: “Report on radical approaches to contemporary sculpture. 500 words due Friday.” To begin, I’ll sketch a few ideas and then think about artists who expand the article’s concept. I love to write about emerging artists and to give them their first spotlight in print, so I don’t reach for the nearest contemporary art textbook for examples; I’m looking to the web. Websites are usually my first contact with an unfamiliar artist. If I like what I see, then I schedule a studio visit or attend a show. So here’s some tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your website:

New work: Differentiate newer work from old. Have a separate, changing section that shows me what you’re up to now. And update it often.

Image captions: Is that gouache or dried pig’s blood? Media descriptions are important. Dimensions and dates are handy too.

News: What’s going on in your life? Maybe you don’t have a current or upcoming show, but are you away at a residency? Relocating your studio to the forest? Geeking out on a new recipe for egg tempera? All of that is relevant.

Text: You think visually—that’s why you’re a visual artist (and that’s why we love you). But sometimes photo documentation of your work doesn’t quite capture the subtleties. Or maybe your project is concept-heavy, for which the viewer needs to know a lot of preliminary information. Text is helpful here, sometimes even necessary. It can even be as simple as: “This is a project where I painted every sweater that Bill Cosby ever wore.” Good to know.

Interesting digression: I read tons of artist statements and press releases (and occasionally sit on grant and exhibition jury panels). Too often, artists’ texts are terribly difficult to get through. It’s not just grammar or spelling that leaves a bad impression; usually there’s too much highfalutin verbiage, misleading introductions, or bland jargon. Here are some writing tips: put your main ideas up front, be clear, concise, and unique, and make it personal.

Links: I know it’s kind of a circa 2002 idea to put a links page on your website, but if I’m interested in your work and I want to know about other artists in your community, a links page is helpful. Share the love.

Organization: Don’t make viewers open 18 folders to finally see one image. Categories are fine, but think about streamlining your portfolio.

Websites are a good way for me to keep up with what you’re doing. After I see your show, I’ll want to stay informed about your latest projects. So keep it up(dated)!

Was this helpful? Jason collaborates with artists on exhibition catalog essays and design, artist statements, grant proposals, press releases and website texts. As an editor Jason works with artists to refine the message and intention of an artist’s project. You can get in touch with him though his site at jasonfoumberg.com

JASON FOUMBERG contributes art criticism to Frieze, Modern Painters, Photograph, and Sculpture. He is the editor of the art section and contributing columnist for Newcity, an alt-weekly based in Chicago. Jason serves on grant and exhibition panels, is a visiting critic for art schools, contributes essays for museums and university galleries, and curates contemporary art exhibitions.