WRITING / Books / Essays
Artworld Prestige: Arguing Cultural Value
  Book Chapter: “Views of the Ordinary and Other Scenic Disappointments,” Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity, ed. Jordana Mendelson and David Prochaska, Penn State University Press, 2010
  Timothy Van Laar, Comparing Theories, 2003, paint on inkjet on canvas over wood, 28 x 44 inches
  On the racks of postcard vendors and in the pages of albums, there is a short distance from the terrifying kitsch of some postcards to the banal frankness of others. Timothy Van Laar considers both the use of peculiarly banal postcards in his art works and the way they address some general problems in the use of postcards to make art. The typical postcard, with its aspirations to the beautiful, sublime, and heroic, usually delivers a heavy dose of nostalgia, sentimentality, and kitsch. How does an artist appropriate postcards in the making of new images and avoid or minimize the overwhelming ironies intrinsic to the use of these powerful clichés? One way is through the use of a particular kind of postcard, the postcard that fails to operate within the conventions. These postcards picture the mundane, commonplace, and unheroic; they arrive at this ordinariness by means of various, perhaps unintended, visual strategies. Van Laar moves from an informal taxonomy of the modern postcard to a consideration of this particular, seemingly inept, kind of postcard image. It is a kind of image, however, that has its own difficulties; for example, its naïve or amateur qualities can suggest the same sorts of “authenticity” attributed to the “primitive” or to outsider art. Van Laar also shows that cards that fail to meet conventional postcard expectations can themselves create ironies that have their own difficulty.
  —Excerpted from the Mendelson and Prochaska Introduction.
Views of the Ordinary and Other Scenic Disappointments
Art with a Difference: Looking at Difficult and Unfamiliar Art
Active Sights: Art as Social Interaction.