Jerry Saltz is interviewed in Time Out Chicago this week about his role in the much-anticipated (among reality t.v. fans and art snarks like me, anyway) new television show Work of Art. I never knew Saltz was from Chicago! Nor did I realize he was an adjunct faculty member of the School of the Art Institute, either. Check out the full interview here; a brief excerpt follows.

Why’d you want to be a judge on Work of Art?
It isn’t for the money. I won’t tell you what I make, but it’s really not much. I wanted to perform criticism in public to show that it’s not an elitist practice but specialist and subjective—and more thrilling than people imagine.

So you think the show will help make visual art more accessible?
I do. People are frightened of looking at and making judgments about art, and they don’t need to be. They just need to look longer, see harder, listen to themselves, and they’ll hear voices they didn’t know they had in their heads, voices of real discernment.

It helps that, unlike with Top Chef, viewers experience the products themselves, so they form their own opinions as the judges form theirs.
Yes. I think the act of making art is not inherently sexy to most people. With food, that’s implied penetration and sexual. Sometimes watching somebody saw a piece of wood—not so interesting. To me, however, it’s metaphysically sensual—watching somebody try to imbed thought in material.

More than any other art form, visual art seems off-putting to people.
Yeah.

Why do you think that is?
We are not sure as a culture what art is to us. So when people are presented with stuff that is called art, nobody knows what to do with it. And that’s sad to me because people make visual judgments every single day: what color are you wearing, what material is it.

Has the art world itself contributed to that sense of inaccessibility?
It takes a lifetime sometimes to understand why an all-white painting is art. It’s hard for me sometimes to remember, to relive why a bicycle wheel mounted upside down on a stool is art.

Claudine Isé

Claudine Isé has worked in the field of contemporary art as a writer and curator for the past decade, and currently serves as the Editor of the Art21 Blog. Claudine regularly writes for Artforum.com and Chicago magazine, and has also worked as an art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Before moving to Chicago in 2008, she worked at the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH as associate curator of exhibitions, and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles as assistant curator of contemporary art, where she curated a number of Hammer Projects. She has Ph.D. in Film, Literature and Culture from the University of Southern California.