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.
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.
Hee. This is good. Hyperallergic reports that New Museum Director Richard Flood had a few choice words to say about arts bloggers and Jerry Saltz, during a talk he gave at the Portland Art Museum on “Creating Networks: The New Internationalism.” From Lisa Radon’s post on Hyperallergic:
“I just found out about blogs three months ago,” Flood said referring to the time questions were being raised, particularly by Tyler Green on Modern Art Notes and James Wagner on JamesWagner.com, about ethical conflicts for the New Museum regarding Skin Fruit. “The internet is still a ghetto.” Flood said he was trying to learn more about them via Lauren Cornell (executive director of Rhizome, affiliated with New Museum since 2003), but he says:
‘Blogs are like being out on a prairie and one prairie dog pops up; none of the others can see it, but they can feel the movement in the earth. So another pops up. And another. They are not communicating with each other. They have no idea. History means nothing to them. Truth means nothing to them. They have no mechanism in place for checking [facts].’
In the three months since Flood has become aware of blogs, it’s surprising that he appears not to have noticed the hyperlinking that is integral to the blog as a tool for communication. He might not be expected to be aware of the dynamic back-channel communications among arts bloggers via twitter and other platforms, but the linking is front and center. But the analogy shows a more fundamental disdain for the practice of online arts journalism. A blog is just a tool, a platform. It’s what’s built on that platform that we should be talking about, and that may be a gossip rag or it may be considered, rigorous, accurate reporting and/or criticism.”
Go on over and read the full post here, it’s an eye-opener. Very good editorial response by Radon, as well. Jerry Saltz posted something about it on his Facebook page, and there are some comments there too, natch.
Ah, I’ve been wanting to bring back this little Rant of the Week column for awhile now, but have been stymied by either a) lack of good material or b) lack of time to scour the internet in search of good material. But today’s rant is a two-fer, or a three-fer, or something…anyway it’s good, it’s still sorta fresh, and although it’s easy enough to find on your own via the art twit- and blogosphere I present the following, for those of you who are not already aware of the Jerry Saltz vs. John Yau smackdown.
Here’s some quick background: Last December Jerry Saltz wrote a column in New York magazine praising Jeff Koons’ Puppy as the art work of the aughts–or the naughts–or the whatevers!– and Koons himself as “the emblematic artist of the decade—its thumping, thumping heart.” Saltz goes on to argue that
All of Koons’s best art—the encased vacuum cleaners, the stainless-steel Rabbit (the late-twentieth century’s signature work of Simulationist sculpture), the amazing gleaming Balloon Dog, and the cast-iron re-creation of a Civil War mortar exhibited last month at the Armory—has simultaneously flaunted extreme realism, idealism, and fantasy. Puppy adds to that: It is a virtual history of art, recalling the mottled surfaces of Delacroix (albeit on ’shrooms), the fantastical fairy-tale beings of Redon, a mutant Frankenstein canine from Seurat’s La Grande Jatte, and the eye-buzzing Ben-Day dots of Roy Lichtenstein. As it emits the swirling amorphousness of Tiepolo and the pathos of Watteau, it is also a magnified, misshapen abstraction of Duchamp’s urinal—a similarly deliberate gesture of antic outlandishness, and one that, of course, was signed “R. Mutt.”
Koons’s work has always stood apart for its one-at-a-time perfection, epic theatricality, a corrupted, almost sick drive for purification, and an obsession with traditional artistic values. His work embodies our time and our America: It’s big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, heat-seeking, impeccably produced, polished, popular, expensive, and extroverted—while also being abrasive, creepily sexualized, fussy, twisted, and, let’s face it, ditzy. He doesn’t go in for the savvy art-about-art gestures that occupy so many current artists. And his work retains the essential ingredient that, to my mind, is necessary to all great art: strangeness.”
And so on. A few weeks later, critic John Yau responds to Saltz’s piece with an essay of his own in The Brooklyn Rail (where Yau serves as art editor), titled “The Difference Between Jerry Saltz’s America and Mine.“ Yau starts out with a reference to a bit by the late comedian Bill Hicks, one in which Hicks rips on Jay Leno for shilling Doritos, despite the gazillions of dollars Leno already has; the implied question being how much more cash does this bloated gazillionaire need that he has to sell us junk food, too? Yau says, of Hicks,
He believed that there are some things that you just shouldn’t do, and one of them was to be a spokesperson for bad or unhealthy products. I was reminded of Hicks’s routine when I read Jerry Saltz’s paean to Jeff Koons’s Puppy, which ‘assumed the form of a West Highland white terrier constructed of stainless steel and 23 tons of soil, swathed in more than 70,000 flowers that were kept alive by an internal irrigation system.’”
On this weeks roundup we look at some really bad art of Obama, Paul McCarthy speaks with the people over at BOMBSITE, and Art Observed checks in to see the love Steve Powers is spreading. Have a good weekend everyone.
Paul McCarthy interviewed by Benjamin Weissman on BOMBSITE.
Preservationists attempt to save Chicago’s Gropius architecture threatened by Olympic planning.
Jerry Saltz’s picks for Fall shows in NYC.
Tribune covers what Chicago galleries are doing to get by.
I know it doesn’t say “Best New Websites of 2009″ but Time’s picks feel unbelievably obvious.
NoCoast will be hosting a silkscreen workshop this Saturday and Sunday.
Watching the trailer for The Mockumentary.
Chicago Printers Guild is currently offering a mystery pack of prints. via The Post Family
Art Observed discusses the “Love Letter Project” with Steve Powers.
For crying out loud, can everyone just give poor Jerry Saltz a break and leave the guy alone? How exactly did he become the Christ figure of the art press, the one we look to to Save Us, the guy that’s gonna solve everyone’s problems, including those of the venerable Museum of Modern Art? From Saltz’s perspective, I’d imagine it’s all want, want, want, whine, whine, whine, all the time. “Why doesn’t Jerry have a blog?” “Why isn’t Jerry preaching to the wretched masses outside of his own Church of Facebook? “Why isn’t Jerry friending me faster?” (for that one, see comments beneath the post).
Jesus Christ (no pun intended), what if instead of ragging on Jerry, everyone focused on growing the communities they’ve got on their own blogs, Facebook pages, Twitters etc., and proceed with their own agendas from there?
In other words: ask not what Jerry can do for the art world – ask what *you* can do for *your* art world.