SVA: Meeting Jerry Saltz
This is important. This means something.
An introduction on Jerry Saltz....
Jerry Saltz (born March 19, 1951) is an American art critic. Since 2006, he has been senior art critic and a columnist for New York magazine. Formerly the senior art critic for The Village Voice, Saltz has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism three times. He was the sole advisor for the 1995 Whitney Biennial. Saltz has also served as a Visiting Critic at The School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Yale University, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Studio Residency Program. He lives in New York City with his wife Roberta Smith, senior art critic for the New York Times.
Thank you Wikipedia.
Well, I must say that our first lecture of the residency was a good one. Jerry Saltz has character and energy. I didn't really know what to expect. I knew that he was a critic and wrote for the New York Magazine, but that was about it. His fascination with the artist and their world was so interesting. I'm always curious about the art critic and art historian. What drives them to understand visual arts? Sometimes I think its a case of failed misplaced artist- and sometimes it is. I think that was the case with Jerry Saltz. He claims that if you are an artist and you don't make art for one year thats ok, but if you don't make art in two years you're not an artist. He said he fell in the latter group. He's self made; used to be a truck driver and now he's one of ten leading art critics left (is it a dying industry?).
Saltz spoke with us, a group of about 32ish, for about 3 hours. I took 3 pages of notes. Some of the things he said really home for me. But sometimes I wonder if I was the correct target audience for his lecture to begin with. The lecture was basically, "I'm going to tell you how to get famous". I don't know if thats me - yet - or if I want it to be me ever. I'm very on the fence about art fame. But regardless of fame, he did have some good things to say about being a successful artist that does align with my own ideas of success. In other parts of his lecture, not so much, but I'm still young and have a lot to figure out the art world.
"THIS IS A VOLUNTEER ARMY."
True that. The art world isn't an easy one, not that any job is (don't get your panties in a wad accountants), but artists choose to be artists. I don't think I've ever met an artist to say otherwise. Its something we feel like we have to do. "You are driven to do something and to do it in public" Jerry says. Even if we don't understand who our audience is or why, we still require one. We do our thing (art) then we show it to people (you).
"IF YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN DONE BEFORE -- DO IT AGAIN. I DON'T CARE WHERE IT CAME FROM."
That was interesting to hear. Because on a daily basis I am constantly hearing "...do something that no one has seen before" or "...I've seen that before, do something new". But it makes sense to do it over and over again- you have to learn the rules to make them you're own and maybe that means making the same shit you like over and over again to make it yours so it can become something different. I didn't realize how glad I was to hear that. It felt good to hear it. The public, critics, and so forth doesn't care where the art came from- just that it creates an experience for them. Maybe I really like Rothko so I paint like him and find a way to turn it into mine. (I do really like Rothko but I don't want to paint like him- so maybe that was a bad example.) Or if my studio neighbor is using Cad Orange and it makes me realize that Cad Orange is what my painting needs--then use it! I think in art schools especially this is important. Its hard not to constantly see what your neighbors are doing and thinking that they are doing it better, its tempting to borrow. Borrowing isn't always bad though. Jerry Saltz doesn't care where it came from- just do it.
"YOU DON'T OWN THE MEANING OF YOUR WORK."
Damn right. That is why I think the artist statement is a bunch of bullshit too. The artist is trying to say something, if the work is successful it will hint to that dialogue but the viewer, they each own the meaning and they will always be different. Art is something that does something. Its about experience, not understanding.
(Ok, sometimes I'm just really whiney about the artist statement- they are important- I just hate writing them.)
"ALL ART NEEDS AN ELEMENT OF ETERNAL- BUT IF THATS ALL IT HAS ITS ALREADY DEAD. ALL ART NEEDS AN ELEMENT OF THE HERE AND NOW."
I'd like to end with this rather poetic way of viewing the artist according to Jerry Saltz: "Artists as prophets, plagued by demons."
Well done SVA- I'm more than impressed and can not wait for the rest of the lectures.
I am a contemporary artist focused on the intersection of art and science in Lexington, KY.