The Village Voice’s Jerry Saltz Brings Down the ArtHouse


June 12, 2004 – “You artists”, the critic panned the crowd and immediately identified his core audience, “are weird.” And with that, Village Voice critic Jerry Saltz led the packed house at the Arthouse on an hour and a half lecture on taste, art, and the life of a critic, entitled, ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’.

In an unpretentious and slyly open manner, Mr. Saltz challenged the crowd of artists, art lovers and gallery folks to find their voice and wrap their visions around unique manners of expression. The talk was engrossing, seeing the relationship between the critic and the artist, matters of taste, and the odd compulsion that makes an artist seek out love and affection from a stranger cocking his head and stroking his chin in front of one of their works of art.

In between entertaining stories and a slew of one liners (‘find your inner Guston’, ‘Taste is a bloodsport’), Mr. Saltz spoke of the burden of art history, acknowledging, ‘great art is great just because’, but added in Kant’s subjective taste to the mix as well, throwing a jab at Rembrandt (‘it’s great, but, it’s so…. so brown’). All the while, he reinforced the reason artists do what they do – fighting their own inner demons and finaloly winning the battle when the lock themselves in their studio and do some work.

The role of the critic, in Mr. Saltz’s mind, was to look around, (emphasis on look, the man hits 40+ galleries a week) and respond to what he sees, often in short form – his article is due weekly. He often gets called out by other critics for writing mixed reviews, pointing out the good and the bad (perhaps the source of the name of the lecture, alongside ‘the ugly’), but he feels that is a better, and more honest revelation about the art than a 100% extreme flattering or explosively negative review could possess. He brought up how jaded the art world is when it becomes enthralled with its latest flavor – instead of pointing out an artist’s sublime work and saying something about the lesser works – the art world is ready to slap the genius god tag on the artist and he/she can do no wrong.

It also seems he appreciates the gulf between the artist and the critic, choosing not to know everything about the work or everyone of the artist’s intentions about every piece, instead, relying on his interaction with the art. After his critiques are published, perhaps he feels a bit unappreciated by artists after a mixed bag about work gets published, with negative bits strewn about, hoping artists would have a thicker skin and not react with such disdain.