Christopher Knight’s disdain for Jerry Saltz has a religious quality. (What is truth; said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.)
Never pass judgment on the merits of art you haven’t actually seen. I would no more review art from reproductions on a museum’s website or in a magazine than I would from seeing it on a TV show. Be there or be square.
My surprise in finding myself stating what I’ve always thought obvious comes from reading an item posted Wednesday on New York magazine’s website. New York’s Vulture blog (Editor’s note: i.e., Saltz), opines that “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” created a new way to practice art criticism. In online forums and the comment sections of blogs and across Facebook pages, “people who would otherwise have no access to art-world opinion, criticism or power were given voice.”
Really? Art criticism is about having “access” to establishment art-world power?
Needless to say, virtually all the “Work of Art” Twitter feeds and
comment threads on all the blogs were written by people who — like me
— have not seen Abdi Farah’s paintings, sculptures and drawings, except
as mediated through a camera.
Art criticism tends to be pretty low-grade without real access to the art.
fact, for criticism that’s the only access that really matters. The art
is where the authentic power does or does not lie. Viewers of Bravo’s
TV show haven’t had that chance, although those who do go to the
Brooklyn Museum to see Farah’s work can then expound. (more)
Get thee behind me, Satan, all ye who confuse replicas with the real. Knight argues for an absolute division between real and fake (virtue and vice). I doubt there’s an art critic alive who doesn’t, on an emotional level, agree with him, especially about painting, even realizing, as John Russell put it, a painting is a “vegetable construct that changes in time.”
A direct encounter is the key that slides into the lock and turns the tumblers, but before getting to the nature of that encounter, let me pause to say that critics who rear up to declaim this first principle as if were a rock solid have begun to sound like Bible thumpers.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me… (more, always more)
To brush up on the complexities of the encounter between viewer and the viewed, I suggest Knight click over to John Perreault’s blog and read his entry, Fakes: Have Replicas Replaced the Real? The answer for me is no, as it is for Saltz, for Perreault, for Knight and for all those hundreds of thousands of people who pour every year into art museums instead of being content to click through images on their laptops. But it is a no inside a muddle instead of a clarity. We can’t go on, we go on.
At a 2007 conservation workshop at London’s Tate, there were “collective
gasps” when an original Pevsner, now looking like a “plate of Doritos,”
was shown next to an image of a recently constructed replica of what it
had looked like in its glory day.
Nobody settles for replicas; we all settle for replicas. Why is it that when the homicidally-repressive governments in Russian and China cracked open enough to let art in and out, the West found artists who’d evolved their work from premises of Duchamp, Beuys and Warhol, with whom they’d never had a direct encounter? Credit goes to reproductions in illegally obtained art magazines, passed hand to hand.
We can’t go on, we go on. No need to be so desperately rude about it. As Carolina Miranda so aptly wrote of Knight, meow!