Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spats and Such for a Snowy Wednesday : Or, the Long, Long Memory of the Internets

Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
---James Joyce, "The Dead," from The Dubliners
A new snowfall, like the one blanketing New York this morning, tends to bring a sense of calm reflection (unless you're driving in it, perhaps).

Reflection seems to be the sentiment of the week throughout the country, as the nation comes to terms with the shooting in Arizona; politicians slow down to reconsider the wisdom of the resulting political spats (including a more somber Sarah Palin*, who still incredulously lectured the rest of the country on how to behave [without irony]), and even the acknowledgment over at Fox News that perhaps it is time to bring the rhetoric down a few notches.

But just about the time I get all comfy with my cocoa, I stumble upon another art writers spat (that now seems to have calmed down, but not without first opening up some seemingly long-simmering tensions). I've already gone on ad nauseum about how much I respect both these writers, so I'll spare you the caveats and get right to their public disagreement:

Monday Tyler Green published a post critiquing Jerry Saltz's New York Magazine piece on the "The Greatest [New York] Artwork." I had read Jerry's piece and found it entertaining and thought-provoking, but Tyler found it problematic:
Critics typically don’t like it when their editors make up a silly rubric and then demand that the critic find something that fits within it. That’s the game at New York mag this week, where the magazine is featuring a January-is-slow bit of silliness called “The Greatest New York Ever.”

Naturally, New York art critic Jerry Saltz was expected to play along. A mention in Saltz’s write-up rings false and merits a bit of consideration: “Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 is an image of what New York felt, looked, and sounded like in 1950,” Saltz wrote. [Image at right, collection of the Museum of Modern Art.]

Fortunately, Saltz drove by the Pollock on his way to naming a Robert Moses-commissioned model the greatest New York something-or-other ever (and he mentions lots of other artists whose works would be good choices), but still… One?

In 1950, Pollock was doing most of his looking and listening far from New York City. By the time he made One, Pollock had lived outside New York City for five years. (In 1945 he married Lee Krasner and moved to Springs, Long Island.) I could find no historical record that Pollock thought One — or any of the magnificent drip paintings he made as a near-series in 1950 — had anything to do with New York City. I could find no critical response to the painting (which was shown with the others in late November, 1950 at Betty Parsons Gallery) that suggested there was anything particularly NYC about them. Sure, MoMA chief curator Ann Temkin included the painting in MoMA’s recent exhibition “Abstract Expressionist New York,” but that show is notable in part for playing fast-and-very-loose with geography. That’s about as close as One gets to being “in” New York City.
Jerry responded with a Facebook post that he subsequently decided wasn't the way to go. Jerry later wrote:
An hour ago I posted a haggling peevish “note” about an art-blogger from Wash. DC named Tyler Green. I realize now I don’t have the stomach for stuff like this. I deleted it. I love that people can & do write anything they want about anything or anybody (including me). I do it too. I just can’t get into one of these feuds. I think that’s it; hey, it’s 1-11-11 so maybe that’s what got into me.
The thing is, like old soldiers, old Internet posts never truly die, they are simply cached somewhere. Tyler found it and posted it on the thread of his critique of Jerry's post:
Jerry Saltz replied here:
Now, the Lord knows that I have found myself wishing I could take back some comment or even post I put out there. I still cringe when someone mentions a certain site I let get the better of me a few years ago. But I know my red-headed Irish-German temper well enough now to know I'll do it again. It's simply my nature. So I deal with it as best I can.

As for Jerry and Tyler, I do wish they'd find themselves stuck in an airport together through a long snow storm, share a few beers, and realize that they actually have much more in common than they realize. Perhaps then Tyler wouldn't seize on every single opportunity to point out how New York City isn't the only place in the world people make or discuss art, and Jerry wouldn't be so red-headed-Irish-German (is he any of those things? No? So what's his excuse?) and so quick to take the bait.

And now, with my daily pontificating out of the way...I return to my cocoa....

*Update: Ok, so I stand corrected. No reflection apparent there.

Labels: art blogs, art writing


Blogger George said...

Tyler Greens response to Jerry Saltz was hilarious in its stupidity, a snippy bitchy revelation. I admit I was one of the first responders to Jerry's question on his Facebook page. I gave the nod to Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie but could easily see how one could interpret the question in a way which favored any of the other initial suggestions. In fact that is precisely what the people commenting on Jerry's FB page did.

This wasn't a question posed to create a new art theory of New Yorkiness, it was about starting a dialog on a quiet day. I find it fairly easy to see how one could choose the MoMA Pollock (One: Number 31, 1950) If you are visiting NYC from Tokyo, and visit MoMA, it is de rigueur to have your picture taken in front of the Pollock. From this viewpoint it also personifies NYC, but in a different way than the Mondrian.

What resulted was a rather interesting dialog, certainly not "theoretically" correct but more interesting and informative.

(fixes a botched 2nd paragraph)

1/12/2011 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think you've over-described Tyler's post, George. Both articles were of the "it's a slow news day" ilk...nothing more...and certainly nothing worse than that...which actually give a much needed texture to the overall dialog.

The thing is that Tyler does seem to constantly have NYC in his crosshairs (I understand the world doesn't begin and end here, but it isn't all that bad either) and Jerry, bless his passionate soul, should have some Internet server administrator give him a behind-the-scenes tour of all the places everything you put out on the internet will live forever.

1/12/2011 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Well actually I was speaking to the intent of Jerry's original post/article which I think I've correctly described. I thought Tyler was off base in his initial response. Jerry responded and later withdrew his response. It was all silly (and I removed my comments on Tyler's page)

1/12/2011 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous said...

I'll be much more concerned when Tyler stops investigating, rebutting and acting righteous; when Jerry stops initiating dialog on FB or doing what he's supposed to do in a magazine that's meant for general consunmption, and, here, when Ed stops commenting and George stops responding. Keep it coming, boys.

1/12/2011 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Elwyn Palmerton said...

The idea that Pollock was somehow not a New York artist because he lived in The Hamptons for five years is absurd. That place probably has more New Yorkers than parts of New York. People who want to be art writers shouldn't be so "fact" oriented.

1/12/2011 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Randall Anderson said...

But, really, if all I get from this is " Rothko made Buddhist TVs", then I'm happy the exchange took place, for whatever reason. That one I'll hang onto. We all need something at this time of year to give it a stir. Don't we? Buddhist TVs! Brilliant. Now, where's that new bottle of single malt I got for Christmas...

1/12/2011 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger Paddy Johnson said...

I have a few of these spats I wish I could stamp out too. They are horribly humiliating and once they are out there there's nothing to be done.

I've seen this kind of thing from Tyler before on slow news days - I think the Grace Glueck conflict of interest story came from that. Jerry's response on the Smithsonian was a little off base -- I thought Tyler offered useful suggestions and called people out who needed to be called out. That was Jerry's slow news day reveal for me.

1/13/2011 12:33:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

If it wasn't for these silly spats, what would we do for entertainment?

My vote for best piece of New York art: the map of the subway system. You New Yorkers probably never see it because you already know your way around.

1/13/2011 01:41:00 AM  

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