On Jerry Saltz
Art is nothing more than one of the many vanities of the simulacrum of reality.
—JORGE LUIS BORGES
An act of vanity led us to Jerry Saltz, a figure that comes to honour and deserve not only the tradition of Oscar Wilde, but also our time. To mention their names is to evoke the image of a strange being dedicated to the poor purpose of astonishing with metaphors. Daring and torrential, they are one of the few that are willing to open paths to the unknown, expand- ing our vision of the world. Their characters are primarily expressions of an era. We believe that neither of them will like our comparison. However, it is the confluence of time, history and art that has situated them next to each other, just like a desire trapped by the tail.
Tracing the limits of criticism is not only a question of truth but also a matter of decision. Why is a work of art a good work of art? Why is a critic a good critic? All art is worthy its time, also criticism.
In that great river that is universal history, with the small tributary that is art, we have been repeating, forgotten and neglected what the course of time has left in its wake. History allows us to travel time magically. It brings us closer to the origin of who we are as individuals and society, inviting us to question what we have been while projecting our most intrinsic desires and ideals into that romantic fiction that is the future. How- ever, all this occurs without the essence of the human condition being revealed; otherwise, life would be meaningless. A writer is allowed the fable but not the moral. That is art, and that it is also the task of criticism.
History, art and criticism, all together, converge in Henri Matisse’s windows views in the Mediterranean Sea: a portal through which we can observe our ancestors, our past, but also the men and women that we will be. What circulates and seems to accentuate in nowadays culture are stereotypes and clichés, versions and quick prayers: that artist is good, that is not so much; that work of art I like, that one a little less; and the champion of all reflections: that piece is interesting. We are lacking metaphors and imagination, and in that misadventure, we are condemn- ing, but not judging art. Art doesn’t deserve to be treated like that, and we know it.
It seems like we are losing the ability to express our aesthetic judgments and the will to cultivate the faculty of taste—but as far as moral judgments are concerned, these are the order of the day. However, this would be a small loss for our society if we compare it with the current state of indolence to think, reflect, create and communicate about what surprises and challenges us. We have forgotten that intimate and essential question which is at the centre of all interpretation and reflection, and that of the “what and why of things”. We are continually valuing those who do something good, however, deliberately judging, eager for the obsession to comment lightly. In this sense, criticism is in another place, a place where we have to be attentive to see what artists do well in what they want to do.
This attitude towards criticism is the mirror of our time, where vanity has established itself as a quality. However, we believe that the world has always been the same, what changes are the forms. Thus, vanity, that intrinsic and essential characteristic of the human condition is definitely what Gustave Flaubert called the nothingness, but the nothingness is, for him, synonym of everything, everywhere, many times, all the time, repeating itself.