How To Talk About Art

Photo: Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images

Have you ever felt at a loss for words when staring at a Jackson Pollock? Or simply not known what what to say in reaction to a Rothko? New York Magazine’s Senior Art Critic, Jerry Saltz, joins us this week to help the less-cultured of us learn the art of discussing fine art, as well as impress upon us that there is no right and wrong when it comes to art criticism.

Saltz has won a Pulitzer and two National Magazine Awards for his art criticism, and his latest book, “How to Be an Artist,” comes out in March.

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Highlights from this week’s episode

From the Jerry Saltz Interview

On the personal nature of art:

All art is subjective. I think that you cannot prove that Leonardo da Vinci is a better artist than Norman Rockwell, the illustrator. You can’t do it. I can tell you that Rockwell’s work is fabulous because it tells you exactly what to feel, exactly how to look, exactly how to see, exactly what to look at in what order. But that it doesn’t really ever change. I can tell you a lot, but I cannot prove that one work of art is better than another.

On why there is no “right” or “wrong” way to talk about art:

I want people to give themselves permission to be idiots, to get lost, to not be afraid of being wrong. There is no being wrong in art. I promise you that. You might think I have crapola taste. I might think you have crapola taste. Well, that’s a pretty interesting conversation to have...I want people to follow all the crazy notions in their head. Pretend it’s like a kaleidoscope. When you see those little triangles and squares bouncing around in that little tube, when you’re [a] child you’re completely opened up and you build whole imaginary worlds with one eye, that’s how you’re making architectural structures out of really just coloured pieces of glass or plastic. And when you look at a work of art, that’s really all you’re seeing.

Episode Transcript


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