Seeing Out Loud: Village Voice Art Columns 1989-2003    
Jerry Saltz    

Paperback, June 2003; Reprinted May 2007
ISBN: 1-930589-17-4

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In Seeing Out Loud, Saltz critically engages with notable works of art by over one-hundred notable artists ranging from Picasso, Matisse, and Warhol to Matthew Barney, Gerhard Richter, and Chris Ofili. These reviews appeared in the Village Voice between November 1998 and winter 2003. "Jerry Saltz is the best informed and hair-trigger liveliest of contemporary art critics, tracking pleasure and jump-starting intelligence on the fly. Jerry's fast takes usually stand up better in retrospect than other people's long views."

--Peter Schjedahl

"Jerry Saltz looks at art from the perspective of the viewer, the ignorant, the lover, and the enemy. His writing is overwhelmingly passionate, yet without sentimentality. His words pierce the content and beauty of each work of art to test its endurance in time and memory."

--Francesco Bonami, Curator, 2003 Venice Biennale

"The Art Carny"
by Richard Klin

Seeing Out Loud is an ambitious greatest hits compendium that encompasses five solid years of Jerry Saltz's chronicles for the Village Voice. A critic--and especially an art critic--walks a fine line. The "critic's first flushes of discovery," to borrow a phrase from the late Pauline Kael, must posses a literate power of observation that can't quickly lapse into highfalutin prose or incomprehensible rubric. It should include dollops of colloquial "slangy freedom"--another Kaelism--but not too much slang or dumbed-down prose. An admirable critical eclecticism should never devolve into scattershot, tangential entries.

Artist-turned long-distance truck driver-turned critic Saltz has limned an astonishingly wide breadth of topics and motifs that have flawlessly gelled into a readable, astute, tome. Referencing a diverse cast of characters ranging from John Cage to Robert Heinlein to Phil Spector to The Grapes of Wrath, Saltz travels in and around the eye of the art storm, his perceptive writings touching on the Jewish Museum's controversial "Mirroring Evil" exhibition of Nazi imagery, and the recent storm of storms, the Brooklyn Museum's "Sensations," which brought down the wrath of Rudy Guiliani and God himself--evidently, in
that exact order. Reading Saltz's precision piece on Jacob Lawrence also offers a concise instructional on the historical southern black
migration to points north. The column on Gerhard Richter encompasses references to Baader-Meinhof; an attack on Guggenheim director Thomas Krens subtly morphs into a trenchant broadside against corporate globalization.

Critics are allowed to--and should--wax rhapsodic. Rirkrit Tiravanija's installation is arresting and "mysteriously beautiful." There's a wonderful, affecting appreciation of a basket of wild strawberries, courtesy of Chardin. The unfairly pummeled Chris Ofili is eloquently defended against the torrent of invective: "Old white government guys love telling black artists what's offensive." September 11 and its aftermath are covered with sensitivity and insight. "That globalist hum people thought they were listening to," Saltz writes, "turns out to have been background noise to a cacophony of conflicting contexts."

Saltz is not without an entertainingly acid pen. The Drawing Center takes a drubbing for its resemblance to "some dank Communist-bloc museum." James Ensor's "massacres and hellish scenes are a Mardi Gras of confusion as if by a wildly precocious 14-year-old boy." Paul McCarthy is likened to a "demented geezer." But Seeing Out Loud is not simply a series of spleen-venting diatribes. Being funny is not the kiss of death for a critic--quite the opposite, as the reader is also informed that Alice Neel appeared (twice, no less) on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Saltz perceptively recognizes that "it can take years to understand what an all-white painting... might be about." And most dramatically, for a leading art critic, he peppers his book with two (count 'em) references to Beavis and Butt-head.

Seeing Out Loud, with its myriad of discrete entries, takes on a rat-a-tat tempo--the nature of the beast in a book of this sort. One would like Saltz to linger and settle in--not a quibble, but an accolade. His polymorphous canvas ranges from the art world's redoubtables and usual suspects to explorations of William Blake, renaissance tapestry, Norman Rockwell, the history of scientific and medical illustration, and an amazing piece on Pierre Huyghe's video, featuring real-life Dog Day Afternoon bank robber John Wojtowicz.

Seeing Out Loud's time span encompasses November 1998 to February 2003, in what has been a dizzy era of tumult and change--for the art world, for New York City, and globally. We await, with interest and trepidation, Seeing Out Loud II.

Copyright 2003-2007 Geoffrey Young. All Rights Reserved