What happens when ‘Work of Art’ judge Jerry Saltz recaps his own show?

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Not only is Jerry Saltz deconstructing art-in-the-making as a judge on Bravo’s new reality series, ‘Work of Art,’ he’s also laying bare the innards of the show itself -- as a recapper for New York magazine’s Vulture blog. (His day job is being art critic for the magazine.)

Those quick cuts where viewers see a split-second of him looking sideways at a contestant? They’re actually elaborately choreographed shots filmed from every possible angle that last so long they turn into ‘endurance staring contests,’ Saltz writes on New York magazine’s Vulture blog. ‘I think Nao [a contestant] hypnotized me during one of them.’ He also admits to having some ‘weird retinal pops and glitches’ during these face-offs. (Is there workers’ comp for that?)

Especially helpful for viewers who aren’t steeped in art, Saltz lets us know that sometimes a pile of trash is just that. Contestants this week worked with discarded electronics, appliances and gadgets, while waxing philosophical about it. Saltz wasn’t buying into competitor Jaime Lynn’s vacuum cleaner-centric project, which he said looked like a department-store window display. ‘I actually think that you’re not creating art here,’ he said matter-of-factly.


And Saltz sees right through overused art-world jargon like ‘figurative painter’ and ‘conceptual art circles.’ One competitor had described another as ‘well-known in conceptual-art circles,’ to which Saltz replied on Vulture: ‘There are no conceptual-art circles. There haven’t been any since the late ‘60s.’

He’s even willing to note that the show’s producers aren’t as well versed as they should be, or they’d call bull on some of this posturing by the contestants. Check out his Episode 2 assessment, where he also talks about harshing on some of the contestants. While some of the show’s cast hasn’t necessarily won over viewers -- Simon de Pury in the Tim Gunn role leaves a lot to be desired -- critics and bloggers are fairly high on Saltz. Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker said he ‘has the brains and the gumption to state his praise and his reservations in the clearest of language.’

Just know that he’s as interested in the artists’ process as in the finished product (that may or may not describe the TV audience too) but at least he has a distinct point of view and doesn’t require pantomimes and a translator to understand it.

-- T.L. Stanley