Work of Art Recap: Jerry Saltz Works Through the Embarrassment

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Episode Title
Make It Pop
Season
2
Episode
3

I’m just getting over the public humiliation of being a televised douchebag. Last week, I gave the artist who turned out to be the loser, Catherine, a hard time when I didn’t know she was sick. All week long, strangers stopped me on the street, snapping, “You’re mean.” A woman at a Met preview scorched me as “callous.” “At least that’s over,” I think as this episode opens — whereupon the artists start off by saying they’re aghast at my “brutality.” D’oh. Anyway: After the credits, our host China Chow announces this week’s challenge: “Create a piece of Pop Art!” My douchbagdom disappears as cringing begins. “Pop is bold! Pop is brash. Pop is sex!” Simon barks. I think, Pop is going to be the death of me.

At home, I remember why I love this strange, strange show. I remember how much I love artists for being willing to embarrass themselves in public, for doing things they don’t understand, and getting around cant. This is what I’ve come to think of as the Erotics of Trying, of being open and vulnerable, of fully trusting untrustworthy impulses and making things that aren’t about understanding but that are about something else. This “something else” is what art is — and some of it was in the air last night.