Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Online Viewing Room versus My Living Room (Two Works by Some Guy Named Ray)

I saw a post by Jerry Saltz last week on Instagram. It was a hypothetical email. “To: The Art World; Subject: When I hear the words online viewing room” I remove the safety from my mental revolver" The body of the email just said: “It is a website.”

Earlier that morning, flipping though the newest issue of ARTFORUM, I looked at the phrase Online Viewing Room and was struck by the absurdity of it. It’s a website, I thought. Then I thought maybe I was just being a jerk. 

If I am a jerk, so is Jerry Saltz. We are probably both jerks. 

The term Online Viewing Room is used to elevate something ordinary (a website) to make exclusive something that is not (the internet). There is also something here about reframing, steering purpose, marketing psychology blah blah blah. I have looked at these online viewing rooms (after registering). The legal fine print to visiting Gagosian's online viewing room is hilarious, almost a New Yorker Shout and Murmurs column ready to print. "If you do not agree to these Viewing Room Terms, you are not granted permission to use the Online Viewing Room and must exit immediately." Exit?! HAHA. But for those whose job it is to buy and sell artwork, whatever; live and let live. For me, online viewing rooms are just okay-looking websites that are mildly annoying to deal with. Anyway, I prefer to look at art in person.

Last week my friend Ray and his son came over to my house. While I was making dinner, Ray began constructing a floor-to-ceiling Lego tower in the living room. At first the kids, his and mine, were into helping with the tower but eventually the children lost interest, probably when a tape measure was brought out or when Ray began firmly insisting on sticking to the plan. The children went outside to play. The pieces had been put together, long batons of color on the floor while we ate. After dinner and after a couple of collapses, the tower was erected. It had a bellbottomed base that quickly tapered to  8-stud, then 6-stud and finally 4-stud pieces. It began on the floor, was lightly braced mid-way by two books on the mantle (one of Joan Didion essays the other a beginner’s Ancient Greek) and it ended at the ceiling. It did not stand perfectly straight. It was the tallest object in the room, as tall as the walls.

While the tower was there, it changed things, it affected how I felt when I walked through the room. Like Wallace Steven’s jar, it altered everything around it, "took dominion everywhere." It was the embodiment of the casual efforts of someone whose impulse and sensibility I know. Objectively, it was 
really good looking, and really present.

This has been a good season for art made in my living room, what with nowhere to go and all. This next “artwork” was not made in my living room, but my living room is where I received it.

I was lying on my couch (looking at the Lego tower, in fact) texting with Ray. The day before, his seven-year-old son (in the context of a story) made the gesture of giving the middle finger without wanting to really flip anyone off. He extended his middle finger but covered it with his other hand. Instantly, I remembered this gesture from my own youth, this sanitized two-hand, PG middle finger. In response to something sarcastic Ray had written, I texted that the iPhone insta-reply icons (thumbs up, down, ?, !!, HAHA, and a heart) were missing some things, say, a middle finger. In less time that I would have thought possible, Ray made and sent me this:

HAHA. Is it art? Whatever; sure.

Here is my point: While sure, you can see some representations of  nice artwork in these online viewing rooms, they are only representations. Even here, in these photographs, your experience of the Lego tower will be second hand. But you can make your own Lego tower. Or you can make a stack of…marshmallows, laundry, toilet paper (good luck with that one). 
When your icon or emoji bank fails you, make one. 

I guess I am glad that the art world, wherever and whatever that is, is still turning and maybe these online viewing rooms help. But, you know, you (or friends on your phase one post-quarantine list)  can make stuff in your living room. The gesture and the result might be more fun, profound, interesting, and meaningful than what you can see on the internet. It may cause a shift in your perception, it may come closer to doing what art does than “visiting” an 
online viewing room or traditional website (or basement of the internet blog like this one).

So the other day Jerry Saltz sent out this appeal to NYC art galleries:

Real Question to NYC Art-Galleries, from a Squirrelly Art Critic itching for a Mission: Are you planning a Sept-Oct show? What show? Do you see me/Roberta coming to yr gallery in our safe-bubble, let in, left a checklist, see show alone &leaving? I see something like this.
I hope they let him in. He seems like a fine guy and I know he really, really likes looking at art (Art). So do I, but if I had to choose, I would choose make over look

If the art galleries don’t let Jerry Saltz in, maybe he can get online and order some Legos...or paint... Or he can pick up this phone, Screen Capture an emoji, open Edit, Mark-up, and then create an emoji that expresses his feelings... 

(resting disappointed art critic face emoji).


(2 Towers) Joe Andoe made that beautiful painting of the top of the Empire State Building 

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