Some words from Linda Yablonsky.
During her life this person has written only one novel but she’s among the most authoritative art critics in this city and she has the power to trigger a really good reaction to an event or, especially, to give it the thumbs down. We’re not talking about Jep Gambardella in “The Great Beauty” but about the just as mythical Linda Yablonsky.
Mrs. Yablonsky, in the Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty,” the central character is an art critic who’s written only one novel and has to live with his responsibility for being able to sing the praises of cultural events in his city or, just as easily, demolish them. Doesn’t this introduction remind you of someone?
They say I’ve got this power. When I’m working, I try not to think about it, to put aside all feelings and express myself totally impartially. When you write, your emotional state can strongly condition you, to the extent that it’s able to make you write something good or bad about this or that show. If you start with this awareness, it helps you to exclude the world around you and make room for the objectivity you need to do your job well.
Sorrentino’s film talks about the Great Beauty, a chimera that the main character is chasing after, the dream in which he loves to submerge himself and his next novel, which he hopes is going to be his life’s masterpiece. Do you ever think about writing a second novel?
To tell the truth, no. And I also think rarely about the idea of great beauty. What I love to look for is in general great stories to transform into great experiences. Beauty fascinates me as much as what is tragic. They’re two forces that are necessary and at the same time capable of balancing each other in the universe.
AF: What’s the state of contemporary art in New York?
LY: Good. For New York this is a positive period. There are an enormous number of events and not only in Chelsea but also in various places around the city.
AF: Has the Lehman crisis in 2008 already been digested?
LY: For the art market it was a hard blow, but in other sectors it was much worse. There were fluctuations and adjustments to prices before and they’ll keep on happening in the future for various reasons.
AF: An example?
LY: The over-exposure of art by women following on from a very long period when it wasn’t appreciated and creative works by women didn’t get taken very seriously. But these are art dealer topics. An art critic shouldn’t be dealing with them.
AF: So what’s the core subject an art critic should be dealing with?
LY: Nowadays an art critic’s opinion doesn’t sell tickets for a theatre or cinema. His/her role should be to inform authoritatively, choose to point out what deserves being stressed, and practically influence the way in which a story will be written.
AF: Talking about stories, can you give the names of a few artists for whom you foresee a great future?
LY: I could name some but I don’t want to. To seriously evaluate an artist’s work and understand what’s important and what’s no good, requires an at least twenty year perspective. Foreseeing is not part of my role.
AF: What’s the best approach for writing art criticism?
LY: Go to see a show without any particular expectations. This is without doubt the best starting point.
AF: And then?
LY: I like to bear in mind any places and circumstances relating to the works in question. If it’s displayed in a museum in Europe, a gallery in New York or a public space in Asia, the same work has a completely different value, and so the opinion about it also needs to be just as different. It’s a question that has always fascinated me a lot.
AF: I’m new to this city. I’ve been here for a couple of years and am engaged in visiting lots of exhibition openings. I’m in general very surprised by how little social art there is. Is it right to accuse art in this city of civil unawareness?
LY: There aren’t any photos of Che Guevara around, if that’s the type of art you’re looking for. What you can find is art with a gay or afro stamp. Highly up-to-date questions in this city here and now.
AF: Maybe but my impression is still that the art displayed in this city floats on and sometimes drowns in non-thought and boredom. Is it possible to criticize gallery owners for not taking many risks when choosing the works they display?
LY: Running a gallery in New York means confronting lots of expenses. The business aspect certainly has an effect on the choice of works that get displayed and doesn’t leave much room for experimenting. I have to acknowledge that in the 80s this city had a different energy. Nowadays you can’t any more feel the energy that there was then.
AF: Internet and critics. How has technology changed this sector?
LY: With the increase in sources the dialogue among critics has split up into lots of different places. Plus people get information from many more places than they once did and this leads to a reduction in the authoritativeness of institutional sources.
AF: Will contemporary art journals continue to be printed in the future too or will their last edition be soon?
LY: There’s something that happens to me, although I don’t know if it happens to normal people too: when I look at the page of a newspaper and how the information is set out, it helps me to get to know a topic better than the argument as usually shown on a screen. Even for the visual part magazines and newspapers are on average better than screens, where the images are often cut to size. I believe that art journals will continue to exist for a long time.
AF: What are the most interesting possibilities technology offers an art critic?
LY: Speed and ease in gathering information. But here too there’s a reverse side to the medal.
AF: That is?
LY: The risk of isolating yourself too much. If you go and look up about an artist in a library, you can happen to strike up a conversation with the librarian that leads you to pose a question which, if you’d stayed at home on your own, would never have occurred to you. Dialogue is the spice of criticism.
Written by Alessandro Berni |