Glenn Beck’s psychotic twelve minute rant the other day had left the Art World shuddering. It wasn’t just that his “art work” and accompanying lecture in aesthetics and morality was nauseating, from Beck’s loving cradling of a mason jar of his own urine to the compulsive, sex-fearing, puritanical smearing of paint on Lucian Freud portrait’s nude bits. It was also the fact that critics and bloggers paid it any attention at all. The fact that one of New York’s most important art critics responded to the “piece” — at length! — would have been worrisome, if it wasn’t so damn spot on.
First off, Jerry Saltz loves to pay attention to this stuff with a ferocious, academic appetite. He’s once said that extreme Right Wing radio/tv is his “pornography.” He seems to revel in the extent of its crapulance. Naturally, he didn’t miss Beck’s performance, crowning it as “an epically demented manifestation of conservative America’s mental breakdown.”
Saltz went on to call it art — AHH!!! But “boring bad art, plain and simple.” Here’s the opus climax:
Yet Beck’s goody-two-shoes censuring of the Rubens and Freud nudes has something truly possessed and bizarre about it. A fear of sex this latent but pronounced makes for a fantastically charged visual paradox. Plus, Beck’s brushwork is so flippant and slapdash that it somehow goes well on the reproductions — even adds to them. Beck obviously has several screws loose; he can’t think his work through, and doesn’t know when to stop. But if he concentrates, rounds up all the many nudes he disapproves of from art history, and covers them up with paint in ways that he finds more appropriate, I would love to see a show of these paintings and write about it. His blackboards that demonstrate the ways in which Democrats are Maoists or Communists, or prove that Obama is a Nigerian set on overthrowing the United States, are true masterpieces of paranoid-delusion, works that I would gladly see in any museum. Beck is an artist; just not in the way he thinks he is.
There is something potentially terrifying about the amount of recognition the actions of completely crazy people with media exposure can attract through shock and bait, mostly because we’d all really like to have them go away and not leak into our operative reality. But if someone has to interact with Beck or Donahue on any level, I’d rather it be art critics putting it into context and upsetting the cultural fringe of the media, than see these rants on any politically-legitimatized platform.
Still a tad unnerving though.