Jerry Saltz wrote "Downward Spiral: The Guggenheim Museum Touches Bottom" [February 19] in a short and very straightforward manner, so I will respond in kind.
Saltz criticized an arts institution that is growing, experimenting, learning, and teaching like no other in the world. In doing so, he joins the company of the 15th-century friar Girolamo Savonarola, who denounced the ill-conceived rebirth of Greco- Roman culture in Italy, epitomized by the carving of nude figures out of marble in the tradition of the pagan Greeks. According to the good friar, such carving was certainly an indication that art was selling out to the baser nature of man.
Saltz also joins those who had the foresight to label the exhibit of the Salon des Refusés in France in 1863 reprehensible. The artists exhibited at this show were, according to the detractors, inept amateurs masquerading as visionaries.
Similarly, spectators at the first impressionist show spat on Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass. People will always do such things, and writers like Saltz will always speak of downward spirals. These acts, however, like Saltz's words, are void of vision and will not deter true pioneers, who will be remembered far longer than any critic. To paraphrase a great visionary whose legacy I'm sure everyone can appreciate, by all means, Mr. Saltz, continue to look to the Guggenheim's past and ask, why? I'm sure the institution will be more than happy to continue to look toward the Guggenheim's future and ask, why not?
Re Jerry Saltz's "Downward Spiral": I had a recent encounter with the Las Vegas franchise of the Guggenheim Museum. I took off for my first ever trip to Vegas with some friends and proceeded to spend most of the weekend drinking myself silly and throwing money to the four winds, which is pretty much my definition of a great time. However, we did make a pit stop at Guggenheim Hermitage and Guggenheim Motorcycle while on our whirlwind tour of the city's various vices.
It was great and I loved it. And out of the alcoholic fog, I have a vivid memory of some really outstanding art and a fascinating illustration of the development of industrial design (as seen through the lens of the motorcycle). I didn't buy the T-shirt (they didn't have my size or I would have), but I was happy to find a small, quiet respite in the midst of the madness. I am devoted to the idea of little outposts of art in such unlikely places. If it means a dilution of the prestige of the Guggenheim brand name, so be it. There are worse things that could be done than to make art accessible to the masses.
I completely understood what Sylvana Foa was saying in "Escaping the Hell of the Holy Land" [February 19]. I am one of those "new immigrants" (eight years in Israel, now 25 years old) contemplating leaving for some of the same reasons stated in Foa's article. I can't live in a country whose leadership stands for the complete opposite of everything I believe in and strive for in life.
I think that I'm one of the last loyal left-wingers here. Many people are converting to the easier solution: the right. The only thing that pinches me when I think about leaving is the fact that Yasir Arafat is also aware of this trend. The dissipation of Israelis only weakens Israel, and one day there might not be anyone left to fight for this land. I don't know whether we deserve this territory or not, but I think Israelis and Palestinians can live as neighbors very peacefully.
I read Sylvana Foa's story concerning the emigration of Israelis from Israel with interest. Those whom she interviewed were correct; Israel is a troubled place. Much of the angst is due to the refusal to accept the right of the Palestinians to their own country on contiguous land, and the Israeli government's pandering to the most unproductive members of Israeli society. But Foa failed to enunciate clearly the supreme irony: Israelis of the professional class have no hope, and must flee to New York, Australia, and other points thousands of miles away, primarily because the most unreasonable of their countrymenthe settlersrefuse to travel the mere scores of miles from the West Bank and Gaza to relocate within the internationally recognized boundaries of Israel.
Albert A. Chapar Jr.
A STUDY IN CONTRASTS
A little reminder to all Israelis: When our parents came to Israel, they faced worse conditions than we do now. The country was poor, they lived in tents, and they were attacked right and left by hostile neighbors. Most of them had left behind all their possessions, relatives, their culture and language, to build a new home in Israel. And they did build a home for their children, however shaky it is. However, with the "Americanization" of Israel in the past 30 years, we've become spoiled. By comparing life in Israel to life in the U.S. or European countries, Israelis may indeed feel less fortunate. Just like many Palestinians feel when comparing their lives to more fortunate Israelis.
Scarsdale, New York
WIZARD OF OZ
The assertion by James Ridgeway in "Shame Down Under" [Mondo Washington, February 19] that Australian prime minister John Howard told UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson to "go fuck herself" is as absurd and offensive as the assertion in the same item that Australia is abusing illegal immigrants. It is, rightly or wrongly, the intention of the Australian government and the wish of many Australians that illegal immigrants depart. The "detention" Ridgeway references is in fact only to prevent them from gaining entry to our country illegally. Their continued presence in Australia at great cost to the Australian taxpayer is due to their refusal to leave, which they are free to do, even at our expense.
Toni Schlesinger's article "On the Waterfront" [February 12] thoroughly describes the controversy surrounding the land-use proposal for the 480-500 Van Brunt Street warehouse in Red Hook. However, the article trivializes the potential consequences that the project could have on the communities of Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, and Park Slope. Schlesinger's article reads more like a narrative of local characters than an examination of the roles of developers and the community board in land-use processes. The article summarizes in one paragraph the ways in which the government protects citizens' health and how citizens influence land-use decisions that affect them through the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP).
The ULURP determines what type of environmental impact a land-use project will have on a community. For an area such as Kings County, which was rated in the top 10 percent of U.S. counties in 1999 for sulfur dioxide in a three-hour average concentration, the ULURP procedures may be "costly" and "arduous," but no more so than caring for a child with asthma. Schlesinger successfully conveyed the community board members' and residents' sentiments for the Red Hook waterfront. However, the processes through which interested people and parties determine the social, economic, and physical conditions of Community District 6 merited a more thorough examination than the cursory analysis given in Schlesinger's article.
Andy Humm's article on human rights enforcement in New York City and State was right on except that nowhere did it mention disability rights. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is over 10 years old, and it has no teeth. Enforcement is voluntary unless agencies get involved or we initiate lawsuits. The city and state human rights commissions do not have the staff to do much for the disability community. However, they try. The NYC Human Rights Commission is engaged in the One-Step Program with Disabled in Action (DIA) and other disability rights groups to eliminate one-step barriers to public places such as stores, offices, restaurants, and apartment buildings. It's just a shame this article was written after former mayor Rudolph Giuliani left office and not during his administration.
DIA board member
EASY COME, EASY GO
In his overview of 401(k) plans in this week's Mondo Washington ["What's Wrong With 401(k)'s?" February 26], James Ridgeway left out one reform that I would like to see. Every plan should be required to have an FDIC-insured bank account as an "investment" option. Some of us are not fans of Wall Street, and we should not be forced to put 401(k) money there. And it seems quite certain to me that as the baby boomers retire and take their money out of the stock market, the price of stocks will have to go down. It should follow about the same pattern as the Social Security fund, with a net outflow starting around 2013. Those of us who are aware of these things and think ahead should not be punished for those who do not.
While I enjoyed Greg Tate's article "Nigger-'tude" [February 5], I personally think that discussions of this kind are quite pointless. It doesn't really matter who uses the wordits derogatory power has not changed since its inception, no matter what many people in the entertainment industry may say. As a black male, I feel as long as people within the black community use and/or condone the usage of this word, we will continue to be viewed as fools.
Quite a few Pazz & Jop Critics' Polls [February 19] have come and gone since I've read the top line and thought, "Of course, what else?" Still, I was glad to see some dissent against the prevailing acclaim.
Dylan has never inspired unanimity, and he'd be mortified if he ever did. But I've got to take one critic to task. Amy Phillips complains that Dylan's latest album "doesn't rock." Why should he or any other musician always rock? Sometimes Dylan rocks, sometimes he rolls, sometimes he leans back, and sometimes he swings. Sometimes he missesbut seldom that I can hear in "Love and Theft." The critics who placed this album in the No. 1 spot got it right.
After reading the results of the Voice's 2001 Pazz & Jop poll, I really have a bone to pick with some of the reviewers' cynical observations. I was particularly disheartened by Phil Freeman's statement that "music at its best is a one-on-one pleasure" and Sean Howe's comment that he's been afraid to let his "escapism last longer than three minutes" for the past few months. The thought that people with these views of music as alienation and escapism were allowed to vote in this poll is very alarming to me. Why do they bother if they are so jaded?
As someone who has been worshiping and following Southern rock specialists the Drive-By Truckers for years, I'm ecstatic to read such a great article by Don Allred ["Gimme Three Stepsisters," February 26]in The Village Voice no less. You couldn't know a nicer bunch of guys, and they put on a live show that will make you cry. In general, we don't see a lot of positive things about Southern culture, so it's refreshing to see an appreciation for how the Drive-By Truckers recycle and reinterpret the Southern reality through their music.
Tom Robbins provided an important reader service by detailing the behind-closed-doors Albany deal that raided the charitable assets of the nonprofit Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield and placed them in private hands ["Blue Cross Hijacked," February 19].
Now that labor, management, and politicos have cut such a deal in New York State, the precedent has been set for a similar Wall Street handshake that would privatize Social Security in return for a bump in pay. As a non-New Yorker, I marvel at workers' achievements in the nation's capital of liberalism.
I just read Coco McPherson's Mad on the Street about the public's response to Enron [February 26]. At first I thought perhaps I was reading an article from a parody newspaper (like The Onion). Were those actual people saying those inane things? Enron's collapse is an "expression of the New World Order"? The little guy "always" loses? These people need to get a grip. They, not some "elite few," are responsible for their own lives and running the world. Almost makes me feel better about living in Boulder.
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