Roberta Reviews Roberta (with an assist from Charlie Finch)
Call me Roberta. Or better yet, call me Clem, Hilton, Jerry, Schjeldahl, Linda Nochlin, or, even Judy Chicago.
Looking through my notebooks, I see that I have reviewed many, many shows, but somehow, inexplicably, I have neglected to review the biggest show of all in the New York art world: myself.
Leo Castelli once cogently remarked that Roberta Smith could make or break any New York art show with her reviews in the New York Times. Yet somehow she is still not, formally, the number one art critic at the New York Times.
I wish I could remember who it was. Perhaps Mr. Castelli could tell me, but he is dead (but then Sidney Janis, Holly Solomon, Betty Parsons, Xavier Fourcade and Tibor de Nagy are also dead.)
My first love in art, my first rabbi, was Donald Judd, but, then again, it could have been Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Robert Mangold, Robert Ryman or Jo Baer, all Minimalists, although Donald Judd did not like being called a "Minimalist," nor did he like being called "Donald." He preferred "Don" (but what is "Minimalism" exactly except a reductive term for "Conceptualist"?).
At least Donald Judd was a more faithful mentor than Werner Erhard!
I, that is, Roberta, am not a Minimalist (but then neither is Jennifer Bartlett, who has a tasty little show currently on view at the overpass of the West 72nd Street subway station on Broadway).
Some have mentioned that Roberta Smith, on first perusal, has many multiple strengths: my indefatigable attendance at every New York exhibition, my very frequent travels on a frugal expense account, my deep knowledge of every name of every artist of the last century, as well as this one, my owlish allure (hoot! hoot!), my eminently portable, compact woman's body, but upon further reflection, some of my weaknesses will show through, won't they?
I can't find them, but perhaps Betsy Baker, Walter Robinson, Jack Bankowsky, Robin Cembalist, Bruce Wolmer, Anne Somers Cox and whoever currently edits Tema Celeste could.
Call me Roberta, again, please. You love me, you fear me, you want me, you need me, you seek me, you find me, but at least I never had to write reviews for the Village Voice.
Wait a minute, I did write for the Voice. I, Roberta, for many, many years, just like Gary Indiana, Kim Levin, Vince Aletti, Leslie Camhi and that little fellow who writes for them now.
What was his name?
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).