Twelve Artist Statements #5


1. “The aspirations of yesterday were valid for yesterday’s ego, not for today’s.”

-Samuel Beckett, “Proust” (New York: Grove Press, 1931), pg. 3.

2. In an essay published in the late 1960s, Bolotowsky worried about the application to art of “too mechanical an historical approach, with its nineteenth-century idea of progress,” because it “may…be responsible for the ‘tradition of the new’ and the resulting idea of ‘obsolescence in art.’” Bolotowsky complained about the tendency “to search for a monolithic, one-goal development among our more important artists, as a sign of their greatness. The nature of the creative process is quite different.”

-Jed Perl, “New Art City” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), pg. 322.

3. “Critical accent has been placed upon who was first in iron or welding. This speculation is no more valid than the Renaissance oil paint controversy. Gonzalez was an apprentice in his father’s shop, his work with metal starts in childhood. It is not innovation that makes art but inspiration.”

-David Smith, “David Smith,” ed. Garnett McCoy (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974) , pg. 142.

4. Alfred Barr believed that “far from appearing esoteric and beyond ordinary understanding, this new art could be described and characterized and, in part, illuminated through knowledge of its place in history, of its relation to preceding art, and of new experiences of the artists and the community at large.”

-Meyer Schapiro, statement in “Alfred H. Barr, Jr.: A Memorial Tribute, October 21, 1981” (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1982), unpaged.

5. “The writers were really psyched for their roles as actors in history, and they wanted the scenes to change fast, so that they would have a new situation in which to play.”

-Jed Perl, “New Art City” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), pg. 452.

6. “In these more advanced times the danger to High Culture is not so much from Masscult as from a peculiar hybrid bred from the latter’s unnatural intercourse with the former. A whole middle culture has come into existence and threatens to absorb both its parents. This intermediate form- let us call it Midcult- has the essential qualities of Masscult- the formula, the built-in reaction, the lack of any standard except popularity- but it decently covers them with a cultural figleaf. In Masscult the trick is plain- to please the crowd by any means. But Midcult has it both ways: it pretends to respect the standards of High Culture while in fact it waters them down and vulgarizes them.”

-Dwight Macdonald, “Against the American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture” (New York: Random House, 1962), pg. 37.

7. “Art is produced by a succession of individuals expressing themselves; it is not a question of progress. Progress is an enormous pretension on our part.”

-Marcel Duchamp, “The Writings of Marcel Duchamp,” ed. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson (New York: Da Capo Press, 1988 [1st ed., 1973]), pg. 123.

8. [Mercedes Matter] worried that the art student was caught in “a particularly confusing situation. The extraordinary kaleidoscope of events of the twentieth century, of movements following so closely one upon another, of extremes absurd and great, of ideas canceling each other out and of recurrent Dada and ant-art, all this breaks at his feet in waves of cynicism, jaded feeling and no-belief.” She saw students “flung into the spotlight of fashion.” A student, she observed, could “go through art school and gain an acute perception of ‘what is going on,’ a fairly intelligent grasp of the situation, and yet have never departed a single step from his original naivete of vision.” She worried that art schools were not supporting “the continuity of work in a studio. Take this away,” she announced, “and art has been taken out of the education, and the art school becomes ready-made for the Ready Made.”

-Mercedes Matter, “What’s Wrong with U.S. Art Schools?,” Art News, September 1963, pg. 40-41. Quoted from -Jed Perl, “New Art City” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), pg. 474.

9. “In order to exist, international art has to be embedded. Styles must have location, even if they have no names. Art must have a centripetal focus, both in time and in geography. There must be a home- even if it is seldom visited. Place is a precondition for work.”

-Thomas B. Hess, “A Tale of Two Cities,” Location, Summer 1964, pg. 40.

10. “The poetry of a work of the imagination constantly illustrates the fundamental and endless struggle with fact.”

-Wallace Stevens, “Poetry and War,” in “Opus Posthumous: Revised, Enlarged and Corrected Edition,” ed. Milton J. Bates (New York: Knopf, 1989), pg. 242.

11. In an early brochure, [Mercedes Matter’s] school was said to reestablish “a simple and ancient premise for the training of an artist: learning through practice. Continuity of work in the studio replaces the fragmented curricula of most modern schools.” What mattered was not a particular old idea of form or structure, but the idea of the art as being in the practice. “In drawing,” she wrote, “it is not the shape of an idea as it exists in the mind which finally counts, but the marks on the paper, and these are not merely symbols for what is in the mind, as in mathematics, but sensible facts capable of projecting sensation.”

-Jed Perl, “New Art City” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), pg. 477.

12. “Greenberg [is] very ready to tell painters what they may or may not do, without enough understanding of what they have done or are doing. Sometimes he says ‘we’ when ‘I’ would be more accurate… As a war is not won by brilliant retreats, so creativeness is not advanced by imposed limitations.”

-Fairfield Porter, “Art in Its Own Terms: Selected Criticism, 1935-1975,” ed. Rackstraw Downes (New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1979), pg. 233, 236.