Twelve Artist Statements #6


1. “So many people could do so many things if they would just try, but they’re frightened off because they haven’t been trained to do this or that… I just picked up a $7.50 camera and went to work.”

-Gordon Parks, from “Black Renaissance, Gordon Parks (1912-2006)” by Mark Randolph, Waxpoetics #17 (June/July 2006), pg. 20.

2. “To compose the Quixote at the beginning of the seventeenth century was a reasonable undertaking, necessary and perhaps even unavoidable; at the beginning of the twentieth, it is almost impossible. It is not in vain that three hundred years have gone by, filled with exceedingly complex events. Amongst them, to mention only one, is the Quixote itself.”

Jorge Luis Borges, from “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” in Labyrinths, Selected Stories & Other Writings (New York: New Directions , 1964), by Jorge Luis Borges, pg. 41-42.

3. “In art, making demands on people means believing in them.”

-Helmut Lachenmann, from his liner notes to “Das Madchen mit den Schwefelholzern,” (ECM New Series 1858/59, 2004), pg. 26.

4. “One of the most common mistakes about Stravinsky is, in my opinion, the incomprehension of his final works. People write absurd diatribes, the most ridiculous things about the period when, according to them, he “embraced the serial system,” or something like that. That’s ridiculous. Stravinsky never changed. What counted for him was his “method.” The fact that he considered music as an ensemble of rhythmic intervals led him logically to that method- I don’t believe in the word “system,” twelve-tone writing was not a system but a method, that’s a much more interesting word. Stravinsky was interested in all sorts of things: mechanical, natural, human, inhuman, sacred, diabolical… He could tackle anything. He arrived very late at the serial method but in the music he composed at that point are some of his best works… What is more important for an artist than to be able to say to others: “go fuck yourselves, I’m going to do my thing in my own way.” Stravinsky understood that very young. I don’t know where he learned that but it’s fundamental, and he helped me to learn it too. It’s a matter of courage, guts, audacity; it has to do with having confidence in one’s “equipment” or with developing it to the point that one can have confidence. He was a very methodical worker. He turned his back on the critics. Sometimes he tossed off letters to answer them, but in general, at the moment they attacked him, he was already far away, elsewhere, they couldn’t reach him. That drove them crazy.”

-Steve Lacy, from “He Flew,” in Conversations (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006), edited by Jason Weiss, pg. 253-254.

5. “Marcel Duchamp claimed that the creative act is bipolar, in that it requires not only the artist who sets it in motion but also the spectator who interprets it, and by doing so completes the process. In that spirit, for the last forty years it’s been my ambition to write about contemporary art not as a critic or a judge, but as a participant.”

-Calvin Tomkins, from Off The Wall, A Portrait Of Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Picador, 2005), pg. xiii-xiv.

6. The painters to whom the term “Abstract Expressionist” was applied, in 1946, by The New Yorker art critic Robert Coates, did not represent a movement or a school. They ranged in style and attitude from Willem de Kooning, whose work was rarely altogether abstract, to Barnett Newman, who was never an expressionist. What drew them together was a common experience, an aesthetic breakthrough in middle life that led to the forging of a radical new style.”

-Calvin Tomkins, from Off The Wall, A Portrait Of Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Picador, 2005), pg. 32.

7. “Painting is a way of living, that is where the form of it lies.”

-Willem de Kooning, “What Abstract Art Means to Me,” Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, XVIII, No. 3 (Spring 1951).

8. “[There was a] shift from aesthetics to ethics; the picture was no longer supposed to be Beautiful, but True- an accurate representation or equivalence of the artist’s interior sensation and experience. If this meant that a painting had to look vulgar, battered, and clumsy- so much the better.”

-Thomas B. Hess, Willem de Kooning, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968.

9. “Early on I had the feeling that there was enough room for everybody, and that no two people had to do it in the same way. Besides which I couldn’t really emulate something I was so in awe of. I saw Pollock and all that other work, and I said, Okay, I can’t go that way. It’s possible that I discovered my own originality through a series of self-imposed detours.”

-Robert Rauschenberg, from Off The Wall, A Portrait Of Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Picador, 2005), by Calvin Tomkins, pg. 58.

10. “Hollywood is not failing. It has failed. The fact is that filmmaking, although unquestionably predicated on profit and loss like any other industry, cannot survive without individual expression… Without individual creative expression, we are left with a medium of irrelevant fantasies that can add nothing but slim diversion to an already diversified world. The answer cannot be left in the hands of money men… the answer must come from the artist himself. He must become aware that the fault is his own, that art and the respect due his vocation as an artist is his own responsibility… Only by allowing the artist full and free creative expression will the art and the business of motion pictures survive.”

-John Cassavetes, from Accidental Genius, How John Cassavetes Invented the American Independent Film (New York: Hyperion, 2005) by Marshall Fine, pg. 106.

11. “Dada was a rejection and a protest. I was not particularly interested in it. Your own “no” just makes you dependent on what you reject- a common “no” means nothing. Dada was based on dead forms, yet it was perhaps a bit too much ado about something that was already dead. My Fountain was not a “no”- I was only trying to create a new idea for an object which everybody thought they knew. Everything can be something else, that is what I wanted to prove.”

-Marcel Duchamp in a conversation with Ulf Linde, 1961, from Marcel Duchamp (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2002), edited by Muller-Alsbach, Stahlhut, and Szeemann, pg. 90.

12. “I don’t want to sit around and wait for that wand to touch me and tell me what to do. The only way to photograph is to photograph, that’s all… By working at it- I hate to saying working at it, because it is play for me- by doing it, I think that’s how you discover. And that’s the only way for me.”

-Harry Callahan, from Harry Callahan: The Photographer at Work (Tuscon: Center for Creative Photography, in association with Yale University Press, 2006) by John Szarkowski, pg. 16 and 34.