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Twelve Artist Statements # 11 | Ken Vandermark - musician & composer

Twelve Artist Statements # 11

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1) “I pursue no objectives, no system, no tendency; I have no program, no style, no direction. I have no time for specialized concerns, working themes, or variations that lead to mastery.

I steer clear of definitions. I don’t know what I want. I am inconsistent, non-committal, passive; I like the indefinite, the boundless; I like continual uncertainty. Other qualities may be conducive to achievement, publicity, success; but they are all outworn- as outworn as ideologies, opinions, concepts, and names for things.

Now that there are now priests or philosophers left, artists are the most important people in the world. That is the only thing that interests me.”

-Gerhard Richter, from The Daily Practice of Painting, Writings and Interviews1962-1993 (MIT Press: 1995), edited by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, translated from the German by David Britt, pg. 58.

2) “Learn to be articulate.”

-Man Ray, from Man Ray, American Artist (Da Capo: 1988), by Neil Baldwin, pg. 55.

3) How do you rate composition, arrangement, and performance in importance?

“All are interdependent on each other. Composition depends a great deal on the subsequent arrangement, but neither should burden the performers, for if the performance fails all is lost.”

-Duke Ellington, from Music Is My Mistress (Da Capo: 1973), by Duke Ellington with assistance from Stanley Dance, pg. 457.

4) “I don’t paint things, I only paint differences between things.”

-Henri Matisse, from About Rothko (Da Capo: 1983), by Dore Ashton, pg. 114.

5) “The improvised solo coming out of one musician, with others supporting him, is a dead end… In front of us we have many years of the collective improvised effort, the intuitive and adult collaboration between peers.”

-Warne Marsh, from Lee Konitz, Conversations on the Improviser’s Art (University of Michigan Press: 2007), by Andy Hamilton, pg. 57.

6) “Cézanne never really finished anything. He went as far as he could, then abandoned the job. That’s the terrible thing: the more one works on a picture, the more impossible it becomes to finish it.”

-Alberto Giacometti, from A Giacometti Portrait (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1965), by James Lord, pg. 11.

7) “It takes five years just to become a good student. Another five to become a dancer, and who knows how long, if ever, to become an artist.”

-Margaret Craske, from Chance and Circumstance (Alfred A. Knopf: 2007), by Carolyn Brown, pg. 29.

8) “The forces that are bringing on war, that are preparing for larger and better economic depressions in the future, are at odds with the forces of human culture. The time has come for the people who love life and culture to form a united front against them, to be ready to protect, and gauge, and if necessary, fight for the human heritage which we, as artists, embody”

-Lewis Mumford, opening address for the American Artists’ Congress, February 1936, from About Rothko (Da Capo: 1983), by Dore Ashton, pg. 36.

9) “Being unable to reach the top of the scale of values, I smashed the scale.”

-Pablo Picasso, from A Giacometti Portrait (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1965), by James Lord, pg. 53.

10) “It was Maurice Nadeau who said it was an influence ab contrario. I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realized that my own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, subtracting rather than adding. When I first met Joyce, I didn’t intend to be a writer. That only came later when I found out that I was no good at all at teaching. When I found I simply couldn’t teach. But I do remember speaking about Joyce’s heroic achievement. I had a great admiration for him. That’s what it was: epic, heroic, what he achieved. I realized that I couldn’t go down that same road.”

-Samuel Beckett, from Beckett Remembering Remembering Beckett, A Centenary Celebration (Arcade Publishing: 2006), edited by James and Elizabeth Knowlson, pg. 47.

11) “A painting is not about an experience, it is an experience.”

-Mark Rothko, from About Rothko (Da Capo: 1983), by Dore Ashton, pg. 135.

12) “One day (according to Maurice Jardot) Picasso told Michel Leiris that he felt that the work of their old friend Giacometti was becoming increasingly monotonous and repetitive. Trying to explain and excuse this, Leiris spoke of Giacometti’s consuming and intense desire ‘to find a new solution to the problem of figuration.’ Picasso answered: ‘In the first place there isn’t any solution, there never is a solution, and that’s as it should be.’”

-From About Modern Art, second edition (Yale University Press: 2001), by David Sylvester, pg. 33-34.