Twelve Art Statements #1


1. “Understanding the principles used in any period of creativity is a must before one is able to replace them (understanding empirically or intuitively).  Once any strong position is secured, solidifying with the whole becomes important.  It is with this relationship that we are able to see the total progression as well as the significance of whatever our activity is about.  Seen in this light the music we call jazz takes on a special importance.  It is in this music that the human spontaneous vibration can be attached to both the direct situation of the music and also understanding of the total context of the environment itself… not to mention the fact that the whole gamut of the music is equally beautiful as well as rewarding to play.  It is because of this that jazz from Louis Armstrong to Albert Ayler is new music… The reality hasn’t changed, only the spectacle.  Our music then outlines diversion 508 and Fats Waller covers 327.  The “diversion from” is what we put our attention on.”

-Anthony Braxton, from his album liner notes to “Donna Lee,” on Free America Records, 1972.


2. “In our form of society, audience and understanding for advanced painting have been produced, both here and abroad, first of all by the tiny circle of poets, musicians, theoreticians, men of letters, who have sensed in their own work the presence of the new creative principle.

So far, the silence of American literature on the new painting amounts to a scandal.”

-Harold Rosenberg (1952), from “de Kooning, An American Master,” by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 353.


3. “If you want to be an artist, it’s not by having original ideas, but by working your way through it… I’m not what you call an innovator… You can put something new in a painting, but Rubens is still better than most new painters.”

-Willem De Kooning (1964), from “Willem De Kooning: Paintings,” by Marla Prather (Washington: National Gallery Of Art, 1994), 127.


4. “If there is any absolute, it is never more than this one, you, this instant, in action.”

-Charles Olson (1951), from “Franz Kline: Black & White 1950-1961,” by David Anfam (Houston: Houston Fine Art Press, 1994), 9.


5. “To think of ways of disorganizing can be a form of organization, you know.”

-Franz Kline (1957), from “Franz Kline: Black & White 1950-1961,” by David Anfam (Houston: Houston Fine Art Press, 1994), 9.

6. “My work has always been in process.  Finishing a dance has left me with the idea, often slim in the beginning, for the next one.  In that way, I do not think of each dance as an object, rather a short stop on the way.”

-Merce Cunningham (1994), from “Merce Cunningham, Fifty Years,” by David Vaughan (New York: Aperture, 1997), 276.

7. “…it does remind me, for the thousandth buy cheap online time, how the past in being reconstructed by people who were not present, undergoes unwitting distortion, and each distortion, when it appears in print, spreads like the Hong Kong flu.”

-Robert Motherwell (1970), from “The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell,” edited by Stephanie Terenzio (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University Of California Press, 1992), 183.

8. “The things Picasso and I said to one another during those years will never be said again, and even if they were no one would understand them anymore.  It was like being roped together on a mountain.”

-Georges Braque, from “ Picasso, A Biography,” by Patrick O’Brian (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994), 162.


9. “Art is a crucial, dangerous operation we perform on ourselves.  Unless we take a chance, we die in art.

It becomes increasingly obvious that to these fellows, music is not an art.  It is a process of teaching teachers to teach teachers.  In this process it is only natural that the music of the teacher will be no different from that of the teacher he’s teaching.  Academic freedom seems to be the comfort of knowing one is free to be academic.

A painter who continually turned out paintings exactly like Jackson Pollock would soon be on his way to Rockland State Hospital.  In music they make him the chairman of a department…

You can’t buck the system, especially if it works.  And this system does work.  You can put it in a test tube and prove it.  You can feed it to a synthesizer and hear Foundations shake.  These men are their own audience.  They are their own fame.  Yet they have created a climate that has brought the musical activity of an entire nation down to a college level.”

-Morton Feldmen (1966), from “Give My Regards to Eighth Street, Collected Writings of Morton Feldmen, edited by B. H. Friedman (Cambridge: Exact Change, 2000), 47-48.


10. “My work, [American critics] say, is anti-art, when what they really mean is that it is anti-dogma, that it is anti-the kind of stereotyped picture they expect…”

-Barnett Newman (1957), from “Barnett Newmann,” edited by Ann Temkin (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002), 87.


11. ”Disorder is merely the order you are not looking for.”

-Henri Bergson, from the album liner notes written by Art Lange for “Morton Feldmen: String Quartet (II),” on hat[now]ART, 2001.


12. “The arts are not isolated from one another but engage in “dialogue.”  Much of the new music (composing means that are indeterminate, notations that are graphic) is a reply to modern painting and sculpture (Marcel Duchamp, painting on glass, which is not separate from its environment; the “found object”; the dropped strings).  However, each art can do what another cannot.”

-John Cage (1964), from “John Cage: An Anthology,” edited by Richard Kostelanetz (New York: Da Capo, 1970), 149-50.