First Cooper wifi poem is live!
In the future cardboard signs will look like wifi signals. Submit your poems/thoughts/ASCII artworks and they will hang ambiently around the president of Cooper’s locked wifi network for a day.
Paul Cezanne “Still Life with a Ginger Jar and Eggplants” 1890-4
Allison Katz “Poires Noires” (2009)
Allison Katz “Black Pears” (2009)
Dana Schutz “Reclining Nude” (2002)
Brooke Moyse, “Green Triangles,”2010, oil on canvas, 20 x 16.”
Charline Von Heyl Untitled (3/00), III, 2000
mrkiki: Josephine Halvorson. Pink Stripe, 2010. Oil on linen. 23 x 18 inches. 58.4 x 45.7 cm
Paintings, like poetry or music, are essential nutrients that help people sustain healthy lives. They’re not recreational pleasures or sidelines. They are tools that help us grasp the diversity of the world and its history, and explore the emotional capacities with which we navigate that world. They illuminate, they humble, they nurture, they inspire. They teach us to use our eyes and to know ourselves by knowing others. If New York’s legions of irresistible paintings could sing, these hills would be magnificently alive with the sound of their music.
Paintings, like poetry or music, are essential nutrients that help people sustain healthy lives. They’re not recreational pleasures or sidelines. They are tools that help us grasp the diversity of the world and its history, and explore the emotional capacities with which we navigate that world. They illuminate, they humble, they nurture, they inspire. They teach us to use our eyes and to know ourselves by knowing others.
If New York’s legions of irresistible paintings could sing, these hills would be magnificently alive with the sound of their music.
— Roberta Smith, “Landscape and Still Lifes of New Territories,” New York Times December 30, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/arts/design/31smith.html?ref=design
I have always felt a deeply humanistic undertone in your work, despite its use of irony and obliqueness. But I am hard pressed to account for why I feel it and sometimes think it’s because I have known you for a long time. Where do you think it resides?
Is a Conceptual artist different from any other kind of artist?
A lot of ink has been spilled about art as the new religion, with the museum as its church. Do you agree with that view? Do you crave a spiritual dimension to art, or are you a pure materialist? Conceptualism is closest to: a) rationalism, b) romanticism, or c) symbolism? Where do you place yourself on that scale? (Hint: Romanticism insists on the primacy of the individual.)
Here’s a fan question: How did you come up with the idea of singing LeWitt? I understand the desire to tweak the seriousness of Conceptual art, but how did you arrive at the idea of the singing? And did you rehearse?
What’s the one thing an artist must never do? And, apart from questions like these, what is your definition of a bad art idea?
Harold Brodkey once said that people don’t like to be outshone—they’ll kill you if it bothers them enough. How have you managed to avoid this in your work?
What is it that you most persistently and coherently think about in your work? What place do aesthetic effects have in your work? What’s the most tenacious misconception about your work?
How important is intention in art? What did you do that was new?
Do you agree that you brought a new poetics to art? If so, how would you describe it? (Hints: the metonym, or synecdoche effect; the part for the whole, the fragment.)
In what way is your work American—does it have any strains of puritanism, transcendentalism, evangelism? Do you have any sense of nationalism in art?
Bruce Nauman once told me that the most useful piece of advice he ever got was from Bob Irwin. Irwin told him to always slip the head carpenter a $20 bill when showing in group shows—to insure that his piece would get built in time. Did you get any useful advice from an older artist?
You have always been a very responsible guy—an immensely productive artist, generous teacher, devoted father, art-world citizen. Does it ever make you a little wistful not to have been more of a screwup?
George Trow once wrote that every language has a secret moral history. Do you think it is also true for visual languages, and, if so, what is the moral history of the visual language you have done so much to bring into common usage?
Who is smarter: a painter of average intelligence or a really smart dog?
You have courted obscurity in your work from the beginning—especially in the seventies—and you have also made works of striking literalness. What is the relationship between the two?
Do you feel you have left obscurity behind? If so, is that one of the benefits of working over a long time?
Are you nostalgic about anything? Do you ever feel like Dr. Frankenstein, having had such a role in creating the monster of “conceptual art” that has so taken hold of art education and academia?
What do you feel when you hear an art adviser say, “I’m interested in work with a strong conceptual bias”? This is an overheard conversation, verbatim.
Andre Gide famously said he did not want to be understood too quickly. Care to associate to that? What quality in your work do you wish you had more of? Less of? George Trow again: “The writer has to have a machine gun in his heart.” Any thoughts?
Why do you think people insist on adding the word practice after the word art?
This question has been sent from the beyond by André Breton, the leader of the Surrealist movement: “Could you ever make love to a woman who does not speak French?”
And the follow-up: How would you explain the continued, pervasive influence of Surrealism even as the legacy of Freud himself seems to be fading?
Psychoanalytically speaking, what are you trying to recover or replace in your work?
Apollinaire wrote, “When a man wanted to imitate walking, he invented the wheel which does not look like the leg. Without knowing it, he was a Surrealist.” I’m not sure why, but this kind of reminded me of your work.
If you were a songwriter/lyricist, would you consider it a crime to sacrifice meaning to rhyme?
Do you still claim to not know what art is? What if your family was being held captive, and you had to come up with a convincing definition to gain their release? Edmund Wilson wrote that Flaubert had more in common with Dante than with Balzac—someone who was his contemporary and who was using the same form, the social novel. Who is an artist you think you have something in common with who may not be the obvious one? Who would you like to be shown next to?
What are the sweetest four words in the English language? (Hint: better late than never.)
What is the difference between wit and humor?
Apart from yourself, name two or three funny artists.
You once said something to me about a fellow student’s self-loathing as the engine of their art—an idea that surprised me at the time. Is that something that you think about often?
What if anything did you learn from Ileanna Sonnabend?
If a law were passed that artists were only allowed to work in pairs or groups of three—that is, if art could continue but the individual artist was outlawed—with whom would you want to form a team?
What, if anything, makes a work safe from “rust and larvae”? (Hint: not its social importance but its art, and only art, says Nabokov.) If continuing to make art meant that someone you didn’t know would be physically hurt, would you stop? Or would you just find a way to make something that didn’t look like art? What do you think you represent to the people who admire your work?
Do cultures go through fallow and fertile periods?
When you find your inspiration flagging, are there things you do to revive it?
Have you shown a feminine side in your work?
How would you describe Duchamp’s genius, and why do you think you found it so congenial?
Do you believe in the idea of a masterpiece, and what qualities must a work have to qualify as one?
What aspect of your personality has created the most problems for you in life, or in art? Do you think of yourself as brave? And if so, in what way?
Do you think it’s possible for art to lie—and remain art?
Sanford Schwartz described the persona in Philip Guston’s work as “Am I a genius, am I a fraud, I’m dying.” Where is the angst in your work?
How would you describe your work to an ET who had just come to Earth from another planet, one where they don’t make art?
Which is better for an artist: to be loved or feared?
Maybe it is time for a new, less militant metaphor. One possibility is a perpetually expanding umbrella, where everything — a historical moment, a museum’s reach and our consciousness — only increases.
— Roberta Smith “With a Jury of Their Peers.” On the new show, ‘Abstract Expressionist New York’ at MoMa. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/arts/design/01abex.html?_r=1&ref=design
Since, of the charm, the grace, the forms of nature, the public knows only what it has absorbed from the cliches of an art slowly assimilated, and since an original artist begins by rejecting these cliches, M. and Mme. Cottard, being in this sense typical of the public, found neither in Vinteuil’s sonata, nor in the painter’s portraits, what for them created the harmony of music and the beauty of painting. It seemed to them when the pianist played the sonata that he was randomly attaching to the piano notes that were not in fact connected to the forms they were used to, and that the painter was randomly hurling colors onto his canvases. When they were able to recognize a form in these canvases, they found it heavy and vulgarized (that is, lacking the elegance of the school of painting through which they viewed all living creatures, even in the street), and lacking truth, as if Monsieur Biche did not know how a shoulder was constructed or that women do not have lavendar hair.
— Marcel Proust Swann’s Way in In Search of Lost Time (Penguin’s Lydia Davis translation.)
Swann had always had this peculiar penchant for amusing himself by rediscovering in the paintings of the masters not only the general characteristics of the real world that surrounds us, but what seems on the contrary the least susceptible to generalization.
— Marcel Proust from Swann’s Way in In Search of Lost Time
by Sol Lewitt
- Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
- Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
- Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
- Formal art is essentially rational.
- Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
- If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.
- The artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His wilfulness may only be ego.
- When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.
- The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.
- Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
- Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
- For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
- A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.
- The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.
- Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.
- If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.
- All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.
- One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.
- The conventions of art are altered by works of art.
- Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
- Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
- The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
- The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
- Perception is subjective.
- The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
- An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.
- The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
- Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist’s mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.
- The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
- There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.
- If an artist uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the artist’s concept involved the material.
- Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
- It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
- When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.
- These sentences comment on art, but are not art.
First published in 0-9 (New York), 1969, and Art-Language (England), May 1969