Selected Highlights

2018-01-03 15:52:07

- Each movement, each “ism,” is intricately connected, one leading to another like links in a chain. But they all have their own individual approaches, distinct styles and methods of making art, which are the culmination of a wide variety of influences: artistic, political, social and technological.

- Only after an artist had settled on and developed a concept would he or she be in a position to choose a medium, and it should be the one with which the idea could most successfully be expressed. And if that meant using a porcelain urinal, so be it.

- It is weird when one of those copies is put out on display to observe people taking the thing so seriously. You see hordes of unsmiling art-worshippers craning their heads around the object, staring at it for ages, standing back, looking at it from all angles. It’s a urinal! It’s not even the original. The art is in the idea, not the object.

- An artist’s job was not to give aesthetic pleasure—designers could do that; it was to step back from the world and attempt to make sense or comment on it through the presentation of ideas that had no functional purpose other than themselves.

- Curators and artists recognize the helpful role the media plays in communicating their ideas to a skeptical, non-specialist public, but in all honesty most would rather not bother. And they would rather have rusty nails poked in their eyes than acquiesce to an exhibition title that might humiliate them in front of their peers by being remotely “populist.” As a result, they have the habit of proffering exhibition titles that are so dry and lifeless one could only assume they’d lifted them from an obscure academic paper.

- Where the Impressionists had sought to expose the truth by painting what they saw with rigorous objectivity, Van Gogh wanted to go further and expose deeper truths about the human condition. So he took a subjective approach, painting not just what he saw, but how he felt about what he saw

- we can all look at the same view, but we don’t see quite the same thing. We bring our own unique mix of prejudices, experiences, tastes and knowledge to any given situation, informing how we interpret what is before us. We’ll see the things we find interesting and ignore those that we don’t.

- For the first time, art was being produced whereby the canvas was no longer pretending to be a window—an instrument of illusion—but was being presented as an object itself. Picasso called it “pure painting,” meaning that the viewer was to judge the picture on the quality of the design (color, line and form), and not on the quality of an illusory deception.

- Tom Ford’s “look,” Bang & Olufsen products, the Factory Records’ covers, the London Underground logo, Brasilia, infinity swimming pools: they all share the same blueprint, which is the geometrical abstract art of Suprematism. Remove the clutter, simplify the shape, reduce the color palette and concentrate on the purity of form. We can’t help feeling that the spare, minimal look is a sign of intelligence, thoughtfulness, modernity and sophistication.

- ...wanted people to study Black Square. To think about the relationship and balance between the white border and the black center: to enjoy the texture of the paint, to feel the weightlessness of one color and the density of the other. He even hoped that these “tensions” within his ultra-static image might give people a sense of dynamism and movement. All this was possible in Malevich’s mind because he had “freed art from the burden of the object.” We were now free to see everything and anything we wanted.

- He was, in effect, turning the artist into a shaman. And art into a mind game in which the artist sets all the rules. Which remains the case today: abstract art puts us all at risk of looking like suckers, believing in something that isn’t there. Or, of course, blithely dismissing a revelatory work of art because we don’t have the courage to believe.

- Galleries are to artists what theaters are to playwrights and actors: they provide an environment in which the public is willing to suspend its disbelief, allowing for things to be said and done which in any other context would either be considered unacceptable or would go unheard.

- Their argument being that a traditional poem (and the exalted status of the poet) was bogus by its very nature; it was an ordered structure that made perfect sense. Life, on the other hand, was random and unpredictable.

- Nothing about it is real; its promise doesn’t exist. There is no perfume in the bottle. It won’t give you beautiful breath, even if you are taken in by the magical claims of the “veil water,” and all its religious connotations.

- “Popular (designed for a mass audience), Transient (short-term solution), Expendable (easily forgotten), Low Cost, Mass Produced, Young (aimed at youth), Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big Business.”

- This is a philosophical seam that runs throughout Pop Art—at what point does art become a commodity, and commodity become art?

- When we look at a painting—even when it is a flat monochrome abstract work—we think only of the image. We do not think about what it has been painted on, why would we; it’s not the point. But when we put on a shirt in the morning, or dry ourselves with a towel, we think of the material and whatever is printed on it as one integrated property. And it was that notion of “oneness” or “wholeness” that Judd was after to unify his art as a single, all-encompassing object. He found his answer in sculpture. Untitled (1972) (see Plate 27) is an open, polished copper box, measuring just under a meter in height and a little over a meter and a half in width. Judd has painted the inner base with his favorite cadmium red enamel. And, er... that’s it. Untitled symbolizes nothing and suggests nothing. It is a copper box with a red inner base. But then it is a work of art. So what’s its purpose? The answer is to simply be seen, enjoyed and judged purely on its aesthetic and material terms: how it looks and the way it makes you feel. There’s no requirement to “interpret” the work—there is no hidden meaning to look for. Which, to my mind, makes it rather liberating. For once there are no tricks or specialist knowledge required, just a decision to be made: do you like it or not? I like it.

- simply be seen, enjoyed and judged purely on its aesthetic and material terms: how it looks and the way it makes you feel. There’s no requirement to “interpret” the work—there is no hidden meaning to look for.

- Modernism had straight edges; Postmodernism had no edges. Modernism rejected tradition; Postmodernism didn’t reject anything. Modernism was linear and systematic; Postmodernism was all over the place. The Modernists believed in the future; the Postmodernists didn’t believe in much at all, they preferred to question. The Modernists were serious and adventurous; the Postmodernists were the masters of playful experimentation: artful irreverence and detached cynicism. Or, as Moe said in one episode of The Simpsons, Po-Mo is being “weird for the sake of weird.” Maybe. But that didn’t mean the Postmodernists were a toothless bunch, devoid of opinion or political conviction. It was more a shared distrust of anyone proposing absolute truths and easy solutions. And that set them off in the same direction that the Pop Artists had taken a quarter of a century before: to the world of advertising and commerce, upon which the Postmodernists would cast their ironic gaze.

- But the significance of the auction and the financial collapse taking place at the same time is incontestable. It inadvertently marked the end of an era for capitalism, and—for the sake of my thesis—the end of an era in modern art. It represented the culmination of a twenty-year period in which the prevailing attitude among artists, curators and dealers was one of energetic enthusiasm, youthful optimism and a culture of enterprise.





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