Marilyn Minter

I was intrigued by Mike Kelley’s work. I saw his show of stuffed animal sculptures and stuffed animal paintings. He would decoupage bureau drawers with eyes and mouths. I thought, “Wow! If a woman artist made this work, nobody would pay any attention to it.” It was really mining a teenage or adolescent girl’s bedroom. And he was this California intellectual—it was just so brilliant. But a woman artist wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole because they would lose credibility.

— Marilyn Minter interviewed by Lilly Slezak, March 29, 2011, ART IN AMERICA

Cecily Brown

I love the room of medieval sculpture as a total environment. The atmosphere feels completely outside of time. Not that it feels old-fashioned, but it’s a world unto itself.

When I make a painting, I’ve always liked the fact that I know what my limitations are. I mean, there’s something very reassuring but also exciting about knowing you’ve got your rectangle, and it’s flat and it’s got these edges, and then within that, that’s where you can be inventive. And one does get the feeling that these Madonna and Child sculptures were probably commissioned for specific places. So that yes, they’re all the same subject, but there is such a range within that.

There’s a playfulness and an invention and imagination to them, whether Christ is playing with a little bird, or stroking her cheek, or chucking her chin. And you’ve got to deal with the Christ Child’s feet: in some they’ll be covered by the drapery, in another there’ll be these little toes peeping out. There’s no definitive Madonna and Child. It’s always the Madonna, but you can’t quite pin her down to just one reading. And part of this dreamy feeling of the room, I think, is the feeling that each Madonna has the others inside it. And they carry this whole range of emotions. They’ve really got personality. Some of them seem surprisingly coquettish, almost sassy. You feel this strong, interesting, complex woman giving this provocative gaze. And I’m very conscious of them being very sensual, of the body beneath the drapery, almost in a taboo way. So the child is the only thing keeping her chaste. The artist must have been trying to tread a fine line between showing feminine beauty without making her overly sexual.

They have this playfulness, but at the same time this great gravity and seriousness, and I think probably age has enhanced that. I almost always prefer the ones that are a little more beaten up. The traces of paint add this poignancy. I think it’s a contemporary sensibility that prefers the broken and the fragmented. They’ve got this in-built sweetness and sadness, this sense of loss. They embody flux, a sense of time having passed, and that makes you feel how fast and slow it all is.

— Cecily Brown, video interview for Season 6 of THE ARTIST PROJECT, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jeff Koons

[Versailles is] very much a place for show—and my works want to show themselves. They’re extroverted. The spaces and the major salons at Versailles are about public interactions. But there are surprising, wonderful parts. Whenever the king or queen would move, their environment would change with them. So if the king walked through the gardens, all the fountains would start to flow as he entered. And then, as he left an area, the fountains would be turned off—and they’d be turned on in the area toward which he was proceeding. Or the same could happen with all the plants and all the flowers. He could go to bed one night when every flower in his garden outside the palace might be red—and wake up in the morning to find that during the night hundreds of gardeners had changed every plant to blue.

Choosing the different objects to be shown at Versailles, I just opened myself up and listened to the works that I created. What wanted to present itself in certain salons, or out in the gardens? What would be appropriate? Today you can use computers and various technologies so that you can know exactly what an exhibition’s going to look like. So, even before anything was hung or placed, I knew exactly how it was going to react in its environment. And I spent about five weeks, at different times, just being in the gardens and going through the palace.

I even had to almost position myself in a certain way, just as any artist at court would have had to present himself. And the way I did that was that I showed my self-portrait bust. I put the bust on top of a plinth, a base that was designed by Bernini. It was probably about eleven feet up in the air. And when I made the suggestion, some of the assistants at Versailles started to giggle, probably thinking, “How can he do that?” How could I put myself in a position like that on a Bernini base? But I realized that it was kind of necessary. It was across from the portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud. If I hadn’t put myself on a base like that, I wouldn’t have been accepted. I had Louis XIV on one side and Louis XVI on the other. It was kind of like being in a sandwich, and so I had to put my portrait on a monumental level also.

— Jeff Koons interviewed by Susan Sollins, 2009, ART21

John Cage

Well the first time I saw [Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés], he had made an experiment of taking it from 14th Street where he made it. Do you know the story of his two studios? He had two studios. One was the one he was working in and the other was the one where he had stopped working. So that if anyone came to visit him they went into the studio where he wasn’t working, and there everything was covered with dust. So, the idea was spread around that he was no longer working. And you had proof of it!—dust collected where he worked. (laughs) After he died, Teeny took me to 11th Street, where I now go to get my chiropractic treatment and my acupuncture—the same building. He rented a space to put up Étant donnés. In other words he was taking it down and putting it up in order that when he died someone else would be able to do that too, and he made a book which is called Approximation démontable. And that turns it, as far as I’m concerned, since it’s a prescription for action, turns it into a piece of music. Because in music all we do is give directions for the production of sound; and if you follow the directions of how to take Étant donnés apart and put it back together, you will of course produce sounds, and they will be music, hmm? How can they not be?

— John Cage in conversation with Joan Retallack, October 22, 1991, MUSICAGE: Cage Muses on Words, Art Music, reprinted in DANCING AROUND THE BRIDE: CAGE, CUNNINGHAM, JOHNS, RAUSCHENBERG, AND DUCHAMP

Walter de Maria

I have been thinking about an art yard I would like to build. It would be sort of a big hole in the ground. Actually it wouldn’t be a hole to begin with. That would have to be dug. The digging of the hole would be part of the art. Luxurious stands would be made for the art lovers and spectators to sit in.

They would come to the making of the yard dressed in tuxedos and clothes which would make them aware of the significance of the event they would see. Then in front of the stand of people a wonderful parade of steamshovels and bulldozers will pass. Pretty soon the steamshovels would start to dig. And small explosions would go off. What wonderful art will be produced. Inexperienced people like La Monte Young will run the steamshovels. From here on out what goes on can’t easily be said. (It is hard to explain art.) As the yard gets deeper and its significance grows, people will run into the yard, grab shovels, do their part, dodge explosions. This might be considered the first meaningful dance. People will yell “Get that bulldozer away from my child.” Bulldozers will be making wonderful pushes of dirt all around the yard. Sounds, words, music, poetry. (Am I too specific? Optimistic?) …

— Walter de Maria, “Art Yard,” An Anthology of Chance Operations, 1963; excerpted in SIX YEARS: THE DEMATERIALIZATION OF THE ART OBJECT FROM 1966 TO 1972

Marcel Dzama

MoMA did a Dada exhibition a couple of years ago that I really loved. I ended up visiting it whenever I was in Midtown, even just to stop in to watch the films. I identified more with that work than anything I’d seen in a long time, so I realized I needed to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the Duchamp room. That’s when I first saw the Étant donnés piece. It was incredible to see it in person after looking at it in books for so many years. I was there for three days and went every day to see it again and again.

— Marcel Dzama, February 29, 2008, ARTISTS II

Bobby G

On the evening of Jack Smith’s performance as Sinbad Glick in Exotic Landlordism of the World, the house was packed. Jack, his cast, and considerable entourage were upstairs readying themselves for the show. It began with the most exotic music piped down from upstairs: antique Persian love songs, North African dance music, Hollywood B-movie music and other obscure entrancements from the unique collection of Jack Smith. This went on for hours. No one took the stage. The audience became a party, but hardly the party that must have been going on upstairs. Anticipation charged the mood.

Finally, the players in elaborate flowing costume descended to the stage. Jack Smith’s landlordism that night was devious, erotic and perplexing. The next morning I went up to the second floor “dressing room” and found artworks had been altered. Things were missing. Nail Polish and Drugs had [an] emptied out gel cap with the colorful time-release particles suspended in epoxy and a dozen tablets from a prescription bottle found in an empty lot. The tablets were some kind of dog medicine that even the drug addicts who frequented this particular lot had discarded. However, during Jack Smith’s goings-on, up on the second floor, six of the tablets had been picked off—sacrificed to the ur-reality of the night.


Constance DeJong

I started to perform it before it was finished. I’m not sure I told The Kitchen that. But I knew I was going to finish it. So anyway, that double bill you mentioned, which was the first time The Kitchen had a literature event, I performed the first three volumes. At that time, and still now, there’s this thing called readings, right? And if you are a writer you give readings. And some of you may have already visited the website and read this, so I’m repeating, but to get ready for my first reading, which The Kitchen had agreed to, I sat in my kitchen rehearsing the text, rehearsing the text. And I noticed at some point I wasn’t looking at the pages any longer. And it was sort of, “Aha.” […] And I imagined that for you and for me, we were in real time and this narrative was constructing itself in the moment. It wasn’t something I’d finished and it was on paper and I’m reading you the past, if that makes sense.

So I had an affinity for language as time-based. I started performing. I made a quick step into being interested in speaking text into sound, into audio. And I set about finishing the book. And when it was finished, producing a one-hour radio version of it, with Foley, four speakers. I asked Philip Glass, he wrote various thematic music—could you hear that? That’s one of the themes, it’s called The Modern Love Waltz. It’s Philip playing on a Farfisa—it’s a keyboard—a number of times, and then we built it up.

So I do the radio audio work, I have an hour of material, and it’s a work, and I have a book. I disassemble both of them, or adapt from both of them, to make a continuous narrative that I can perform. So in performance now, it’s intruded on by them. It can be intruded on by prerecorded material, another voice, and I talk to that voice, or some musical material, or some things like that.

P.S., Matthew said here, at The Kitchen. The Kitchen was on Broome Street. Do you all know this? You know, in an old loft building, like artist-rented SoHo, on Broome Street. Can you imagine? The street toward West Broadway, the block toward West Broadway. Truck central, and one of the noisiest streets in Manhattan, with these giant windows. But it had its charm.

— Constance DeJong recalling her 1976 performance of Modern Love, April 4, 2017, THE KITCHEN 

Mike Iveson

They made me smoke a cigarette in a gopher mask. They made me play the slut in Sartre’s play No Exit, and I had to wear the same skirt and vinyl boots they were wearing. They made me do a duet with Pooky, a.k.a. Richard Move, where I wore a mask beneath another mask. Pooky and I were both very close to the edge of the stage, moving rapidly and close to each other, flailing to the music—”The Twilight Zone,” by the Manhattan Transfer, a delicate cocktail of four-part harmony, sci-fi, and disco that is so beautiful and wrong it should be farmed off to North Korea—and every single night the mask beneath the mask would shift around on my head while I was dancing, and its eyeholes would move to somewhere around my chin, and I couldn’t see at all.


David Brooks

This project, satirically titled Preserved Forest, entailed the indoor construction of an earthen hill upon which were planted numerous nursery-grown trees to approximate a forest cross section of the Amazon. Once the forest was assembled, twelve cubic yards (twenty-five tons) of cement was dumped over the trees, entombing the entire indoor forest in concrete. As forests are razed and roads are paved, the industrialized world’s appetite for a surplus of commodities only escalates. Preserved Forest is an absurdist portrait of the futile act of preservation that competes with today’s uncompromising global market—encapsulating our disregard for the dwindling wildernesses. The environmental crisis we collectively face today can also be read as an existential crisis, where the long-standing division of nature and culture collapses in on itself. As this project is an action, not a representation, the urgency of time is indelibly visible on the sculpture’s surface.

— David Brooks, ARTISTS II

Zoe Leonard

I took pictures in the natural history museum in Venice. There were rooms stacked with animal heads. There were no labels or information—just the walls covered, floor to ceiling, with trophies—mounted heads and animal pelts and stuffed animals on the floor. It was creepy and disgusting. It says so much about the people who assembled this collection. This is not a display about natural history. It’s about hunters and collectors. About a need to own and control. And so, by implication, it is about us. Later, I started photographing in medical history museums. I first saw a picture of the anatomical wax model of a woman with pearls in a guidebook on Vienna. She struck a chord in me. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She seemed to contain all I wanted to say at that moment, about feeling gutted, displayed. Caught as an object of desire and horror at the same time. She also seemed relevant to me in terms of medical history, a gaping example of sexism in medicine. The perversity of those pearls, that long blond hair. I went on with this work even though it is gory and depressing because the images seem to reveal so much. I was shocked when I came across the bearded woman’s head. I couldn’t believe that here was this woman’s head, stuffed and mounted, in a jar. The bell jar was just sitting on a file cabinet in a corner of the room, in an obscure museum in Paris, a place completely closed to the general public (it is part of the School of Medicine at the University of Paris). Her head was placed in the jar to be looked at. But it’s not just her head that I see. I see the bell jar, the specimen identification card, the carved wooden pedestal. I see a set of implied circumstances. Who was in charge? Who put this woman’s head in a jar and called it science? I am moved by her, anxious to know more about her life, the quality of her life. But, these pictures don’t tell us all that much about her. You cannot see her or know her by seeing only her severed head. These pictures are about our culture, about an institutional obsession with difference. Those anatomical models were made in the seventeenth century, and that woman was put under the bell jar in the late nineteenth century, but I see these images as contemporary, because the system which put her head in a bell jar is still in place. The world just hasn’t changed that much.

— Zoe Leonard interviewed by Laura Cottingham, JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY ART

Marina Rosenfeld and Tristan Shepherd

TS: […] Doesn’t this sort of echo the work you did when you produced P.A. at the Park Avenue Armory? The distribution of sounds in that work happened more through a mechanical dispersal–by means of loudspeakers–than through choreographed bodies. But there was a gorgeous way that voices and textures seemed to emerge out of the corners of the architecture, and it was startling when I realized what the sources of these sounds were–art fairs and military drills that you had succeeded in recording.

MR: Yeah, I don’t know how one could miss the interpenetration of art sites, commerce, and the support structures of our quasi-police state, especially since 9/11. In 2002, I did a work for the reopening of the Winter Garden, which had been demolished when the towers came down. There have been so many moments when I’ve realized the politics of the sites I’ve been invited to occupy are right there, unmistakable. The Park Avenue Armory, which has been an incredible supporter of my work, actually has a rule where, in the event of a state of emergency, the government can immediately commandeer it and use it for what it actually is: a drill hall, a staging site for police, soldiers, the national guard, or whomever. It’s also probably the most extraordinary acoustic space in New York.

— Marina Rosenfeld and Tristan Shepherd, Fall 2016, BOMB

Mel Bochner

“Primary Structures” is a misnomer for an important exhibition at the Jewish Museum (29 April – 12 June). A qualifying addition to the title is “Sculpture by Younger British and American Sculptors.” This subtitle reveals most strikingly the extent of misunderstanding about the new art. The best work in this exhibition is not sculpture. In this exhibition the best work is by Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Don Judd, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson.

[…] The work of the six artists named above demands a new critical vocabulary. The common criticism of their art is in a language without pertinence. Its only accomplishment is to separate the viewer from the object of his sight. Such words as form, content, tradition, classic, romantic, expressive, experiment, psychology, analogy, depth, purity, feeling, space, avant-garde, lyric, individual, composition, life and death, sexuality, biomorphic, biographic—the entire language of botany in art—can now be regarded as suspect. These words are not tools for probing out aspects of a system of moralistic restriction. The anchor of this system is dread. The result of this system is the condemnation of the most intense art of the present as “cool,” “minimal,” “reduced.”

When Robert Smithson writes about his piece The Crysophere for the catalog, he lists the number of elements, their modular sequence, and the chemical composition of his spray-paint can. He strips away the romance about making a work of art. “Art mystics” find this particularly offensive. Carl Andre’s Lever is a 30-foot (915 cm) row of firebricks laid side to side on the floor. He ordered them and placed them. He demythologizes the artist’s function. Don Judd’s two Untitled (1966) 40 x 190 x 40 inch (102 x 483 x 102 cm) galvanized iron and aluminum pieces are exactly alike. One hangs on the wall. The aluminum bar across the top front edge is not sprayed. The second piece sits on the floor directly in front of the first. The aluminum bar across the top front edge is sprayed blue. Their only enigma is their existence.

— Mel Bochner, “Primary Structures,” Arts Magazine, June 1966, reproduced in BIENNIALS AND BEYOND – EXHIBITIONS THAT MADE ART HISTORY, 1962-2002

Kerry James Marshall

…A lot of it started to circulate around the idea of post-Blackness out of the Freestyle show that Thelma Golden curated at the Studio Museum in Harlem. When you read the reviews of those shows, you have writers like Peter Schjeldahl saying “Yeah, yeah, this post-Black thing is hip because man, we are tired of all this race and identity politics and culture, we don’t want no more of that stuff. Let’s just get on with the business of making art.” And then other echoes of it in other articles, in the New York Times and places like that. So I pick up on those kinds of things.

So part of the reason I started making these Rococo paintings, or paintings that use Rococo as a point of departure, and use the cartoon balloons and the love themes and things like that is that well, if the culture–in a sense the mainstream, because the code, the way they speak about it is, “the mainstream is tired of hearing about all these other issues”–well, if the mainstream is tired of hearing about all these issues, then what’s left for people of color, or people who have a problem with the mainstream ideology or philosophy? What’s left for people like that to do? Well the only thing that’s left really is to make pictures about love. And so in response to that I started to do these vignette paintings, which are in black and white partly because there’s a refusal there–to deliver on all of the notes that Rococo painting and all of the sentimental representations–to refuse to deliver on all of the notes that that’s supposed to deliver on. And to give you the one point of color, the most frivolous part of the whole thing as a kind of a balloon, a bubble that can be burst really easy, and that’s the hearts that sort of float up from it. Because if you look at the relationship between the couples, in their character there’s some bit of apprehension in the relationship, especially on the part of the female figure in the works. And so there’s that kind of ambivalence about their true relationship, but it’s couched in this form that when people read it they immediately start thinking about notions of pleasure.

— Kerry James Marshall, live interview at Threewalls, October 24, 2006, episode #61, edited and re-broadcast February 28, 2017, episode #577, BAD AT SPORTS

Ann Messner and Rebecca Howland

AM: Beginning with when the work was installed there was vandalism where it could have occurred. The sculpture was put to a test. It is a rough area. The work wasn’t guarded. The sculpture that wasn’t strong enough or was easily accessible was taken or destroyed. That was pretty much all during the first week. The way the show is now is pretty much the way it was then. Any vandalism that did occur happened fast. Except for the graffiti which is continuous. Christy Rupp’s sculpture, which was a collection of papier-mâché monkeys, was not placed completely out of reach. People went out of their way to take them home. They’re collectible.

RH: She liked that very much, actually, that people had to act like monkeys to get the monkeys. Several people I know saw them on Clinton Street which is adjacent to the bridge and a concentrated drug and hot goods market. The people were very proud of their new monkeys.

— Ann Messner and Rebecca Howland, interview with Jenny Dixon about the Williamsburg Bridge Show, WNYC, June 6, 1983, ABC NO RIO DINERO: THE STORY OF A LOWER EAST SIDE ART GALLERY

Jane Dickson

Organizers of each area in the Times Square Show tried to broker peace, but installation was an anarchic Darwinian process. Some artists’ pieces were replaced or overshadowed by other artists’ work. Sometimes the first artist reasserted their place, sometimes not. Unknown SVA students Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring showed up and added art work wherever they felt like it, as did graffiti masters Lee and Fab 5 Freddy. There was no final curator/arbiter to settle these disputes. It was creative arm-to-arm combat and the most assertive won.

For example Jody Culkin and I took responsibility for organizing the stairwells. As we were installing, a then-unknown David Hammons appeared. He’d heard from Joe Lewis that there was an art free-for-all brewing, and came to check it out. After introducing himself he headed back out into Times Square, returning quickly with a bag full of Night Train bottles, which he’d collected on the block. David then crushed the bottles and sprinkled shards of green glass down the whole staircase. When we objected to the glass carpet he’d just laid for us to work in, David swept the broken glass to one side of each step, giving us a little shrug and a smile as if to say “Deal with it, kids,” and left. His piece stayed among works on the stairs by Kiki Smith, Mike Glier, Fab 5 Freddy, Mike Bidlo, John Ahearn and others, some invited and some volunteers.


David Tremlett

There’s a piece at the Tate that was made of cassettes. On each of them is the sound of one county in England. But all you hear is the water or the wind or the rain. That’s it. Sometimes you hear the sound of a bird. In essence, it’s something with no mechanical sounds, ‘it was a silent sound landscape.’ […] Then there was a piece where I worked with a tap dancer. She tap danced and I made recordings. Charles Harrison from Studio International and Art & Language took an exhibition to New York of some artists [The British Avant-Garde, 1971]. It was an important exhibition for the time. I showed musical paper and drew some ideas on it. I recorded Karen Bernard tap dancing. These recordings I still have. She’d dance, let’s say, for one minute. This was then put on a loop. Some of the exhibitions that were made were just this noise of Karen’s dancing coming from one corner of the room. Maybe in another corner, there’d be another sound of tap dancing. So there was a room with the history of a person dancing. It was somewhere between music, writing, sound and installation.

— David Tremlett, “Conversation with David Tremlett,” by Sophie Richard, February 23, 2005, UNCONCEALED, THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF CONCEPTUAL ARTISTS 1967-77: DEALERS, EXHIBITIONS AND PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Eleanor Antin

I remember the time I stopped an artwork and for me, that’s one of the 8 deadly sins, censoring an artwork. I had asked the students to make a criminal artwork, to do a crime, as it were, but not to hurt themselves or anybody else. One kid brought in a thriving rubber plant and as we watched, proceeded to carefully paint each of its full leaves with black paint. It was shocking. It was also one of the strongest works in the class. We were witnessing what you might call a little murder. He was killing the plant, making it powerless to breathe. It was wrenching to watch, and after a couple of leaves were painted over, I stopped him. I congratulated him on an especially powerful and elegant art work but I couldn’t allow it to go on. We discussed why and what each of our actions, his and mine, meant.

— Eleanor Antin, interviewed by Joe Fusaro, ART21

Shimamoto Shozo

I would like to tell you about how some grown-up painters I know have fun. In October of this year, these painters had an exhibition at the Ohara Kaikan in Tokyo. One of them, Murakami [Saburo]̄, thought this up: he blocked the entrance to the exhibition with a huge sheet of paper so that nobody could enter. Then he ran toward it from twenty meters or so away, broke it, and went through. When I heard about it, I thought, “It is really amazing to break through a crisp sheet of paper in an instant—an act that would blow away the blues!” . . .

I know of many more mischievous acts like this. While reading, some of you must have thought, “That sounds pretty good, but I can come up with even better mischief!” If you have any ideas, I suggest you act on them.

— Shimamoto Shozo, “Let’s Make Mischief!” originally published as “Itazura o Shiasho,” Kirin, February 1956, via GUTAI: SPLENDID PLAYGROUND

Marcel Duchamp

This is a ready-made dating back from 1916. It is a ball of twine between two plaques of copper, brass. Before I finished it Arensberg put something inside of the ball of twine, and never told me what it was, and I didn’t want to know. It was a sort of secret between us, and it makes a noise, so we called this a ready-made with a hidden noise. Listen to it. I don’t know; I will never know whether it is a diamond or a coin.

— Marcel Duchamp, “A Conversation with Marcel Duchamp,” television interview conducted by James Johnson Sweeney, NBC, January 1956 (filmed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art), via THE WRITINGS OF MARCEL DUCHAMP

Lee Krasner

I became a member of the American Abstract Artists, a group that was formed for the sole purpose of exhibiting, although we did meet to have discussions on art as well. One winter during the period that I was a member, Mondrian and Léger were invited to participate in our exhibitions and they accepted. Mondrian asked me to accompany him to one of these exhibitions in which each artist was represented by three or four paintings. We started to go around the gallery and I had to identify the work of each artist for him and he made a short comment as we moved from one to another. When we got to the Léger, he walked by with no comment. Pretty soon my paintings were coming up and I was getting plenty nervous. Then there we were and I had to say, “These are mine.” His comment was, “You have a very strong inner rhythm. You must never lose it.” Then we moved on. Mondrian had said something quite beautiful to me. Hofmann was also excited and enthusiastic about what I was doing at this time but his comment was, “This is so good that you would not know it was done by a woman.”

— Lee Krasner, ART TALK, by Cindy Nemser

Tony Shafrazi

I went uptown, saw Leo [Castelli], the Jasper Johns show. There are four paintings in that room. I walk into the room, I have a spray can in the pocket of my leather jacket. I look at those paintings. Right away, I have thoughts in my head, and I say: “Truth, Honor, Power, Glory.” These are the words that come to my mind. Leo comes out and I say: “Leo, I’m here,” and of course he knows the Guernica story, and I say: “Leo, I’m here, I see these wonderful paintings of Jasper, and I have in mind to write four words, one on each painting.” He says: “Tony, that’s very interesting, but really? Well, I would like to talk to you further about that. Let me just finish what I’m doing, and I’ll go downtown with you, because I want to give you complete attention, so we can talk together.” I said: “Leo, but I want to write these words.” “Yes, just give me a few minutes to finish what I am doing now.” He turns around, goes into his office, and leaves me alone in the gallery. I am in the middle of the room; he is gone maybe for five minutes, four and a half, five minutes at least. And I wait, and I don’t do anything.

— Tony Shafrazi, LEO AND HIS CIRCLE, by Annie Cohen-Solal

John Currin

I went to the Met one day in 1997, and I was looking at that painting by Velázquez, of the little girl with the butterfly things in her hair. I thought, That’s an odd color on the forehead, and I realized there was an underpainting, with a vermillion glaze over it. You could see the two layers, and it was magical. The skin color was not like paint, not an exact color, but a combination of layers that formed in your eye.

[…] I was looking for underpainting in every picture in the Uffizi, but it was in Venice that I really saw it. The Accademia puts paintings out on easels, under natural light, and you can get right up close to them and see how some parts were glazed and other parts were not.

— John Currin, LIVES OF THE ARTISTS, by Calvin Tomkins

Sanford Biggers

“Sweet Funk” was a thematic introspective featuring Blossom, a piano growing out of a tree. Another piano piece, Kalimba, consists of an upright piano cut in half and rotated, with a tall wall between the pieces. Both halves still can play, so two people can sit down, play a duet, and walk away without having seen each other. […T]he idea is to communicate with a stranger strictly through music and vibrations between a wall. It can be an anonymous duet. “Sweet Funk” also included Passage, a found concrete bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. Its shoulder span is about four and a half feet, and the height is around three feet. I discovered it in a junkyard in Virginia. Using black hair pomade, I made a mohawk on King’s head that goes down his forehead and down his lips. A spotlight on the bust casts a shadow of Barack Obama on an adjacent wall.

— Sanford Biggers, October 2012 interview with Jan Garden Castro, SCULPTURE

Tino Sehgal

It happens at a table–it’s a work for a couple, and they’ve invited some friends over for dinner. The first course starts, and one of the partners stands up and leaves the table. Then, forty-five seconds later, the other person of the couple also leaves the table… The hosts stay away four or five minutes, and then they come back and they sit down at each other’s place. They eat the other’s food. So then, if the guests ask what’s up, they say, “This is a work by Tino Sehgal entitled ‘Those Thoughts.'” The work is actually the thoughts, and the prejudices, of the guests. And I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard about it.

— Tino Sehgal, August 2012 profile by Lauren Collins, THE NEW YORKER

Richard Serra

What they do… is they center you. And when you walk inside, you almost can touch their volume. They compress the space, even though they’re quite large. They make the space almost palpable.

— Richard Serra, in conversation with CHARLIE ROSE, 2007

An Open Letter

The undersigned group of artists have noted that the Guggenheim Museum is in the process of carrying out the construction of a new building which has been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The drawing and description of its plan that have appeared in the New York papers and other publications make it clear that the interior design of the building is not suitable for a sympathetic display of painting and sculpture. The basic concept of curvilinear slope for presentation of painting and sculpture indicates a callous disregard for the fundamental rectilinear frame of reference necessary for the adequate visual contemplation of works of art.

We strongly urge the Trustees of the Guggenheim Museum to reconsider the plans for the new building.

— Calvin Albert, Milton Avery, Will Barnet, Paul Bodin, Henry Botkin, Byron Browne, Herman Cherry, George Constant, Willem de Kooning, Herbert Ferber, Adolph Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Seymour Lipton, Sally Michel, George L. K. Morris, Robert Motherwell, Charles Schucker, John Sennhauser, Leon P. Smith and Jack Tworkov

Excerpt from a 1956 open letter to James Johnson Sweeney and Guggenheim trustees, LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY

Maurizio Cattelan

The Guggenheim Museum has a cinematic quality; if you work in that space it unwinds. I would say that my installation is static but the way the visitors see it could be a personal cinematic viewing. I love movies. Yes. Well, more than cinematic, it’s like the sculptures are movies compressed into one still, suggesting a scene sometimes. Or suggesting a story. A movie is more articulated, many scenes together. Maybe the whole show can be seen as a movie—unconnected scenes with themes. If there is a movie it can be only in the Guggenheim.

— Maurizio Cattelan, interviewed by Jarrett Earnest, THE BROOKLYN RAIL

Robert Smithson

Chemically speaking, our blood is analogous in composition to the primordial seas. Following the spiral steps we return to our origins, back to some pulpy protoplasm, a floating eye adrift in an antediluvian ocean. On the slopes of Rozel Point I closed my eyes, and the sun burned crimson through the lids. I opened them and the Great Salt Lake was bleeding scarlet streaks. My sight was saturated by the color of red algae circulating in the heart of the lake, pumping into ruby currents, no they were veins and arteries sucking up the obscure sediments. My eyes became combustion chambers churning orbs of blood blazing by the light of the sun.


David Hockney

When I went to see Pearblossom Highway at the Getty, I was quite amazed. I could see it through two dimly lit photography galleries. I could see it from far away. In fact, it looked like a big painting. Any collage previous to that would not work that way, and they weren’t done that way either. This was by far the most complex of the pieces. Actually I’ve never seen one like it since. It’s a very complex construction. You are moving all around it. I was moving all over the place, not just in one spot making a panorama. You are an active participant. That’s what draws you in. It was first shown in New York, at the International Center for Photography in 1986. Later it was shown in the retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum, where they have interesting facts about exhibitions–mostly about how many people attend. People spent longer looking at Pearblossom Highway than almost any other picture. I said I think I can understand why. I suggested that photography is a medium everybody knows and understands. The processing was absolutely ordinary. Everything was printed in the one-hour Fotomat.


Rirkrit Tiravanija

We can smell the scent of a steaming pot of jasmine rice with its very distinct combination of water and the perfume of jasmine. It’s enough to make one curious with hunger, and as we make our way through the space we come to the room at the end of the hallway, well lit, with windows at the corner of the building. Sunlight pours in from an October afternoon, and already we feel the compression of the gallery lifted from our shoulders. There are people sitting around round tables and on stools; they are talking, reading the guide for galleries, weighing their next move. The 303 Gallery is at the corner of Spring and Greene street in Soho, New York, formerly the main art district of the city.

There is a mess of stacked doors leaning against the walls in this room; doors presumably of the gallery. They are unhinged and stacked. To the right as we enter is a makeshift table made from sawhorses and yet another door from the space. A couple of people seem to be busying themselves with the preparation of some vegetables–chopping and cutting, opening gallon cans of bamboo shoots. In the middle of the room there are two pots cooking on camping rings. One seems to have been prepared already, the other is on its way. People are helping themselves to the rice from a cooker large enough to feed the whole Island of Manhattan. Right next to the low gas cookers is an old used refrigerator, white with hints of it age around the edges. As one sits down for the bowl of food (made of white enamel with blue rims), one begins to realize that this is a distinctively different experience from others we have had in an art gallery or with art. There are also many milky white cylindrical buckets, which seem to be sloshing with waste food, all that is left over. In the refrigerator there are Thai long beans, Thai roundish green eggplants as well as the mini pea eggplants, looking rather green with a strong bitterness to its taste. Bitter and stronger. And some packets of green curry.