Chris Ofili

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

John Baldessari

It’s a dramatic gesture, carpeting the whole gallery with clouds, and… covering the ceiling with this freeway pattern. I’m going to have all the guards wearing bowler hats.

— John Baldessari on his design for a 2006 exhibition, Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, LACMA