I know that this statement will not meet with the approval of many artists who refuse the mediumistic role and insist on their awareness of the creative act–yet, art history has consistently decided upon the virtues of a work of art through considerations completely divorced from the rationalized explanations of the artist. (Writings of Marcel Duchamp).
If an artist refuses the mediumistic role that Duchamp informs us is necessary to the creative act, then what does the artist himself have to say? What is an artist other than a channel of visionary material that comes from a transcendent source?
My belief is that artists are given their individual visions from birth and that they can choose to either accept them or not. Most artists do nothing more than playact at being artists. They refuse the vision and take charge themselves. They copy previous work that is known to be “art”. This is formalism. There is no content other than “art”, whatever that is. “Art for Art’s sake.”
Human content is not necessary. Figuration is dispensed with, at a minimum. Of course now we have a lot of formalist figurative art which is just as devoid of content as abstraction. The artist plays no mediumistic role. He employs a tediously achieved craft skill. The craft skill is acquired through industrious practice. The artist’s unique personal vision, the one thing that would qualify him to be an artist, is surrendered before it has a chance to find a voice. The voice is suppressed and slaughtered by powerful teachers. Only the artists who rebel completely from their teaching find their voice. The ones who willingly give in to their teacher’s position of power surrender their vision.
They make fashion art that goes along with whatever the consensus norms are regarding what art is.
All children are artists. The artist has to return to the state of the child.
Donald Kuspit recently derided Picasso in his typically obtuse book “The End of Art”. The rational intellectual invariably gets it wrong. Kuspit says that artists need to grow up, leaving behind the childish work of artists like Picasso. They need to grow up and be like Donald Kuspit. Kuspit should be given credit for blowing the whistle on Hirst and company. But he stops well short of any serious indictment of the hand issuing his pay check.
There are good art critics, though very rare. Just as good artists are the rarity, not the norm. Meyer Schapiro, Dore Ashton, Roger Shattuck, poets like Baudelaire, Appollinaire. And, of course, going back to Ruskin on Turner. But they listen to artists. They empathize with the artist and his revelations. They don’t tell artists who they are and what they should do.