Art & Other Serious Matters

I’ve reached the end of my Rosenberg infatuation, having overdosed on his brand of hypercritical holier-than-thou essays about art. Still, this last volume has some interesting ideas, if you can overlook his pedantic lecturing caught up in the whirlwind of a few great men artists as he tries to make sense of the nonsensical art world of the 1960s & 70s.

  • In this age of reproductions, interpretation takes precedence over direct response. The nature of the image itself–for example, its complexity, awesomeness, evocativeness–becomes less and less important.
  • In addition to television, other electronic media–hi-fi sets, tape recorders, home movies–collaborate with electrified gadgets, from elevators to oven timers, and with mechanized appliances and toys to turn the house into a revel of animation in which art can find a place only if it runs, flies, scoots, climbs, wiggles, shakes, or twinkles.
  • Looking at a painting is an intellectual transaction to which the spectator must contribute.
  • The trend toward motion in art reveals the qualitative difference between human and mechanical energy. The supreme kinetic sculpture is, of course, the hydrogen bomb, by which all humanity has been made smaller. This masterpiece of our culture can never be exhibited in its working state, if for no other reason than that if it is, the audience-participants will be in no condition to appreciate it. The great hidden art object of this era, the Bomb is comparable to the Ship of Cheops, which upon completion was buried “forever” in a mountainside.
  • To deal in masterpieces as if they were diamond-studded shit is more culturally destructive than to exhibit shit as if it were a diamond-studded masterpiece.
  • No-art reflects the mixture of crap and crime with which the mass media floods the mind of our time. It attacks this mixture through reproducing it in concentrated images. It is Pop with venom added.
  • The essential characteristic of Hirschhorn’s mammoth gift is the prevalence of what museum people call “gaps”: for all the eight hundred and fifty items in the inaugural show, it is a porous as a moth-eaten blanket in respect to both art-historical coverage and qualitative texture. It is not only that “names” are missing; it is that at every step the spectator is in danger of falling from a height of modernist creation into a crevasse of dullness or eccentricity.
  • The basic difference between art today (1975) and twenty years ago lies in the increasing amalgamation of painting and sculpture into the United States cultural-educational-entertainment system. Not that the earlier art had revolutionary social ideals; but it did have the advantage of leading a separate existence, if only from neglect… 3. University education of artists. In the past, artists were trained by other artists in art schools and studios. The student artist lived, worked, and learned in an environment of creation. All this was changed with the transformation of art into an aspect of cultural education. At the university, the student artist is surrounded by persons engaged not in conceiving works but in accumulating knowledge.