one month down in Chi Town. I think I’m finally
starting to settle in. I’m teaching too many classes, but that’s got the ol’ bean
cookin, as I bone up on some theory and comb through library art stacks hunting
for illuminative tomes for the homies (the Art Institute libraries leave me
speechless with silent joy). I’m only teaching art students, which is a novelty. At least one
can generally assume they care to some degree. I like teaching, for what the
Dalai Lama called “enlightened self-interest,” which is all we can really hope
for I think. I stumble along, revealing my ignorance to myself, and a little bit better
what it is I like to look at, and maybe even need to make.
today – I concocted a studio assignment for a class of first year students at
SAIC that’s inspired by Rauschenberg’s Combines , and apocryphal stories of how
he used to walk around the block of his studio and just make art out of what he
could find that day. We also looked a lot at Richard Tuttle, among others. Then
I sent them out for a few hours to scavenge. One girl came back with a homeless
man’s beat up begging box with writing on the sides, that she traded for a Ding Dong, a
bag a chips, a Sharpie, and a new box. A big chunk of rusted steel, empty dime bags
from the park, a straw hat from China Town, a shiny can, and a light fixture were
some of the first finds of a salvage operation that’s to continue through the
about a bunch of Rauschenbergs, a first look for many, which led us to the
inevitable discussion of Duchamp and those pernicious, inescapable Readymades.
I was struck by the contrast. Bob’s art is so generous in comparison – one that
extends to the men themselves. The fun-loving gay Texan struck me suddenly as a
much better model now for creative practice that the uptight misanthropic Frenchman.
Sychronistically, while my students went a-hunting, I read the early chapters
of Donald Kuspit’s The End of Art.
Donald Kuspit hates Marcel Duchamp. He really seems to loathe the man.
holds Barnet Newman up as the other criminal mastermind behind the demise of
the good, the true, and the beautiful, but he spends so much time dissecting
the overrated silence of Marcel D. that Newman gets off relatively easy. So far anyway. He’s
dismissed with utter finality, but without nearly so much blood letting.
wanted to read Kuspit again now, since I was so fascinated that he would
champion the art of that guru-guy Adi Da Samraj, that I lambasted at length in
what I guess was my last post before the move. The book makes an ineluctable
case for how a bitter Duchamp shit in the pool, spoiling it for everybody.
Kuspit claims that it was largely because he couldn’t compete with Matisse and
Picasso that, like a jealous school boy, he just negated their game entirely.
He would after all "abandon art" to become a chess master, a man obsessed with outwitting his opponents
in a zero-sum game. His ultimate opponent was maybe art and beauty itself.
Kuspit convincingly points out, Duchamp’s statements and work show that he clearly despised and feared women, sex, and the
Don, let’s just give you all that, and allow that Tony Oursler is a terrible artist, Sherrie Levine a tedious hack, and of course Hirst deserves your cover. But what’s up with Adi Da? Is that your
answer? I’m only half way through to the end of The End of Art, and maybe Kuspit’s Achillean heel is yet to be
revealed. His rabid definitiveness is to me a little suspect; but so far, his case is
compelling, and more or less in line with my own feelings. To wit – art should
be a rigorous, serious, affectionate, deeply personal, absolutely useless inquiry into and expression of the quagmire of our
beautiful fucked-up humanity. Nothing more, nothing less.