In the summer of 2002, Kenny Schachter an artist
and writer, founder of conTEMPorary Gallery in New York City,
conducted a non-scientific survey featuring on-the-street interviews
with more than 100 randomly selected individuals in Manhattan. The
goal, was, in his words, "to gauge general perceptions of the
relevance of contemporary art" to see how people "felt about, among
other things, galleries, museums, technology in art, and notions of
beauty." The book with all the interviews can be ordered from the
|MALE, AFRICAN AMERICAN, THIRTIES
Q. Does art have any relevance in your life?
A. Art? What kind of art?
Q. Any kind.
A. Yes, it does.
Q. In what ways?
A. Well, everything I look at is art. It's all around me. And basically
if we don't have a good representation of art, then we can be misled.
False advertising. These signs that provocate things that's not
true. As far as like kids wearing Rolex watches. And if you look at
some of these signs. It's making people do things quite naturally
that… you know… they're not - I don't know what I'm trying to say.
The point I'm trying to make is that the more things that we look
outside at, the more things we try to assimilate with and associate
with. But if we were to get some positive things up, we would be in
a more positive direction with some of our lives. Especially young
people. They are misled. Gold change. Everyone wants to be a big
shot, big car. I don't think those things are helping us, you know.
Art and one can help us redirect that energy into something more
Q. Have you been to a gallery or museum recently?
A. Yeah I've been to some museums. I've been to Guggenheim. Me and
my daughter, we went to Natural History. We've been to a few-
Q. Did you enjoy the experience?
A. Yeah. Because not only do they hold things that are not here
in the present anymore, that came from the past, but it also gives
us insight on what we can do for tomorrow.
Q. And what did you think of artists?
A. I think we're all artists. But we have to form that - I mean,
we have to build on that creativity. We're all artists in our own
Q. And what's the last piece of art that you've
seen that's made an impact on you?
That's a hard question. Because I've seen so many pieces
of art work. But just of recently. They did a mural here - a little
mural here on Madison and Fifth Avenue, on the wall. It's not no
real like exquisite art or anything but it has a good message. Like
I was saying, it's a positive message. It's like a lot of kids drawing,
paintings of kids and stuff on the wall. But there's little signs
that say "Don't do drugs." "Don't smoke." Yeah.
So that's the type of things I'm saying about art. If we use those
things and we give information out and inform people on what they
can do to better themselves then we can be a better race of people.
All of us.
Q. And do you think art is available for everyone
or more accessible for the wealthy?
A. Well, in one aspect it's more accessible to the wealthy. And
on the other aspect, it's available for everybody because art is
something you can do on your own. But, to be successful with art,
I would think you would have to be from a wealthy background or
be around wealthy people that would want to, you know, condone whatever
it is your doing. Because some people that are artists out here
it's got a bunch of bullshit, excuse my French. This abstract -
they think - they put up on Sotheby's or they sell somewhere and
get millions of dollars for it. Now if an African man comes out
and he carves a little piece of man out of a piece wood. And you
look at it and say, "Hey, that's nothing but a piece of wood."
Q. So, the contemporary art that you're talking
about. You don't like it?
A. I like it but like anything else, like sports and basketball,
I think it's overrated. I think number one, if someone produces
a piece of art - if someone were to produce a piece of art and it
would have to be to the liking of someone else that might want to
purchase it. It could be anything. It could be a boxing glove or
a pair or boots. But like I was saying, I don't think art is something
to make a profit off from. It should be at everyone's disposal.
Maybe if you have a Picasso why shouldn't I have one too. Or Renoir.
Or whatever. I want one too.
Q. Does art have any relevance for you?
A. Um, sure. I go to college. I just getting out of work. Basically
art is um.. how can I say it? It's very historical, you know. Art
being in American - no not America worldwide since hundred years
ago and I think um
Q. And are you an artist.
A. No, but I got a lot of amigos - I've got a lot of friends and
they paint, they make sculptures.
Q. And if you were an artist, what kind of art would
A. I like sculpture. Like creating kind of figures. Like women,
Q. Do you go to museums and galleries regularly?
A. Well I go sometimes Natural Historical Museum on 86th street.
I go to Metropolitan one. I don't very - go like um
like twice a month or once.
Q. And what do you think of the experience? Do you
like going to museums?
A. Yeah, sure. It's kind of fun, you know. You do a lot of things.
You see a lot of things basically that we don't have a chance to
see. It's very fun, you know?
Q. I'm going to list for you a group of artists
and can you list for me what you think of their works.
A. Are these painters?
Q. Pablo Picasso?
A. Yeah, he's an Italian - um Italian painter. He did the Mona Lisa
A. That's Michaelangelo right? Michaelangelo did the Mona Lisa,
Q. Da Vinci.
A. Yeah, DaVinci.
Q. What about Andy Warhol?
A. I've never heard of him.
Q. What about Jackson Pollack?
A. I've never heard of him.
Q. And what kind of work do you like?
what kind of - I don't understand that?
Q. What kind of art?
A. In general? I like painting.
Q. What's the last piece of art that you've seen
that made an impact on you?
A. Gee. Oh, last Sunday. I went to the see to The Natural Historical
Museum. And I saw the painter, nineteen - eighteen hundred, by a
European guy. I'm not really sure. And it was about sculpture, it
was about everything - his clothing, his jewelry, his face... They
got a series
Back then they drew a lot of king people, a lot
of noble people, warriors. Basically
This guy, the guy I saw
in the picture, he was very straightforward. Very formal. Very straight.
It was kind of interesting.
AFRICAN AMERICAN, LATE TWENTIES
Q. Does art have any relevance in your life?
A. Yeah. I'm a very visual - I actually do the windows for Kenneth
Cole. Art is my life.
Q. And as an artist. You do consider yourself an
A. Yeah. I am an artist with space. So I can do interior design,
I can do stage, I can do windows. I can do a lot of things. I think
creative people, artists - you're born that way and any medium that
you put into you can do it.
Q. How do you respond to the criticism that anyone
can do art.
A. I don't think anyone can be an artist. I think certain people
are born to do certain things. Like there are people who are supposed
to be basketball players. They're just genetically made for that.
I think artists, we think a certain way. We think in uh an alternative
lifestyle. We really do not try to fit in. we try to but there is
something in our nature that separates us from the rest of society.
There's a small amount of artist, but we control everything you
see, how the world is. If it wasn't for artists, humans could still
be animals, we could still be, you know, in a cage somewhere. But
creative people made society what it is.
Q. And how important is beauty in art?
A. Um, it's just as important as the dark side - the ugly. I explore
it all. I think that's the one thing I love being African American
in, in art. I can experience a whole spectrum. I can be Fifth Avenue
- Fifth Avenue Seventeenth street or Fifth Avenue Sixtieth street
in one day. You can go to the Whitney and I can go down to the Bowery;
I can see beauty or
to me there is no such thing as ugly.
Q. Have you been been to the gallery or museum recently?
Q. What do you think about that experience?
A. It's not like it used to be, here in New York. There was a time
in the 80s in New York where art was everywhere. Creative people
just explode. Art is tamed now. There's more control now.
A. Money. With a capitalist society, our whole concept of living,
our existence in the United States is to make money. To make money
you have to have control so in order to make money from art from
art, it has to be under control.
Q. Do you think art is only for the wealthy?
A. No. No. Art is for everyone that wants to appreciate it. And
it depends on what you, what the individual considers art. And even
that definition doesn't define what it really is. It can be a movement.
It can be a movement in someone's
the way a lady moves across
the street can be an art form, because she's very elegant. You know
art can be a new phone, or an old phone that we don't use anymore
and you put it inside a museum, you put it on a pedestal and it
becomes art. It really is in the mind of the individual that is
looking at it.
|FEMALE, WHITE, THIRTIES
Q. Does art have any relevance in your life?
A. Every relevance in the world. I think it's the end all and be
all of everybody. To me, art is the most important thing to wake
up to in the morning and I have it surrounding my house. And I'm
very involved with it, with my child. He loves art himself.
Q. So do you buy art?
A. Yes I do.
Q. How do you buy art? Through what means?
A. Just - I buy whatever I like. I don't really have a particular
gallery that I go to. I have things from Louis Shalon (?) to Erte
that are totally different and all unique it their own way. Same
thing like the Andy Warhol soup can shopping bag, as a difference.
To show you the different in art I like. I just buy what I like.
Q. Is beauty important in art?
A. I think, but then again it's in the eyes of the beholder. And
I think that basically everybody sees beauty in a different way.
So, I think it's individual.
Q. Do you consider yourself an artist?
A. Yes I do.
Q. Can you describe the art that's important in
A. Well, I'm a fashion designer but I've also done work for Disney
and Warner Brothers and these hand beaded sequined cartoon jacket
which are actually signed and numbers in some of the stores.
Q. Do you go to the galleries and museums in New
A. Yes I do.
Q. And what do you think of the experience?
A. I think it's amazing. I don't think that there's anywhere in
the world that I've been to that is as enriching as the museums
in New York City.
Q. I'm just going to list a group of artists. Can
you tell me what you think of their work? Pablo Picasso?
A. I think it's very inter- fabulous. Interesting. Wonderful.
Q. Andy Warhol?
A. Yes. Love Andy Warhol. That's another unique way of taking different
kinds of medium and using it to create art in a different way that
wasn't understandable at one point but now it's so valuable.
Q. Jackson Pollack?
A. Love Jackson Pollack. Love. Love. I love his use of color. Just
Q. And what do you think of Contemporary artists
A. Um, I think a lot of them are doing, you know, sort of copies
of what was in a different sort of manner. I think art lives from
the past to the present and I can see details in the contemporary
art that is very much from the past.
Q. Are you familiar with any of their names - Tracey
Emin, Matthew Barney, John Currin?
Q. And what's the last art that you've seen that
made an impact on you?
A. Actually, the gentleman across, outside F.A.O Schwartz. A Chinese
gentleman actually was drawing the names on a piece of paper, you
know, with the frame around the border. It really really - his use
of colors. And his technique of using images to create names was
fabulous. And I now they do it several places around here but I've
never seen anyone as good as him. Actually, outside Toys R Us.
MALE, WHITE, FIFTIES
Q. Does art have any relevance for you?
A. It enriches your life. If it's of any value. Something that
It's important. It's like music it's like literature. It's important.
Q. What's the last piece of art that you've seen
that made an impact on you?
A. You mean literally last piece I've seen that's significant?
Q. Am I ever going to know that you're not telling
me the truth?
A. I saw a Francis Bacon painting a couple of months ago around
the corner that was a beautiful painting in real life. I've only
seen it in reproductions. A triptych of his last lover, or second
to last lover.
Q. What about it?
A. It just has a composition. The size of the work, the composition,
the flesh tones, the distortion of the image, his whole set of,
uh, techniques. It just came together in those three triptychs.
And it was powerful. That's the last thing I saw that I stood in
front of and
I react to his work because he deals in - eh
- figuratively. Representational aspects of the human figure. It's
not purely abstract work.
Q. Do you go to museums and galleries?
A. No I don't go to galleries but I do go to museums regularly.
Q. Why? What's the distinction?
A. Because contemporary art is what they show in galleries and contemporary
art, for the most part, is awful.
A. It's soulless, it's as soulless as the music is. It's been going
downhill since the 1940's.
Q. Why did it go down?
A. Because. Because it was taken out of the hands of the Europeans
and synthetically - the center of art was moved to New York City.
Probably because of the war as much as anything else. And they suddenly
told people that abstract expressionism was where art was going.
Where abstract art was where everything was going. Figurative painting
was dead. Representation painting was dead. The surrealists were
the last thing of interest. I think Abstract Expressionism is a
fraud. I think that people who practice it are not - are certain
people who - you rarely find someone who is able to do something
in art that is - in art. To draw, to render, to paint anything else
who because an abstract expressionism. It was the last resort of
people who didn't have the skill to be any other kind of painter.
Abstract Expressionism is like the punk rock of the art world. It's
made by amateurs -
Q. So you hate punk rock too?
A. No I don't hate it. It's a natural - it's a natural, adolescent
urge. I mean, to want to make a lot of noise with an instrument
without any training, without any background. Without knowing the
rules of music, and thinking you can break them without knowing
them. Abstract expressionism, well - Picasso had already done it.
Braque had done it with, um - cubism. They knew how to do everything
they had to - they can do everything then they deconstructed it.
If you ever saw the work of Jackson Pollack before his moment of
glory around 1949-1950. About two years when he did those drip paintings,
he was awful. He was absolutely dreadful. In his thirties, when
he worked for Thomas Hart Penton, they didn't even want him as a
student. He was such a poor draftsman. You have people like Barnett
Newman who became stars who just had a retrospective. Barnett Newman
- not even his friends who were painters thought he was any good
until 1960 when they ran out of the all the other Abstract Expressionist.
They're like, "Oh, there's Barnett Newman. We haven't put him
on the cover of Time Magazine yet. Let's make him - eh
He didn't know how to paint. I knew people who knew him. I know
a ninety-year-old painter who knew him back then. He didn't know
how to paint. Neither did - the other bloke - Mark Rothko. I mean
they just sort like
It was just what was going on at the
Q. And who makes these people into -
A. There's probably three hundred people in the world who decide
who's going to be the next big artist and who's going to - Peggy
Guggenheim made Jackson Pollack. If you asked a hundred people in
the United States in 1955 you showed them a Jackson Pollack and
anyone, any representational painter, Thomas Eakins, or Thomas Moran,
or Vermeer or anyone else which was a more meaningful painting -
no one would choose Jackson Pollack. No one would choose Abstract
Expressionism. Blocks of colors on canvas. I mean, it's just more
about ideas. It's theories more than a
and that just accelerated
into the sixties. Into - you have Pop art. You have someone like
Andy Warhol, who came into it as a joke. An inside joke. I mean,
to make these cans, he wasn't trying to make an artistic statement.
It was a comment on other people doing the same thing. What was
going on at the time. And the same art community that catapulted
guys like Pollack, De Kooning and Jasper Johns, this was before
Jasper Johns. Pollock, De Kooning, Motherwell and that crowd to
the Parthenon of art priests. High priests of art. The same people
who made Andy Warhol this darling of the seventies. He took Polaroid's
and charges fifty thousand dollars for it. They thought they were
hip because they were paying the clown. He was laughing his way
all the to the bank. It was a joke. It was meant as a joke. People
don't get it. They thought it was for real. That's what they've
been following. Same thing is happening with popular music. The
golden age of American songwriting is probably 1925 and 1955 and
maybe 1960, in terms of music, in terms of jazz.
Q. You're cutting the Beatles out completely.
A. I'm saying they were the beginning of the end of the period.
That's just one group, that's not all music. By the late sixties
things were fractured and the corporations came in and told people
what they were going to listen to. And electronics came in and technology
came in and that's why for the last twenty five years pop music
has been worst than anyone's every heard. You have the golden period
in music. At that time, the twenties, the thirties, the forties,
the fifties - people knew how to write music. People knew how to
write melodies. They knew how to arrange groups of musicians. They
knew how to play music - they were musicians. Now you have non-musicians,
just like you have non-artists - what I consider
I don't consider
people who do conceptual art, people who do abstract art artists
really. I think having artistic aspirations and being an artist
are two different things
Q. And do you see any change?
A. No, I don't see it getting anything but worse. I don't see it
getting anything but worse. It's going to get more mechanical, more
mass -produced. Just like music. You have two generations of kids
who've never picked up an instrument and don't know what music is.
Who think that the best music being made is the stuff made yesterday.
And the same thing with art. You go around to Chelsea and into all
these galleries and in and out. It's bland soulless meaningless
stuff. It's images based on images based on images. It's like a
Quentin Tarantino movie. It's not a movie about people, it's a movie
about movie images and people. It's cannibalizing other movies to
make a movie. "Wow, that's original." It's not original.
It's just a pastiche of other people's - of people who actually
did care about the characters. Who actually did have empathize with
man. Because the scripts were written by people who wrote and who
knew what stories were about. Films today aren't written today by
people who know stories, who knows anything about human characters.
They're writing about images. They're writing about film techniques.
The technology advances but the sensitivity, the insightfulness
of the artist isn't getting any better. But they actually have less
introspection, they have less
It's easy to take a photograph,
and manipulate a photograph. You look at the work today, the artists
work today. A lot of it is based on digital photography. They take
digital photographs, they make transparencies, they project it ,
they print it on the printer, they project the printer on a canvas
and they paint that. And the ones that have some skill as a draftsman
will print it onto a card, on a canvas and will copy it. But the
image is photo generated and it's not - and it appears to be photo-generated
And that's the point. Just like the music today. You hear a drummer,
it's a drum machine. It doesn't have a tone to it. It doesn't have
any personality. "Well, that's what it's supposed to be, that's
what the people want to listen to." They want to hear dub beat,
as they refer to it. They don't want to listen to a drummer, who
knows what he's doing, someone who knows - who's subtle and inventive
and can turn it on the dime. They don't want that. They want someone
to press a button and turn on a machine. They don't want singers,
they want people who rap, you know. Which is something you can stand
next to any street corner in any neighborhood talking about what
a big deal they are. It's just that the whole - the culture has
technology has advanced and people just happened. Just
because you have a digital camera doesn't mean you're a great photographer
just because you can take better picture than your father on his
brownie camera on a Sunday afternoon during a family outing. But
if you look at those pictures, some of them look a whole lot better
than the new Gerhard Richter or the new - whoever doing painting.
There was a painter in the seventies, David Salle. I guess is how
you pronounced his name. The stiff he did is the stuff they're doing
now. It's just images; it's dead. It's just images. And it came
out of the whole Warhol thing, out of the whole Pop thing. It's
almost like - It's almost like
you have the forties and fifties
and they told you image was dead. Representation was dead. Flatness
was everything. That the
The whole, if you read the whole
nonsense about abstract Expressionism except they've written more
about it. They have to write it. They have to explain what it is
You go to the Reinhert show, you walk through
the gallery - I see sixty black paintings. Then I hear the gradations
in black, it's not all black, there's purple. Okay. But I see sixty
black painting all right. Now Reinhert was by all accounts a serious
guy, an intelligent guy. But that doesn't mean what he chose to
do in the art world is selling beans anymore. They mean something
because they auction them and say there's only a hundred of these
left. Get yours now, it's seven million dollars. The price they
place on art is ridiculous. Someone like Basquiat who just cannibalized
the styles of Dubuffet and a lot primitives and found out an easy
pictorial style and doing it over and over again. And now they call
him a modern master. Just like they call Lou Reed a master now,
as a musician. Thirty years ago he played three chords and sang
flat song about junkies, er, off pitch. He was no better then than
he was now. But now he's an American master just-
Q. Maybe because he's just old?
A. His longevity. Just because he's alive. If he would have died
twenty years ago, he would have been a six-rate musician.
Q. He could have been a martyr.
A. He could have been a martyr. The martyr's are people who are
forced to listen to his music, I'm afraid. I'm just picking him
out as a single example of someone who didn't have any skills as
a musician but becomes a cult figure. That happens in pop music
all the time. It's pop music, it's pointed toward children, adolescents.
What's happened in the culture which is obvious to anyone who's
old enough is that adolescents have become an entire culture. The
idea of a man walking with his baseball hat backwards, sitting in
a restaurant with a baseball hat - I mean. Years ago, that would
have been maybe a teenager doing that. Now you have forty five years
old men doing that. People walking around dressed like they're twelve
years old. People stay younger longer. It's adolescents. People
don't graduate into adulthood it seems like. Maybe in terms of acquisitions
and making money. But in terms of what they look at, the movies
that they watch, the music quote unquote they listen to, the movies
they watch. It's childhood. It's a joke. It's geared at 18 to 32
year old men. Who act like ten-year-old. They look like idiots but
A lot of that has happened in art. It's no excuse, it's no secret
that abstract expressionists were alcoholic. When you start painting
like that, and you realize "where am I going to go." As
far as I'm concerned that why Mark Rothko killed himself. He had
literally painted himself into a corner. There's no where else to
go. If you reduced it to nothing, if you reduced the painting -
why bother paint. What's the
You might, a few of these things
may sound cynical. And it is. Living in New York city, everyday
you read "This is the new thing. This is the new thing."
Nothing's changed. Nothing's changed. In music, in rock and roll
nobody's done anything that the guys did in the late forties, early
thirties, the black rhythm and blues band. That's where rock and
roll came from. Not from white kids playing guitars. And Elvis Presley.
that's what people would have you believe. They think the Beatles
were rock and roll. The Beatles are just an English people taking
the original stuff, the stuff that is the greatest stuff and will
last forever. People don't even know what it is. They don't know
who Big Joe Turner is. They know who Ozzie Osbourne is and they
say they know rock and roll. They don't know what they're talking
about. People don't want to look into the past - you have to look
in the past. And today, for popular culture, the past is fifteen
years. Twenty years. Andy Warhol is ancient history. Like the great
grandfather. He made it possible for us all to be artist. See, you
don't need a degree, you don't have to be a draftsman, you don't
have to have any color sense. you don't have to have any compositional
sense. You don't need that. you just need to take a photograph and
cropping it down. That's not making a picture. Taking a photograph,
So my feeling is generally pessimistic. I think there
are individual people, not people in the mainstream art world. I
think there is people out there who - Susan Rothenberg? Terrible.
It's terrible. She had an article in the New York Times three, four
years ago. You ask who these people are who makes these artists.
Who makes these people well-known. They ran an article calling her
the greatest living artist. Turns out that the article is written
about someone that owns forty of her paintings and all the information
came from her dealer. Her art dealer. It's a racket. The art world
is a racket. It's always has been a racket. People painted for patrons.
So people did what people wanted to do. People don't live off of
- oil paint cost too much. Canvas cost too much. there are people
who do what they want, but if you want to get into the mainstream
of painting, you pretty much have to adhere to a certain, to a certain
school. That's why people are doing all this abstract, doing what
they've been doing. Now it's video art. The seventies, in the seventies,
there was a whole school of illustrators coming out. Sue Collers,
an English illustrator who taught at the School of Visual art. For
ten year, people coming out of the school of visual arts looks like
a Sue Collers illustration. People just follow the crowd. I have
more respect for a Sunday painter up in Gloucester Massachusetts,
you know, painting the Norman Rockwell, painting the boats in the
Inner Harbor. Or somebody working in their own kitchen. Working
on their own stuff, on their own collage. I think the art world
has gotten so - just like the music world. It just happens in the
art world because they're so fond of telling themselves and everybody
else they're so far ahead of everyone else. That's why popular art
for my money, has been dead since 1940. Since Abstract Expression.
That's it. For sixty years I don't think hell of a lot of - there's
a lot of good stuff going on, good painting, good individuals but
on the whole, as a general rend, people aren't interested. People
are interested in art when people read and didn't have all these
other distractions. At the time, people involved in modern adult
weren't maybe going to the movies all the time or they didn't listen
to canned music all the time. Or they didn't have computers all
the time. There's so many things people could do. And most people
don't care about art. The notion that they made it so popular
most people have an opinion. I don't have any basis for my opinion
other than my tastes from what I see, what I read. But most people
would think I'm a fascist in my taste in fine art because I prefer
representational art with abstract elements. I don't think a lot
of people care. That's why dentist's office is filled with Abstract
Q. I don't know what dentist you go to but my dentist
can't afford Abstract art.
A. Well you buy prints.
FEMALE, BRITISH, FIFTIES (Pg. 119)
Q. You can just speak into the mike.
A. I'm old-fashioned in that people who - artists should be able
to draw. They should be observant rather than
Now they just
do dramatic, exotic things that interest people for a minute or
two but you can go back to a Whistler and still enjoy it. Once the
shock of something new has worn off, it's boring. For example, Damien
Hirst. What he does is incredibly interesting for three minutes
and then it's over. I ask myself, what is he trying to do? Just
shock people? It's very difficult because... A lot of contemporary
art, for me is self-involved. Not really reaching out to people,
not really trying to tell people a story, whether it's a beautiful
story or political story. For example, you take someone like David
Hockney, whether you like his work or not. The man can draw. He's
a wonderful artist. And
a lot of painters, contemporary painters,
seems to me, they don't even know the fundamentals. But that's -
it's very personal, but a lot of contemporary art doesn't feel relevant
to me. They're not telling me about the times in which I live. They're
not exploring what life is like for people now. I think painters
used to be more in touch.
Q. So what does being an artist mean today?
A. When I first came to New York, in 1962. I worked in Carnegie
Hall at night. And everyone I worked with were making art, or music,
or dance. They all came to New York to create. To express themselves
and to express what was going on in the world. They hoped to affect
other people and touch them and so forth. And now it's greed. It's
just making money.
Q. So has art become accessibly only to the wealthy?
A. Indeed. Look, I have paintings at home by people I know that
I paid for, mostly under a thousand dollars. Because I like to support
their work and I find their work beautiful. Indeed, it's become
big business like everything else. Although if you know what you
like, what you're looking for you can find reasonably priced art.
People are buying photographs now because it's more accessible.
I can't think of too many Contemporary artists I would want to buy,
no really. Winslow Homer - I love Winslow Homer. I was laughed at
by a bunch of art curators because I was so naïve and old-fashioned.
I can look at a Winslow - I have a book of Winslow Homer's paintings,
very beautiful. I can look at them over and over again and find
something else, a different feeling, a different emotion. I find
them quite beautiful. I don't see what's wrong with art being beautiful
Q. Maybe it goes back to the way art is shown in
museums and galleries. Have you been to one recently?
A. No. I went to the Tate Modern when I was in London, but here
No, it's expensive now. It's like everything else. Suggested contribution
- that's intimidating to young people. I think a lot of what I see
in the SoHo galleries is appallingly bad, I really do.
Q. Why is that? Why does the work get bought and
A. You know - somebody who wants o invest in art, they invest in
proven names like Diebenkorn, Bleckner
[interruption from a neighbor about a friend who
A. It's still an investment. If you buy a name,
whether you understand the work or not, it's going to increase in
value. The prices that you see being paid for some of these artist
is absurd. And the artists never gets any of that. I like things
that are beautiful, which is an old-fashioned concept when it comes
Q. What do you think of the emerging mediums coming
out, like digital art?
A. I'm not a big fan. I personally
I liked what was done
Oh God, I can't remember who it was. A dancer
was a male, who used computers to enhance his one of his dancing.
It was really interesting, it made sense. Now I can't even remember
who it was. But, I think that computers put a distance between the
artist and his work and the recipient. It alienates them. I think
computers are very good for tracking locust infestations in the
third world. And it was a computer that found a computer for my
son when he needed it four years ago. These are wonderful uses for
computers. But there's an awful lot of people who buy computer programs
and call themselves artist. They don't - the work is very banal.
They haven't learned perspective. They haven't learned
to really look. They've learned to manipulate the paint box program.
They're not really artists. Artists should know how to look. I saw
something some one had done, she called herself a painter. And I
said, "Is there a reason why the hand that is on the figure
is so much smaller than normal." And she's like, "No.
What do you mean?" I said, " well look at her hand. It's
as big as her face." She had these funny little hands. She
just never really studied proportions. So a lot of these people
who take the quick routes to doing art work through computers
If you take someone like David Hockney. When he does something,
he's going to produce something. His lovely picture of the Brooklyn
Bridge - those photo montages. But you have an eye, you've got a
trained eye being it. Now you have these eighteen year olds who
buy a computer program and they don't know how to look.
Q. It's ready made art.
A. Yeah. It's just
A lot of what they produce is not pleasing,
not to me anyway. Artists work over a remote period of time. They
continually make art. They continually look. They grow -emotionally,
intellectually. It shows in their work. Some people's work - if
you've seen some of their stuff, it's so pathetic. I think these
days people just
Well, I was thinking about architecture and
what they are doing with some of the buildings in SoHo. And they
have no - they don't relate o the buildings around
not visually harmonious. They're not relevant to the surrounding
buildings. And people don't care. They don't notice. It's a very
consumer oriented society. It's much more about buying and owning
things rather than appreciating beauty. Beauty is irrelevant these
MALE, WHITE, TWENTIES (Pg. 127)
Q. Does art have any relevance on you?
Q. In what ways?
A. I have a weekly puppet show at a bar in Brooklyn. I do theater
on a regular basis. I grew up in an art household. I say that it
makes my art worth living rather than just some boring, droll-looking
crap - straight lines, squares. I think that's one of the really
sad things in America these days is that we don't have any art in
our lives. So, I think art is a kind of important material connection
between a physical reality and spiritual reality even if whether
it's an actual religion or just some sense of the world is wondrous.
Q. Do you like to call yourself an artist?
Q. Why not?
A. Because there is this whole thing where the real world is right
here and the art world's over there, and the two world should be
together. So by calling - I don't want to alienate myself from the
world by saying I'm an artist, put myself in a world of art circle,
art critics, go to the art shows, show art for he other art people
to look at. There's some sense that there's some requirement or
particular education to know what art is, to have art. I just don't
subscribe to that. I do graffiti, I enjoy spray painting sidewalks.
That's not art, it's just having a good time.
Q. So you think there's a legitimized art form
A. It is, and it alienates itself from the rest of the world. I
used to study theater for years and I still do theater. Theater's
a particularly bad case where only people who are theater savvy
go to the theater or people who do theater go to the theater. Like,
especially in New York. Theater seems so amazing here, especially
the off Broadway stuff because there's enough people doing theater
and supporting it rather than people seeing it and bringing their
relatives to it.
Q. Is art accessible only to the wealthy?
A. No. I mean, there's all kind of art. But I think that most art
that is readily available for everyone is commercial art that is
getting people to buy stuff. I think if people seek it out, there's
plenty of free art all over the place. But what lacks is that artists
make the attempt to connect to the world. They live off in a post
modern dreamy dreamy land.
Q. Do you go to the galleries and museums regularly?
Q. And what do you think of the experience?
A. I enjoy it. I grew up going to galleries and museums. Though
it tends to be an emotionally sterile experience. I tend to have
more fun looking at the people looking at the art and playing with
physical space while they're looking at the painting, rather than
looking at the paintings myself. People get into that "I'm
looking at art" face. "Hmmm
Just say it. You're fucking bored to tears. You don't even want
to look at this. You're only looking at it because a fucking article
says it's good. It's crap.
Q. So what do you think about the Contemporary these
days? You used the word post-modern.
A. Contemporary Art? It's all over the board. There's so much. It's
can't even take it all in. I would say most of it is
totally irrelevant and insignificant and eye candy at best. There
is really cool stuff happening. Of course. It's not making life
much easier very fast and I think that's what art really should
Q. I'm going to list a group of artists. You just
tell me what you think of their work. Pablo Picasso?
A. I think he's money. He's great. He's - he's
he did amazing
things, experimenting with the visual forms. And often times, he
actually did bring the real world, a political reality, a life reality
into his work. He's good. But about the pottery I don't know. Overpriced
Q. Andy Warhol?
A. Andy Warhol? He's done wonders for advertising. And he produced
the Velvet Underground so it makes it all good.
Q. Jean Michel Basquiat.
A. Well. He's
I don't know enough but I do know
that a lot of his stuff is really cool when he hadn't make it, like
so many people you go overboard and then you're pretty much making
shit. Like contemporary hip hop, for example, Mos Def, he used to
make great music and now's he's pretty much an effective advertiser.
Q. Marcel Duchamp?
A. Marcel Duchamp? I think he's a cock. ______'s better.
Q. And what about some of the more contemporary
artists working today - John Currin, Tracey Emin?
A. I don't even know who they are, don't care to know. The contemporary
art that I mostly see is more underground. Mostly political stuff.
Or political or, I guess conceptual; art about either our physical
- either our politics, real politics, or the politics of how do
we arrange our perceptions - how we interrupt our sense of perceptions
of the world in a way that is satisfying. rather than just sort
I don't know, art about line or art about form of art itself
I think is just a waste of a lot of good energy. People put energy
into it but
I think the power of art is to affect the way
people feel and think and we should be helping people feel and think
Q. And finally, what's the last piece of work you've
seen that has made an impact on you?
What was it? I don't know. Significant
and lasting? Like sticking in my mind as this glittering epiphany?
No, that's really hard. On a daily, it's like cool piece of graffiti
but it's not anything earth shattering or world changing. I can't
think of the last stand up piece of
Courtesy Kenny Schachter and staff at conTEMPorary Gallery