Transcript for “Distinctions or Dichotomy?: Large Scale, Big Box Shows Versus Art Made Out of Intense Personal Necessity”, a NYC panel discussion organized by Camilla Fallon, with Jill Conner, Lisa Beck, John Haber, Peter Reginato and Dennis Kardon

DK: I’ve shown internationally, and I’m still in this struggling-artist position, which I may be in for the rest of my life or may not. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The thing is, no one thing – I thought, “If I could only get a review in the New York Times,” and the I got a review in the New York Times: it was great and the world didn’t change. I thought, “If I could just get a Guggenheim grant,” and I got my Guggenheim grant and my world hadn’t changed. And even if it had changed, I’d still be faced with going back to my studio and being faced with, “What the fuck am I going to do next?”

LB: There is no end
AUD: And it did change, maybe you didn’t change.
DK: Maybe I didn’t see it as a change.
LB: It never ends.
LB: Nothing happening to you also changes you.
DK: When I did get my Guggenheim I told my wife that now if I get arrested I won’t be a self proclaimed artist anymore.

AUD: Face the same challenges no matter what happens inside your own workspace.

DK:You are launched into a specific arena I think that’ s something that is not always something that is in anybody’s control. Your way of interacting with your own work and the general public and curators and all kinds of people who suddenly want something from you really alters your position aside from making your work there is a duty to protect it and make a safe place for it in the world, you defend a position just to defend in a way to protect your work. If you are launched into another arena you may be forced to make work on a grander scale just to protect a place for it to exist.

LB: When you in a particular moment your conception of what’s happening isn’t necessarily accurate. Its accurate to what you feel at the moment. I’m sure there was shitty art in the Renaissance, too ,and derivative art, and art that people bought and later thought what the hell is this and got rid of it. We are left with the masterpieces and we think it’s all gone down the toilet and we say look at all this garbage. I was with a friend the other night who is a collector’s adviser and everyone complains about the Biennial, the art fairs and and we all know 85% of it is garbage and he said, “85%? How about 99%?”
Art schools are pumping out people and all of us are not going to be household names and most of us are okay at best. We are in a stew, about this kind of art, and this one is high and this one is low, and its is all so temporal.

PR: I had an epiphany. I am back in London 20 yrs ago in a well known painters studio. I’m sitting at a coffee table and I look at the painter’s catalogues and it is not very exciting work, and I say, “What kind of shit is this, third rate Abstract Expressionism?”
I look at it again and I begin to admire this guy because he wasn’t trying to bullshit anybody and he isn’t bad. The art scene has been for so long and lets find a way of being safe and its been technical or it’s a been about how something is made, and I’d like to see bad work: bad work that is honest.

LB: Well, there is a lot of that (laughter)

DK: I can’t judge that. We have to consider a secondary structure that has risen up: in museums and exhibitions spaces. There is a certain thing now, Art used to be an elite activity, very few people used to participate in it in our culture in general. We have the illusion that it is more democratic.

AUD: How long ago?

DK: It has always been an elite activity, these gigantic museums that have exhibition spaces to fill and people to fill them and they have to appeal a lot of people. We were better off when it was a more elite activity than that.

LB: There are places where that can happen, but not in this country.
People don’t want public funding because it gets into taste and what is okay or isn’t or whatever.

AUD: An organization has to justify to their people why they make their decisions.

AUD: Why would you have gone back to the Whitney to review Charles Ray had you not read a critic praise the work that you didn’t respond to?

DK: Well I went there with my third year painting class.
When I came to the city I could see every major exhibit, I had time to do my art and go to the galleries in Soho and maybe 57th St. once a month and the major museums. Now, I couldn’t even do Chelsea in a single weekend, let alone all of the other museums and the Lower East Side. I depend on other people who see a lot more that I do whose job is to see more than I do, and even if they get it wrong that is part of what they do. I am dependent on filters for what I spend time to go see. I do not see myself as having an infallible eye. I don’t get everything the first time. I have to see that I have rejected something because it rubbed me the wrong way on some level to understand how that was working. It is kind of the fascinating thing in art criticism for me to right now. Even if I ultimately reject it I want to understand it. Peter was looking that piece in a particular context and part of what he responded to was getting a very different feeling from that room than anything else in the Biennial and I understood that, and it did pop out in my mind, my whole feeling about it was very different from any of the other art and it did take another person to call that out.

AUD: John Currin who Scheldahl loves can make you change your mind.
AUD: What is wrong with that?
AUD: Nothing. Schjeldahl adores him.

LB: You can’t argue with John’s taste; people like different things. I‘ve gone back to see things. Someone else who I chat with, a critic, maybe might say, ”What do you mean you didn’t like that? What about this, that and the other thing?” I say OK, but I may end up liking it or agreeing with them, or, I may say, “Well, I see your point but it didn’t work for me. That’s OK.

DK: We all have a certain voice in our head that is the conventional wisdom and we can’t always separate it out from our own true voice, whatever, if there is such a thing.

To be continued.