Make Good Art

“You people have been writing on this page for nearly a year and not once have you addressed the issue at hand. The problem with art is that artists make bad art and demonstrate intellectual cowardice. If artists expressed and embodied their preferences, then gangs could form supporting one kind of art or another. They could hang out in bars, speak freely without the danger of robot censure. Exhihitions would arise from the noise these gangs make.This is simple: make good art. Say what you think is good art. Say what you think is bad art. Write it down. Get out there with your aesthetic and prune the dead fruit from your social tree. But no. It’s the cleric’s fault, It’s the government”s fault. It’s the art dealer’s fault. It’s the critics’ cult, its the dean’s fault. It’s the collector’s fault. Its the university’s fault. Not a chance . It’s your fault and nobody else’s. No good art goes unrecognized, unless it is willfully barricaded in the suburbs. Art is a social medium, art is a judgmental practice. This is better than that. What nudges,” Dave Hickey Facebook June 2, 2016.

So where is Dave? I know he retired. I know he recently published a couple of good books. But I can’t help it. I miss the shtick. That old Joe Cocker delivery. The steady line of ethically reasoned discourse. The twitchy endgame fuck-around that leaves him breathless as he delivers a snarky joke about someone we all know to be a doofus. You always know what’s real when Dave says so even if you don’t agree. 

“When I was at Southern Methodist University, I used to study differential equations with these two Zuni guys. They were off the reservation. Their tribe had been sent to engineering school to learn how to build roads back home. They couldn’t understand why you would ever need art in a museum because Zuni art hasn’t changed in five thousand years. We are historical people and the crisis of criticism arises from the basic fact that we get bored. When you’re bored with it, it’s over. That’s what drives the machine: ennui. What survives and still eludes ennui, survives — the live pattern and adaptability of a painting over time. I have a bunch of Ellsworth Kelly paintings at home and they don’t get old. They are just the way they are.” Dave Hickey in conversation with  Bill Powers, 2012.

“Standard value is determined by what was called the “paragone” in the sixteenth century. A group of connoisseur clerics would stand two pictures or sculptures up beside one another. They would decide which object was best. They would remove the lesser object and add another. Choose and add another. Eventually the interplay of arguments would develop into standards. The same system applies in contemporary art, expanded a million-fold with some opinions, like mine, weighing more heavily than others. This perpetual referendum generates standards that change incrementally.” Dave Hickey Facebook May 31, 2016.


  • Paul Corio

    That last quote describes precisely how I run my crits at school – I point out to my students that comparative critique is the vastly easier route, and then have them tell me what the best pictures on the wall are, using the criteria laid out by the work as a whole as a barometer for success.

    The judgement of good vs. bad, which I wholeheartedly prescribe to, has been a particularly unpopular concept for a long time now. The result: people who have no criteria for judgement of quality insist that there’s no such thing.

Henri values your comments!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.