PRINT March 1968

“...on an American artist's education...”


THE COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY art department and professional art school versions of an artist’s education still exist for the most part as formal indoctrination of students in art historical media. Inexperienced youngsters are conducted through righteous formats of technical vocational training couched in the pieties of occasional art talk, are instructed in lessons of pretentious past esthetics, all of which is encompassed by the ultimate censorship of art history. These restrictive procedures are augmented by certain innocuous studies in those ubiquitous educational amenities, the humanities and assorted adjunct-ologies—whatever else it takes to fill out an ostensibly presentable degree-oriented curriculum.

This parochial processing is principally governed ambiguously by “professional” art educators, art historians and the like who, through accumulations of impressive but often irrelevant degree certificates, bureaucratic persistence, social stamina, ideological conformities, etc., substitute not only as institutional custodians, which might be somewhat useful, but also as policy makers for “disadvantaged” artists who lack much of that so-called formal education, portions of which I have just related. Nevertheless, I sense that many artists who might be capable of sustaining a significant role in the education of colleagues, feel a distinct disdain for the inflicted system which predominates and, subsequently, they refuse to be bought for abuse. Of course, many other artists remain more or less desperately available for hire.

The tradition-burdened men and women controlling an artist’s education frequently become “hooked” on their indifferent status habit of what art has been, was like as new when they were indoctrinated and might as well continue to be accommodated, at times, even intransigently. Since, unlike some artists, they have no self-developed conception of art and the consequent capacity for potential recognition of and tolerance for contemporary thought, however extravagant or extraneous, these educators, historians and others readily suspect the art of their moment as mainly “fad” and “put on.”

Often, the art educational elders are aided in their conservative cause by hapless refugees from that insignificant gamble, the commercial art game (with or without gallery involvement), artists of meagre to modest conceptions and those aging ones who have never quite acquired “scenic” political master status, but have endured long enough in big time art society to procure needed, padded, sometimes misrepresentative or utterly phoney credentials as the “passport” for an attempt to live off or retire into the hinterlands of widespread wealthy art departments. Usually, these “campus followers” either adopt a play-safe academic attitude or exhaust themselves, diminishing, even losing, whatever ideas and intentions they may have brought with them in the frustrations and stultification of intramural and departmental politics, or they challenge the ideological status quo more or less effectively in many cases by imposing dull or declining attitudes about art on gullible youngsters, the students, and their surprisingly permissive administrational superiors.

Curiously, young faculty members, from their minor role, either continue in the customs of their seniors with insignificant adaptations or exceptions, like ignorant or indifferent company men who also crave tenure and, eventually, academic high office, or they somewhat earnestly protest from time to time desiring to update historical media prejudice by projecting bitter little evidence from the outside; for example, a batch of uncertain slides scanning recent misadventures in artistic electric lighting from New York galleries via their own intruding cameras or those of potential reproduction thieves like Sandak.

So many of the young men and women becoming new faculty for maintaining the formal indoctrination of art historical media are former student products of the process. Frequently, their educational “schizophrenia,” evolved in the delusions and diversions of the implied Master of Fine Arts assembly line, prompted them to believe that they, too, could become so-called art teachers on the basis of their own professionally institutionalized technical vocational training and nothing more, or that they could support themselves for their own art effort likewise by instructing trade courses such as design, lithography or art history within art departments at the college, university, professional and secondary school levels. (What I have just described might be euphemistically-metaphorically labelled as light blue buttoned down broadcloth collar labor.) While helping to staff the irresponsible, expectant, regular M.F.A. quota with more of the same, either these young men and women never bother to contact thought in art or they practice the arty artisanship of hobby-like handicrafts or proceed to think insufficiently or, as but part time artists within the debilitating intensity of wanton departmental politicking and the confusing and distracting responsibilities of family lives, lose whatever approximate idea they may have nurtured once, a while ago, when they had time for it.

Occasionally, for the sake of cultural decor and decorum on campus and other limited services, the educators, historians and their artistic “fellow travelers” invite a contemporary artist to visit briefly or to remain in residence within their system for up to a year or more; that is, if he is not being called upon merely to be probed in sequestered studio sessions by faculty artists for leads on where to show in New York (this happened to me once) or for hints about what is his supposedly successful New York gimmick (that happened to the sculptor, George Segal. Incidentally, Mr. Segal also revealed that he was not permitted to contact a single student during his stay on campus.). Such a venture ought to be shunned as relatively risky because this warranted intruder may not simply amble about invitingly and encouragingly from office to classroom to studio eventually to apply a customary charming, varyingly general to particular sado-masochistic opinionative abuse to those mutually and/or self-sustainingly “scenic” on the local “scene,” but, more importantly, once in a while, he might speak out disruptively from specific observations about the subtle, personally prejudicial damage incurred by student mentalities in repeated contact with enforced art historical media indoctrination.

I have had these last remarks solicited, too, not by the purveyors of the process but by those one, two or few young artists somehow present in most graduate programs. Simply, they have “had it” after years of inflicted education—disgusted—in the last vestiges of frustration and dismay about abating interest on their part for the pursuit of another synthetic degree (parenthetically, I have never had an artistically serious young person on campus or off tell me that he wanted the M.F.A. paper for any reason other than that of a teaching permit or, often, only to absent himself from military service), about habitual instructional practice on dwindling course content coupled with the intelligence of a distinct lack of respect for the usual low level of regular faculty art, about the humiliating continuity of having to submit their effort, again and again, to critiques which misdirect to goals and, at best, indefinite conformity and a consequent scopeless, regressive, repressive grading, the frequent faculty insult, an utter lack of professional and personal regard for them as artists. Recently, an old, supposedly intelligent and experienced painting instructor on the faculty of a Southern State university chided me for what she believed to be my overly relaxed latitude at teaching and improper personal involvement with graduate students. She explained herself caustically with confidence, confidentially, “You must remember to treat them like children.” To borrow a trite but appropriately leading invitation from the old radio serial, “Our Gal Sunday”: “This is the story that asks the question”—When, if ever, are you ladies and gentlemen of art education going to be prepared actually to release young people to their maturity, to the ultimate test of their own research? Do you anticipate that they will suddenly become their own artists the day after their thesis expositions open, or the day after that?

It has not surprised me but it might amaze you to understand that it is usual to find at least one young artist in every graduate program who, in his effort, seems to be approximating an idea and, in that recognition, his work usually surpasses the art of the regular faculty. Criticism of art, especially of a genuinely new version, by anyone, even a colleague, basically being unnecessary haphazard subjective artifice more revealing of its author’s discerning limitations than the attitudes of the artist through the projected work in question, ought only to be perpetrated with the complicity of the young artist in doubt, but this young artist has to settle for and to reckon with the judgment of those who cannot think in art as well as he is able. Also, it is extremely difficult for him to conceal his new comprehensive confidence. As a result of his brash awareness, he reveals ever more definite remarks—as he knows, he talks. In time, even his presence in a lecture session or seminar can become the subject of petty, quarrelsome resentment among all his associates, students and faculty members alike. Instead of becoming somewhat helpful to others in the department, or assuming a role of intelligent artistic leadership, the fellow may absent himself from unwanted controversy and feel compelled to avoid overt verbal responsibility in favor of discreet silence, or to speak his intelligence cleverly—allusively, from the guise of departmental buffoon.

One such young man whom I met last year was barely clinging to a graduate assistantship from which he was not permitted to teach because, during the preceding semester, he was accused of attempting to teach, of substituting in class for one of those aging refugees from the commercial art game who commuted to and from the university when he so chose and had largely abandoned his class to assistants anyhow. Thereafter, this young man had to bear the brunt of his endeavor; certain departmental abuse of his person and his art effort, particularly from the aging one’s clique, which was like a vaguely ordered insubordinate secret society composed of instructors, graduate assistants and other students. In turn, the young man became successively disquieted and indiscreet and, finally, as I arrived and honored his painting and his person, assiduously, conscientiously, joyously vituperative toward his tormentors. One evening at dinner, he wryly summarized his lot, a misfit in the socio-educational code of Southern Bushido, the young artist as graduate “sweeper in residence.”

No artist who has ever withstood the ambivalence of a protracted visit to an art department can ever forget the intra-mural politicking therein. In many ways, that activity is the most important mechanism for maintaining formal art historical media indoctrination among students. If it wasn’t so confounding to stupefying for everyone close enough to be contaminated, the campaigning might well be called witty—its diversity of attack is that devious. All sorts of colorless, partisan esthetic arguments and ideological intimidations are provoked and waged in personal popularity contests, sometimes to continue through several semesters. Often, uncomfortable positions on extraneous issues have to be assumed, like it or not. The psychological invitation to become combative is that pervasive and irresistible. Somehow, it all persists in the self-esteem of its instigators and everyone else, their dupes. (Once, one departmental “head” astounded me by dignifying the debauchery as “creative conflict.” What resulted within his department, partially from his indulgent “encouragement”, was abiding tension for many students and several faculty members and an uncalled-for calamitous incident when an esthetically distraught, politically motivated instructor challenged a supposed abstract painting rival, a graduate student, and a guest lecturer, that student’s presumed ally, but a stranger to the mentally “embattled” instructor, to fist fights without effective or even noticeable official censure, of course.) Withall, the prepossession of minds is at stake—particularly those of the young who are so anxious for direction, for any artistic “certainty,” even the most obviously inane in contemporary terms. One intelligent young artist whom I have encountered reported that esoteric esthetic rivalries in the art department of a large Midwestern technical school became so distorted and disturbingly distracting that he felt compelled to avoid the faculty and fellow art students as much as possible for compatible and informative associations with nearby mathematicians.

What of the peculiar academic mechanics and their retarded causes? Permit me to observe several from the many. Within art departments almost everywhere, self accredited figurative “humanists” still predominate among the factions. They promulgate their doubtful worth and perpetuate their dubious status by claiming that their esthetic intentions are perhaps the “loftiest” available to mankind through art. But their resultant artistic effort, which must sustain such a curiously quaint and improbable outlook, is nothing more than a precious, obvious and repetitive man handling of subject matter within set sanctioned media, from their own convenient and sanctimonious misapplications of art history. Often, all that these “superior” types can produce are seemingly endless depictions of decadently daubed fruit preferably fit for 19th-century French garbage on brushed out fabric folds that could not survive a contemporary intellectual “dry cleaning.” Among certain of the “humanistic” elders, the decrepit evangelizing, egg temperizing fundamentalists on the faculty, those all time standards, the secrets of the old masters are still invoked from ancient tracts and musty memoirs of the likes of Cennino Cennini. Other odd old pedantic structuralists futilely impose figure drawing as an extreme exercise in constrained hard line observational orthodoxy. The faint fractured remains of sketches so rendered are so thoroughly erased and kneaded away as to strain anyone’s eyes if not his perception. Still other lingering patrician pasticheurs vainly dedicated to illusions of precedent continue to recommend former Art Student’s League recipes for a post-Dusseldorf malerisch oil “sauce” for tasty high style from a bristle brush. On some campuses, entire undergraduate painting classes are induced to finish a semester together with their instructors as sophomoric Cubists. In many art departments, “Cézanne-ists” still “grapple” theoretically with “Matisse-ists” (what results might be metaphorically described as feckless canvas-bound persimmon splitting) and, again, with “post-Mondrian” plastic visionary missionaries because their later French master’s former colorful confronting plots of flattened fruited plane had been supplanted seasons ago primarily by the Dutch genius’s strict surface schemes of blackened bars at right angular occurrence with adjunct adjacent squares and rectangles spread just from primary colors and their opposite greys. And the wrangling can continue in reverse with that similarly restrained but fervently devoted little band of “hard-core,” drab, methodically painted vapid bottle scape fanciers, the “Morandi-ites,” who surely snub those “big” problematical problem wasters, the expansive, ever popular, shabby, paint smeared gutsy-gabby, “push and pull” existentialists, the “Hofmannaires” and so forth.

Less discouragingly disciplined politically accredited students who do not entertain the casual desire to pretend to purge themselves of emotional experience previously exhausted on and about New York’s Tenth Street in the 1950s through slopping and slashing gobs of questionably “impassioned” oil paint, can turn purposelessly more (seemingly) progressively either to play at kinds of “hard edged,” “color field,” compartmentalized systematics on canvas with the “now taste” for acrylic paint and other less toil water solubles or they can pretend to become other piously enthralled precociously new media minded print-fakers about the venturesome art of preceding decades and the former history of print making.

And then there is always the abundantly available “busy work” of sculpture which has been academically preserved for the most part as physical tasks in figurative or abstract three dimensioned craft. One might characterize that sculptured commitment as posing man against material and, on occasion, his own stature. For many years, and even now, stone sculpture has often been taught, collegiately and professionally, to be fashioned handsomely, that is, to be “Jean Arped.” Consistently and conscientiously, heavy rugged stone is erroneously refined to appear otherwise. Art departments have had much too much of this biomorphic grace period. An agglomerate abundance of rust is still encouraged on campus.

Thereafter, painstakingly fitted compositions of disintegrating lost and found objects with or without figurative allusions continue to prove to be romantically inviting and sentimentally evocative for latter day departmental “humanists.” Putting new clean steel to the test of the torch usually awaits the fervor of hardier types. Wood is still favored for sculpture by the muscular colossalists of the department. I have witnessed these sturdy young men eagerly chipping several gross stumps for consecutive semesters. A few smaller gross stumps resulted, and janitors were able to gather mounds of chips.

The cast-it-in-bronze religionists continue to enjoy honored positions on campus for they can be counted on usually to propose and to satisfy a certain peculiar moralistic need among the young and aimless. They offer them the nostalgia for and the actuality of an ancient ritual of hard work toward a supposition of eventual artistic “salvation.” The youngsters can imagine themselves becoming immortal with such a hallowed medium—like other Donatellos or, perhaps, Rodins, while ignoring the more likely prospect that their belabored results would compare with the lesser output of the Manships or Zorachs. But I assume that nothing that I might utter to the contrary could spare us and our posterity the seemingly endless multitudes of ugly, distortedly stylized ghetto madonnas with child which are yet to be wrenched from the mold.

Most old departmental purists persist in inveighing against the use of color in sculpture even for the despised sparest box to tube, but many younger and newly arrived low developmental type faculty lobbyists and would-be graduate student practitioners crave vivid paint surfaces and translucent planes of lushly tinted plastic for their most modest “compositions.” They have followed such usage through reproductions in the popular pages of Art in America, Artforum, Time Magazine and the like, or they have seen for themselves at ever-increasing exhibitions in commercial galleries and museums. Probably the chromatic challenge will succeed among other students and young faculty members at first and with those colorless old departmental estheticians later but, for myself, as an outside artist, I could not care less. As far as I can ascertain, the surplus of professionalized parti colored multi striped and/or broad planar painting and slick arbitrarily color rippled “funk” surfaced sculpture have combined to render former cautious so called color problems as idle play, at least for the present.

Among the smug “swinging” new mediumists on campus, not so new “happenings” have had their vogue because they can be easily adopted to play as a playful combination of somewhat strange to sordid claptrap and rowdy varsity frolics. Also, within departmental politics, “happenings“ and other pretendedly avant gardist “fun things” can be chauvinistically staged to tease the “cool” of the recalcitrant opposition in the old faculty and administration. But, it is curious that so many of the retrograde “humanists” in both camps seem able to endure and even to support the more vacuous, meandering, tawdry and humorless performances as interesting investments in theatrical psychology and symbolism. Of course, this same group could just as well perform a similarly pathetic and preposterous appreciation on a flatulent flesh “flick” like Blowup. It would seem that my friend Sol LeWitt is correct about identifying “happenings” and amateured filmings, whether above or “underground,” as the last refuge of old figurative artistry, and so-called environmental sculpting, however seemingly “abstract,” as a “hideout” for failing art humanitarianism.

So often, politically moderated art instruction (an incredible but accurate misnomer) takes an individual artist’s personal conception, which has become thoughtfully provocative in terms of his own effort, and generalizes it, frequently through trivial stylistic adaptations by detractors, much less capable artists, and rash, futile attempts at description, characterization and evaluation by word-mongering “professional” art critics. This explaining away quickly renders an idea as a mere matter of appearance and taste to be imitated as exercise by the students whether they want the original idea or the lesser practice or none of it at all. But, to the contrary, the new mediumists thrive by ideological intimidation of students and colleagues through the pretense of fatuous progress, of continually updating art historical media prejudice alone. Apparently, no new idea for art need be considered. So often, the medium, largely as it is in its low grade technology or otherwise, or as adapted to the look of past art (as in recent Hollywoodish “funk” encumbered hovercraft) is supposed to supplant effectively-respectably any substantial and original consideration of it.

During and after a short slide talk at a large Eastern professional school, I found my proposal for fluorescent light sarcastically dismissed by a few restlessly contentious graduate students and their dallying mentor, a local young artist from off-campus sanctuary, already inculcated with the new mediumist view and feigning boredom with boorish mumblings, because the lamps which I openly and quietly deployed did not blink, “programmed” (get that emphatically “in” word!), “programmed” to pattern, such as the bulbs contained on the restricted fronts of precious little black boxes which they had been assisted in projecting. No significant attempt was ever made to probe my thinking as an artist. The assumption of phenomenological and concomitant technological one-upmanship seemed to be paramount for these self-consciously silly boys.

Let me offer another example of mindless, ideopolitical progressivistic new mediumistic intimidations which exposes an opposing view to the attitude of the aforementioned episode and will bring us to a confrontation with the summary crisis which the formal art historical media indoctrination of students has imparted to college and university art departments and those of professional schools throughout the country. In 1965, while on an official visit to a large Midwestern State university, I “mistakenly” met (evidently, I was not supposed to contact anyone of the “grad-sculpt.” section) an already capable young graduate sculptor who was concocting a moderately shrewd combination of a suspended abstract solid plaster or sculpt-stone or whatever form—I do not recall which material it was—and composed accumulations of rusted found objects for gaining a good grade while withholding a notebook filled with sketches for electronically controlled moving sculpture with electric light which he felt would not be readily acceptable to the faculty artists assigned to supervise him. (Reportedly, one constrained, self-defeated, part time quasi “popster” on the faculty, a typical “new art” new-mediumist with tenuous connections to and further furtive aspirations for the commercial New York gallery “scene,” was trying to divert the young man to drawing aggregate cigarette packs as a would-be Andy Warhol might but, fortunately, as an oft repeated cigarette commercial message contends, this burly perspicacious chap chose to refuse—“to fight rather than switch.”) Nor could extensive new departmental facilities in any way service the young sculptor’s plans which were not at all radical by technological implications already apparent in contemporary art.

It is sufficiently clear right now that the program and its continually accumulating content, the present physical plant and prospects for further expansion, the budget and its capacity for increase of almost all of our collegiate, university and professional school art departments cannot cope with the requirements of formal art historical media indoctrination of students as it is currently construed. If, in the next decade, ideo-political progressivistic new mediumism becomes importantly pervasive in art, and, consequently, in art departments everywhere (there is sufficient indication now that it must) then, barring an improbable financial miracle, college, university and professional school functions, if they continue to be conducted somewhat responsively, will be compelled to become congested and encumbered and, also, more awkwardly anachronistic than they are at present in a necessarily senseless attempt to preserve the former curriculum, too. Literally, they will be so overstaffed and overequipped in the endeavor to supply thorough mediumistic scope within one department that they will be virtually ineffective mechanically and, therefore, might just as well cease their operations. (I sense that I do not even have to account for usual educational pressures such as an ever-increasing influx of students or the unavailability of qualified teaching technicians, etc. Those additional difficulties may force anticlimactic crises before the ultimate one is fully understood.) Frankly, as previously indicated, I think that many artists will miss participation in former school functions for financial reasons only. An artist’s education would surely seem to possess better prospects for realization apart from the massive imposition of pupil training by historical media precedent no matter how seemingly contemporaneous.


WITH THE INTENSION TO SPEAK briefly and directly, I have felt urged to limit my approach to the problem of the college, university and professional school versions of an artist’s education to a simple adverse outline which bears variously upon almost all art departments. This has been particularly useful but generally unfair. I realize that there are men and women at work in these departments who are avidly engaged in trying to proceed within the system, even as it exists in error, and to assist young people personally as well as they are able to. the joy of a difficult search which might be art. I, myself, have contacted and used “masters” of whom I was fond, and, later, from time to time, found others who were generously responsive to me as I wished to develop as an artist, but, from the outset of my investigation, I was fortunate enough to realize that I should trust such desire to no one but myself; therefore, I have not had to forego and to forget any portion of a formal education toward art. I have made that prerogative mine alone. I would advise anyone else to do likewise.

Now, I would like to attempt to plot a simple access to an artist’s education as I sense that it could be, first, by practically describing the self-identified contemporary artist as he might appear for furthering his own education (this is an unlikely task reluctantly assumed) and secondly, by suggesting some procedures through which colleges and universities and, to a much lesser extent, if at all, the educationally restricted non-university connected professional schools could participate in appropriately accommodating both artist and art.

I believe that art has become of mature decision for intelligent individuals with a prerequisite of sound personally construed education. Also, there should be a desire to promote individual thought as an artist. (The romance of days of belabored feeling, of precious, pious, compulsively grimy studio-bound labor by haphazardly informed neurotic “loners,” often verging on mental illness, relying desperately on intuitive good sense, is passing from art. The contemporary artist is becoming a public man, trusting his own intelligence, confirming his own informed ideas.) An old familiar truism tells that art cannot be taught, but neither can the intention for sufficient attention to it. As one might anticipate, such serious and extensive commitments ought to be incurred infrequently and not necessarily be encouraged since there is apparently no need for. more artists than for those who deem themselves capable and sense the potent possibility of sustaining thought which should develop thereafter.

On the contrary, present collegiate, university and professional school programs are designed and conducted to convey as many immature students (not artists) as possible, even those incapacitated and disinclined, into an annoying, cloying, chaotic future of indetermination and inferiority as artists or peripherally remaindered persons. This is shameful arrogation—an imposition of decision and direction mainly by proxy at the start and maintained by periodic guidance or misguidance thereafter.

Thought for media, which becomes one’s proposal as an artist, ought to be considered as uniquely selective from the beginning of one’s effort. The artist should not be condemned officially to adapt himself to falsified arts, a curriculum of artificial proficiency in various, separately categorized media such as painting on canvas kept distinct from sculpture of stone which disciplines have been construed as such and appropriate from the history of art—frequently from its especially useless and tasteful trove, ancient history. Further, he need not be conducted marginally from lettering through lithography to bookmaking nor should he be expected to trace a course from cross-stitching to hooked rugs to crewel stitchery, from one expensive studio course to another in the guise of conclusively completing his artistic education. But, as I have already indicated, no matter how up to the minute a program of discrete mediumistic indoctrination may seem, if the artist feels that he cannot use it, he should not be pressed to do so by degree requirements as he would be at present.

Now, art may be convincing as thermodynamics or painting or a seemingly impossible fusion of both and/or other areas of research if the determination be there for the artist. No artist should feel departmentally discouraged from thoughtful examination however seemingly anarchistic or retrograde its potential. Remember that discipline in art is bred of self-regard for self-development. I repeat, relative freedom of media choice must be conceded to each artist from the inception of his own conspicuous conscious concern. The faculty in charge in art departments today often seem curiously unable to encourage such an affirming point of view for their student-style would-be artists.

The artist of independent prospect whom I have tried to describe ought to be able to depend upon the educational center of the college or the university to support him and his art. He should not be impeded by an administration and teaching faculty still enamored of a policy of formal art historical media indoctrination. If an art department, as we know it now, is to survive at all, it should be relegated to advisory study status under the direction of circumspect artists and scholars with administrational aid.

To supplant the present structured instructional functions in studio, shop and class, an open continuous visiting artist, lecturer and demonstrator program should be begun at the convenience of those desirable men from whatever study as they are desired by the resident and non-resident artists associated with the particular college or university. These regular artists for the program, whether young to old, matriculated or not, should be invited to be sustained sufficiently for the development of their efforts through a system of foundation funding for both on and off campus research, sometimes to benefit each other’s investigations by association, often to inform those within the collegiate complex and outside of it. If and when possible, a school’s complete curricula should be opened to the probing artists in a relaxed, irresponsible manner without an a priori expectation for in-program results. Artists to participate within such a procedure should be chosen through direct examination by a large panel of peers with various perspectives and working prejudices. The most meagre credentials should be acceptable. Unfortunately, the lack of budget will eliminate many on a strictly first come, first accepted basis.

The agglomerate, anachronistic staffs of most modern museums effectively ignore so much contemporary art, particularly that which is mechanically unsuited to the confines of their buildings and properties because of its temporary nature, or unsavory content, or spatial requirements or technological complexities. Otherwise, they attempt to institutionalize other recent art slightly and historically and by self-consciously tactful tasteful catch all permanent collecting, through group showings of various extents which cheat all participants of genuine knowledge, and are contrived more, or mostly less, appropriately, by persons such as “professional” critics who are not artists and cannot know nearly enough about art to achieve their presumptuously presumed synthesizing aims. Colleges and universities should abandon plans to mimic the entire process on a minor scale. Instead, a continuous schedule of one man or one team expositions should be maintained in flexible indoor and outdoor exposition areas or elsewhere on or off campus. Artists and their associates in exposition should receive substantial fees for their participation. This sponsorship, if it became nationwide, could significantly benefit everyone concerned with art. So much information would be made available everywhere for so many people. Exclusive enclaves of artistic production and consumption could be efficiently disrupted. Relieved of serious monetary inhibitions by the system of collegiate and university stipends, many artists could finally free their efforts from the economy, from the odious implications that most art is merely commodity for speculative disposal by the commercial art “cartel” and its coordinated adjunct economic social “scenes” which artists often sense as compromising of their intentions and ideas and restricting of their lives. It is not likely that the frequency of informative art would increase but the probability of further imposition of educational tyranny by art historical media indoctrination could be decisively diminished. Inevitably, I believe, artists and educators and everyone so inclined within the college and the university would become colleagues in a distinguished mutual cultural “adventure” about art.

There they are, possibly engaging, perhaps enticing possibilities for better education by and for artists. But, finally, I must warn that if artists do not eventually find sympathetic sustenance for their self-induced research through colleges and universities throughout the nation, they may feel compelled to ignore instituted education more so than they do now, and to seek other auspices, perhaps through their own independently financed professionally determined organizations. And our synthetic culture could be the less for some time for that inevitable ignorance.

Dan Flavin

This paper was initially prepared for presentation at the Pennsylvania State University on August 4, 1967. It was revised and re-presented at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. on January 11, 1968, and at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago on January 15, 1968.