Problems of Criticism V: The Politics of Art, Part II

Perhaps it will be the task of an artist as detached from esthetic preoccupations, and as intent on the energetic as Marcel Duchamp, to reconcile art and the people.

––G. Apollinaire, The Cubist Painters, 1913.

. . . I believe that art is shedding its vaunted mystery for a common sense of keenly realized decoration. Symbolizing is dwindling––becoming slight. We are pressing downward toward no art––a mutual sense of psychologically indifferent decoration––a neutral pleasure of seeing known to everyone.

––Dan Flavin, “Some Remarks,” Artforum, December, 1966.

My monuments and other manifestations signal not the arrival of something but its disappearance, a leveling . . .

––Claes Oldenburg, notebook entry.

THAT AMERICAN ART OF THE sixties has polarized into two camps should be obvious to any reader of this magazine. In the following discussion, I want to attempt to define these positions so that

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