Making art is a form of rebellion. It’s a way of expressing my dissatisfaction with the status quo. Whether it’s writing, painting, or making videos, it’s something I do because I am in pursuit of something better than what was given to me. I feel it in my marrow that there is a power in communication and expressivity. What exactly am I rebelling against? Making art is an expression of dissent against conformity and control. It is a form of freedom.
That’s why it’s so important to be mindful about the process. It’s easy to fall into all kinds of traps that will take away your freedom. The worst kind of unfreedom is the one that you impose on yourself. If you sit down to write or draw and you think about how it’s supposed to be and not how you want it to be then you are not free. That’s one of the great examples of Picasso.
The break from representation had to do with finding more room to be yourself, to create from a place of power and not in the service of making it look like some other cowardly fuck thinks it should look. Artists have visions and they find a way to make them real. Picasso is one of the greatest ever to do it because he succeeded in making the art world his bitch. Even Michaelangelo had a master. Sure, he painted him as a skin without muscle, bones or organs on his way to hell, but he still had to compromise his work for the god-damned Medicis.
One thing that Barney helped me to remember is that there’s nothing more valuable in art than freedom. In order to achieve space to make things that come from a free place you have to be brave enough to do bad things. I don’t mean morally corrupt actions, but making things that people won’t understand and probably won’t like. When you are comfortable making bad art, then and only then can you make art that is free, which is the only kind of art that matters.
The new SFMOMA is overwhelming in the best of ways. It’s hard to believe that one family, the Fisher’s, could have collected so much art. I guess a degree in economics from Stanford prior to founding the clothing retailer Gap doesn’t hurt, in that capacity. Now, thanks to them, the museum houses an enormous sculptural installation by Richard Serra, impressive partly because it could kill you.
The other day, riding the Sky Glide at the Boardwalk with my assistant Jacqueline, I had a similar feeling: earthquake strikes, we’re screwed. Serra’s sculptures evoke vertiginous feelings common to the urban experience. Humans adapt to these kinds of situations ripe with the potential for catastrophe by adjusting to the feelings and eventually ignoring them. Serra’s art brings this corporeal precariousness back into consciousness with his arching and leaning steel panels.