Fran Lebowitz, I don't remember eating...

When art critics announce the death of painting over and over again, I always think that it is absolutely not true. The reason it’s not true is because those deep impulses are embedded in human experiences. They come from their interiors, not from the outside world. They weren’t painted by your adorable little puppy. Telling stories, making pictures, making music comes from human beings, not technology. I’m not against technology as long as human beings don’t depend on it. But then again we live in an era where people are nostalgic for eras they didn’t even live in! Nostalgia used to mean for your own era, your own youth. For example, a 50 year old would say, “Oh, how I remember life was sweet when I was 10 years old”—that’s personal nostalgia. But now, kids say to me, “Fran, I wish I had lived in New York in the 1970s.” This is someone who was born in the 1990s. I never thought, I wish I were in the 1940s when I was young. That is very bad for the culture. One of the things about computers is that they give you everything as images. Not the thing; a picture of the thing. Sometimes a picture of a picture. We are so removed, and some people believe they have the same ethics but they don’t. The image of a painting is not the same as a real painting. One of the big advantages of being young is that you’re not looking backwards. That’s for old people. It’s funny to me how young people have taken so many of the things of old people, like an interest in food. This upsets me because food is a pleasure of middle age. When you’re young, sex, music, art, philosophy, poetry are what you should be interested in. Kids always ask me, “What restaurants did you go to when you were young?” None. I don’t even remember eating. I mean I ate in order to be alive, but the importance was the conversations I had with people I really admired. Again, to me art made of other art isn’t art. We live in an era of collage, which is the opposite of originality. Of course it’s fashionable—it’s not only easy to make, it’s easy to understand. That is why people like Pop Art, because they can recognize what they see. People did not like abstract art because it’s harder. They often felt insulted by abstract art because they couldn’t understand it. It’s too demanding, too contentious. So it’s not true that there was tremendous resistance by the average person to Andy [Warhol]. Andy’s work became popular much faster than, say, Jackson Pollock’s. I’m sick of looking at Andy’s work, and even sicker of his disciples. It’s the artist’s duty to make something new. That’s the job.

This is a small excerpt from an outstanding conversation between Phong Bui and the writer Fran Lebowitz.  Published in the Brooklyn Rail in March read the full interview here.


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