By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Showing in galleries doesn't bother me for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's more about social conditions and economic relationships. The minute I was working in what I consider to be my mature style, which is from 1977 on, I considered my work as art, as much as any artist showing in galleries at that time. There's nothing I had to apologize for. My work never had anything to do with illustration, or commercial art, or advertising. The fact that some of my drawings were used for record covers or advertisements doesn't matter. They were never done with that context in mind. Where my art is shown is pretty irrelevant to me. It's nice to have an audience, but it could be just one or two people. That's a cliché, but there is a lot of truth to that. I'd love to do more artwork that's pasted up on telephone poles, that sort of thing. I've planned on doing that for years and years, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I still do books sometimes. In some ways, I did prefer those ways of showing my art to showing it in galleries. It's not because of the nature of the work that I say that, it's just, like I said, more about my attitudes in general. At this point, it would just mean more to me to go outside this frenetic gallery system where you're preaching to the converted. It's a very small world.
Untitled (Meet the Band) 1987
The books are obviously a way to get around that.
Yeah, and my work, it lends itself well to reproduction, usually. But it's true that my case is not recommended for anyone going into the art racket [laughs], because I think it's very unlikely for anyone to make it without going through the university mill. And it's not something I would recommend to art students, to get themselves out of there. In a way it's kind of unfortunate that the gallery system is so defined. It does affect the ways I think about making art. When I was first making art, the gallery system was a lot different than it is now, this kind of blue-chip thing it's become. And you know, I don't want to take too much credit for it, but I think my work has helped open things up. You see a lot more drawing shows now, and there's more of a mentality in the galleries that it's possible to sell a number of smaller works by an artist, rather than expecting collectors to buy a single blue-chip painting or sculpture.
Do you watch much TV, see a lot of movies?
Not really. Just like most people, I guess. It isn't very interesting, since my work isn't influenced by media in that way. It's just about my relationship to the printed page, or that's where it gets its juice. I don't have that kind of postmodernism operating in my work. It's not a conflation of forms of information like so much stuff is nowadays.
What about for pure pleasure? What sorts of films and TV or popular music do you like?
I don't know. [long pause] I'm not so interested in talking about that. I don't think people need to know that. There's a mania to want to know artists' personalities, but I resist that. There isn't much to say anyway. Whatever is interesting about me is in my work, and that form of presentation is enough. I can talk about why I do what I do, but I resist pulling up examples of what I happen to like. I sort of like my work to be what people know about me, or people who aren't my friends at least. Or I just don't have anything I want to mention. If something came to mind, I'd mention it.
Okay, but I do want to ask you about the art you made that wound up adorning those punk fliers and record covers. You're saying that the artwork was not in any way inspired by your personal tastes in music, or in punk music specifically?
Of course it was.
Was it influenced by the particular record it adorned? Would the Minutemen or whatever band say, "Hey, listen to our album," and draw your response?
No, except for one or two cases where some knucklehead would come to me and say he had this great idea: "Oh, you've got to do this!" And sometimes, just because of friendships with the people involved, I'd use the idea. But if I did a record cover, I preferred to do the whole thing without any strings attached, and it still wouldn't necessarily be an illustration project, even in that case.
Is your early association with punk rock a red herring? I mean in terms of reading that period of your work? At least in shared attitudes, I feel like there was an unusual compatibility. But then your work's ubiquitous appearance on fliers and album covers in the late '70s did a lot to define punk's image.
Well, I've never been a musician, so I never felt restricted by the association with punk. I don't know if my art was really affected by punk. I never thought much about it. But in a way there was the quality of the music that came out of punk -- and I think there's some pretty big stuff, especially considering the times. Just in that way it might have affected me, like it affected a lot of people. But it's like what we were saying about the gallery scene. Punk had the same kind of institutional framework, in a more slothful way. Still, the art world doesn't have that do-it-yourself kind of thing that punk had at its best.
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