Saltz in the Brooklyn Rail

Rail: How would you define originality?

Saltz: I never say “MAKE IT NEW!” I say make it surprising or boring in an interesting way or make it seem to put off more energy than might have gone into making it. A good Pollock is like the burning bush: It burns but doesn’t burn out. You don’t use it up. Artists can be unoriginal in very original ways. Richard Prince said: “Don’t make it new, make it again.” I agree. When my students fret that what they’re doing has been done before I always say, “Don’t worry. See what happens if you do it.” No words can describe the mystery, mysticism, and power of doing that. I hate it when older teachers tell art students that art used to be good but now it isn’t. I tell students to ask those teachers, “When was the last time art was good?” The teachers usually answer, “When I was your age.” When they say that, a student should smile and imagine them dead.

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