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What Foxy Knows, Part 2
March 12, 1983

My last column was built around the question, Why did painting fail to capture the best minds of a generation? The column proposed two reasons: first, the verbal-mathematical entrance exams for the universities where art, after World War II, came increasingly to be taught had screened out the primarily visual­tactile personalities who had formed the backbone of the professions of the visual arts (including painting) for centuries; and second, the commercial Triumph of American Painting in the sixties had twisted that painting so far away from its original base in unique personal experience that it had closed off the exploration of the medium of painting for those who had some new unique personal experience to express.

I began the column by referring to Alan Sondheim's Individuals: Post-Movement Art in America and by noting that all but one of his individuals were of the generation maturing in the late sixties to early seventies. I neglected to mention, however, that those were the years when I first heard from the lips of my smarter, younger brothers the phrase "dumb as a painter”. It was then, too, that others of my friends began to refer to “the buffaloes” when speaking of my older brothers who were very large on the horizon. Somehow those two phrases have hung in my head for fifteen years now, and I've always felt a little dumb and bovine each time it was clear that all I was was a painter myself. And then when it became very clear indeed that the generation after mine would find the art of painting fit only for dumb buffaloes—well, how had we failed?

Out of that background of thought and experience there came to mind on a silly Wednesday last May the jingle, “Dumb as a painter/is not dumb like an ox;/no, dumb as a painter/is dumb like a fox.” Then, in the days that followed, there came a whole series of crazy little paragraphs intended chiefly to justify my own pursuit of painting during all the years when smarter people had mostly gone on to something else. I offer the paragraphs here, however, not for my self-justification but for yours. You, too, dear reader, have been, are or will be, yourself, out of it one day. Maybe then these notes will be of help, especially if you sometimes paint.

Thursday, May 13, 1982
What may be the characteristics of "foxy" painting as it may develop?
What does foxy mean? Foxy is smart, remember? Smart-that is, intelligent; that is, meeting rational problems and solving them rationally, like Frank Stella in the late fifties to sixties. Foxy is also being smart enough not to apply logical, rational solutions to irrational matters such as the source of creativity, the hunger to express and the exaltation of perfect mind-body, body-world and self-cosmos coordination in the creative moment. And lastly, foxy is knowing that the rational solutions to rational problems are at the service of the irrational act that is the making of art itself.

So, Foxy knows that the creation of those behemoth paintings for the great civic palace museums, the pride of the sixties, is totally in the way of the complex, subtle, shifting world of the real individual who, in order to follow his/her star, must travel light. After all, that's all a star is.

So, Foxy knows that art for commerce, the goal of every art magazine in America, is not art for the person. And Foxy also knows that art for the intellect, the goal of every art historian and serious critic, is not art for the person but art for the writer with a need for a topic and a reputation to make, a job to keep.

And Foxy knows that words, the story excluded from painting for good reason ever since the end of the nineteenth century, must now come back for equally good reason: Foxy's painting is the story of Foxy's life. And Foxy knows that the story of his life, if it's told truly, if he sees/hears/makes/tells it clearly, includes all lives, times and places because the cosmos is a tissue and Foxy is only a thread.

And Foxy knows that all media are valid, all sizes, all subjects and all results—if only they've got that rhythm, the rhythm of his heartbeat. Foxy knows that all are valid, that the dead hand of tradition is only the hand of habit-and habit arises in a minute. Those behemoth paintings were only the habit of the sixties; and performance/video—it's only the seventies reaction to sixties painting, already become the habit of the eighties. And Foxy knows that all media are valid and that none that got that rhythm are habits.

And, lastly, what does Foxy know? Foxy knows that the race is to the swift—the swift of thought, of intuition, of aspiration and fulfillment.

Well, dear reader, as Scheherazade always said when the sun came up, that's all we've time for now. But don't worry, there's actually a little more that Foxy knows and wrote in that notebook during his silly week last May, and that I hope to tell in my next column.