Friday, October 24, 2008

Lester's Laws

This document came to me via the VCU Sculpture Department email list the other day. It's a list of "Lester's Laws" -- basic rules of thumb for art-making and critiquing, from the mind of the inimitable Lester Van Winkle, Emeritus Professor of Sculpture at VCU. I was unaware of the existence of this list when I took Lester's classes (1987-1990), but the content insinuated its way nonetheless into my psyche. It's nice to have this wisdom codified so succinctly now.

Unfortunately Blogger keeps messing up the formatting. I give up on trying to fix it.

Lester's Laws:
The following I circulate at popular request and with serious misgivings that they might be mistook. These advisories or faux-rules were first instituted in 1974. They were applied to a class of sophomores whose insistence on repetitious inanities, like solutions and non-thinking was awe inspiring. Out of desperation these notions were circulated to insure some modest degree of creativity, or possibly a small revolution in a class of really comfortable underachievers. Although I intended them only as beginners' guidelines, they have become known as Lester's Laws. These "Laws" have been widely circulated at popular request and which edition this is, is not known.

1. Do not arrive on time for this class. Be early and appear busy. Punctuality and thrift precede cleanliness in the eyes of "You Know Who."

2. Have ideas in your work. Mere personal expression is unavoidable, highly overrated, and can be sloppily self-indulgent.

3. If you have no ideas, check your pulse.

4. If you have an idea (one) you are in trouble.

5. If you steal ideas, cover your tracks. Be the master thief. Do the perfect crime. Or don't. Be a postmodern, deconstructivist, conceptual appropriationist. Plagiarism is in fashion. Fashion is vicious and violent.

6. Remember that in our game an idea is no better than its articulation.

7. Speak up in critiques. Ye shall be known by your words.

8. In critiques do not say, "I like." For obvious reasons, like you're talking mostly about yourself . . . or whatever.

9. If you believe that criticism is only personal opinion, quit school now. Save your money. Personal opinions are absolutely free and in infinite supply on the street.

10. Beware of art jargon. No one knows what words like balance and rhythm mean.

11. Believe me, there is nothing negative about space. The constructivists considered space a tangible material.

12. Never let your story be more interesting than your art.

13. Never explain your choices by what you did not want. What you did not want or intend is an infinite set.

14. Do not let American industry make the color, surface, image, proportional or scale choices in your work.

15. High tech, avant-garde or expensive traditional materials will not improve bad ideas.

16. Simple repetition never doesn't work. Repetition, like contrast, is a visual phenomenon, not a conceptual issue.

17. Do not make things the same size without good reason. MODERN REVISION: No, do not make things the same size.

18. Do not center or divide things in the middle. The middle is such a swell place; it should always be reserved for special occasions.

19. Do not use obvious proportion ratios. 1:1, 2:1, 2:4 etc.

20. Avoid bilateral symmetry and 90 degree angles. (See special occasions.)

21. Do not arrange things that "lead" your eye in a circle, square, rectangle, triangle, cube, cone, etc.

22. If you want to use black, white, or gray, see me first.

23. Always make primary colors secondary choices.

24. Give color significant jobs to do in your work.

25. Paint all carvings, particularly stone carvings.

26. Find significant terminations for three-dimensional lines.

27. Always radically modify or rectify found objects.

28. Remove source references from found objects.

29. Make weird things. It is an artist's job to do so.

30. Remember that all things in the same context relate. Any further similarities, connections, parallels, vectors, or threads only compound an already existing relationship.

31. The only thing worse than a bad piece of sculpture is a big, bad piece of sculpture. Even worse is a big, bad, red piece of sculpture.

32. Trust your instincts. Trust your intuition. They are your best tools.

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