Unfortunately (or fortunately), we can’t all afford to go to art school. But now there’s a much cheaper way to learn from the likes of John Baldessari or Liam Gillick. Brooklyn-based contemporary art journal Paper Monument (sister publication of literary magazine n + 1) has released Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment, which shows that the studio classroom isn’t the only place to receive an art education.
The volume is a testimonial to both learning and teaching a subject that easily escapes verbalization. Honing in on the intricacies of the art assignment, the book’s editors convinced dozens of artists to submit candid accounts of their most memorable classroom experiences. The resulting eighty-nine entries are as much a lateral view of art education in the past half-century as a demonstration of how difficult it can be to teach.
The entries in the book are anecdotal, abstractly theoretical, and sometimes instructional, ranging from drawings to poetic quasi-verse. They ultimately seem to agree that failing to complete an assignment is often as important as completing one. As the editors note in their afterword, we often prize art for its anomalous quality, as “a creative misunderstanding of the rules of a particular game.”
Have time before summer break gets under way? Try some of these homework assignments, inspired by the book’s contributors:
1. Take an eighteen-by-twenty-four inch piece of paper and make a drawing using nothing but your car. —Heather Hart
2. On a hot day, take an assortment of bottles and a paintbrush to a playground with a drinking fountain and asphalt. Arrange bottles. Paint the arrangement on the asphalt with nothing but water from the drinking fountain. —Patricia Treib
3. Make a tool to work on a problem that is currently unknown. —Corin Hewitt
4. Write a vivid visual description of an imaginary work of art that you would find hideous, and explain why. Then make the piece. —Mira Schor
5. One person copies or makes up random captions. Another person takes photos. Match photos to captions. —John Baldessari
6. Construct something out of a cereal box. Leave it in a museum. —Bob Nickas
7. Read an obituary (without a picture), and paint a portrait of the person described. —Matt Phillips
8. Free up half an hour for a color walk. Pick a color in your surroundings and follow it for as long as you can. If you hit a dead end, pick a color adjacent to it and repeat. Take a picture of where you wind up. —Munro Galloway
9. Make a skyscraper out of inappropriate materials. —Paul Thek
10. Take two pieces of clothing from your closet. Make one piece of clothing from it. Donate it to a thrift store. —Helen Mirra