Formula for Practice

Everyone has heard Thomas Edison’s dictum that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Famous advertising director George Lois has modified it for the era of global conceptualism: “Creativity is 1% inspiration, 9% perspiration and 90% justification.” This clearly reflects the experience of an adman because he has to sell his ideas to everyone in his office and to the client. Persuasion is a constant effort. But that’s not so far off the situation in art, especially today. In the final analysis it’s a reflection of the “team” culture in all sectors of the economy. See the gallerist, critic, art historian and philosopher—in addition to all the other artists who help build a consensus around certain ideas—as members of your “team.” It’s not as if you have a choice anyway. There are so many mediations in everything now. For that matter, what is “theory” but another mediation between artist and viewer? But less obvious in Lois’s truism (and even more true) is that inspiration, or creative work, is being squeezed out of life by all the other kinds of work. The center is a very small kernel today. The dream of modern art was that the 1% of inspiration should expand and grow to encompass everything. Everything grows but.


Mark Lewis, The Pitch 1998

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