The art world from the late eighteenth century to the present has worked in a language of generations. Artists worked with their peers and among them to overthrow and supplant the generation in power. Then suddenly in the '70s you have artists who, rather than overthrowing their seniors, are pleasing them in order to get grades and public funding. That is exactly what my problem is with serving on National Endowment panels. I did it, and participated in it, but I have to admit that this is the first time in the history of American Art that an older generation has the authority to decide which works of the younger generation are privileged. This slowed down the style wheel to a virtual stop, and created a culture of mentors and protegés—a hierarchical, parental structure that would last as long as the National Endowment and the big museums and foundations had absolute power, say from '72 to '88. During this time, it was almost impossible for anything to change, because our culture is composed of a public academic and museum sector that changes slowly, and after the fact, in 30 year cycles, and a private gallery and magazine sector that changes rapidly, sometimes overnight. In the last ten years the academics who have been retiring from American universities are Abstract Expressionists and Formalists hired and tenured in the late '60s, just as these practices lost public credibility. They are being replaced with Deconstructionists who are already out of date, and who will be in power for the next 30 years, talking about stuff that is already over now.
SC: So you see that as the origin of the shift?
DH: The first paradigm shift really had to do with the influence of French Theory in the '50s and the '60s. That's the world in which I was educated, and in its secular formulations it still has its virtues. I continue to believe that the bad thing about French Theory is that it has no heart, and the good thing about French Theory is that it has no soul. In the early '70s the influence of French Theory was considerably altered by the resurgence of German Aesthetic Theory—particularly that of the Frankfurt School whose academicized Marxism lent itself very well to the academicized Marxism that was practiced in American universities. And also, I think there was another set of problems. The powerful arguments of French Theory—as it might be applied to art—revolve around its critique of Metaphysics and the discourse of origins that manifest in speculations about the death of the artist, and the structural ideology of institutions. If your in an institution teaching artists, you can't kill the artist or critique the institution with much credibility; if you believe in group identity and identity politics, you just restored the author in another guise. If you are tenured in a university you have to limit your critique of institutions considerably, because you are part of an institution. In other words, Post Structuralism is not an academic discourse; Frankfurt School and Marxism is. Also, in the '60s new English translations of writers like Adorno, Benjamin, and Lukacs became available. They were much needed because, loosely interpreted, they allowed us to be Mystical and Romantic, to talk about authenticity again, about what artists feel and their identity. In the world I grew up in, the artist was really presumed to be dead, and to most of my contemporaries, issues of artistic identity mean nothing. They mean nothing to Warhol, they mean nothing to Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, Bridget Riley, or Richard Serra. It's bullshit as far as they are concerned. From my view, it is a bunch of Romantic bullshit. I think that we are having now a kind of Counter-Reformation that has to do first of all with the fact that for 25 years, the market for works of art was the kunsthalle, the museum and the university. You were being paid by the state to make art that couldn't sell, and the art itself, because it was totally isolated from the market, simply didn't change. All of that begins to change when the National Endowment no longer gives as much money, when jobs in universities are no longer available, when art stops being a nice safe place to go. Because for 30 years being an artist was a safe thing to do. You filled out forms, got your check, taught in classes, you flew to Berlin and put up press type on the wall, poured a bunch of leaves in the room, and a bunch of people came, and you had wine and cheese. Then you flew home, and taught your classes, and went to faculty meetings, and applied for a merit raise, which the university gave you because you had a show in Berlin. And that works fine, although it does not create art that changes. So I think we are seeing now the restoration of sibling society, a society of peers. Most of the young artists that I know are interested in what their contemporaries think; they don't give a fuck what old people think. Your peers are who you live with till you die. You can please a lot of authority figures, but they're dead before you need them. So I think it's changing, in good ways but in a lot of silly ways too.
Another reason it is changing is that in the history of art, the tides of influence tend to go back and forth, they tend to be reactive. One generation reacts against another; the next generation, reacting against the previous one, goes back to the generation before that, which is to say the tides of influence in the art world tend to skip a generation. So now I have students who are really into Bridget Riley and Richard Serra; students who study Warhol, mostly as a colorist. When you are a young artist, you look around and you say, 'Gee everything sucks, I am going to go back to the moment right before everything started sucking, and try to find a new way out of that'. So you have a lot of artists trying to find a new way out of '60s art, much in the same way artists in the '80s tried to find a new way out of '40s art—in the sense that Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente looked back to the early figurative sources of Abstract Expressionism as a place to start. So that's perfectly natural, and it happens all the time.
The problem today, of course, is that art cannot change so fast because it is so highly institutional. The people in the