07/08/2011 04:18 pm ET | Updated Sep 07, 2011

David Robbins Talks High Entertainment

I first heard about David Robbins through my friend Alex Israel while Alex was still a student at the USC Roski School of Fine Art. His professor at that time, Charlie White, had sent him a link to Robbins' 1991 essay "High Entertainment," which Alex forwarded on to me. In it, Robbins writes:

Given the difficulty of engaging the production economies of the mainstream popular culture, not to mention the lowish aspirations for humankind often conveyed in the wares offered by the aggressively Accessible mass culture, anyone's decision to enlist in the smaller and more specialized realm of art is understandable.

In fact, I still have my copy of the essay that I printed out, heavily underlined, with stars drawn on it, and which Robbins signed when he came to Los Angeles in February for a talk at the Hammer Museum.

In the essay, Robbins offers ideas on separating from traditional models of art and entertainment, the contest between refinement and accessibility, and the identifying characteristics of an emergent middle ground between the two. His analysis of the mainstream and his ideas about creative "platforming" were particularly impactful for me, and his advocacy of a model of independent thought has been a constant influence in my life ever since then. In a 2006 essay for Artforum, Hans Ulrich Obrist summed up Robbins' approach: "The goal is to make art engage a more varied production, a broader context, a life cycle all its own."

Now my own cycle with Robbins has come full circle with Alex's interview with him for ForYourArt, which covers everything from Robbins' beginnings working for Andy Warhol to his formulation of a kind of post-art authorship.

In August, Robbins will release his sixth book, "Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy" (2011, Pork Salad Press).

To whet your appetite, here are some of my favorite quotes from the interview: 

  • "Imagine the demands of being Andy Warhol!" 

  • "The opportunity which the Factory gave me got me started asking questions, and that's how I learned about art."
  • "Faced with having to make a show, I pulled a rabbit out of what had appeared a very empty hat." 
  • "By 1989, just three years into making and exhibiting art, I had figured out that I didn't believe in art."
  • Check out the full interview at ForYourArt.