Unreal Nature

July 29, 2013

Used Paper

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

This first is from ‘Statement’ by Robert Ryman (1971):

In the Fall of 1968 I did my first show in Konrad Fischer’s Gallery in Düsseldorf. The exhibition consisted of six paintings on paper panels, nine panels to a painting. The panels were crated and shipped to Düsseldorf. In the process of getting them through customs (in order to avoid the duty that is to be paid on “Art” arriving in the country), Konrad had listed them as “paper” and not as paintings. But the customs official said, “But? It is expensive paper (handmade) so you will have to pay so much!” “Yes, it is expensive paper,” Konrad said, “but it has been used.” The customs official agreed that it had indeed been used. So the paintings arrived designated as “Used Paper.” Since that time I have wondered about the possibility of paintings being defined as “Used Paint.” Then there could be “Used Bronze,” “Used Canvas,” “Used Steel,” “Used Lead,” …

The following is from ‘The Transformation of Nature through Nature’ by Sam Gilliam, which was the commencement address he gave at Memphis College of Art in May of 1986:

… They tell me that once upon a time in a very mythical land that was filled with small huts there existed a huge volcano. It had an amazing fire that came from within it. This was such a great fire that it kept the valley warm, lighted and always with pleasant weather. What was not known was that behind the volcano was a team of little people armed with bellows and logs fanning the fire and making it blaze higher. These little people formed a long lineage. I will name only a few: Rembrandt, Leonardo, Monet, Van Gogh, Eva Hesse, Cézanne, Pollock, Avery and many others. And now you have been called to join that team. For the illusions, the spaces, the forms that you create will keep your fellow persons warm, lighted and always in good weather.

[ … ]

A little reverse imperialism going on here (Art into Science versus the usual Science into … everything else). I like it! Instead of Science’s Newton, saying “If I see far it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”; in Art we have Gilliam’s “If I stay warm and lit it is because I have huddled in a crater with the little people.”

-Julie

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