Unreal Nature

September 26, 2014

The Unclearness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… the way that we … decide that something … is a thing and the rest of it isn’t a thing is odd …

This first is from a 1973 Artnews interview with Vivien Raynor, found in Jasper Johns: Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews, edited by Kirk Varnedoe and compiled by Christel Hollevoet (1996):

[ … ]

We drifted for a while into a discussion of whether art had become just another industry. For him this was not the precise word for the situation, but it led him to comment on what he called the “unclearness” of society, so that “the things which were the foundations of art — the conventions and oppositions to conventions — no longer apply. Society is now too rich to accommodate that kind of simplemindedness, so some like me — I end up with just me, and I do what I do without any strong sense of its importance. At a certain point, one feels idealistic — that one will put oneself to good use … being a painter. Then later on, one comes up with the question of whether it is of any use — I’m not sure whether it is or not. but in my life, it’s too late — I mean, it would just be a hideous tragedy if I decided it were completely useless” — he broke out laughing at the thought — “unless I just did it with some sense of humor, and I’m willing to do that. Nevertheless, I’ve trained myself to deal with the things I deal with too completely to throw them aside. I don’t think I could just throw over my devotion to the visual arts.”

“Do you believe new art is a criticism of the old?”

“I think art criticizes art, I don’t know if it’s in terms of new and old. It seems to me old art offers just as good a criticism of new art as new art offers of old.”

The following is from a 1979 interview with Christian Geelhaar:

[ … ]

Christian Geelhaar: I have come to notice things in your work which, I think, are basically related to each other, but which have been developed in quite different directions. You once described the flag as a thing which is seen but not examined. The Stars and Stripes is an emblem which is taken for granted. It’s a unit. If one does examine your first Flag painting, however, one realizes that it is composed of three panels. I can recognize ideas related to this in some of your more recent paintings. In Untitled, 1975, or in Scent, the cross-hatchings create sort of an all-over pattern which you may see at first as one undivided thing which it is not. Do you think I am justified in drawing relationships between ideas such as these?

Jasper Johns: Yes, I do. Such things run through my work, relationships of parts and wholes. Maybe that’s a concern of everybody’s. Probably it is, but I’m not sure it is in the same way. It seems so stressed in my work that I imagine it has a psychological basis. It must have to do with something that is necessary for me. But of course it is a grand idea. It relates to so much of one’s life. And spatially it’s an interesting problem. In painting, the concern with space can be primary … the division of space and the charges that space can have … the shifting nature of anything … how it varies when it’s taken to be a whole and when it’s taken to be a part. Aside from such problems of identity, the way that we use space and decide that something in the space is a thing and the rest of it isn’t a thing is odd and is always changing.

-Julie

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