… Any kind of wit is one of the toughest things to do.
This is from Realists at Work by John Arthur (1983). This is from the studio interview with Wayne Thiebaud:
[ … ]
Wayne Thiebaud: … The reason I don’t like classical Surrealism, if there is such a thing, is that it seems already to have arrived before you’ve seen it. Even a good painter like Magritte — his ideas put me off.
John Arthur: Once you’ve seen it, there’s not much to go back to.
W.T.: The ideas may as well be a Saturday Evening Post cover, except that Magritte and De Chirico are good in the way that Morandi is good, in knowing just how to give you enough in the substance of the paint. I’m interested in Morandi, that muteness. You can’t really understand it, finally. I don’t think Morandi understood it either, but you love him for trying and you love him for not revealing — because it wasn’t to be revealed.
[line break added] His work is just good enough as it is, a series of reflections, ruminations — that’s enough for me. All the metaphor, the double-edged aspect, is certainly admirable, but is not why I like Morandi. It’s something which is really quite inexplicable, in addition to the fact that he’s such a damn good manipulator of the paint. Slugging that stuff in there, he really built his paintings lik a dam.
J.A.: There’s something in his paintings that’s very attractive. You may be opposed to irony, Wayne, but not to wit.
W.T.: No, I think wit is a very high form of attainment. Any kind of wit is one of the toughest things to do. Also, it’s one of the things that’s missing in so much of the art world. When you lose the capacity for a sense of humor in an art form, you lose a sense of perspective. That’s one of the real problems of the art world, its lack of humor. that’s why I liked Guston so much. He and I had a great talk about Bud Fisher, the guy who did Mutt and Jeff. That really meant something.
J.A.: Of course, the art world turned against Guston. When cartoon elements came into his paintings, they were quite horrified at first. Long term, it’s probably the best body of work he did, but underneath the humor in Guston’s paintings is a real sense of terror; it’s an autobiographical thing.
W.T.: More like Samuel Beckett in that sense.
Wayne Thiebaud, Tulip Sundaes, 2010
My most recent previous post from this book is here.