Monday, 29 December 2014

Frederick Hammersley, Never Let The Screen Door Slam (2010)

Frederick Hammersley (Jan 5, 1919-May 31, 2009) was an American abstract painter. His most well-known work deal with the limitless possibilities available in pure, strongly shaped form and the application of simple, flat colour. Powerful propositions of how this simple formula functions again and again sheds a revelatory light on what makes us pay attention to visual variation. One who's work repays closer scrutiny whether we work in an abstract or figurative idiom. As an introduction to this master of visual power here's a YouTube video where the man himself talks about his work, process and his life in general.

Never Let The Screen Door Slam
Frederick Hammersley, filmed by Vanessa H. Smith.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Josef Albers - Interviewed (1968)

Conducted by Sevim Fesci in New Haven, Connecticut. June 22,1968

The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Josef Albers on June 22, 1968. The interview took place in New Haven, Connecticut and was conducted by Sevim Fesci for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

SEVIM FESCI: Before we start to talk about your experiences in the United States and the creative process involved in your work, I would like to ask you a few questions about your childhood.


SEVIM FESCI: I think your parents were artists themselves? Or --

JOSEF ALBERS: I started once also at the request of some writer to write about my youth. And I started with this: I have not painted at all my childhood. In fact, I never painted. But I helped my father who was a house painter and decorative painter. He made stage sets, he made glass paintings, he made everything. I was in the workshop and watched him. So as a child so-called art was not my view. That was, in my opinion, my father's job. But I liked to watch him; he comes, as my mother also, from a very craftsman's background. My father's parents were carpenters. They were also builders partly. They were painters. And several of them were very, active in the theatre and all such nonsense, you know. On my mother's side there was much more heavy craft. They were blacksmiths. They made a speciality horse shoes and nails for them. So, as a child, my main fun was to watch others working. I loved to walk to the neighboring carpenter's place and up to the neighboring shoemaker in my home town.

SEVIM FESCI: Your home town is Bottrop?

JOSEF ALBERS: Bottrop, yes. That is in the Ruhr district. Do you know what the Ruhr is?

SEVIM FESCI: Yes. Very industrial.

JOSEF ALBERS: That is the Pittsburgh of Westphalia, of Germany. But a hundred times bigger; a hundred Pittsburghs all together. One never sees a boundary between the cities. And everywhere there are mines and furnaces and metal melting there. It was loud and very dirty, and unpleasantly ugly. The whole region is. Except at night when you go on the train through that country the fireworks are just incredible. So that's where I came from.

SEVIM FESCI: And you didn't feel at all the urge to draw or to paint as a child?

JOSEF ALBERS: Well, not to produce, as I said, so-called art. That was not my idea. My father painted all those stage sets, you see. I found in the woods little mushrooms. And I learned very early how to make imitation of wood grain. This is something I have in common with Braque. Braque also learned very early from his father how to imitate marble or wood grain. So I could easily make the appearance of oak or walnut on pine. That is very easy; a very simple technique. And I learned how to imitate marble. I never made such a good joke as Braque died. When he was in the Mediterranean he fooled his friends. He painted a rowboat that had wood on one side and marble on the other side. You see, when he'd row out of the city it looked as if he were in a boat of a different material than when he came back, you see, one side was imitation wood and the other side was imitation marble.

Frank Stella & Donald Judd - interviewed by Bruce Glaser (1966)

This discussion was broadcast on WBAI-FM, New York, February, 1964, as “New Nihilism or New Art?” It was one of a series of programs produced by Bruce Glaser. Glaser has lectured on art at Hunter College and Pratt Institute, and is now the director of the Art Gallery of the America Israel Cultural Foundation in New York City.

The material of the broadcast was subsequently edited by Lucy R. Lippard, and was published in Art News, September, 1966. In her introduction to the text, Miss Lippard wrote that it contains “the first extensive published statement by Frank Stella, a widely acknowledged source of much current structural painting, and Donald Judd, one of the earliest exponents of the sculptural primary structure, in which the artists themselves challenge and clarify the numerous prevailing generalizations about their work.”

BRUCE GLASER: There are characteristics in your work that bring to mind styles from the early part of this century. Is it fair to say that the relative simplicity of Malevich, the Constructivists, Mondrian, the Neo-Plasticists, and the Purists is a precedent for your painting and sculpture, or are you really departing from these earlier movements?

FRANK STELLA: There’s always been a trend toward simpler painting and it was bound to happen one way or another. Whenever painting gets complicated, like Abstract Expressionism, or Surrealism, there’s going to be someone who’s not painting complicated paintings, someone who’s trying to simplify.

GLASER: But all through the twentieth century this simple approach has paralleled more complicated styles.

STELLA: That’s right, but it’s not continuous. When I first showed, Coates in The New Yorker said how sad it was to find somebody so young right back where Mondrian was thirty years ago. And I really didn't feel that way.

GLASER: You feel there’s no connection between you and Mondrian?

STELLA: There are obvious connections. You’re always related to something. I'm related to the more geometric, or simpler, painting, but the motivation doesn't have anything to do with that kind of European geometric painting. I think the obvious comparison with my work would be Vasarely, and I can’t think of anything I like less.

GLASER: Vasarely?

STELLA: Well, mine has less illusionism than Vasarely’s, but the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel actually painted all the patterns before I did - all the basic designs that are in my painting - not the way I did it, but you can find the schemes of the sketches I made for my own paintings in work by Vasarely and that group in France over the last seven or eight years. I didn't even know about it, and in spite f the fact that they used those ideas, those basic schemes, it till doesn't have anything to do with my painting. I find all that European geometric painting - sort of post-Max Bill school - a kind of curiosity - very dreary.

DONALD JUDD: There’s an enormous break between that work and other present work in the U.S., despite similarity in patterns or anything. The scale itself is just one thing to pin down. Vasarely’s work has a smaller scale and a great deal of composition and qualities that European geometric painting of the 20’s and 30’s had. He is part of a continuous development from the 30’s, and he was doing it himself then.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Donald Judd

"Half or more of the best new work in the last few years has been neither painting nor sculpture."

This is the start of Donald Judd's essay "Specific Objects" (Arts Yearbook, no 8, 1965) This essay is considered a Minimalist Manifesto by many although Judd himself would disagree with both this term and the description. It nevertheless deals with Judd's discipled stance on a number of issues and is as such highly recommended reading.

Donald Clarence Judd

(June 3, 1928 – February 12, 1994) was an American artist associated with minimalism (a term he nonetheless stridently disavowed).[1][2] In his work, Judd sought autonomy and clarity for the constructed object and the space created by it, ultimately achieving a rigorously democratic presentation without compositional hierarchy. It created an outpouring of seemingly effervescent works that defied the term "minimalism". Nevertheless, he is generally considered the leading international exponent of "minimalism," and its most important theoretician through such seminal writings as "Specific Objects" (1964).

The prime source for anything relating to Donald Judd's work and writing (including the famous essay 'Specific Objects') is The Judd Foundation, their website is:

Monday, 22 December 2014

Bridget Riley, Untitled Statement (c.1968)

My final paintings are the intimate dialogue between my total being and the visual agents which constitute the medium. My intentions have not changed. I have always tried to realize visual and emotional energies simultaneously from the medium. My paintings are, of course, concerned with generating visual sensations, but certainly not to the exclusion of emotion. One of my aims is that these two responses shall be experienced as one and the same.

The changes in my recent work are developments of my earlier work. Those were concerned with principles of repose and disturbance. That is to say, in each of them a particular situation was stated visually. Certain elements within that situation remained constant. Others precipitated the destruction of themselves by themselves. Recurrently, as a result of the cyclic movement of repose, disturbance, and repose, the original situation was restated. This led me to a deeper involvement with the structure of contradiction and paradox in my more recent work. These relationships in visual terms concern such things as fast and slow movements, warm and cold colour, focal and open space, repetition opposed to "event," repetition as "event," increase and decrease, static and active, black opposed to white, greys as sequences harmonizing these polarities.

My direction is continually conditioned by my responses to the particular work in progress at any given moment. I am articulating the potentialities latent in the premise I have selected to work from. I believe that a work of art is essentially distinguished by the transformation of the elements involved.

I am sometimes asked "What is your objective?" and this I cannot truthfully answer. I work "from" something rather than "towards" something. It is a process of discovery and I will not impose a convenient dogma, however attractive. Any artist worth consideration is aware that there is art beyond art-movements and slogans, that dogma can never encompass the creative process. There is art beyond Op art, an art which engages the whole personality and draws a similarly total response from society.

Bridget Riley, untitled statement (c. 1968), in Maurice de Sausmarez, Bridget Riley (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1970), 91.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Kenneth Noland (About the Arts, 1977)

Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel interviews Noland and Diane Waldman, the curator at the Guggenheim Museum 1977 exhibition of Noland's paintings, life, and career.

From the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Video Archive in the Duke University Libraries.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Ad Reinhardt - Twelve Rules for a New Academy (1953)

Evil and error in art are art's own “uses” and “actions.” The sins and sufferings of art are always its own improper involvements and mixtures, its own mindless realisms and expressionisms.

The humiliation and trivialization of art in America during the last three decades have been the easy exploitations and eager popularizations of art by the American artists themselves. Ashcan and Armory expressionists mixed their art up with life muckraking and art marketing. Social and surreal expressionists of the thirties used art as an “action on the public,” but succeeded mainly in expressing themselves, and abstract expressionists of the forties and fifties, using art initially as a “self-expression,” succeeded in acting upon the whole world. The business boom of the twenties orphaned the alienated artist, but the Great Depression of the thirties witnessed the tender engagement of art to government. Ten years after that, the ardent marriage of art and business and war was celebrated with Pepsi-Cola in ceremonial contests called “Artists for Victory” at America's greatest museum of art. By the fifties, armies of art's offsprings were off to school and Sunday school, crusading for art education and religious decoration.

From “Artists for Ashcan and Dust Bowl” to “Artist for America-First and Social Security” to “Artists for Victory” to “Artists for Action in Business, Religion, and Education,” the portrait of the artist in America in the twentieth century shapes up into a figure resembling Al Capp's Available Jones, who is always available to anyone, any time, for anything at all, at any price.

(The “ice has been broken,” the ivory tower flooded by unschooled professionals, the walls of the academy washed out by schooled primitives, and the sanctum sanctorum blasphemed by fauve folk, Bauhaus bacchuses, and housebroken samurai.)

The conception of art as “fine,” “high,” “noble,” “free,” “liberal,” and “ideal” has always been academic. The argument of free or fine artists has never been between art and something else, but “between true art and art submitted to some other, quite different values.” “There are not two arts, there is only one.” “No man can embrace true art no he has explored and cast out false art.” The academy of art, whether the Western or Eastern ideal, has always aimed at “the correction of the artist,” not “the enlightenment of the public.” The idea of the “academy” of art in the seventeenth century, of “aesthetics” in the eighteenth, of the “independence” of art in the nineteenth, and of the “purity” of art in the twentieth, restate, in those centuries in Europe and America, the same “one point of view.” Fine art can only be defined as exclusive, negative, absolute, and timeless. It is not practical. useful, related, applicable, or subservient to anything else. Fine art has its own thought, its own history and tradition, its own reason, its own discipline. It has its own “integrity” and not someone else's “integration” with something else.

Fine art is not “a means of making a living” or “a way of living a life.” Art that is a matter of life and death cannot be fine or free art. An artist who dedicates his life to art, burdens his art with his life and his life with his art. “Art is Art, and Life is Life.”

The “tradition” of art is art “out of time,” art made fine, art emptied and purified of all other-than-art meanings, and a museum of fine art should exclude everything but fine art. The art tradition stands as the antique-present model of what has been achieved and what does not need to be achieved again. Tradition shows the artist what not to do. “Pea- son” in art shows what art is not. “Higher education for the artist should be'liberal,' 'free' and the 'learning of greatness.”' “To teach and enlighten is the task of wise and virtuous men.” “No greater painter was ever self-taught.” “Artists must learn and learn to forget their learning.” “The way to know is to forget.”

“The guardian of the true tradition in art” is the academy of fine art: “to give certain rules to our art and to render it pure.” The first rule and absolute standard of fine art, and painting, which is the highest and freest art, is the purity of it. The more uses, relations, and “additions” a painting has, the less pure it is. The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. “More is less.”

The less an artist thinks in non-artistic terms and the less he exploits the easy, common skills, the more of an artist he is. “The less an artist obtrudes himself in his painting, the purer and clearer his aims.” The less exposed a painting is to a chance public, the better. “Less is more.”

The Six Traditions to be studied are: 

(1) the pure icon; 

(2) pure perspective, pure line, and pure brushwork; 

(3) the pure landscape, 

(4) the pure portrait; 

(5) the pure still life; 

(6) pure form, pure color, and pure monochrome. “Study ten thousand paintings and walk ten thousand miles.” “Externally, keep yourself away from all relationships, and internally, have no hankerings in your heart.” “The pure old men of old slept without, dreams and waked without anxiety.”

The Six General Canons or the Six Noes to be memorized are: 

(1) No realism, or existentialism. “When the vulgar and commonplace dominate, the spirit subsides.” 

(2) No impressionism. “The artist should once and forever emancipate himself from the bondage of appearance.” “The eve is a menace to clear sight.” 

(3) No expressionism or surrealism. “The laving bare of oneself,” autobiographically or socially, “is obscene.” 

(4) No fauvism, primitivism, or brute art. “Art begins with the getting rid of nature.” 

(5) No constructivism, sculpture, plasticism, or graphic arts. No collage, paste, paper, sand, or string. “Sculpture is a very mechanical exercise causing much perspiration, which, mingling with grit, turns into mud.” 

(6) No “trompe-l'oeil,” interior decoration, or architecture. The ordinary qualities and common sensitivities of these activities lie outside free and intellectual art.

The Twelve Technical Rules (or  How to Achieve the Twelve Things to Avoid) to be followed are:

1. No texture. Texture is naturalistic or mechanical and is a vulgar quality, especially pigment texture or impasto. Palette knifing, canvas-stabbing, paint scumbling and other action techniques are unintelligent and to be avoided. No accidents or automatism.

2. No brushwork or calligraphy. Handwriting, hand-working and hand-jerking are personal and in poor taste. No signature or trademarking. “Brushwork should be invisible.” “One should never let the influence of evil demons gain control of the brush.”

3. No sketching or drawing. Everything, where to begin and where to end, should be worked out in the mind beforehand. “In painting the idea should exist in the mind before the brush is taken up.” No line or outline. “Madmen see outlines and therefore they draw them.” A fine is a figure, a “square is a face.” No shading or streaking.

4. No forms. “The finest has no shape.” No figure or fore- or background. No volume or mass, no cylinder, sphere or cone, or cube or boogie-woogie. No push or pull. “No shape or substance.”

5. No design. “Design is everywhere.”

6. No colors. “Color blinds.” “Colors are an aspect of appearance and so only of the surface.” Colors are barbaric, unstable, suggest life, “cannot be completely controlled,” and “should be concealed.” Colors are a “distracting embellishment.” No white. “White is a color and all colors.” White is “antiseptic and not artistic, appropriate and pleasing for kitchen fixtures, and hardly the medium for expressing -truth and beauty.” White on white is “a transition from pigment to light” and “a screen for the projection of light” and “moving” pictures.

7. No light. No bright or direct light in or over the painting. Dim, late afternoon absorbent twilight is best outside. No chiaroscuro, “the malodorant reality of craftsmen, beggars, topers with rags and wrinkles.”

8. No space. Space should be empty, should not project, and should not be flat. “The painting should be behind the picture frame.” The frame should isolate and protect the painting from its surroundings. Space divisions within the painting should not be seen.

9. No time. “Clock-time or man's time is inconsequential.” There is no ancient or modern, no past or future in art. “A work of art is always present.” The present is the future of the past, not the past of the future. “Now and long ago are one.”

10. No size or scale. Breadth and depth of thought and feeling in art have no relation to physical size. Large sizes are aggressive, positivist, intemperate, venal, and graceless.

11. No movement. “Everything else is on the move. Art should be still.”

12. No object, no subject, no matter. No symbols. images, or signs. Neither pleasure nor paint. No mindless working or mindless non-working. No chess-playing.

Supplementary regulations to be followed are:

No easel or palette. Low, flat, sturdy benches work well. Brushes should be new, clean, flat, even, one-inch wide, and strong. “If the heart is upright, the brush is firm.” No noise. “The brush should pass over the surface lightly and smoothly” and silently. No rubbing or scraping. Paint should be permanent, free of impurities, mixed into and stored in jars. The scent should be “pure spirits of turpentine, unadulterated and freshly, distilled.” “The glue should be as clear and clean as possible.” Canvas is better than silk or paper, and linen is better than cotton. There should be no shine in the finish. Gloss reflects and relates to the changing surroundings. “A picture is finished when all traces of the means used to bring about the end have disappeared.”

The fine-art studio should have a “rain tight roof” and be twenty-five feet wide and thirty feet long, with extra space for storage and sink. Paintings should be stored away and not continually looked at. The ceiling should be twelve feet high. The studio should be separate from the rest of the school.

The fine artists should have a fine mind, “free of all passion, ill-will and delusion.” The fine artist need not sit cross-legged.

Ad Reinhardt. Excerpts from “Twelve Rules for a New Academy” (1953)