James Harithas Interview with Frank Gillette NYC / 1992

 

 

TAPE #1

 

 

H: The question is: how does your work relate to that of your peers, the history of your generation, academia, and the intellectual left?

 

G: Start with the last one-first. I slipped into the proto-domain of video in large part beacause of my experience at the Free U, which was the ultimate New Left intellectual bastion of the time. I was a “professor” along with Alan Krebs and several others.

 

H: You were even visited by the Situationists.

 

G: Yes, we hosted the Strasbourg Situationists at the time.

 

H: Interesting…

 

G: Because they were a European version of what we were up too in New York. The Free U. gave me three years of experience in an anti-establishment institutional setting. The idea that you can generate counter-institutions…thus the connection with video and eventually Raindance.

 

H: Because Raindance was another counter-institution?

 

G: To vie for the counter-institutional left. That’s the answer to your last question. Should we go on with it?

 

H: One of my interest's is in artists collectives, of artist's working together…all of which seems to be a reference to the counter cultural left.

 

G: But it came out of my day-to-day experience. I was the Free U's second Director.

 

H: Tell me a little about the Free University. I don’t think it’s been given its proper due in the history of the 1960's.

 

G: The Free U. was established by Alan Krebs. He was pitched out of Adelphi University even though he had tenure. Justification was that he assaigned Mao’s Little Red Book in his Sociology class…

 

H: What year was this?

 

G: This was 1965. He settles for a payoff, but loses tenure. Because he was a huge pain in the ass, I mean here he is assigning Mao Tse-tung as an official text in his sociology class.

 

H: If they didn’t get him then, they would have gotten him now. And they got him!

 

G: Correct. So he takes the money, his settlement from Adelphi and forms the Free University of New York. He informs his radical friends, I among them. Let’s create an institution, we’ll produce a catalogue, a curriculum, a series of courses, no credit.

H: But it’s not a Maoist organization?

 

G: No. Although Krebs had Maoist tendencies. He admired Mao’s sweep…It was the characteristic he most admired about Mao, his no bullshit sweep of revolutionary force.

 

H: Mao had his moment.

 

G: Well this was the mid 60’s. When Mao was still alive and in power. 

 

H: Tell me something more about the curriculum. And what exactly distinguishes it from, for example, Adelphi University.

 

G: Everything. From courses on Maoism, Trotskyism, Das Kapital, Sociology, Alienation, Media and Ecology.

I conducted a seminar on McLuhan and new media. I also taught a course on Post World War II Painting. Abstract Expresionism was part of the radical left at the time. A film collective, Newsreel was associated with the Free U. It was also funded with the Free U's money.

 

H: Oh, I didn’t know of that connection.

 

G: Well, Despite all of his Communist credentials, the irony of Krebs was he knew how to keep something going, so the damn thing made money. So we had this surplus and we had to decided what to do with it, hence the origins of Newsreel.

 

H: But he wasn’t a CP member, was he?

 

G: No, never.

 

H: He hated the Communist party?

 

G: Loathed it.

 

H: Because by that time Stalin was exposed.

 

G: Correct.

 

H: But Kreb's was like a public intellectual in the style of the 50’s, no?

 

G: Yes.

 

H: I don’t know, I believe I met him once at your New York studio.

 

G: He remembers meeting you as well.

 

H: Yeah.

 

G: I remember your comment concerning the three of us hanging out together in my studio. It was odd, Kreb's kept looking away from the video, remember?

 

H: I do.

 

G: The central disagreement between Krebs and myself concerned hyper-technology. I argued that technological evolution was a separate force in radicalization. Further, I argued that technology was a new force and had to be acknowledged and seized upon. Alan was reluctant to accept that. It wasn’t purist enough for him, it wasn’t Trotskyist enough for him.

 

H: There is a moral dilemma. Artists employing advanced technology when technology, in brief seems to be destroying the world. Right?

 

G: But is that a necessary and suffient reason to ignore the fact that such technologies exist? I would say no.

H: That it can be used in other ways.

 

G: Correct. In counter-institutional ways.

 

H: Even against the technology itself?

 

G: Well, that’s a different story. It’s happening at this very moment. There are people who are trying to subvert Microsoft by inventing cost free operating systems which are superior and will function on a PC platform. For example. Now that’s in a strange way a kind of radicalization within the technological domain itself without any apparent practical politics associated with it. It’s just for the fact that they want to see the monopolists go down because it is essentially, at best, a mediocre product. I think they’d be less annoyed and pissed off if they were producing a superior product. But they’re not, they’re producing the most low-level, least innovative operating system available.So there are radical operators, most of them are found in places like Finland. For example.They produced their free operating system on the Internet as an alternative to Microsoft, and Microsoft tried to sue them, get rid of them, buy them off or something, and they refused…They just continued providing it on a site in London, called Linker. Which was attempting to restructure Adobe graphics programs…and make them available on the Web. And, by the way, it is inept, while it doesn’t have that much of a chance against Adobe...but in principle, it’s an example of how radicality is working within the cybernetic milieu.

 

H: Now the other thing I thought was…an artist…rather than a corporation or a military organization could really function with advanced technologies and really redirect them into useful and intellectual…

 

G: And aesthetic, even.

 

H: And aesthetic…dimensions.

 

G: So that’s the connection with the new left and the leftist intelligentsia in terms of my own development. At this time, I’m in my what, I’m in my mid and  late 20’s, which is, its formative, it’s when people essentially form personalities  and alliances that somehow or another mature…They’re rarely abandoned, that is to say…

 

H: Say that again.

 

G: I think that the intellectually identified acquisitions we make between let’s say 25 and 35 are the ones we basically refine and mature for the rest of our lives, as opposed to constantly abandoning them as you are more likely to do in let’s say you're early 20’s.

 

H: Well, you can either abandon them or you can…

 

G: I began my early 20’s as a barely skeptical Jesuitical Catholic! I mean, think about that shift. You know?

 

H: I think all of us made a shift like that, though…

 

G: Yeah, well, I think that the kind of intellectual anarchy and searching that goes on in that stage matures between let’s say 25 at the youngest , 35 at the latest…

 

H: If you’re in the right place at the right time…

 

G: Then after that it becomes about refinement and extension as opposed to constant abandonment. With rare exceptions. People like Irving Howe come to mind...

 

H: Well, I remember that, uh, I can’t remember, that thesis that by age 39 an artist either, but actually, this goes into my next question, an artist either refines what he did earlier, or changes as De Kooning and Titian and others have done and actually take on a whole new idea.

 

G: A new problematic…

 

H: Yeah…

 

G: So, how would  I answer that?

 

H: Yeah, well I don’t think you need to answer it. I think that’s one thesis that seems to have been proven out.

 

G: And…And my own operating thesis…Absolutely yes.

 

H: [xxxxxx], no?

 

G: Whether it’s successful or not is another issue.

 

H: Let me give you this next question which is my…the favorite thing that I wrote down. You appear to have moved from an intellectually based art to one that emphasizes emotion and myth and is related to Abstract Expressionism, right, in some ways. Is this a change of life or an expression of the opening of your yin side or anima…or is it based on your intellectual work, i.e., a deconstructionist shift from Subject a la Cartesian subject, right, to multiple subject positions and subjectivizations?

 

G: Excellent question. Wish I’d said that.

 

H: But that’s the question…All you have to do is answer it.

 

G: Wish I had said it. Uhmmm…

 

H: Because we’re talking about that shift, right?

 

G: Absolutely. No…I indeed…This is not about…This is about a sort of cartography of ideas, a…sort of like a mapping system. My first encounter with my own experience of being a Kunstler was painting. OK? So from painting to radical politics, from radical politics to radical media, through radical media up into, say, the early 70’s, I think the Everson show under you, under your direction, was the culmination of that body of work. And you realize there was a culmination. After that, I just turned to serial photography for example, I think the Polaroid, I got less interested in temporal-based imagery, although I was still making video installations. It was diminishing as my central focus, and I got back into atemporal work. There was the grid photography of the 70’s and 80’s . So there was that kind of insistent shift, justified at the time by arguing that video was instant film in a vulgar analogous sense, and Polaroid is vulgar photography…So therefore that was the connection. So it wasn’t like going back into the darkroom and using classical photographic techniques. I saw Polaroid technology as an atemporal extension of the Sony Port-a-Pack. The same kind of liberty it opened up. Its size, its orienticity, its same relationship to the maker and the technology as video. You can basically figure out how to optimize what’s going on and that’s it. I mean it’s not about…

 

H: But you also were working with structure…Somehow you were bringing a greater sense of structure to…serial images…

 

G: There was also a strong influence from the Minimalists, I’ll admit. Because I saw the Minimalists in  a kind of…In a way they provided a kind of matrix of ideas as to how to install units of things. And the monitor at the time was a unit of a thing. And so the whole Minimalist sense of how to install a unit became [*******].

 

H: You know on the surface it appeared to have some kind of scientific, aggressive reference or scientific procedure instead of this grid. And somehow…it lead into either science or…the way we look at tables…or whatever…

 

G: Or a Judd wall piece.

 

H: Yeah.

 

G: It was: how do you deal with a uniform unit, sculpturally, in the sculptural sense, in an installational sense. And so therefore Minimalism had an influence. But also, my interaction with people like Bateson and Fuller and McLuhan had enormous influence. In a way that was more about: address the issue not of the formalistic context, but exactly what are you doing in relationship to the world as is described in these terms—anthropological, cybernetic, ecological models that were ripe and I was an ephebe at, and I listened at the feet of these guys arguing with each other, and occasionally…

 

H: It also brought you into whatever you were representing in the same…well…a lot like video…you would look at the tree from all these angles, right?

 

G: And the idea was…

 

H: And you’d become part of that, the experience of the tree.

 

 

 

 

[[break]]

 

 

 

 

H: Well, I said that about myth, emotion and myth…

 

G: Yeah, but that question that you articulated was…

 

H: The idea of the deconstructionist shift from Subject with a capital s to multiple subject positions and subjectivizations. And I can see where that would apply, and I know you went through this whole…you went through deconstruction in a way.

 

G: I did, yeah. Suzanne used the same word, earlier, yesterday, and she was…

 

H: Also, you know, you see that, I see that right alongside with Abstract Expressionism.

 

G: Which was my first [****].

 

H: Which is probably the only American art form that has something more, that was more than illustration, that has something deeply spiritual to say.

 

G: Yeah. By a circuitous route we’ll return to the core of the question, which is why did the—you named two types of artists, essentially: those who pick a signature style and refine it for the rest of their lives. The second is a set of artists who generate a signature style by constantly changing the problematics of what they’re doing, the technology of what they’re doing, the ideational context of what they’re doing, and the ideology of what they’re doing. So it’s not about a refinement of a single signature; it’s about establishing a signature that is the result of these transformations…Right? So it’s not the idea of abandoning the notion of signature, it’s about altering, or revolutionizing even, the notion of what signature means, so that you can see in the cartological sense, the mapping of shifts from media to the ideas and how they’re related to everything else that’s going on, and their circumambient surround – what other artists are doing ( you can never consider these things outside that context) – and how the notion of why of why these shifts take place when they do, makes the difference.

 

H: You know there’s also the fact that , and I’m thinking particularly of the show which I think you’ve not seen yet—[*****]

 

G: No, I’ve not seen it.

 

H: Anyway, you see that [*****] made these very adventurous moves in every decade, and then I looked at the 80’s work and I said, ah,[I don’t know if] he’s made very adventurous moves, but he’s keeping up…

 

G: Really…

 

H: All of a sudden I thought it reflects what’s being done in the 80’s , its style and format and whatever…So there’s also that factor, that we live in a context where it’s certain…we see changes over…changes in taste, changes in interest over this period of time. Shifts, say, from [*****] an interest in painting and more so sculpture in the 60’s to a shift in interest in photography to now an enormous shift in interest in video…

 

G: Well, video’s become ubiquitous.

 

H: When we were involved in video, nobody was interested but us. We were the most interested people in it.

 

G: We were fanatical, actually.

 

H: Yeah, right. We had visions of a museum with only video, and in a sense you see that in the Whitney show. [That was] the only satisfaction I got out of the show, to see video monitors on the same level as…

 

G: They took it out of the room, they took it…

 

H: It’s in the gallery, it’s in every gallery. There are videos on the floor, you know, that they put up, and…

 

G: Chrissy Isles…

 

H: The first time I was almost thrown out of the Museum Directors Association was for having video and television cameras and wires on the floor of my museum…

 

G: What show? This was my show, I believe, in ‘73.

 

H: Yeah, who else? I not only spent the whole year’s budget on your show, Frank, but I almost got thrown out of the Museum Directors Association, which I did anyway…

 

G: You must be doing something right.

 

H: Yeah, really. Well, what that meant was that it was impossible to find another job. Once you’re thrown out of any one of those organizations they can [*****]… I did, but it was sort of…Like moving downhill…

 

G: You went from there to Houston. What do you mean?

 

H: Yeah, well, downhill, right?

 

G: From Syracuse to Houston? In some ways it’s rather uphill. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States. Syracuse is like the 60th or something.

 

H: It’s also the most polluted city in the United States—did you see the photograph in the Times?

 

G: I did, yeah… George W. Bush…

 

H: The guy’s a dummy.  Okay…

 

G: So let me try to reconvert this into a crazy [sort of history] of what this attitude of mind is about, this notion of the signature not being a refinement in style, but a cartography, a mapping, of different problematics which have interconnecting ideas but on the other hand different technologies and addressing different ideological issues because of the time. And in effect all of yourself. To some extent my argument with Krebs , [and this] goes back to a series of ideas , was that the nature of the technology actually alters the options in the ideological stance. If you don’t consider that component, and you [******] the ideology independent of it, you’ll fail.

 

H: Do you think that’s true of painting? The shift from, say, tempera to…oil-based paints, or…plastic paints.

 

G: What is…

 

H: That’s a new technology…

 

G: Absolutely. But it’s a new technology within the same categorical type…I’m talking about technological shifts  that change categorical types, that is from painting to video to installation to grid photography back to painting into large-scale Polaroid photography into collage, all that while drawing, and then some how or other back…

 

H: You’re talking about a time when there was an enormous revival of painting…

 

G: This is true.

 

H: And there was that moment [when] I think we needed to look at painting to re…it was like going back to ground zero again.

 

G: In my case it was an escape. Or a deconstruction, as you might put it. I had just finished my biggest installation at the Whitney, “Oracle”, [which was] the first computer installation ever, which was a total…my first experience of learning in public. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever had one? They’re cold showers!

I mean, the logistics of putting that piece  together were so amazingly mind-boggling, and I had no idea what I was undertaking when I had the idea…It was the details. And the logistics…

 

H: [Talk about that piece a little bit].

 

G: It was a nine by nine foot, three foot deep, terrarium, on one wall in the gallery. The terrarium was filled with mosses and ferns at the bottom, and in it are placed in a temporal way, the cocoons of the largest moth in the world, which is an Andean moth by the name of Morphus Achillus. And I had the cocoons delivered in such a way that  six would hatch every day. [There was] a total of about sixty.  So that every day, the cocoons would arrive…logistically speaking, the cocoons had to arrive in such a way that six would hatch every day and not forty one day and none the next and so on, so the thing had an accumulative effect. At the top of the terrarium, there [was] a set of sonar devices, [Polaroid] devices, there were six sonar beams, so as the chrysalis opens and the moth emerges, it breaks into the sonar beam. Six at a time and then 12, then 18 et cetera…Over time. And as those beams are broken, they are feeding six computer programs, displayed on the opposite wall of the terrarium, so we’re talking about north/south, and there you have eight video screens, and in the center a printer. And then on the wall, four speakers. So the random interaction of the moths draw[s] up images on the visual programs, which are four, and then there are literary programs for producing text on the screen and on the printer. And then there is another program which produces random sounds which were designed by a synthesizer as the moths passed through the sonar beams. So on one side you have eight screens, a printer, and on the other side you have the terrarium itself. Inside the terrarium also there were two cameras, two video cameras, which are also alternating on the eight screens. You have a physical view of the information from the terrarium from the interior, from two views…

 

H: And this was the…the most recent installation piece.

 

G: This was my last.

 

H: So it was your last and it was, like, your most complex, because it [included] everything that you had before, with the terrarium, the…

 

G: Correct.

 

H: Now this can be degenerated…

 

G: Then after that piece, I retreated to East Hampton and returned to painting. Gouache at first, and then collages, dry pigment and clear mediums, things like that, on canvas and so on…

 

H: Yeah, but at the same time you did your Internet, your proto-Internet pieces…

 

G: Over that period.

 

H: Yeah, over that same period…

 

G: Earlier, actually.

 

H: I think it’s important to state that.

 

G: That was ‘79 to ‘81…Three years.

 

H: This is basically related to that [other] piece.

 

G: The interim period was very important because it was…at the same time I was ending my interest in video installation, culminating in 1982 at the Whitney with Oracle, I was also involved in something called Arpanet, and getting the [Whitney to put] money behind it, and having it produced and published. At the same time. At the same time I getting into the Internet I was withdrawing from video installation with the Oracle piece at the Whitney. That was it. Finale. It’s over, you know, get back to basics, basically, and I began with gouache paintings, I began painting with gouache. And then the collages…

 

H: So how did your painting connect to the earlier paintings that you did?

 

G: [It] did not. Only in the fact that it was pigment on a surface.

 

H: I thought they did. They were [sober]…

 

G: Yeah, that’s true. But, I had a …My first phase of painting, from 18 and a student to…

 

H: There’s a lot of melancholy in those paintings…

 

G: Correct. There is.

 

H: They’re really as emotional as the installation pieces…were not necessarily emotional, the video pieces… Maybe “Hark Hork” was an emotional piece…

 

G: Yeah, it’s one of the exceptions in my video career…

 

H: The others were about observation…

 

G: And strict observation, under, you know, under a geometric ideology. Governed not by random snapshots, but governed by a numerical system of ratios and proportions that were somehow or other…governing the way you receive the images [in] the installation…

 

H: Yeah, that and a little feng shui, no?

 

G: A lot of feng shui…It was all about geomancy. It was all about…

 

 

-END OF TAPE #1-

TAPE #2

 

 

 

H: I suppose what I want to ask right now is that in looking at these pieces, what is your project, how can I put it, let’s see, what are you aiming at, really? Your goal in this work…

 

G: This is an example of a body of work in which the following is being attempted: the attempt is to demonstrate that there are specific types of visual equations that result in a kind of aesthetic ambiguity. I decided, rather arbitrarily, that there are seven, because I wanted to stay within the same context as William Empson’s “seven types of ambiguity”…

 

H: Oh, okay.

 

G: So what I think I’m doing is working out how each of these seven types of visual ambiguity interact with each other. None of them are pure. There’s always an element of one in the other, and an element of the other in the element of the other. The seven are never examples of one-by-one seriatim  there are always combinations or correlations between parts of each. And so in one way or another, I’m working with different types of visual ambiguity. And these can be categorized, in my opinion, in a rather eccentric but formalist way. Which I’m still in the middle of, after writing this essay for almost four years , I haven’t really released it yet. There are a few corrupted versions floating around, which are always [********]…But that’s the general principle. So what kind of range does this notion of types of visual ambiguity provide? Or how fecund a line of development is this? And what are the results? Why…

 

H: The results are that they give us the method, or…

 

G: The results…

 

H: There’s something very resolved about that…

 

G: Yeah, but I want to answer that…

 

H: Is…

 

G: Ambiguity is the result of the picture; it’s not the cause of the picture.

 

H: Oh, okay.

 

G: So the structural aspects of the different types are highly unambiguous, I mean there are ways of doing it…which have a range of explicit components. You know, you…go through these components and you get somewhere in the range, and then you select. So it becomes a Darwinian issue. You select what possibilities you want.

 

The thing about this software is that its deep. It’s strangely deep. I don’t think the makers of it realized the kind of permutations they were creating. I’ve been working with it for about seven years, and I haven’t plumbed the…all of it yet either. I’m still discovering possibilities and combinations that I haven’t discovered yet, that I haven’t had the…

 

H: This one seems less dependent on the collages—the earlier ones, with the exception of maybe Duchamp, seem to be somehow related to, an extension of, the collages. In other words, when I first thought about it, I just found in my little [****], a way to deal with collage with a greater possibility…

 

G: Yes, exactly. And…the difference in the technology is that, okay, and this is parenthetical: I enjoyed making physical collages. I enjoyed the act of cutting and pasting and figuring out the painting, and all kinds of…

 

H: And finding the image…

 

G: Precisely, and keeping stacks and stacks of data files, and…all of that was a fantastic pleasure, it wasn’t as if I was looking for something that was more pleasurable; it’s the degree of permutations available in the digital that is the difference that makes the difference.

 

H: By degree you mean the available…

 

G: The degree to which you can store-base images, you can store visual data which you want to combine and the spread at which you can do this. In effect, I have enough RAM to have, to work on 500 images at a time—simultaneously…I don't, I work on about 40 at a time…But when I was working physically, with collage, it was about two at a time. And the relationship between the materials which I had a sensual enjoyment in engaging—it’s not that I was trying to avoid them—was a specific kind of limitation that was restricted to that kind of material. And puts me into the 19th century, etc…Link to Schwitters…I would say the attitude that I picked up on was in a sense, owes its origin to Schwitters…

 

H: I also thought it brought up the possibility of art with a little soul in it, as opposed to Minimalism, which seems somewhat soul-less. Entirely intellectually based. Feeling. I [look at] feeling in those images there.

 

G: Yeah, even angst. And dread.

 

H: Well, there’s probably one feeling in particular.

 

G: But the sum-up in an aegis…the over-arch is…it’s about a picture that can only be coded in terms of the way it’s mixing codes. All ambiguous images in some way or another are a level of the mixing of codes: how many codes are [****] in the art and how are they mixed…that distinguishes the wheat from the shaft. Because it’s the essential organizing principle…

 

H: Is there any difference in collage? Except for the number of permutations that you make…

 

G: The number of permutations produced…

 

H: No…my wife does collage. She brings up two-thousand magazines—literally, too—and goes through them, picks like, you know…

 

G: Absolutely, it’s the way to go…

 

H: Huh?

 

G: It’s the way to make great collage. You have to have magazines, and a sense of [justice]. I’ve always related to Ann’s collages, personally. No, I think that the technology should rename the rules of the game. Its like collage in an analogous sense, you know, collage is an analogy to what’s being done, but it’s not an extension of collage in the same way that…for an example,  consider some atelier like Rauschenberg’s where collage techniques were advanced by having a staff of twenty people figure out all of these different…you know, that’s one level of technological advancement…

 

H: I…I don’t see any advance over Schwitters in his work. Not much.

 

G: Hmmmm.

 

H: With the addition of external pieces.

 

G: Well, so did Schwitters…Schwitters stuck wood and…I mean, Schwitters was remarkably prescient and Rauschenberg took all of that into his…

 

H: Well, Schwitters devoted his life to it, right?

 

G: Yeah, well, I think, in some way, what I’m saying is I think Rauschenberg owes a lot to Schwitters, and I think I owe a lot to Schwitters, in different ways, I mean…This is back to the collage issue.

 

H: Well, that does bring up influences…

 

G: Yeah.

 

H: Influences that you think are critical that I think would be important for this thing…Influences in terms of using the technology, but also influences within your generation and within art history.

 

G: Hmmmm.

 

H: Because you’re bringing all of those together, in a sense.

 

G: Even Baroque painting, which is , you know, another obsession of mine, the idea of…

 

H: Well, it’s Titian…Titian is…

 

G: It is…Well, Titian is sort of the apex. But even pre-Titian…I mean, I…

 

H: There’s not much Baroque pre-Titian…

 

G: No…No, no…Hardly. But I’m talking about pre-Baroque. Its like Signorelli, for example…

 

H: Oh yeah, pre-Titian. But we’re not talking Baroque…

 

G: No, not Baroque…

 

H: This is a serious Renaissance painter.

 

G: Yeah, but he’s very different. He’s a weird exception in the whole Renaissance oeuvre. He’s not…he’s the exception in the same way that Bosch is to Netherlandish painting. You know, you have one or two of those and that’s it. And the rest are all…So I think Signorelli was of course a Renaissance painter, but one who was operating in ideas…There are some images in Signorelli, for example—I’m going to interrupt myself—which are sort of proto-Cubist…Have you ever noticed this, the images he made of Hell?

 

H: Oh yeah.

 

G: Yeah, they’re proto-Cubist. You know, like in a sense they’re Leger, you know, they’re Leger-type Cubism… And there are configurations that you, you know, that really startle the eye and the mind…I’m talking about the frescoes at [*****]

Specifically…

 

H: Yeah, I can picture what you’re saying…

 

G: So, it’s…it’s bringing in…

 

H: You see that as…

 

G: I see that as a spirit. I see it as an agonistic spirit. I see it as a principle of Agon. That is to say that I have a peculiar psychological relationship with the work of Signorelli…Among other painters. But Signorelli is among them. That’s what I’m saying. So influence? Of course. If you’re viewing as a sort of psychological correspondence, of course it’s an influence. And what I like about it is the clarity and the radicality of the clarity in Signorelli…There’s a strange…Michelangelo studied the…frescoes in [Norvietta?] before he painted the Sistine…

 

H: Well, I’m not a Michelangelo fan.

 

G: [******] But he has a lot of clout! Michelangelo, that is to say. Not Signorelli.

 

H: [******] As opposed to Titian, who is his contemporary…Michelangelo moves towards a kind of realism, the other one moves towards abstraction, which interests me more. You know, I see a connection between Michelangelo and, say, Caravaggio, which is…

 

G: …Except a manner of spirit…But that’s something else, too. He advances it…But the thing about Titian—I want to, we’ve got to wrap that thing up about Titian, because I do agree with you in one way, and in another way I don’t agree with you.[It’s ] The symbolic complexity in Titian as well as the formal issues of structure that makes him a superior painter, certainly.

 

H: Really…

 

G: See, there’s something for the masses about Michelangelo.

 

H: I see Cubist references in his work, too.

 

G: In Titian…

 

H: Yeah, in Titian.

 

G: Well, especially the way it goes in the background…

 

H: Like in the guitar, or the lute, I guess it’s a lute, in the picture in the Met.

 

G: Yeah, of course.

 

H: If you look at it…

 

G: Even the background. We pointed this out, we once sat in front of that painting together…The magical light from the tree coming out…So he was aware of all of these, you know…

 

H: Devices, really…

 

G: Well, gnostic sub-texts…That’s what they amount to. Which you don’t have in Michelangelo. Michelangelo is like a show-and-tell book. The Sistine Chapel is like show-and-tell. I mean, its like…

 

H: Show-and-tell? Very sophisticated show-and-tell.

 

G: Oh, no, they’re… they’re great. But they are in fact show-and-tell. They have no inner secrecy in the way you have in Titian’s symbolic mixes. And…the subterfuge in Titian, the formalistic and symbolic or iconic subterfuge in Titian produces a whole other psychology that is real Renaissance…Its real…

 

H: Real Renaissance and it’s the beginning…

 

G: Of the [world], of course, because it’s the culmination…

 

H: Because it reaches to Rembrandt, to Velasquez, everyone…

 

G: Where is it culminating? In Michelangelo or in Titian? It’s Titian. Titian.

 

H: So, let’s come up a little closer in time…

 

G: In terms of , oh this began with a discussion of [******]…

 

H: Yeah, it began with sort of a…it also harks back to my earlier question of who are your influences and how you connect with your peers and so on…

 

G: Uhmmmm…

 

H: Significant people who influence you work…

 

G: The first serious influence on me was Tony Smith. It was at Pratt, circa 1960. And it was about Smith’s attitude that I picked up on. He turned me on to James Joyce, for example—I mean in a serious way. I mean I read…

 

H: This is early 60’s…

 

G: This is 1960, the earliest 60 you can get, you know. It was my first serious influence, and it was more about…

 

H: If you lived in New York and you were involved in the art world you had to know about Joyce in those days…I mean not now…Now he’s an unpopular figure, but…

 

G: Well, I don’t even know if he’s popular or unpopular, but he’s certainly not…

 

H: Never discussed…

 

G: Not really, he’s out of the…

 

H: Go ahead, I’m sorry, I…

 

G: The point I’m making is…we talked earlier about influences…That one was my first serious influence…Uhmmm…And that gave me a sort of…Smith said one thing to me once which I’ve never forgotten, in fact I remember the moment very clearly. He said ‘When they’re all going that way, go this way’. It was like a Zen koan.

 

H: Smith gets the serious…he’s this serious Minimalist in the show, when in fact he’s not.

 

G: He never thought of himself as a Minimalist.

 

H: He wasn’t a Minimalist. He’s in the same category as Newman.

 

G: Yeah. He’s the sculptor’s version of Newman.  He took on the hexagon, and Newman took on the parallelogram.

 

H: Well, he took on the tetrahedron.

 

G: In a big way. And he also brought Bucky Fuller to Pratt. You know, so he was very aware of the whole Fullerian implications…

 

H: Very aware…I remember when I went to the National Geographic Library to look at the Bell collection…And the librarian, the woman, says, well, the only person that has had this much interest in Bell’s kites is a man by the name of Anthony Smith…

 

G: Surprise, surprise!

 

H: Surprise, surprise…A sculptor, she said a sculptor by the name of Anthony Smith.

 

G: I don’t know if this is true. It’s an absolutely wonderful story. Wonderful. Yes…Smith’s attitude of mind was more important that what he was…although he was also a very practical mentor, because he had everybody working for him…building maquettes, you know…You know, you know…With the [****] torch he had us building maquettes. [******]…And then he went to Hunter. And that’s a whole other story…I don’t want to get involved in art politics in the mid-60’s. I’d rather talk about the influence and get it over with.

 

H: Yeah, let’s go on to the next one.

 

G: The next one was my central interaction with the anti-war movement, radical politics, radical social theory…then it culminates in the Free U.

 

H: That’s true. But what about in art?

 

G: Oh, in art? At the time? Alright. That’s an interesting question. Around 1963 or 4…well, it had to be 64…

 

H: Because you were also the most painterly of the video artists.

 

G: Right, I never wanted to…

 

H: But you knew about painting and it was reflected in the work, I thought…it was always clear.

 

G: I would agree. I mean, in almost a sub-conscious way. I mean it’s as strange as painting…The influence at the time…

 

H: “Hark Hork” is a very painterly…

 

G: Oh, yeah, it’s a grillaise.

 

H: Yeah, really.

 

G: And it was meant to be that way. It’s about gray, you know, more than it’s about black and white…We’re talking about a gray work…It was a very formalist principle, and collagist [in time]…so all of these things  come together…Anyway, the second wave of influence on me was my encounter after/during my videos, after I established myself as a video whatever, you know, madman, perhaps…certainly [a] marginal figure…got affiliated with this thing through a guy named Victor Giosca, which was the Center for the Study of Social Change, where I met Gregory Bateson. And Bateson and I, for some reason, chemistry or otherwise, got along very well. We had like 40, 50 years between us, basically…He was in his late 60’s at the time and I was in my late 20’s…So it was that kind of correspondence. But…just [watching] Bateson think things through…and then at one point, I said to him, you know what, I am your liaison back to the art world. And he said: exactly that…He said, right on…So Bateson became a huge influence on me. The whole sort of ecological consciousness, awareness of how things fit, there’s no such thing as one thing over another, it’s all [*****] around, basically. It’s far more complex than that, but in a sort of…

 

H: Well, it’s important to have that reference…It’s important that people know about it…

 

G: Well, it was a huge influence on me.

 

H: But what, but then on the other hand, what did you think about the art that was going on in that period? Your relationship to Warhol and Pop, for example…

 

G: I dismissed, I…Except for the Disaster Paintings, which I thought were really strong, and the very very fist show, at the Stable Gallery…

 

H: Because they were so…immediate and…

 

G: And sudden. Sudden and different. They were sudden and different. And therefore they had a certain power. And so…was his first show at Stable Gallery, pre-Castelli…They had a suddenness and a…discontinuity…that was really amazing and shocking, I mean I was like taken by them…it really registered…

 

H: But part of this shock was seeing, wasn’t it, seeing…art that really related to everyday life.

 

G: In the most radical way.

 

H: In a direct way…

 

G: When I walked into the Stable show (I think I’ve told you this story before, I’ll repeat myself) the first time, I thought I had walked into the basement of the local A&P…or Safeway…Acme Market, whatever they call those…and I was in the basement, floor to ceiling, with Brillo boxes…floor to ceiling! With narrow path-ways through them…It was the most radical installation I’d ever seen. And…you know, and after I got about three or four feet into it, I realized I was tricked, and it blew my mind. I said “Fuck man, I’ve been caught, unguarded…I’ve lost my guard…You’ve caught me off guard.” And I walked around Manhattan that whole day, thinking of nothing but about the show. I actually walked around in sort of a quasi-daze, because of that show, and that was [why]. Following that was the Disaster Paintings—after that I think Warhol becomes a society figure, a celebrity. And a great graphic artist. [His] was a great graphic line…But says nothing but an extension of his celebrity.

 

H: Yeah, a great graphic artist, but still more of an illustrator.

 

G: Absolutely an illustrator. As an extension of his own celebrity. It’s not about art anymore. So there’s this very deep, really heavy whack you in the face period from Warhol, in my opinion, that dissolves into this blather…

 

H: Art and fashion come together—he brings them together…

 

G: Vulgar blather! Just vulgar stuff.

 

H: Now you’re talking.

 

G: But after this amazingly shocking and abrupt and sudden appearance…and then…gone…it dissolves into his own celebrity.

 

H: But does he become more and more important as we become more consumer oriented, or what? What gives it this enormous importance, so that is has practically a room to itself at the Whitney? [****] he’s thought of that way…

 

G: It may also be about consensus. There is a consensus that—and the Dia Foundation [in some sense] informed this consensus…

 

H: He may be second to Rockwell in America, you know.

 

G: I think it’s Maxfield Parrish who he’s second to.

 

H: Oh, you think he’s better than I do.  And how about the Minimalists? You say that Minimalism was an influence on you…

 

G: Absolutely. Strongly.

 

H: At the time? When it first…the Morrises and Judds that you saw…

 

G: Yeah…

 

H: Immediately? Did it have an immediate…

 

G: Yeah…There was something…

 

H: There was a resonance…

 

G: Something about the notion of difference…something with a counterpoint, in a…to get classy about it, it was about a Hegelian dialectic…something and something else interacting with what I had associated my emotional alignment with…And what I liked about it was its way of dealing with units of things as opposed to overall emotionally insinuated compositions…They were about Platonic units, in a sense…In a sense it’s a kind of Platonism.

 

H: I saw it somewhat differently…less intellectually. I saw it just in terms of reduction…reducing…

 

G: In a different kind of way. In a particular kind of way. You know, it’s…

 

H: Didn’t  Einstein say, simple but not too simple?

 

G: Yeah, he said: simple, but you can’t get too simple.

 

H: So, who of the group interested you the most?

 

G: I’ll tell you the one, I’ll tell you one of the painters who I was interested in at the same time all of this was going on in the late 60’s…was Larry Poons, the early optical paintings of Larry Poons. Really interested me.

 

H: They were wonderful paintings. They were wonderful, sublime paintings.

 

G: I thought they were the best…

 

H: They were music, it was almost as if there was a rhythm…

 

G: Well, he was a guitarist…

 

H: I know he’s a musician, but you can feel it in the, you know…

 

G: They were really, I mean, if I were to pick one body of work out my peers’ at the time that all of this was going on, it would be Poons.

 

H: Oh, interesting.

 

G: And what happens to Poons later we will not discuss, because I don’t want to discuss it.

 

H: Well, he doesn’t refine. He attempts…

 

G: Something else…And it doesn’t work…

 

H: And he goes into something else and he sticks with it.

 

G: That’s not the period that I’m talking about. I’m talking about the optical paintings up until, what, the oatmeal paintings he did at the very end of that body of work…Which lasted about ten years; it was a significant body of work…

 

H: Oh yeah.

 

G: He was the only painter at that time that I was really interested in. Of my generation.

 

H: I remember seeing Hans Haacke’s Poons-like images. Mainly they were lithographs. [but maybe we’ll get into that some other time]…that was the extent of his influence, I’m just saying, because  Hans Haacke…Haacke…[I would hate to say] that he was influenced by Poons, but it was there. Well and there was also something of influence that could have been aligned to [****] in terms of …

 

G: And Op Art.

 

H: Oh yeah.

 

G: And Greenberg of course latched onto them immediately. Because they’re all so beautifully flat. There’ not…They’re really great paintings. An amazing [idea]…That’s the way it goes…the fact that he couldn’t sustain that level of painterly intensity…is one of the…

 

H: Such a dramatic change, you know…[****]

 

G: Well, I remember going to his studio at a party about a year or two after his optical paintings, when he was doing the oatmeal pour-downs, and the entire studio was an oatmeal pour-down. Every surface you walked on was…filled…poured in paint, I mean, you couldn’t go anywhere where there wasn’t a pig-mental surface…you were walking on one of them, literally. Because there was no space…

 

H: Because I…

 

G: Even the stairway! I recall it. Even the stairway. There was a certain…extremism about it, but that’s a real side issue. The question was what painter interested me at the time, and the answer is Poons—Poons’ work at that time . He was the only painter who really engaged by eye. And interest. The other ones who engaged my eye and interest at the time were mostly…Nauman always did…I was always paying attention to Nauman.

 

H: Interesting. Well, he was doing a number of things, too.

 

G: Yeah…In psychological ways that I found extremely original. I mean I haven’t seen that equation quite played out like that before.

 

H: Definitely original.

 

G: Yeah.

 

H: And definitely an intellect at work.

 

G: Yeah…I have nothing but the highest respect for Nauman. Even when I think they don’t work, I don’t care. Sometimes I find a bit of bombasticness, for example.

The deer pieces that swing on that…

 

H: Yeah for some reason  it doesn’t [fly]…[***] It’s really shocking when he comes out with things like that.

 

G: That’s the exception. But his cartography, is what it’s really about…The way he moves through mediums, different types of sculptural mediums and ideas, is something I highly respect. And  that I feel affiliated with.

 

H: And also his intellectual life…I was pleasantly surprised to see that he read and followed certain things.

 

G: Oh, very carefully…So that’s another one. But then the shift…the next shift occurs like in the mid-70’s when I get taken on by Castelli, and the whole issue of video installation suddenly bumps up regard, in critical regard…The whole, you know the whole…So that’s another passage or influence that went on from like ’74 to ’78 or 9…In that range…So it was like five, a five year run…Another kind of an influence in my life, in my development…Outside the ideational equation…

 

H: But it was what you were doing…

 

G: Yeah it’s…

 

H: You were completely engaged in your work at that point. I remember that.

 

G; Absolutely, and I was also traveling like a madman. I was a virtual gypsy.

 

H: [To Taney:] Frank would arrive somewhere and immediately get his port-a-pack together and go out there and work…All day…until it was dark. And then, next morning, same thing: up and doing it, non-stop…

 

Taney: What’s a port-a-pack?

 

G: It was the earliest of the portable video cameras, circa 1967…

 

H: The only people, the only two artists that had them were Paik and Frank Gillette. Is Paik still alive?

 

G: Yeah, he is…He’s getting better apparently.

 

H: I hear.

 

G: So the Chinese medicine is working…Okay, so that’s one part of the equation of influence, since we’re talking about influence. The next influence is oddly a negative one, and that was…the early 80’s…after the show I did at the Whitney, the Oracle show which we described earlier in high detail, and I went back to East Hampton and began painting gouache…[[cut off]]

 

END OF TAPE #2

TAPE #3

 

 

G: Well, we left off in this rather influential transition between what was the equation of influence—or what was the agonistic spirit of [****]…who are you taking on, and what are you doing, and why are you doing it, and when are you doing it…The…

 

H: Well it’s also interesting to know what you’re interested in at a given time, either positive or negative. You know, because we’ve been struck by waves of whatever, what is it, narrative art…70’s narrative art…performance…whatever.

 

G: Performance never interested me as a form because…Life is a performance. It’s all a stage, as the Bard said.

 

H: [[To Taney]] Some people…

 

G: The next was a negative one because of the return to painting and the…idea of, you know, producing an interesting body of work, perhaps. It had nothing to do with influencing directly painting going on at the time…We’re talking now about me…You know, I got some respect, I mean, collected et cetera…blah blah blah…Showed it, I had no problem showing it. Showed drawings and…no problem, but that’s not the point. The point I’m making is…

 

H: You worked with paper and surfaces that ultimately helped you later on.

 

G: Absolutely. Pen and ink, even.

 

H: Back to pen and ink…whatever.

 

G: Absolutely. So it had its purpose, but it didn’t make the difference in the sphere  which is was operating in…the sub-set of spheres it was operating in. In a way that anything else that I had done prior to that did. It was a far more…However marginal I was in the past, my work became even more marginal.

 

H: Was it possibly because with the exception of interest in that revival of painting by a younger generation, painting still was in…in decline. The interest in it was…there wasn’t a wide interest in painting. I mean there was a moment where you saw painting, but…or was there? Or paintings just became visible again.

 

G: The first time I became re-interested in painting, was…swear this is true…through Schnabel. When I saw my first Schnabel I said “Now I’m interested in painting again”. Something about…this guy’s pulling something off. I’m incorporating the idea into…

 

H: I felt the same way.

 

G: Yeah, you know…this is nothing to ignore. This is serious…a serious deviation and a serious intelligence behind this. And a great mark. In fact, the problem is, that he relies on his mark sometimes, and [***]…

 

H: But it also was the summation of what…what I saw around me that was new here, but it was also…summarized what everybody was doing in Houston…But they took out what was interesting…

 

G: Well, Michael Tracy, for example.

 

H: A bunch of people…I have a list somewhere.

 

G: And Tracy is among them. I think he owes a lot to Tracy.

 

H:Yeah, he was a big influence on him. There are several others though, actually, who were just as *****], but he did something with it.

 

G: Well, yeah, he synthesized it…And…and he had the nerve.

 

H: In the same way that Beat influenced my thinking a lot…

 

G: And mine as well.

 

H: Yeah…He influenced his thinking and his approach to it, actually.

 

G: So that’s when I became re-interested in painting again, when I saw my first set of Schnabels. You know, somebody’s doing something…You know…It attracted my notice. It attracted my notice. I may or may not like it, I may have another opinion of it, but this is definitely attracting my interest and notice. So that was during the period I was painting…I [entered into] a totally anti-Schnabel position in painting by…

 

H: You weren’t painting like Schnabel…

 

G: No, not even at all…There was this resemblance [*****], but it was at the same time. And, ah, well a little later. I resumed painting in ’83; I first began noticing Schnabel in the late ‘70’s…or even as early as ’77 or ’78…When did he first show at Boone? It was like ’77 or ’78…

 

H: I gave him a show in ’75.

 

G: That was in Houston, though.

 

H: And you didn’t see it.

 

G: No, I did not see that show.

 

H: But Boone in ’77?

 

G: Yeah, it may have been ’77…That’s the show I’m talking about. So that’s at the end of my sort of period of influence in the Castelli/Sonnabend axis. And the final few video tapes and video installations are in my head, and they’re finished by ’82, and that’s the overlap when I go back to painting, which becomes another kind of influence, of isolation and melancholia and all of those things which I associate in a strange way with painting.

 

H: So this is a…it’s almost like a traditional break in your life…you were how old when this is happening? You had somehow broken with the past, although not really, because…

 

G: Well, it was a return…

 

H: The intellectual work is still going on, but in your actual artwork you’ve broken with the past. And you…you’re in one of those 40’s life changes…

 

G: I was in my early 40’s …And that lasted for a good eight years, that passage…

Well, I was also doing some photography. Large-scale Polaroid photography.

 

H: But you also started working with the photographic, the film itself…

 

G: I began working with the acetates…

 

H: Yeah, which was another way of painting.

 

G: Yeah, and of bringing the two together in a way…Also the idea of the intimate image…

 

H: You were also trying to survive the ‘80’s , like the rest of us…

 

G: Yeah, but in a way…

 

H: The ‘80’s was a period that was…there was a lot of superficial material around…I mean…You can see it again in this show at the Whitney…

 

G: Well, I’ll tell you—this is, again, parenthetical—one of the reasons that drove me to the acetate pieces was because of their intimate scale. They were 3 by 6 inches generally…Just a little above that—3 plus, 6 plus…They’re double squares. Well, you see, you can’t get bigger than a Schnabel, or a Rothenberg, or of course a Salle…So it goes in the other direction. And re-embraces intimacy. The idea of trying to compete with that kind of scale, no longer becomes an issue…that is to say…It’s a market phenomenon, at that point. So the problematic of that kind scale…

 

H: But for them it was a change in format, from Pop to this other format…which was…a larger format relating back to Abstract Expressionism, especially in Schnabel…

 

G: It also tries to make horrific certain issues about scale…It’s about the overwhelmingness of scale…It’s about, I mean, l remember the Schnabel Whitney retrospective in which he had this tarpaulin painting, which is maybe the biggest  painting in the world, after…maybe…

 

H: It’s one of them. It’s definitely one of them.

 

G: It’s absolutely one of them. It’s one of the dragons, which are..

 

H: Yeah, I know the painting…

 

G: It’s about, I don’t know, 120 feet long…20 feet high…It’s, you know, you want to play the scale game? No thank you…I’ll go back to the anti-scale…I’ll go back to the intimate…And that was one of the driving issues for me at the time, was…you asked me how I related to the ‘80’s, and that’s how I related to it…It was by figuring out an intimate…

 

H: The ‘80’s was also…it was a boom period for art. I mean, an enormous boom. Many more artist millionaires in that period than ever, ever before. Not even close.

 

G: Well, Picasso.

 

H: Of course, Picasso was one.

 

G: And he’s the great example. He’s the first real millionaire artist.

 

H: Well, Picasso, and probably Dali.

 

G: Not like Picasso, no.

 

H: But not to the extent of Picasso.

 

G: No. But Picasso was like a real millionaire. I mean, he had [Bugottis?] and Rolls Royces running around for his pleasure…

 

H: He even had an art collection, a significant art collection. 

 

G: He had a fantastic art collection. You know, he had…how many…He collected Balthus. Which I find a very interesting twist in Picasso’s sense, that he collected Balthus.

 

H: Well I think he recognized that Balthus was …

 

G: You know what he recognized about Balthus? That he wasn’t influenced by him. That he was one of the few non-Picassoid contemporaries. Balthus was coming out of Massaccio and not Picasso…

 

H: Balthus looks very…He looks…He’s changed it, but he looks very much like the kind of painting that Hitler liked.

 

G: No. Hitler hated Balthus.

 

H: I’m sure he hated him because of the…

 

G: Because of  the sexual content…

 

H: The sexual perversion…But in style…If you look at the one at the Met, that’s precisely the kind of paintings were shown at the Haus de Kunst…Except that…

 

G: It’s too ironic.

 

H: Except that you don’t have the irony, and the [*****], but stylistically, it belongs to that kind of painting, which is…

 

G: Well, it’s a little smarter than that…It’s not…I agree with you 90 percent. I think there is a kind of edge…

 

H: It’s a lot smarter than that. Look, I’m not making a pro-Hitler statement.

 

G: Now wait a second, I’m talking strictly about application of pigment. There’s  a kind of edge in Balthus you don’t see in any of those hack Nazi realists…They don’t have that sense of touch. They don’t have that…They’re renditionists…

 

H: But there were some very fluid painters during that period.

 

G: Too fluid, perhaps. The thing about Balthus is it’s always…even the landscapes, which I think are very underrated in Balthus…have this real edge that you can’t identify with in terms of anything else that’s being done at the time. It’s…in a strange way, it’s retro…

 

H: You know, but Balthus wasn’t that much appreciated in Europe…It was here that he was appreciated. I mean, his naughtiness was appreciated here. It was his sense of, you know…

 

G: Well even Rockefeller, the bitch who ran the museum after…when they presented the great…the lesbian double portrait of Balthus, and she refused to show it at the Museum of Modern Art…Remember that story?

 

H: Yeah.

 

G: That became like a scandal at the time. They…she…they actually refused to show it because of its content, its iconic content. And this is going back to the early ‘60’s…This is not that long ago. We’re not talking about…

 

H: Well the early ‘60’s were a little bit…were also the late ‘50’s even…When there was a real…well a lot of taboos…in place.

 

G: In any case, I have a great respect for Balthus.

 

H: I do too. I had the pleasure of meeting him…having dinner with him…spending the…some time with him…

 

G: Well, I have never met him. That’s another painter that I have always paid attention to…a lot. You know, whatever he’s up to, I’m paying attention to it. So there has always been a kind of one-to-one correspondence between what I was ever doing, whether the acetates or painting or whatever, collage or video installation and computer work, even…it  was always connected in some way to my relationship, in my head at least—perhaps not in the world, but in my head, and maybe there’s a parallel, and maybe there is not—between what I’m doing and its relationship to painting at that moment that interests me. And that’s the other kind of agonistic exchange. I’m interested in the idea [of] carrying into non-painterly technologies ideas which originate in painting. How to translate that digitally…now there’s this whole hand-eye axis issue, which I’m very well aware of…Making a painting is a kinesic activity. The hand-eye axis is what it’s all about. There [[points to computer]] it’s not—there’s an intermediary station, which is called the keyboard…and the mouse.

 

H: But you still think painting is the fundamental culture…for…

 

G: I think painting…it’s the most eloquent human statement possible.

 

H: With the longest history in the visual arts.

 

G: In any of the arts. The only one that’s probably older, by implication, than painting, is guess what?

 

H: What?

 

G: The dance. Dance is probably older. But not by much. You know, [this] reminds me of Toynbee’s great line, which I’m not going to resist quoting. He said: “Civilizations begin in the dance, and end in rhetoric.”

 

H: Oh. So let’s end it here… In rhetoric.

 

END OF TAPE #3

TAPE #4

 

 

H: I just have a few questions that are still pretty general, and then we will focus on…I realize we never talk about art when we talk…

 

G: Well, it takes the burden away from the…its like a tree of branching divisions…

 

[[break]]

 

 

H: How do you respond to the statement that the end result of postmodernism has been the reduction to absurdity of the role of the visual artist as cultural hero? These questions, by the way, you can think about later…

 

G: No, no…I’m ready to answer right away…At least I’ll have the first version…And that is, the displacement of beauty with the notion of irony. The key shift from late modernism to postmodernism is that surrender of the notion of the beautiful being at  all important, or axiologically relevant, in exchange for the ascendancy, that is, the apex value of irony. So everything had to have its tongue in its cheek in one way or the other in order to make that distinction, and so the cultural hero now becomes the one who is the greatest ironist. I read Koons, for example, the success of Koons…

 

H: And his role is simply reduced to ironist…

 

G: Explicitly…

 

H: Rather than [an] active motivating force within the society.

 

G: Irony…It’s about irony in dialogue with itself.

 

H: Okay…Then…I wanted to add…what is the present role of the artist—subverter, storyteller, aesthete…what is it? Or…you’ve already answered that…

 

G: Well, let me just…I would say: all three. It’s a question of what the ratios are between the parts. I myself am not much of a storyteller. I don’t believe in…I have  no….Another postmodernist motif—and conceit—is its narrative capacity to like deliver that kind of narrative knowledge, and I think…I have very little interest in that. But I think subversive and aesthete, I’ll buy into it…I think one without the other, by the way, is a truncation. You need both.

 

H: Is…Is art’s content still dependent upon context or contexts, or is content a context …

 

G: It’s still dependent upon context. An easy answer.

 

H: But content itself is not a context?

 

G: In a semiotic way…in a semiotic triangle, you have context, and you have content, and then you have context / content…Right? [****] But let’s go back on that one…it’s…I think it deserves more attention…The context issue obviously arrives with Dada…in its full force. I mean, it invents the notion of aesthetic context. Then context becomes…expanded on in issues of irony in postmodernism, which go beyond the kind of [provocations] that dada represented. It’s now almost an academia. It’s an academia of the ironic. It’s an academia in which only the contexts…only if you have a key to the contexts, do you get the content. So the context precedes the content…in the postmodernist pantheon of values. It’s about context. Without context, it’s not postmodernist. Without the kind of context that keys you into…

 

H: In other words…a traditional painting is not postmodernist because…precisely because of that?

 

G: Well, here’s an example of a traditionalist painting that is absolutely postmodern. Komar and Melamid’s “Consensus Paintings”.

 

H: Okay.

 

G: They all turned out to be miserably, conventionally pedestrian…But they were all done by a methodology which was tongue-in-cheek  hence the context of appreciating them is to know how they were made. You know how they were made? You know the story?

 

H: Mm-mm.

 

G: They put out a poll. What were the favorite colors American people wanted in a painting. What were the favorite subjects, what were the favorite elements in the painting, and then they constructed the painting by this poll…Saying: this is the painting  they all want, and then they produced a painting that nobody wanted. Which turned out to be a geometric abstraction with the  colors orange and black. And the one…

 

H: That relates to my next question, which is what is intent? You know, really…understanding the intent…but this actually is conceptual, in other words…

 

G: Of course…Well, it’s under the conceit of Conceptualism, but it’s a kind of Conceptualism that I think the original, the orthodox Conceptualists would reject. Because the irony is too much about a condescension, in the Komar and Melamid case, where they basically put on a…they polled about twenty thousand people, saying what’s your favorite…

 

H: That reminds me of something [******] did…in a much more limited way. To get a perspective on the art world. He polled two hundred collectors, two hundred…

 

G: Saying, what do you want, we’ll give it to you…

 

H: Yeah.

 

G: Which was the idea…You see, the case of Komar and Melamid and the postmodernist stand, is that its Conceptualism is basically a series of methodological devices and not the spirit of Conceptualism. It’s the spirit of a kind of ironic “fuck you” about what painting’s value is, what aesthetic value is, what consensus is…And it’s thumbing its nose at any kind of implied hierarchy outside the context of consensus.

 

H: Well, the original concept of Conceptual art was the use concept in art—a diagram, or…

 

G: Of course, or a photograph…Here’s the interesting thing about Conceptualism—in its orthodox context, not in the recent version of it—that the only way we can really appreciate it after the fact, is by the preceding documents that describe the event, the Conceptualist event…then the event itself, which is in a temporary state and therefore disappears, and then there is the record of the event…so, in terms of historical perspective, the only way to appreciate Conceptual work  is it's preceding and it aftermath—but not the event itself! That’s the classic dilemma of appreciating Conceptualism in its orthodox stage…Without having been there, you don’t get i…unless you…

 

H: You understand what it lead up to…and…

 

G: All you got is the after and the before! Or some detritus of some kind, some leftover material…a video tape, or whatever. But you don’t have the thing itself. Now in contemporary postmodernist appropriation of Conceptualist attitudes of mind, as in Komar and Melamid, that is of course rejected: the middle is quite there. Those “Consensus Paintings” hang on a wall somewhere. And they’re probably quite pricey.

 

H: Well, what did I see somewhere…

 

G: So they reintroduce the object into…

 

H: A Norman Rockwell painting…the…the…what do you think the price was? For a 35 by 40 inch?

 

G: A Norman Rockwell?

 

H: A Norman Rockwell at auction, 28 by 40, depicting a man telling his son the facts of life. One of those corny little things…

 

G: It was probably one of the Saturday Evening Post covers.

 

H: Must have been.

 

G: Yeah. He was their big painter. Alright, what do I think it went for? Okay, I’ll guess and say two and a half million.

 

H: Around a million.

 

G: Around a million?

 

H: Yeah, around a million, but really!

 

G: Still, a Norman Rockwell! I mean….

 

H: Yeah, and so…Just to carry the…what we were talking about one step further, how has Conceptual art affected your work?

 

G: Deeply…The temporary nature of the initial installational work is one source of the influence…The other is my dialogue with the active Conceptualists at the time: Larry Wiener, et cetera…Carl Andre, even…Anastassi…Mel Bochner…Smithson, who I had the most intense exchanges with. Smithson was a Conceptualist who brought [things] to another order, because of the earth issue. Even…

 

H: Well, and he had an intellect…

 

G: Even some of Oppenheim’s early Conceptualist work and dialogue influenced me…his [***] pieces…it’s when he did the best [***] in reference to Duchamp…

 

H: So you’re saying this is an indirect influence on your work. Or a direct influence on you personally…

 

G: No…a direct…I never incorporated the ideology of Conceptualism. I was always influenced by the discourse with Conceptualism.

 

H: Good. Let’s see. What is your view about art that is neither subversive nor heroic.

 

G: I find it dismissible.

 

H: Huh. And what constitutes and outsider or an insider?

 

G: There are two types. There are insiders who are…there are outsiders, rather, who are on the margins of the inside and function within the internal definition of the art world…but function on the outside…the margins of it. And then there are those who are outside the circle. So there are two types of outsiders: that is , the insider-outsider and the real outsider. It’s a question of defining…

 

H: And where do you see yourself?

 

G: I see myself as a…an outsider on the inside. I’m on the margins.

 

H: Oh…On the edge. Okay. So that…

 

G: I mean I function in the art world. I can’t deny that. I don’t function outside of it. But I’m not at the center of it. My ideas, what I’m doing…My interests…My dissents…Have nothing to do with the power structure at the very center of the art world at the moment. This may, optimistically, change…but we’re all pollyannaish at this point…

 

H: Alright. Well, I just wanted to say something about the sublime. Is it still active in your work, or is there that reference , or…

 

G: Yeah, there’s a reference…Well, the sublime in relationship to the fact that it’s…it’s…the Kantian distinction…the Kantian distinction is that the sublime always overwhelms, therefore it would be a great conceit to include the sublime in the aesthetic, according to Kant. Because the sublime should be exclusively associated with the overwhelmingness of the world, of nature, and in art, to assume that kind of sublimity is a conceit. And an arrogance.

 

H: In Newman. In Newman, for example.

 

G: Newman comes closest to a kind of sublimity of the [inducted] mark than anybody…I think Agnes Martin at times  does as well…But the gestural aspect of Newman that is the hand-eye axis issue—the way the brush actually moves across the surface as the zip is put in, or as the tape is removed…so the hand…the way the…

 

H: But also the way he denied Euclidean geometry…

 

G: Well, no…It’s not Euclidean at all…the ratios are not Euclidean; they’re a new kind of ratio, set of ratios, proportions…the rationics are fundamentally different  from Euclid…But it’s the touch…in Newman that adds the sublimity…It opens up a kind of space that’s not really conflicted, or rather confined, to the picture. It implies another kind of space. So like…it’s a keyhole into another kind of space. Now let’s get back to the sublime / beautiful issue. We don’t have to accept Kant’s distinction; he’s not the only one to define the two. And sublimity…you know, Rothko, for example…the notion of the sublime comes to mind. The sublime appears…and also there’s the Hobbesian definition…and Berkeley…well, of course…“I am nature," Jackson said.

 

H: Well, that’s why I brought it up. Because it’s not an idea that’s lost in the next generation…although there’s less of a reference to it. I mean, it’s not lost in your work precisely because of the way that you interact with the natural world in your work…

 

G: In part…Then…the other thing about my work…is the element of what Paul Ryan called…Did you read Paul Ryan’s review of my show at Laumont? Well, we can give you a copy…He thought my…His emphasis is that my work is about a response…a response to ecological disaster. And he refers to my work as, what, rendering rage into a kind of beauty. And…So he associates my response to ecological disaster with my conflict of how to integrate rage and beauty, simultaneously. I thought it was a reasonably accurate take…I mean this occurred in conversations, of course…it was not just his viewing of it…But…that’s as close as I will come to any claim to associating with the sublime, is in relationship to the way rage …

 

H: Well, it’s a psychological identification…

 

G: It is. Yeah. But it’s not about abandoning the notion of beauty in order to express rage. It’s about attempting a synthesis between these two—what appear to be—polarities, or antipodal forces.

 

H: Well, Greeks are mad all the time, so…

 

G: What was that?

 

H: Greeks are always mad.

 

G: Definitely. So what do you do with it?

 

H: Yeah, really. Okay. How do you approach each new work, seeing that each one is different. I think people would want to know that.

 

G: Okay. This goes back to the notion of discontinuity and signature. Signature is generally associated with a kind of continuity in development. We discussed this yesterday in brief, about the notion of the…

 

H: Responding to one image and then the other…

 

G: Correct.

 

H: Until you reach a critical moment where you’re able to change the…

 

G: And then the rules go…And the new rules step in…The new rules are intuited.

 

H: Yeah.

 

G: Correct.

 

H: You’re almost manufacturing the image…

 

G: Well, one set of solutions produces, if you’re really serious about what you’re doing, one set of solutions does nothing but produce a new set of problematics. So, it’s not the end of the problem…It’s just the arrival of new ones, of novel ones. So, in my own interest…when I think I’ve saturated a solution, my interest in the procedures and the problematics that rendered those solutions are no longer interesting.

 

H: But about that, I would…when you sit down to do each work, how does it begin? And how do you begin the next one? Do you begin the next one in precisely the same way? Or do you begin one with a drink and one with a something else, or…

 

G: I do most things with a drink. I’m an alcoholic as they’re called. But no…Not to be facetious…The way I begin is never with one image. I begin with a minimum of eight or twelve, which I call base images, which are randomly chosen. Then a sort of Darwinian selectional process enters into it—I make random combinations to see what’s…what I can discover by random combinations, I eliminate most of them, because most of them are useless and merely arbitrary…but a few show up that with alteration and advanced articulation turn into images that I really begin to work with. So it’s a kind of Darwinian selective…

 

H: You have no need to go back to that image as a reference when you start your next one…no…because you begin with…

 

G: No…They [follow after each other]…And it [enters] only when it works…There’s a minimum of eight, ten…sometimes as high as forty or fifty…images going on simultaneously…So they feed each other; it’s a dialectic process.

 

H: Is there a reference to chaos theory in your art?

 

G: Yes. But the mere use of the selective Darwinian method…randomly…not randomly, but quasi-randomly choosing a series of base images, then finding out by selection what combinations work…You know, what’s the fittest of the species, a degree of randomness, or stochastics—is  a word that came up the other day in relationship to a conversation with Taney—it’s a kind of stochastic process. Like when an apple tree drops apples, you don’t know where the tree will bear the seed and grow a new apple…It may just lie on the ground. So there’s a kind of stochastic method of selection, which is directly related to randomness. It’s  a kind of harvesting of randomness…Its like corralling randomness. So its till random, but it’s now contained within a set of brackets…So now you’re working with randomness within the brackets…Not without brackets…And then narrowing that down by  a set of, another set of selections…Once those selections hit a core root…Usually it’s about twenty percent of the original, by the way…It’s about, yeah it’s about an eight to two…

 

H: So, selecting and creating are…

 

G: No, then when you get to, when you get to that which has been selected, then another set of problems [comes to the fore]…And those are about how these things really integrate, how they really fit, how do the motifs integrate.

 

H: Here’s a question [I don’t quite understand, but we’ll see]. What are the non-art references that exist alongside the art references in your work? I’m thinking of the Van Gogh series.

 

G: Mm-Hmm…

 

H: I wondered how much of that was just the painting itself, and how much of that was external to the painting?

 

G: You know the painting I chose, right?

 

H: Yeah, I know the painting.

 

G: Yeah. Now the reason why I chose that painting—and it’s a great reason, a simple reason—it was destroyed in the fire bombing of Dresden.

 

H: Yeah. I read about that. How much of that…that’s part of its content…

 

G: And then Bateson made a series in relationship to it…So my response was not only to Van Gogh; it was to Bateson as well. It was like a third…

 

H: And the extra [****] was to [the problem]…

 

G: Correct. It was a commentary about what occurred at Dresden…as much as it was about…and I think Bateson did it as well…I mean, it’s the one painting that Bateson also chose…well, he actually chose several others…But it’s the main painting that we remember of Bateson’s appropriation of Van Gogh…

 

H: How does your computer approach to finding and creating new images differ from your collage approach? Is it like the difference between film and video, or a difference in technology or thinking, or both?

 

G: It’s both. Although without the collage…

 

H: Yeah, I want to hear about both…

 

G: Yeah, it’s both…If I did not have the experience of spending like twenty-five years of my life physically making collages, when I came to computer, I would not be making images like I do. It’s that simple. In other words, there was a preparatory…

 

H: And…video…looking…and...the photography…

 

G: Yeah. But…Well, the photography was influenced by the way I make collages. Because its like a photography in time…[assessed] in time…Whereas collage is a complete fiction, the photographs are actual events in the world, even thought they’re made my collagistic methods. It appears to be…This is a good question…It’s going to get me on my binge of words, perhaps. But…the…the set of skills, aside from the physical ones of cutting and pasting and painting and so on…in collage…produce sensibility in which all I am possessed with every day is where am I going to find a new image for my databank—or, usually, ten to twenty images for my databank—which I have files of…some…most of them are on SX70 film, some are cutouts from magazines, some are my own drawings and so on…So there’s the attitude about creating a databank in which I selected the component parts for the collages that entered right into this…hand in glove…That is to say, now I can produce the databank in an infinitely more variable way, and the Darwinian issue of selection and context becomes much more of an elegant ease. So, it’s…the classical methodology for making collage is physically labor-intensive. It is! Finding images…

 

H: Cutting them out…

 

G: Yeah, you have to put them in files, get the right adhesive…you have to get the right glazes…you have to get the right [thickness]…Here, none of that applies. It’s just the database…the database that was informed by the making of the collages, but it’s transferred into a way in which the database becomes the dominant issue.

And the physical content, the hand-eye content again, the idea of your fingers working as well…and the type of muscles working in touch…is transferred to a cerebral process through a keyboard and a mouse. So that’s the divide. But without that pre-stage, that predecessor, proto-period…I would not organize the way I make images on the computer now…I don’t know how I would have done it otherwise, but it wouldn’t be what I’m getting now…So it’s completely in my sinew to compose images in this way. Although…let me add one more thing…the level of complexity that also is introduced by the computer is of a magnitude of order different than in the physical capacity of collage, the physical collage. The simple rationic numbers as to what you can combine, and how you have access to what you can combine…is of another level, another hierarchy of interaction. So it releases the mind-eye thing into another kind of domain in which possibilities are [live] and are selected and are deselected much more qualitatively different than they are when you’re working with physical substances like paper and film and acetate and pigments and all that…

 

H: Well, conceptually it gives you a bigger grasp of the world, or what?

 

G: It gives you a wider, more immediate, more elegantly arrived at, that is to say, efficient, method, for deselecting and selecting the combinations that turn up through random stochastic connections, which you arrive at through a database which you’ve selected sort of quasi-random[ly]…

 

H: My next question…I want to go back to what I said, which is to ask you to comment on the deconstructionist shift from the Subject—capital s—to the problematic of multiple subject positions and subjectivizations. Is your work an application of this program in the way that let’s say ‘60’s art was related to structuralism, or ‘50’s was related to existentialism?

 

G: Hmmm…

 

H: It one of the basic…

 

G: It’s also the grandest question of all…

 

H: I know.

 

G: I’ll tell you what, can we take a two-minute break?

 

 

 

[[break]]

 

 

 

H: It’s those profound emotions that we…that are transformed into great works of art…Almost by definition, no?

 

G: Even that most antithetical of emotions to what we’ve been discussing—serenity…

 

H: But irony is not an emotion.

 

G: No. Irony’s…

 

H: Irony is an intellectual conceit.

 

G: Irony is a way of distancing yourself from the emotional…the potential emotional content of what’s going on.  Now I agree with that in life. I mean, in my daily operations, it’s a very useful function. But in art, it has a place. But its place has been overestimated by a magnitude a thousand times…in the postmodern sensibility, and it’s…ostensibly due to Duchamp…but not really…

 

H: No, increasingly I think that Duchamp has been imposed as much by outside forces, like the museum, on the artist. As much as…

 

G: The question is, when I wind up in paradise—in heaven—and I look up Duchamp, it’s going to be: “Did you expect that [***] to happen of your influence?”

 

H: Really…

 

G: Then it degenerates back into a product.

 

H: Do we want to go back to that…

 

G: The grand question…I want a repeat…yeah…one more time.

 

H: Comment on the deconstructionist shift from (capital s) Subject to the problematic of multiple subject positions and subjectivizations. That’s true, right?

 

G: That’s the multi-cultural position.

 

H: Yeah. In effect, yeah. Is your work an application of this program in the way that like ‘60’s art was related to structuralism or ‘50’s work was related to existentialism?

 

G: No.

 

H: Postmodernism, poststructuralism, and multiculturalism all seem related to consumer capitalism. Maybe not.

 

G: Yes.

 

H: They are, right?

 

G: Yeah, well, it’s a question of [*****]…Well, the first part, the short answers are: No and Yes. In the first, No….The intellectual milieu that was generating around the existential/abstract expressionist axis, it was one of a kind of…sympatico and intimacy…intellectual intimacy…The connection between Conceptualism and…structuralism…were far less intimate. They were about the absorption of continental ideas into an art practice. It was a…There was a…an emotional distance that…not correlative with the connection between Ab-Ex and existentialism…Then the next…

 

H: Maybe by the ‘50’s there was a connection, although just from talking to Norman, he said he felt no connection at all with…

 

G: Well…the work belies that, in my opinion. I think [it was a] grand existentialist painting…

 

H: Well see, his angst…He sees his angst as coming from the war…He’s still playing it out in that period…

 

G: Well that’s existential. I mean, Sartre was writing his greatest work while a prisoner in…not a prisoner, but isolated in [Vichy, France]…I mean more like Camus…I didn’t mean Sartre…But back to deconstruction—the first part of the question, as I recall. I do not see myself as a deconstructionist. I don’t consider the deconstructionist position to be…essential for what I’m doing…I’m reasonably conversant with the deconstructionists’ argument, I’ve read their many…

 

H: You don’t think the deconstructionists could look at that and say…

 

G: What’s been taken apart…

 

H: Well, it’s been taken apart…These are pieces of the world, taken apart and reformulated.

 

G: Right. Correct. That’s using deconstruction in the generic sense, which I distinguish from the ideological …the ideology of deconstruction. I think in the generic sense, yes. By the very apparatus by which I take things apart…

 

 

END OF TAPE #4

TAPE #5

 

 

G: Let’s pick up on the deconstructionist issue—the ideological from the generic. Deconstruction a la Derrida…for example…as part of a…I think masterful work on painting, and especially his essay on Van Gogh’s shoes, et cetera…

 

H: I haven’t read that. Good, huh?

 

G: Marvelous. But I in no way relate to the dynamic that is attempting to open up and influence the nature of picture-making. Alright? That’s the distinction. I feel ideologically not akin but very interested in their arguments, for my own edification and amusement…But I have no temptation to say that…

 

H: Foucault’s analysis of Velasquez…

 

G: I think that’s one of the best…of “Las Meninas”.

 

H: Yeah, wonderful.

 

G: It’s actually a masterful essay. It’s one of the real exceptions. And in a way it’s a sort of deviant deconstruction; it’s not the purer deconstruction of a Jeffrey Hartman or a Derrida or even…even someone as wild and crazy as…Baudrillard. So this wobbling equipoise between distinguishing the ideology of deconstruction and actually using methodologies which are deconstructionist in the genetic sense…in the generic sense, rather…(perhaps both)…is the trick. Most deconstructionists work with a self-consciously ideologically [****]…which is essentially in my opinion a pedantic display of one’s erudition in the deconstructionist canon. The…and I think again that’s a distancing ironic maneuver in relationship to the object or the image. Or the idea or the text. All…And that it deintimatizes us…It drains the emotion out of our relationships to our images and objects, ideas and texts…It distances our selves from them, and I reject that.

 

H: Hmmm. Good. So, do we want to look at images now? Let’s just look at images for a while…

 

************

 

G: May I suggest some? I suggest this one, because it’s an early image…this is from ’96 or ’95, I forget which. ‘95/96…A very early image in the development of the idea…

 

[[image: Vanitas #6]]

 

H: Okay. Here’s a case in point where you’re mixing…

 

G: A very…

 

H: A very well-known art image with other images…

 

G: Correct. Yes. So this is the earliest stages of…

 

H: So what you’re doing is introducing another something to the audience, huh?

 

G: So what’s the rationale, is what we’re asking…

 

H: Exactly.

 

G: The rationale is…I don’t know if this is simply put or not, but the rationale is…that my own private interests in art history become raw material and appropriated.

 

H: Along with your other interests…

 

G: Correct. So it’s not a separate…in other words, it’s not a commentary about art history per se; it’s a commentary about what images I can appropriate from my own attraction to art history, which I can use for my own ends. Which are not necessarily about commentaries about art history, which would distinguish my interest from the deconstructionists.

 

H: And I can see why you’re attracted to art history in this picture, right? There she is, right?

 

G: But you realize…In…All her entire proportions have been totally altered.

 

H: I see it, I see it. But improved! Okay, let’s go on to the next one.

 

G: Let me suggest the next one.

 

H: This was  in the show?

 

G: Yes, everything you’re seeing is…this is the show. This is the show. Another early one…This image, for example, if I may deconstruct my own deconstruction…is a synthesis of very small constituent parts of five paintings by Velasquez…

 

H: And these are details of the paintings?

 

G: They’ve been reassembled…

 

H: Oh, they’ve been reassembled.

 

G: That’s a…I don’t know if I should reveal that or not…That’s not…

 

H: Well, because…

 

G: Because it has nothing to do with Velasquez…Well, it has something to do with Velasquez…There’s some…If you inspect it carefully, and you know…

 

H: That’s what…what he was so good at was serenity…Do we find that here? He’s was able to make very serene majesty perfectly…That’s serenity…

 

G: You don’t see serenity here.

 

H: I don’t see serenity here. Maybe I see eco-rage still…But there is something there…

 

G: Well, I…think…I did a lot to it.

 

H: There’s an illumination that takes place in it, let me put it that way…And you see it as a [******] itself…

 

G: That’s why…Let’s go to the next one.

 

H: You’ve made a kind of icon out of it is what I’m saying.

 

G: I treated what was previously a set of totalities into a set of constituent parts. I made what was originally a total thing, sliced it up, and made it a new constituent part of a new kind of  total thing. Let’s see, who would I recommend next…

 

 

************

 

 

G: This is a relatively late image, so we’re jumping way ahead.

 

H: Now this is…what it really looks like to me is a fantastic landscape.

 

G: Well, the other distinguishing aspect of this image is that none of the constituent parts come from art history. They all come from random photographs I had taken, got off the TV, ripped out of a magazine, ripped out of a catalogue, taken from a newspaper…So, in the beginning I’m saying…When I launched this, you know, phase of what I’m doing…relied on my notion of appropriating art-historical images in ways…as the raw material…And as the work matured, it didn’t necessarily disappear, but its proportion to the overall source of my images diminished drastically. So what’s…What I find intriguing about that is that I began with a foothold…I already…you know, I wanted  a foothold in a way that…Does that make sense?

 

H: Yeah, I think it’s good for the interview, because people would want to know that. We can go on to the next one.

 

Now in this last one, there was a feeling of a sudden burst. Like…an illumination has taken place.

 

G: Okay. This is a very late one. …………….

 

H: So this one distinguishes itself by the way it organizes space…that sense of spatialness…the three-dimensionality of the forms…goes back and forth in space, I guess. Somewhat Cubist?

 

G: Almost. [It has] what I refer to as Mirror Logic…see, you take symmetries…right? And you asymmetrize them. So they still have the quality of what was originally symmetrical, but they’re now asymmetrical.

 

H: Yeah, good. Okay. Next.

 

G: Their origins are not what they result in…

 

 

************

 

[[image: Solus Rex]]

 

 

G: [This one is] very late.

 

H: Yeah, it has more of a landscape, right?

 

G: It does. Explicitly. But what is it that’s going on, becomes the question. What form is being defined? What— as the French refer to it as the mise-en-scene…is unfolding…

 

H: So, do you have a sense of what this is, or is it another bunch of [notes]…other than “I like it”.

 

G: Hardly. I’m the only person in the entire world – in the universe, perhaps – that knows exactly what that is…That’s something I’ll go to my grave with…I’m interested, in this particular piece, in producing something that attracted the organic response in the viewer, that is to say that …there is a quality about it that is organic…and at the same time it cannot be defined in any normal organic category. So it’s simultaneously an abstraction of the organic, while being a presence in a kind of realistic—not realistic necessarily…but something implying perspective…

 

H: Something implying perspective. [****], the sky…a certain…this rocky outgrowth…and a gorilla…

 

G: Yeah, well, yeah…I haven’t met a gorilla had to look like that, have you? I think I met a bouncer once at J.P. Clark…

 

To the next?

 

************

 

 

 

[[image: Primo Pensiero]]

 

G: This is also recent. This is more like ‘98-’99…But the reason why I wanted to bring it up after this is …it’s my play, my appropriation of perspectival space in a non-perspectival context. So the flat and the depths are simultaneously read. It’s not an either/or situation.

 

H: It’s also…your relationship to it is from several points, no?

 

G: Oh yeah. I mean, there’s not one perspective. It looks like single-point perspective, but it’s not…

 

H: Well, for a moment, but once you see the other…So how do you characterize this one…It’s a landscape…But a landscape with…

 

G: With a disaster unfolding. A disaster with resistance.

 

H: Oh, I don’t see a disaster in it, I just see something, some image flying out of that landscape.

 

G: But its construction in the foreground is related in such a way that it flattens the surface out such that it balances against the perspectival aspect of the rest of the picture. It doesn’t conform with it, in a way. It…It’s a contradiction. It’s a contained contradiction.

 

H: Or a discontinuity?

 

G: Yeah, yeah…I would agree. The word discontinuity would apply…There’s also the accumulation of details…you know, how details relate in the part that contradicts the perspectival and how they like share a family resemblance, to use Wittgenstein’s phrase…

 

H: Are these images of the real world, or are they…They’re images of the real world? They also represent a state, right…a state of mind…

 

G: Their constituent parts are, their particle parts…their pixels, practically…are units from the real world. But the way they are reassembled, altered, and so on…moves them away from being representational of the real world in their detail sense…that is to say…They help construct a fiction about the real world, but their representational aspect of representing things in the real world is completely obliterated…That’s not what they’re about. They’re about using those elements of the real world as raw material…as elemental material…in the construction of something that is fictional. Although it’s fictional and made out of the constituent parts of the real world, the empirical universe.

 

H: That’s good. Next.

 

 

 

************

 

 

 

H: Is there a point that you reach in the creation of the images where you have a real goal as to where you want to take it? Is that close, or…

 

G: Yeah, it’s…It’s more like the Darwinian analogy I used earlier.

 

H: Oh.

 

G: They have a way of selecting themselves…And then the problems become aligned ….

 

[[image: Stormy Monday]]

 

G: It’s very late. It’s the second latest piece in the show.

 

H: Well, it’s beautiful. Very poetic. Stormy Monday?

 

G: Yeah, that’s the title.

 

H: Nice. Is there anything we can say about this that we haven’t said about the others?

 

G: Well…It’s the…almost the …

 

H: Because the title helps in this one. The title helps…You don’t feel like…Oh, Stormy Monday…I have that experience, too…Actually…Monday is usually like this, too, you know…

 

G: That’s what I mean. I wasn’t being specious. I was trying to title it accurately. One thing I want to say about it, it’s the idea of a…a set of things that in terms of their internal relationships appear to be…large-scale…but in their overall relationship, they’re intimate…So it’s like a…What would be an example…A Persian miniature comes to mind. But…So the…the way the internal parts…interact with each other implies a larger scale, than the overall frame that’s containing them…determines the scale. So you have this switchback…this oscillation between these two levels, or hierarchies of scale…Fair enough?

 

H: Fair enough! Let’s go to the next one. Can we have a middle-period one?

 

G: A middle-period one? Very good…

 

 

 

************

 

H: HCE #26…

 

G: So I went from appropriating constituent parts of my obsessions with art history to…making images from constituent parts which can be called random by a certain stochastic method that emulates the classical motifs —still-life genre, landscape genre…in this case still-life genre.

 

H: But something as real as those springs gives it the sense that…

 

G: That’s what I wanted…I wanted it to snap [you] into reality…

 

H:…a sense of immediacy…

 

G: This is a mechanism of some kind…and what else you can [discern], you know…It’s sort of a[n] insectile and metallic combination, you know. It’s both insectile and metallic. In a still-life scale…

 

H: It’s very good. [[To Taney]]: Isn’t that a good one? That’s definitely a good one.

 

 

 

************

 

 

 

G: This is late, but I want you to look at this one. Because of the issue of Ab-Ex and the notion of mixing motifs…Is especially evident, I think, in this particular picture.

 

H: Yeah, the issue of Ab-Ex and the issue of painting, but the issue of painting runs through all of these, right?

 

G: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, my core [instructural] base …

 

H: This could be actually studies for paintings, if you wanted…

 

G: They could be…Or they could be applied to canvas…

 

H: Or several of them could be. This could be a study for a painting that you might take beyond this painting…You could paint this, right?

 

G: Well, you know one of the interesting…

 

H: It would be a weird painting…Big, though…It would have to be big…

 

G: Well it’s now that big [[pointing to the one on the wall]]…

 

H: Well, I think for these images, that’s an excellent size.

 

G: Medium scale. That’s forty-two high. But the point I want to make is the…about painting and the relationship to the imagery…is that it’s about the additional problematic of how do you translate what are basically gestures that evolve from the use of pigment on the end of a brush. Or a knife. And produce parallel or corollary maneuvers, digitally. So they…they enter into the same discourse as that which was produced by something with pigment on the end of a brush or knife.

 

H: The fact that you started with references to art history and to painting, more specifically to painting…not to sculpture…

 

G: Not to sculpture…In a few cases to text, though…Because I used all of Duchamp’s diagrams in the…and [converted] them all into optical…

 

H: Yeah, but that’s a different body of work…

 

G: It is…And I…And none of it is in the show. I decided to put none of it in the show.

 

H: Good idea.

 

G: It’s a separate body of work…it should be seen as separate…It would confuse…

 

H: And it’s a much more conceptual piece in [another] sense…

 

G: Yeah. Well, the idea of opticalizing Duchamp is an ironic idea about an ironist. Yeah. You thought you were eliminating the optical, I’m gonna make your diagrams re-opticalized…Ha ha ha…was the attitude…So in a strange way it didn’t fit with the rest of the body of work. And that’s why it’s separate…It can also function largely as an exercise. Let’s see another one now.

 

 

************

 

 

G: Now I want to show you one of the early middle period strip pieces…Let’s see the Giotto. This is “After Giotto”…The Lamentation, to be precise.

 

H: [The figure…] Giotto?

 

G: The entire painting…every constituent part of that picture comes from Giotto’s “Lamentation”…

 

H: Oh, okay. That’s very interesting.

 

G: Taken apart and recomposed.

 

H: You get the sense of lamentation in the picture. In this case I see the connection…In the movement of the picture. Like, ah…

 

G: Nothing was mixed except the painting itself.

 

H: Oh.

 

G: The painting is algorithmically torn apart, used as a palette, and then recomposed, and that’s the result. But no other additional materials…

 

H: The color [right]?

 

G: No, no…The color is different. I changed the color. Mostly what I did is intensify the color as opposed to change it. Mostly.

 

H: But in the…You get the feeling of lamentation in the piece, right?

 

G: That’s what I would hope, or expect.

 

H: Can you associate an emotion with the other pieces as easily, or is it only in the…when you chose the subject…

 

G: Well, because we explicated to such an extent the content of this picture…it’s more apparent, because the title was “The Lamentation”…

 

H: How important are titles in these?

 

G: They’re actually important, in a Joycian sort of way. They’re not descriptive, generally…But this one is directly descriptive, so it’s one of the exceptions…it’s “After Giotto”, period. That’s what it is; it’s after Giotto. Nothing else is mixed with Giotto. It’s a single painting by Giotto, period. That has been totally decomposed, recomposed, reconstructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed…whatever language you want…it was taken apart and put back together a whole different way. So the title is far more literal than in most cases. But the importance of titles for me is essentially a Joycian issue…It should be a kind of title that is associated with the picture but that does not necessarily describe it. It’s associated with it. As a verbal [statement]…

 

H: Well, good. 

END OF TAPE #5