Joanna Pousette-Dart in conversation with Phong Bui

Joanna Pousette-Dart in conversation with Phong Bui


Hi everybody. Welcome to the Lisson gallery and our
beautiful presentation of works paintings and drawings by Joanna Pousette-Dart.
We’re delighted that you’re all here. I just wanted to make a couple of
comments before we start. Phong, please don’t leave. We really – louder.
Louder. You’re saying louder. Okay, cool. Louder. Just wanted to make a few comments
before we start and that is: basically the format of our
afternoon is 40 minutes. Joanna and Phong will be having
a dialogue, a conversation, and then afterwards we’ll have
about 15 minutes, maybe 20, we’ll see, for questions.
And before we start, I’d just like to make a few comments. Introduction – I don’t think they really
need an introduction. Nonetheless. Joanna Pousette-Dart was born in New
York where she still lives and works. She has a BA from
Bennington College, Vermont. This is the gallery’s first
solo presentation with
Joanna following our recent announcement of representation,
which we are very, very thrilled to be doing. Our first exhibition with Joanna
was here at 10th Avenue in 2017: Aspects of Abstraction, which featured Joanna alongside
Marina Adams, Paul Feeley, and Leon Polk Smith. Her work was the subject of solo
exhibition at Wiesbaden Museum, Germany, just last year. We have catalogs and we are giving them
out free today – I hope we have enough, we might not – for those of you who’d
like one and maybe if you get lucky, Joanna will sign it for you. We may not
have enough, I just got into trouble. So first come, first serve. Locks Gallery in Philadelphia will open
a solo exhibition of new work next month – opens on April 3rd,
is that correct? Okay. Phong Bui is an artist,
writer, independent curator, publisher and Artistic
Director of the Brooklyn Rail. The arts newspaper published an excellent
interview between Joanna – I can hear it’s going in and out, I apologize – and Barbara Rose in June
of last year and we look forward to the continuation of that
discussion and exploration, and to Joanna’s work here
today. Thank you very much. Can you guys hear us okay? Okay. Thanks for being here – Jeannie said
that we’re going to talk no more than 40 minutes, and I hope that you will raise questions
and participate because I really find it very difficult to mediate
her work in every way. But yes, coming here I was thinking how, unlike the works of many
artists I know, you know, where potential dialogue or whatever, creating the conversation about
the work – surrounding the work, were all possible, but it’s impossible to do
the same with Joanna’s work. I don’t know how that is, but I did have a privilege to curate a
show of her large painting despite of it in 2007 at MoMa PS1 when I was
a curatorial advisor there. Since then, we became good friends, I spent a lot of time in the
studio looking at the works, talking about the work with Joanna, but still having been here just now 10
minutes ago looking around the work, I hope that I would have
some fresh insights, some new responses that I would like
to share with you before we get the pleasure to hear directly from Joanna. First of all, when I
think of Joanna’s work, I think how our imagination
has this old history as yet unwritten and it has its own
geography and yet only barely dimly seen. Imagination, according
to one of our favorite, my favorite authors, Guy Davonport in his
Geography of Imagination, is like a drunk man who lost his watch
and he must get drunk again to find it. Imagination is a friend of history as
space is a friend of time. And I was also thinking up the notion of
largeness in relation to the complexity of smallness. You know, how sensation can play a trick
– what’s your sense of scale? For example, imagine you stand on top of the Himalayas, you absorb the vista,
the immensity of nature, the scene below you surrounding
you, but you have a twinge of pain. The pinch of pain is nothing, the vista is overwhelming. But if the pain can easily overtake –
can overwhelm the sense of immensity. And that’s not a bad
place to begin, Joanna, because I always have a fascination of
your sense of scale and I wonder where the scale is different than
size and proportion for you? Yeah, I think that scale is very
different from size and proportion. I think that scale is something – I mean
something very small can have immense scale and something very large can
have no scale at all. You know, I think that – I think scale has a lot to do with
how something is put together. I think it’s a mysterious
thing, but I think that when the parts are put together
in a particular way, something achieves scale, I think all the elements of something
have to be integrated and working together for something to achieve really a sense
of scale. But, you know, I find that I work differently on different scales. I like to work on a large scale much
better than I like working on a small scale. I work on the small scale sometimes to
figure things out and also because I’m interested in the idea
of being able to kind of telescope a kind of space, and I also like the dialogue between
the smaller works and the larger works. I often in my studio
have things, you know, small things near large things and
it’s like zooming in and out, you know, of space for me. But there’s something also about the
way it relates to the human body, I think, you know, scale. And I think that’s one of the reasons that I
love to work larger because I can – the kinds of ways that one creates
the shapes and the gestures, it just feels natural. You know, all these things are almost within reach. Sometimes I have to
get up on a ladder, but they’re really about what I can reach and the paintings are very much
about having a feeling of, for me – what I would like them to be, anyway – is I would like
them to feel as though the viewer were somehow present in them, so scale becomes important in that sense. How does the – how does all the elements, Joanna, like drawing, the color, does that come to be an integral part
in the process of determining how the shape of the canvas
will be? In other words, do you make preparatory
study for them before? One, because once you make the shape, you
have to work within that structure. That’s right. And that’s the difference between the
large things that I make and the small things. The large things, I kind of make them from – they’re
very loosely conceived from drawings, notebook drawings and things. If I showed
you a notebook drawing that I took, say this painting from you
would say “what?” You know, you probably wouldn’t see
an immediate relationship. But it gives me – it’s
sort of a blueprint, if you will for, for what
I want the piece to be. And then I translate it to the wall on
paper – I put big paper up on the wall – and that translation, is very sort
of laborious for me because it’s the place that everything is sort of
fine tuned and I find that the very incremental changes in
the curvature or you know, very small shifts and things
make a dramatic change. And then of course I give this drawing
to the person that makes the constructs – the panels – he uses it as a template. So they’re very, they’re
kind of idiosyncratic, they’re not strictly geometric.
So hopefully, I mean, my feeling is that I want to keep them a bit like the drawings. I want the idiosyncrasies of the
drawings to come into the paintings. Well, in the recent
interview with Barbara Rose. You share the two kinds of drawing, the one that you make more or less in
reference to the painting and then the other kind where it was totally
spontaneous and improvisational. How do they – do they intersect
occasionally? Not at all? Yeah, they do. Yeah. They really
do, a lot. They intersect, but not in an one-to-one way. I find sometimes I go through periods
where I don’t draw very much at all, and I’m just completely
invested in the painting, but I find that the times when I do draw
and sometimes it’ll be when I’m waiting or I just don’t know what I’m doing
and I just want to take some time off. I find those periods just incredibly helpful in the progress of the works, because they’re completely intuitive
and I’ve said before in places, to me they’re like dreaming, and – when you work on a physical thing that’s
large and stuff there are just all these impediments. It’s not as immediate,
and when you’re drawing, you can do anything at any
moment, and you can throw it away or you can go on with it if it isn’t
what you, what you want it to be. And you can try, of course, many, many, many things that would be more
difficult to try on a larger scale. So they’re very important to me. In the interview you
did, actually Joan did, Joan Waltemath, who’s here, the Rail’s editor-at-large in 2008
for the show you had with now-defunct gallery, Hasson Gallery, and I remember being struck about the
coincidence of the reference to the Native American, Northwest Coast coastal Tribe. And I think something that your father
had also invested equal interest as well. Yeah, yeah. As I think many artists of his
generation, he collected – or I shouldn’t say collected, he
didn’t collect in a kind of a normal – he came by things and it was a time when
you could actually – there’s tons of antique shops up and down 1st and 2nd
Avenue – and you could buy things for nothing, you could buy – we all wish we could
have lived then because it was, you know, you could go in
and buy an African piece or a Northwest Coast piece or a pre-Colombian
piece or this or that for nothing. And I can remember my father bargaining for pieces which were like $50, you know, “no, I don’t have $50,” and then going back
and back and back until he got the person down to $35 or something like that. So there were a lot of objects like that
around the studio and he was clearly, from the 30s and forties into the 50s,
and I think you could make the case that even longer, he was very involved
with these totemic forms. So, you know, that’s embedded in
here somewhere certainly. But the way – as is a lot of stuff – it’s so hard when people say, “well, what are your inspirations?”
and I mean, my God, it’d be hard to enumerate them all because
there’s so many things that I think about in the work, from Chinese landscape painting, all sorts of – I mean, I love – there’s so many fresco
cycles which have been incredibly important to me. Islamic stuff, calligraphy, and you
know, it’s interesting, I think when one looks at their own work
over long periods of time you can kind of see certain things which follow all
the way through certain kinds of things that are interest that
follow all the way through. Even though the form of your
work might change a great deal. In the same interview, it wasn’t that you repeated that reference
– the same thing with American Indian space painters like Steve
Wheeler and Peter Busa and even early Will Barnet, but it somewhat formulated the very
beginning when you were in Galisteo, New Mexico where the
reference to the landscape, the bodily response to it was very much
the beginning of how the shape canvas was being made. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the shapes themselves came
out of a very personal, reaction to a physical sort of situation. And in a funny way, even though I had spent a lot of time
in the Southwest in various locations really since the 70s – since the mid
seventies – and it had informed my work over that period of time in
many different ways. Yeah. I had a kind of, I don’t know, a kind of an epiphany in this one place. Somehow it clarified to me what was important to
me. And then it became, how can I give that form, you know, how can I make that happen? So I
knew what I wanted to make happen, but I didn’t really know yet
what form it was going to take. What year was this, Joanna? In the 90s, in the 90s. Early nineties? Um, yeah, no, uh, yes, yes. It was the early nineties. And so I had a camera and I was living in this house that
had – it was a berm house, it was built into the side of a Hill, and you could stand on the roof and you
had this amazing sort of 360 degree view of this immense space with all these mountain ranges and
there was just something going on every second and I just began
taking these snapshots and then pasting them
together, taping them together. They were very primitive, but the
idea was that they all went like this, you know, but the idea was to get the
image all the way through 360 degrees. And when I did that, I was astounded because the light changes
were just so radical within like two or three shots of one another.
Everything, everything looked different. You know, everything looked different.
The sky and the earth interchanged, I mean, everything – So it wasn’t separated. It wasn’t separated or
what was dark became light, the clouds would get dark and
then the earth would get light. And then in the next couple
of shots it would reverse, and what was shadow would become – feel solid because of the light and vice
versa. So it was just this very fluid, kind of exciting and puzzling and strange and
astonishing kind of place. It was amazing. So it’s like a
kind of a drawing lesson, you know, is what it was. It was
like a big drawing lesson. And so when I would put these together,
these shapes started emerging, and then I began making cutout from paper. And then the first paintings were
basically – they were total hemispheres. Sometimes I would alter
something a tiny bit, but it was basically a hemisphere and
then a second one sitting on top of it. So they met kind of on a tangent. And all of the linear drawing in the painting
would kind of unravel from that kind of place where they met. But it was a very – I made a bunch
of those paintings and then I decided that I wanted to – that I wanted to
deal more – that I wanted to create a different space to paint within. So I began flattening those hemispheres. And then I got to these shapes, which
I guess, people say, “Oh, you know, they’re canoes” or “they’re boats” or
whatever. But really they’re flattened – more or less they’re based on
these sort of flattened hemispheres and that kind of allowed me to really
change the content of the drawing within the painting because it made a
bigger area that I could work on. Well this, this leads to
my next burning question, which is something that we
all learned in art school. One learns that the straight
line easily implies manmade form. You know, in order to make the straight
line that generate a form, you have to connect them. It’s like an architectural exercise in a
way where the curve line implies and is associated with natural
forms to nature. So I wonder what your work prior to this
– was it rectilinear abstraction, I take it? Which no one ever talks about. What kind of work you were
doing lead into this, Joanna? So the work, went through, you know, we’re talking about a lot of years, so it went through a lot of changes. So the first work that I did
in the early seventies, this is like right out of – I was pretty much right out of college
and they were the first serious paintings that I felt like I ever did. And I was really interested in all these
people who were working like at Park Place Gallery, people that were really examining
what a painting could be, you know, that it didn’t have to be
this – that it could be an object, that it could be – they were really trying to examine
all the different possibilities. And so that interested me, that’s kind of what I wanted to do. And so the first paintings were these
paintings that didn’t – they were unstretched, they were very irregular, they were sort of woven out of six pieces
of canvas that were very roughly cut, and they were woven so that it was a very soft grid. And they were stiff and you hung them
from – they had grommets on the back and they were like sand paintings. And this
was before I ever got to New Mexico. But I sort of felt like I wanted to
make something that was very organic and built, and then I went to New
Mexico in the mid seventies, and I decided to begin stretching those. And because I got – once I went there, I literally – it’s like I saw the light, the color and everything just became
a kind of a real major interest. And so I stretched them and, and that grid got strangely enough, it got much harder, you
know, much more regular. Because I guess I needed a container, I needed an organizer for all of these color and light impulses.
So the sand state, they were made out of many
layers of sand and color. I would put a layer of
sand and then I would brush it very lightly, and
then I would put another layer. So they had this very kind of
velvety – because it was very, very fine sand. And they
had a very velvety quality. And they were multi-panel. They were multi-panel – well sometimes
they were, there were 6 foot squares, 7 foot squares, 7 by 14. Anyway, so those were
very much about color. I never seen any one of them,
where can you find them? They were all shown when I was
showing at Susan Caldwell, you know, I showed at Susan Caldwell with David
Reed and Sean Scully and David Novrose and Swain. You save any of them? Oh yeah, I do. I have some. Okay. So next time…you’ve seen it? Now we were talking about some
of the artists – Mac Binion? So he’s an old friend and he’s doing
a show of works from the seventies – putting together a show. So he
asked for one of those paintings. I ended up selling almost
all of them but kept about, I think I kept 10, two got destroyed
and I have the balance of them and they’re, they’re interesting
to look back at, yeah. Yeah. Just the other night we were at a Hauser
& Wirth talking about Jack Whitten, so obviously the context of the show
that Katy Siegel and David Reed did, High Times, Hard Times: Painting in New York from 1967 to 75
where the claim of that painting was so intense that everyone were in a way
taking the back burner because geometric, minimal sculpture was
more prominently visible. Yeah. Dorothea’s been one of the participants
doing all kind of experimenting with material, and on the floor and on the
corner of the wall and her show at, was it ’72? Yeah, at Klaus Kertess’s place Byker Gallery. And there were other people who were
punching holes through paintings, and how did what, how did that – was a relationship from
your work at that time to what everyone was doing, Joanna? I was, taking it all in and I think at a certain
point – certainly at that point I was looking a lot and it was affecting those, the geometric issue was out
there and it became something that I wanted to be involved
with. As time went on, as my work evolved, different things
became more important to me. And I began – I spent a lot of time in Europe
– I became interested in, you know, paintings in place and. Like fresco. Like fresco, mosaics, Alhambra, you name it, Padua. All those experiences, which were so, complex and I thought, given the fact that we don’t all get
a church to paint in or to paint, that I became more interested in things
like the altarpieces where you have multiple panels that tell a story and
the artist moves you through the space of the painting with color
and shape and everything, but it’s really like animated, you know, kind of like a little
film or something. So, at that time, the work got more gestural and also I
began making things with many, many, many, many, many panels and so this is
like all of these things. I mean, the thing that
remained always, I think, part of me and part of my
desires in making things was the need to kind of move beyond or
extend the rectangle in some way, extend the space of the painting. And that’s really why I ended up making
these paintings – the curvature was about extending space. Which, I mean, remarkable that in the Spring Salon, I think it was 1943 when Mondrian was one
of the jurors in which he came upon an early Pollock, it’s called
Stenographic Figure, now belongs to the MoMA Collection,
but it was the Guggenheim for awhile, and he made an incredible
remark. Actually, Barbara Rose wrote an
essay for art magazine, it was remarkable essay, how Mondrian anticipate Pollock since
he’s the one who brought Cubism to the logical conclusion – reduce it to
straight line, horizontal and vertical, so therefore the form
extends beyond the canvas. So it became architecture – architectural. So he anticipated Pollock could do the
same by having the canvas being the floor and so on. Henceforth, the beginning of Earth Art and you know, Dorothea was doing the same
with her work at the time. So my point is interestingly, the idea of extending
beyond that you talk about periphery vision, which is the same thing when I also
thought of how de Kooning relate to the notion of content. You mentioned content. Content is a glimpse
according to the de Kooning, at least in the context when he was
talking about the landmark show, the woman series in 1953 at Sidney Janis, none of the work was sold of course, it was Meyer Shapiro who wrote to Alfred
Barr and urge him to buy at least one of them, Woman I. So that’s how it was five months
after the show ended, it’s amazing. Yet back to you, to the whole
point here. Content, the glimpse, meant like you being
entering into an apartment, you enter the door, you’ve been
greeted by your, you know, someone, you’re talking to that person, in a glimpse you see somebody sitting
in the corner or standing in the corner, but it’s not clear. Just felt the present. And how does that relate
to your own vision? Being – Completely. I mean, it
does, it really, you know, Elaborate on that. That’s so interesting. You know, I think that de Kooning was
really interesting that way. And also even just things like,
it’s making me think about Bernard, because Bernard does that – there are these very developed areas in
his paintings and then all of a sudden there’ll be this little thing over here, a hint of a person or a hint of a – and
it’s kind of – how it is the way you see, you have things happening over
here and things happening over here, but you’re focused here,
but you’re aware of them and they’re part of the
experience of the moment. And so the way I think about the paintings is
that they’re what I can take in this given moment, but they’re part of something
that continues, you know, that’s continuing. And so I want them to feel
like that in some way, as though the space – as though the
light is kind of going to continue beyond the edges. Huh. Does that mean when
you apply the color, Joanna, it varies in terms of many layers thinly, and how is it the interplay between
opacity and transparency? It also relates so much to how
edges were painted – get painted. So is that part of the whole
equilibrium of the painting? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, my idea was, in making the shapes was to make
something where everything in a state of movement because that’s sort of what I feel. I feel everything is in flux.
Everything is changing. So the light has to do the same
thing in the paintings. So what I try to do is have the
painting have undertones, overtones – Undertones? Undertones. Not tonal – undertone. Undertones. So if you take one color, and then you come over with a very thin layer of another
color you get – it’s different than if you do that low thin coat over white. It’s like you have – it resonates
in a different way. And, I mean, this is not new.
This is a form of glazing. This last summer I was in a part of Italy
and there was an amazing Massolino cycle that I was able to see and
visit a whole bunch of times. And it was just so moving how incredibly
rich and complex the color was, because you could see all
of the coats underneath. You could see this amazing
– nothing was just a color. It was – everything was
interacting with everything else. So through these glazing sort of things, processes that he used. So that’s how I sort of
approached the color. So I think the color has
to – goes from warm to, sometimes it goes from warm to cold,
sometimes it goes from light to dark. Sometimes I’ll mix in something to vary a yellow for instance, as it passes from one part of
the painting to another. And so it changes the space, it
changes the depth of the painting. And then it also kind of
creates a sense of movement, like something is moving
through, you know? And so it’s just many
different layers built up. And then in some of the paintings, not
so much of these, well actually here, there are areas which are like – it’s hard to see sometimes
when the light is this good. I have light that comes booming in one
side of my studio so I can see things kind of obliquely and I get into making areas that are
very matte and then areas which are shiny and I can see that in the studio –
sometimes when you get it into a space, you have to be standing on one side or
another to really to really see that. But that interests me. And because actually when you look at
the work in natural light – when I made the show at Wiesbaden, it
was a complete revelation. I mean sometimes – I had one painting
that was shocking for me to see. There was a passage in it that just looked
completely different and it was sort of this pink, which I had painted my
studio. I thought it was a cold pink. Man. It got in the space and
because the natural light
just brought out all the blues and I thought, well, I don’t know that this is a good
thing, but it is what it is. I mean, Karl Jensen, all of
your former students at Hunter, and I was just looking
at the edges of things, how it changes –
sometimes it’s very clean, and all the time it changes along the way. It’s very irregular. But at time, even looking at these luminous
yellow edges here, Joanna, there’s a revealed
under-layer coming through, or for example, a hue of
yellow along the edge here, that glow, that
below-curvilinear, sort of speak. So it’s like that create a sense
of volumetric, in a way, response. I mean, that’s sort of alludes
to more 3-dimensional form. It’s not all resolute flatness.
Am I right? Is that intentional? Yeah. I don’t mean it
necessarily to become 3D, but yeah, I want to expand the field of –
the spatial field in any way I can, so sometimes these sub layers get completely
hidden and then sometimes I will allow them to be seen because they
end up kind of creating a kind of an interesting tension or
vibration in the world. Well one more question and we’re
going to open up to you immediately. One question in terms of shape canvas. I have interview Ron Gorchov. I have done
the same thing with Elizabeth Murray. There is definitely a strong
narrative in their work. To Gorchov it’s maybe even spiritual,
he doesn’t want to accept it, but it’s definitely there. In repudiating or respond
to what was happening, dealing with sculpture, he managed to do that in the
three dimensional structure
and yet still be able to paint. But to me, sometimes those irregular
dissimilar two marks implies, I don’t know, some kind of
stigmata or wounds and which, what I just saw now, the Schnabel show is all about that –
wounds and more making that review so much about the body and whatnot. And we know about Elizabeth being
resolutely about urban energy. Not wanting to put simplistic niche
and reading in the work here, but I mean, it’s just
impossible to place you, you know? What is it? All of the things we just talk about
and it’s still very hard to mediate. All of these things, all
there simultaneously. So that’s a good place that we can
actually open to everyone here. Hi Alan. How are you? You look good. You mentioned Gorchov and Elizabeth
Murray, what’s very particular – exceptionally rare in American art, I would say – with Joanna is
that the work is graceful. Has a lot of joy, and it is uplifting. And I am sick and so when
I came to see the show, I felt like almost the same experience
that I would go to Matisse in Nice or the Cut-Outs and the Joy of Color. What is very – what to ask you Joanna. Would you agree? And are you
not afraid to accept the word, “gracefulness” in your work or is
this something very un-American, I don’t know? There is what? The word “gracefulness”. I accept it. No, I thank you on that. Well, I think that all of these issues of how something appears, whether it’s, how we
think about it – I mean, I think a lot of times there’s a suspicion of things which
one could say would be beautiful, of dealing with beauty for instance. I think it’s very out – and I don’t set
about trying to make something beautiful or dealing with beauty. And I don’t think beauty
has to do with prettiness, or with taste or with any of those elements. I think beauty can be really dark – but I just think that what is important is how something becomes whole is what I look for in art,
in art of all kinds. This feeling of how something is put together in a very precise and amazing way, I guess. That’s sort
of, that’s how I think about it, really. So graceful, I’ll
accept graceful. Definitely. Okay, next question. Yes. Joan. I loved when you were describing taking
these photographs in 360 degrees and pasting them all together
to try to get the horizon. So it occurred to me that mapping
might be a term that would be really applicable to your work in terms of
establishing kind of discourse surrounding the work. How do you feel about that? Do you feel like you’re
mapping something? I mean, I could go on and on about this, but I think it’d be more
interesting if you did, if you could think about mapping. I don’t know. I think I
feel like I’m locating. I feel like, I don’t know. I don’t know about mapping. I
don’t, I’m not sure. I think that what I feel is that I am
taking – I’m trying to find a, how can I put, a sort of a place of rest in
something that’s constantly moving, expanding, contraction, shifting, and that has to do with how
I put the things together, it’s the stance of each painting. It’s about a centering I think more than mapping, but I may not be understanding what
you’re saying in terms of how you’re using the term. I don’t know. Is that? I was using it very loosely, but it
seemed in certain ways tangential. When you say mapping, you mean like walking along all around, claiming a certain spatial relationship? No. Just thinking about when you were
talking about extending beyond, and when we want to go
kind of beyond where it is, we’ve got to have a map of some kind
when we go outside the boundaries of what we know. And so as I was looking at these, I was thinking about how they kind of
start to map that nonlinear dimension with those curves and so on. And so there were just fragments of a
thought coming together for me around that of you trying to locate a space that
became the shape of your canvases and that procedure there had a process embedded
in it that seemed something like mapping, what one would do in making a map. Like if you would – I mean some of the
most interesting maps that have come out in recent times are from this cartography
project at the University of Chicago, are all Native American maps
where somebody walked 800
miles and they got there and someone goes “draw a
map” and they just sit down. Or the Australian, you
know, the Aboriginal, or the Sikh, those maps of the universe or I can’t remember, but they’re just these huge
things which have to do with all these different aspects of consciousness
and stuff like that. Yeah, I mean, I think that, the whole – the drawing in them, the drawing in them, it’s like trying to make a continuum, a continuum within the thing that
the drawing to the edge and then the color takes it outside, you know, the color stretches it outside.
That’s kind of how I think about it. Beautiful, thank you. I’ll try and put this in the form
of a question. Can you hear me? Is this working? Close up. Hold it up like this? Okay. This talk about content
really interesting. I actually read a definition of the
difference between subject matter and content on the back of a jazz album
and I don’t remember what it was. It was a great definition and they
distinguished between the choices that the artist makes about their
influences, how they choose to work, what they’re trying to do, and then content is actually what they
do with it and how they work with that stuff, you know? And the thing
that was so interesting about that, just in relation to what
you said about Bernard, because I always considered him to be
like the master of reconsideration. Like, you look at him and everything in those
paintings were always – you feel like he thought about them over and over. Like the reason he painted his house
is because he was just looking at the teapot like all day long.
And when he painted it, it was like the 50-millionth times he’d
thought about the teapot. You know, it’s like reading Proust. Exactly like
reading Proust, looking at Bernard, it seems like an endless
labyrinth of rethinking, you know? And so in relation to your work, the content, it would seem to me,
to be this reconsideration, the way the lines form themselves, the way that the colors are reconsidered
in relation to the other colors. Very different from Ron Gorchov,
who is admittedly a great painter, but you feel that, for example is those
paintings feel executed, they’re very specific decisions
made, and the content in your work, you may or may not agree with me, is this kind of reconsideration
– this constant reconsideration. I think it’s interesting that Bernard
is so popular among painters for that reason the same way that
these are so thought through. I suppose another equivalent is the
difference between the readerly in the writerly piece of writing
that’s constantly reworked
and thought about what it is exactly that’s being done
here. This what I’m working. Yeah. And, and you know, I mean, he had things that he came back to after
years and years and years. He would, have a painting and it’d being
sitting against the wall, and maybe five years later he’d come
back and add a little something over here or do something to it. And the other person that was
mentioned earlier, Mondrian, these constant adjustments in the painting over and over, you know, these little incremental
sort of adjustments to lines and to the way the space
within the lines is drawn. And that just amazes me, and I feel very close to that in my
process. I think you’re very right. And I will say that my paintings
often go through enormous changes, you know, there’s just really enormous
changes. It’s one of the reasons that I have continued to work with acrylic
paint because I don’t have to wait for ages for things to dry
to make the changes. And I just think all the changes
of a painting are always there. They’re present in the painting no matter
how it turns out – the prior lives are there and sort of give
it a kind of a resonance. Joe, you sound like an
art critic. Painter too. No, but it’s true. The best kind. It’s true because I remember Franz Kline
once made a remark about Bernard’s nude in the tub. He said, “that nude would
never be able to get out of that tub.” So I think that reconsideration is about
slowing down the looking process too. For sure. I mean that’s the difference between the
resolute flatness in the architectural experience that once he
confronts with Barnett Newman, when you come close you don’t have that. So it’s very fixed from a certain
distance to experience that in Newman. Whereas in your painting,
I think we have both. You could see from a distance, but you also have the same satisfaction
when you come close, and the edges, the colors and the shape, all
of it. My question is, no, I should have more questions
come in. Yes, Cathy. Joanna, I’ve been sitting here listening to
your every word staring right at you, but also at the painting right behind you. And I agree it is expanding
the space around the rectangle, but what is really holding me in there
is something I’ve never heard you talk about. It’s the figure ground reversal. That yellow on top becomes a
shape and so does the pink. And why don’t you talk about that? Well, now that you mention it. This is actually what I was talking about
a little bit in the photographs that I was taping together and seeing this flipping back and forth between what was
solid and – what was light and what was solid. So that is very important to me, and this constant exchange between – in these photographs, this
constant exchange between the forms that were happening on earth, the
forms that were happening in the sky, and then the color or the light changing them
spatially in a positive-negative kind of way, very positive-negative kind of way, but also in terms of their weight. So in my paintings, I’m always
sort of trying to kind of have those spaces within the drawn lines
and things like that kind of move in and out, fluctuate in a sense. I don’t know if that answers your
question, but it’s very important to me, the positive-negative thing, and the proportions of the shapes
allow that to happen I think, if you get the right proportion and the right color relationship,
they slide, more easily. I think, I don’t know. This is a general question. Earlier somebody was talking
about gracefulness. Yeah, I feel like the work has really achieved
this sense of grace and it makes me feel so good when I see it, and I think when I first saw work
that’s part of this body of work I just couldn’t take my eyes off
it. Just, wow, what is this, it makes me feel really good and I really
want to come hear you speak about it and see the work. So it’s
just a random question, but are there any kind of new ideas and preoccupations in your mind
that you’re trying to weave into your work as you move forward? And if so, truly out of curiosity, anything
you can share? Like where do you, where do you take –
you’ve achieved such a – you’ve arrived at such a generous place
in your work and it’s really exciting just as a viewer to participate
in. And I’m just curious, like, where is your mind? Where
are you looking ahead? I have so many things that I’m working
on that actually are different. The paintings that I’m going to be
showing at Locks are different again, so these paintings, this painting, the yellow painting is the most
recent in this group of things. I think as I’ve – I don’t really approach
my work in a kind of linear way, so I’m constantly
circling back, you know, I move forward and then I
circle back frequently. But the more recent paintings
actually have a great deal of – I wanted them to feel kind
of like drawings on the wall. So there’s a lot of – so the
wall really moves into them. There’s a lot of neutral
areas in the paintings, or very high, high value paintings so that they – so they’re much more permeable
in a funny way. So that’s a direction that I’m going in
– doesn’t mean I won’t shift back to things. Also, there are certain paintings that just
the configuration is something that ends up being something I
want to explore further. Most of them are unique configurations, but every once in a while I hit on some
kind of configuration that makes me want to kind of – it suggests other ways of approaching it. So I can’t say I wouldn’t revisit some of
some of these shapes in different ways. But it’s interesting you asked that
because I do think that the way I work and the fact that I’m
doing a lot of drawing lately, I just sort of feel like
there’s so many possibilities. I don’t think I could work if I didn’t
feel that. I don’t think I could – And it’s so evident in the work, I feel like. Just opens up this huge window into a
new world with so many possibilities. I feel that as a viewer. I get a lot of energy – creative energy. Oh, that’s nice to hear. Yeah. So I was hoping to hear
you say something like that. Maybe we’ll take one more. You mentioned earlier when you were
talking about your painting – the first thing that I felt very emotion directed
to your painting was the shapes which are different and wonderful in the way
they – also managed to do as well with the color. But you mentioned a couple of instances
that in your travels you were admiring Oriental art, you mentioned Alhambra and Chinese
landscape and I’m very interested in you expanding a little bit on that and
how that has influenced your work, that different vision on Western? Mhm. Yeah. I don’t know how I can – how to be specific about that. I mean, Chinese landscape painting has really
been interesting to me because of the way that the figure is in relation
to the landscape. Tiny, you know, and completely, enveloped and so the relationship of figure to landscape
is something that really interests me. And that’s really, again, how the shapes come about in a way. I feel like I never wanted to – I’m not
interested in drawing the figure within a painting. But I feel that what I’d like to try to do is
give a sense through the scale and the composition that you’re there, that you’re in the painting
somehow. And I think the shape, because I treat it as
my peripheral vision, in a sense. Now the Alhambra’s just the
Alhambra, it’s just, it was just overwhelming and
I think about it all the time. And certain kinds of shapes and forms
sometimes will come out of that, but there’s something to being in a place
that you can’t replicate that painting in place or that kind of thing in place. And I would love to be able to bring the
complexity and residence – resonance of that experience into the work. I don’t know that it’s possible because
I think it’s one – if you’re in a space where every aspect of the place is working and engaging you and surrounding you, it is a world, you know, it’s a world.
You’re entering into a whole world, and this is still an object, but I want to try to make it be as – I
want to try to have it take you in as much as possible and to be also as expansive as possible. Which, continuing what you just asked. This will be the last question. For me. There’s a sense of centralization within the form. Sometimes they expand a bit more, but most often they trying to gather
the energy to containment – a form of containment. Somehow, I’m thinking at the moment of late Divers
of Léger is very much centralized in the middle, but the form is
not determined. In other words, you can turn and see it from all sides. Yeah. I think that sense of potential viewership is
something that you feel, even though these are resolutely
installed as they appear to be, but you also feel that they can be the
other way – can be seen from different perspectives. Is that possible?
In other words, my question, what about sense of gravities, Joanna? The sense of gravity? Yeah. Well, I think that they’re both forces
– there’s buoyancy and gravity, in them. And certain paintings, like maybe this painting is more about
a kind of, well, I don’t know. I mean, I think it’s about trying to create
a balance between the two and, and I think that perhaps the fact that a lot of times
when I get these things back from the fabricator before they have
any images on them I often say, “Jesus, what the hell was I thinking?”
Because they’re kind of really – they’re not symmetrical in any way. And sometimes they’re just unbalanced, and then it’s the drawing within
them that balances them. Yeah. So in a way that’s maybe the center that you’re
talking about, I don’t know. That’s a perfect way of ending. Thank
you for coming. We can chat afterwards. Thank you.

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