Robert Smithson, "Conversation in Salt Lake City," 1972:

There's a word called entropy. These are kind of like entropic situations that hold themselves together. It's like the Spiral Jetty is physical enough to be able to withstand all these climate changes, yet it's intimately involved with those climate changes and natural disturbances. That's why I'm not really interested in conceptual art because that seems to avoid physical mass. You're left mainly with an idea. Somehow to have something physical that generates ideas is more interesting to me than just an idea that might generate something physical.
Nic at A Young Hare has had some great posts lately about the not-legendary-enough Italian artist/architect Gianni Pettena, which made me revisit Pettena's discussion with Robert Smithson. The interview took place in January 1972, the day after Smithson had delivered his "Hotel Palenque" lecture at the University of Utah, where Pettena was a visiting professor. It was originally published in Domus in Nov. 1972, and included in Smithson's collected writings.

In the same conversation, Smithson also mentioned his preference for working in "a site that is free of scenic meaning," one with "views that are expansive, that include everything..." In referring to the Spiral Jetty's site:

The Salt Lake piece is right near a disused oil drilling operation and the whole northern part of the lake is completely useless. I'm interested in bringing a landscape with low profile up, rather than bringing one with high profile down.
I'd argue that the lake's utility has only increased since Smithson saw it, and that his installation of the Spiral Jetty has certainly raised its landscape's profile.

Meanwhile, 185 francs. That's the price written inside my copy of the 1996 reissue of Smithson's writings. I bought it at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, which has [had?] an awesome bookstore. Is it still awesome? I haven't been for a couple of years now, though I expect I'll be back before the franc is.

And from the end of the conversation:

Smithson:...I developed that somewhat with the non-sites, where I would go out to a fringe area and send back the raw material to New York City, which is a kind of center--a big sprawling night mare center, but it's still there. Then that goes into the gallery and the non-site functions as a map that tells you where the fringes are. It's rare that anybody will visit these fringes, but it's interesting to know about them.

Pettena: You always show the places from which you are coming, if you are sincere.

Robert Rauschenberg's massive 1970 silk screen edition, Currents sure is hard to miss. And not just because it's 18 meters long.


MoMA's copy from the edition [of just six] has been wrapped around the corner of the second floor galleries for a while now. Which may have helped coax Peter Freeman into bringing out another of the screenprints last week for Art Basel.

But it's also at the end of the Rauschenberg's segment in Emile de Antonio's documentary, Painters Painting [above], which I rewatched recently. Bob unfurls it with a slightly soused, earnestly glib voiceover about how, even though there's so much information packed into a daily newspaper, most people don't read it. But if someone spends $15,000 on the info, the artist can get him to pay attention. Or at least not wrap the fish in it and throw it out.

Which is ironic, I guess, because I've found that the size and visual uniformity has caused me to stroll by Currents without ever even slowing down. I register it as reworked newspaper content, on a giant roll, just like the real newspaper itself--but I don't slow down to look closely. I mean, really, at that scale, how much of my time does Rauschenberg really think he's gonna get?


So maybe it was because I'd just run into Richard Serra moments before in the atrium, or because I came at the work head-on this time, instead of from the side. But I'd never noticed, for example, that there is a news photo of a frontloader bringing a massive fir tree trunk to the Pasadena Art Museum for Serra's 1970 work, Sawing: Base Plate Template (Twelve Fir Trees)

Above it and to the right, I'd swear that row of tract houses is a Dan Graham photo.


And hey, there's a story about construction progress on Expo 70 in Osaka, where E.A.T., the collaborative Rauschenberg founded with Billy Kluver, was creating the Pepsi Pavilion, and where Rauschenberg was still thinking he'd show his own work, a plexiglass cubeful of bubbling drillers' mud called Mud-Muse, which he'd developed with Teledyne for LACMA's Art & Technology show and the US Pavilion.

If I can spot these now-obvious contemporary art references in Currents, what else must be lurking in there? Was incorporating other artists' images Rauschenberg's way of tipping his hat to artists and work he liked, or was he assimilating and subsuming it in his own, sprawling scroll? Was he engaging in a dialogue with the Conceptual and post-minimalist kids coming up or putting them in their place? Or trying to put himself in theirs?


The most intriguing references now, though, turn out to be a little trickier. There are multiple instances of diagrams showing hands throwing the OK sign which remind me of nothing so much as the sign language woodblocks used in the prints at Jasper Johns' latest show at Marks.

Shrinky Dink 4, 2011, intaglio print, image via

I remember thinking immediately of Rauschenberg when I saw the mirrored newspaper transfer appearing in the upper left of this Johns drawing, Untitled, 2010.


Rauschenberg began using the technique in the mid-60s, and it's all over Currents. Remind me again how long MoMA's had their print on view?

Thumbnail image for serra_amer_flag_worship.jpg

On October 4th, 1994, at an artist panel discussion for MoMA's Cy Twombly retrospective, Richard Serra made an offhand comment about how "The last century of art has been based on a misreading of Cezanne."

To a young, impressionable student/fanboi still putting his contemporary art world view together, this was a shock. Because it was Serra, and because I still assumed there was some right art historical "answer" to be gotten to, and because Serra didn't bother to say how everybody got it wrong, it lodged in my brain for years.

And so it was that at some point a couple of years later, when I met him at a party, I asked him what he'd meant. Of course, he didn't remember what he'd said, or the context, so he gamely tried to float a couple of possible theories, but nothing that matched the seeming conviction with which I'd remembered him saying it. So I tried to forget about it.

And I thought I had, at least until just now, when I was reading Serra's discussion with Gary Garrels in the Richard Serra: Drawing catalogue. They were talking about the "jump" in Serra's work after 1989 in terms of Cezanne:

GG: Those double-panel drawings, rather than dealing with a wall or with a room or a space, deal with internal relationships.

RS: They are masses in relation to one another. They're not about composition or figure-ground; they emphasize the comparison of different weights in juxtaposition.

GG: So this, to me, is again another jump.


RS: For me they have more to do with Cezanne than with Malevich. I wasn't looking at Cezanne when I conceived them, but in retrospect, I see a clear connection in the way they deal with weight and mass in relation to shape. They're the opposite of the floating shapes of Constructivism and Malevich, referred to in drawings like Heir

The comparison of the diptychs with Cezanne may be a stretch, but no one else comes to mind who deals so physically with mass and weight. No one talks about the weight of Cezanne, but there's a manifestation of weight there that's not in Picasso, not in Matisse, barely in anyone who follows. Cezanne is obviously interested in gravity and in the relation of weight to plane. Take Still Life with Plaster Cupid [ca. 1894], in the Courtauld, where he punches a hole in the space, and you think the apples and onions are going to roll off the table. The only thing holding them in place is their weight. They have the weight of cannonballs.

So the answer, then, is C) gravity.

But then, literally, as I'm typing this in from the book, it's 41:00 into the recording of the panel, right where Serra says it:

I think Twombly has a big range-- a big range of evocation. I think that's what he does. He doesn't present an image; he evokes a sensuality, and it's unlike anything in post--I think. I'd have to go back to someone like Baziotes, maybe--there's nothing in the American brain like that. Americans are much--maybe Brice. Americans are much more heavy-handed, much more flat-footed, much more aggressive.

This is the opposite of Cezanne. And the whole inheritance of the New York School kind of goes Cezanne; Cubism; into Abstract Expressionism; Pop Art pretty much hangs things back on a grid; the grid comes back up again in Minimalism. That seems to me all an extension of a certain kind of classicisim and aggression and a standardization coming out of Cezanne, a misreading of Cezanne, albeit. And Twombly takes the opposite attack. It's very lyrical. And very open. And very...delicate.

Brice Marden: Yeah, I think it's really great that he left town. [crowd laughs]

OK, then. I seem to have misunderstood the question. The correct answer is actually D) Serra likes to think in terms of major historical frameworks. I'm glad that's all cleared up.

Von Heyl-bait: Spatial Force Construction, 1921, Lyubov Popova

A couple of weeks ago Charline von Heyl made a refreshingly badass presentation on painting at the Hammer Museum. [It was organized by UCLA's art department.] The tenor was quite different, it quickly became one of my favorite artist talks since Thomas Houseago's Public Art Fund lecture at the New School last year.

Von Heyl talks a lot about her sources and tactics, including design, folk and indigenous art, and overlooked and bad [Bad?] painting. Rather than narrating a trajectory for her work, or elaborating on her technique, she focuses on how she looks, and on how central that is to what she does eventually turn out.

So obviously, this from the q&a:

I find the idea of time in painting super-interesting in every respect, you know, the speed of the brush, the way the backwards/forwards thing goes, the time of the paradox, which is probably my idea of irony, the material thing that switches things around.

And so all those things really feed into each other, and the time of looking is constantly feeding into it, constantly. And it's really--one of the first things I do when I go to the studio is to get different books and check different things out.

And for me, the whole blog thing is a godsend. If I put in one of my favorite paintings, some weird Popova painting or something like that, and go to images and blog, there's a kindred soul, you know, somebody who has the same taste. And from there, you find other blogs because he's going to go somewhere, And I think books have been so important for me, but now, blogs, painters' blogs are, I mean, there are a lot of people who are super smart when it comes to looking, and it's really fun to look at it. I use that a lot, too.

A follow-up question asked what blogs she looks at, and she balked; she can't name her favorite books, either, she said, because she doesn't know the titles. It's a result of being immersed in "this community of images." So it makes sense that the one blog she did manage to namecheck is Bibliodyssey. [She also said she does read Notes on Looking, too.]

UCLA Department of Art Lectures: Charline von Heyl [, thx permanent link |

May 13, 2011

Shh, Don't Speak.

From Dennis Lim's brief Q&A with Gus Van Sant at Cannes, where Restless is [finally?] debuting:

We did silent takes of almost every scene so we could maybe use them in the editing. Terry Malick apparently shoots silent takes so he can mold what he wants out of the scenes. But with our takes we actually created a silent version because we had enough material and we realized we could -- maybe it'll be on the DVD. Everything is there except the dialogue -- all the sounds and music, and you hear all the footsteps, but there's nobody talking and no lips moving. They're the same scenes, but it has the distance of not being dialogue-driven. It's the exact same love story but it plays like a different movie.
It's funny, because Gerry and Elephant only have like 10 pages of dialogue between them anyway.

Previously: Gus Van Sant's go-to guy, the 2003 interview with producer Dany Wolf


"THE WITNESS: This could be a cool book."
- Richard Prince Deposition Transcript, p. 328

Dude, Richard Prince just blurbed my book.

Between the lawyers on both sides of Cariou vs. Prince et al, about 275 pages of the transcript of Richard Prince's 7-hour deposition had been made public as footnotes to various briefs and memos, but there were 101 pages left out.

In the weeks since I compiled the excerpts and exhibits into a book, I've been trying to track down the complete transcript. Now I have it, and you can too. After trying multiple sources for obtaining it, a sympathetic party close to the case pointed me to an apparently inadvertent, unmarked exhibit appended to a late court filing, which included the entire 378-page transcript instead of the customary snippets.

czrpyr_cover_thumb.jpgAnd so I have revised Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA to includ the entire interview, in order, with a handy timestamped topical index, even, and with some additional rounds of legal memos, that give a fuller sense of the give and take that led up to Judge Batts' royal smackdown of Prince's transformative use claims.

In addition, to accommodate wholesale requests, I've switched printers, so the new, revised edition has slightly smaller page facsimiles, but it is also printed on higher-grade paper. It looks pretty slick.

Because of the additional quality and page count bumps, the cost went up a bit, to $17.99, but it's still a pretty sweet deal, I think. You can buy Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA directly from, an Amazon print-on-demand subsidiary, of if you like, you can also order it from Amazon. If you're dying to see it in person first, both Printed Matter and Specific Object have copies available.

For folks who have already purchased the book, either in print or electronic format, don't worry, I've got you covered. I made an Appendix which contains all the missing transcript pages, and I've been mailing out printed and PDF copies to people who've contacted me. Whenever the printed copies run out, I'll be happy to keep the appendix available via PDF.

Because it really does have some interesting stuff in it, like the quote at the top of the page, which was Prince's reaction to the exhibit showing the side-by-side comparisons of the Patrick Cariou's YES RASTA images and the Prince Canal Zone paintings they ended up in. [Obviously, that exhibit is included in the book.]

Now that the whole deposition story can be told, I think I'll go through and pull out some highlights to share here: some great exchanges, useful insights, or straight-up WTF moments. If you have any favorites, definitely pass them along. And enjoy! The damages hearing is scheduled for May 6, tomorrow!

Buy Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: Selected Court Documents from Cariou v. Prince et al from Createspace or Amazon.
The book is also available at Printed Matter and Specific Object, both in New York and online.

Then please email me if you haven't already.

greg at greg dot org

Electronic or print, either one. Because I have something for you.

I've seen a million and one lawn ornaments without ever noticing any connection to satelloons. And then I saw this odd ball self-portrait of Edwaerd Muybridge last spring at the Corcoran [detail below], and I"m like, big shiny Victorian garden balls and satelloons!


Actually, I see it was the other way around: Muybridge was in May, and tricky photographs using mirrored balls that happened to be satellites was in March.


Anyway, that's when I realize I have no idea what they're actually called, or how to find them, because they're called something besides "those+glass+lawn+balls" or whatever. And so I start trying to figure out when I might accidentally run into our neighbor who has one, so I can ask.

Then last fall, on a trip to Amsterdam, we were walking through the antique scientific instrument district, we went into Staetshuys Antiquairs, which had some incredible and odd-looking globes and orreries in the window. And there on the edge of the mezzanine:


Big [and small] shiny balls. Thick-looking, silvered glass globes, but hanging on chains, not sitting on grass. Staetshuys's Stephan Meulendijks explained that they are called witch balls, and they served to deflect evil spirits from the windows of your house in 18th century England. Most witch balls I see discussed online, though, seem to date from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Wikipedia's entry for witch balls shows hand-sized globes, but a couple at Staetshuys measured at least 30-40cm. [Actually, the one pictured, from the V&A, which was originally "acquired as a 'Witches ball,'" and is now labeled a "bauble," is "almost certainly a Christmas tree decoration."

Anyway, the garden variety, are known as gazing balls, which is pretty close to a satelloon after all.

Thomas Lawson's 2010 interview with Andrea Bowers is like five kinds of great. It concerns the works in her show at Susan Vielmetter in Los Angeles, "The Political Landscape." Bowers' story of making a video piece about activist and Bush-era public land auction-saboteur Tim deChristoph has some nice critiques of the Earth Art Boys. And it's surprising how surprising so many of the reactions were to her immigration- and border-related drawings.


But I can't not post a bit of the discussion of the centerpiece of the show. Titled No Olvidado - Not Forgotten, the 10-foot-high, 23-panel mural/drawing contains the names of several thousand people known to have died crossing the Mexican-US border:

AB: Yes, it's a hundred-foot drawing.

TL: And it is set up as a memorial, it's a very grand piece. Let's talk about it. Since it is monumental, it presumably required a different way of working?

AB: Right. I worked with a graphic designer and several assistants. It resulted from a conversation with an activist, Enrique Morones. He founded an organization called Border Angels. They started off in I think '86, providing water and blankets to people crossing the border.

TL: And many die in the attempt--are they killed out there in the desert, or do they die from exposure and thirst?

AB: It's both, but in many cases nobody knows. A lot of people die from dehydration or temperature, but there are also people who are killed. So Enrique collects names of anyone who dies migrating from Mexico to America. He actually has about ten thousand names. He finally admitted that the group of names he provided to me, a list of four or five thousand, is only up to the year 2000.

I've always been making memorials in one way or another, but memorials that I thought would never be made, or memorials that were kind of impossible to make. I'm fascinated by the Vietnam Memorial in DC, and how listing names functions in general. An important part of what I do concerns this documentary-type collection of information.

A Story about Civil Disobedience and Landscape: Interview with Andrea Bowers []


Andrew Russeth has a great post about the making of Robert Irwin's Black Plane. As part of the Whitney's 1977 survey of the artist's work, Irwin had the museum staff paint the intersection of 42nd St & Fifth Avenue, a certain heart of the city, with blacktop sealer. The image above is an aerial photo from the Chinati Foundation newsletter, 2001, which accompanied an interview of Irwin by Marianne Stockebrand.

It, along with the date of the Chinati publication, December 2001, reminds me of a proposal for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site that Ellsworth Kelly made in October. In early 2003, after seeing an aerial photo of the site in the Times, Kelly painted a green trapezoid as a stand-in for the large grass mound he envisioned, and sent his collage to Herbert Muschamp. The artist also noted that other artists he'd spoken to, including Joel Shapiro and John Baldessari, also thought that nothing should be rebuilt on the WTC site.


Muschamp arranged for Kelly's collage to be donated to the Whitney.

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Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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about this archive

Category: interviews

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99