The Mysterious Metamorphosis of Chuck Close – The New York Times

“I was talking to Paul Simon yesterday,” he said. “Did you see the piece in The Times that he’s going to retire?”

Three weeks earlier, Simon had released a new album, “Stranger to Stranger,” with its cover taken from a portrait that Close painted of the musician a few years back. Then, the day before I saw Close, Simon announced that the album would be his last. “I called him up, and I said, ‘Artists don’t retire,’ ” Close told me. “I think I talked him out of it. I said: ‘Don’t deny yourself this late stage, because the late stage can be very interesting. You know everybody hated late de Kooning, but it turned out to be great stuff. Late Picasso, nobody liked it, and it turned out to be great.’ ” Close reminded Simon that Matisse was unable to continue painting late in life. “Had Matisse not done the cutouts, we would not know who he was,” Close said. “Paul said, ‘I don’t have any ideas.’ I said: ‘Well, of course you don’t have any ideas. Sitting around waiting for an idea is the worst thing you can do. All ideas come out of the work itself.’ ”

Source: Wil S. Hylton, The Mysterious Metamorphosis of Chuck Close – The New York Times



Edward Hopper, Reclining Nude 1924–27. Whitney Museum

New reading material

Last week I picked up Allan Kaprow’s book, Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. So far I’ve only managed the introduction and part of the first piece, on Jackson Pollock, but it looks promising.

In his introduction, Jeff Kelley draws lines from Kaprow’s art and writing to Dewey’s pragmatism as well as to Cage’s Zen:

    If Dewey’s influence upon Kaprow can be reduced to a single phrase, it would be that “doing is knowing.” What Kaprow hopes to know is the meaning of everyday life. To know that meaning, he must enact it every day. This is where pragmatism becomes a practice. Trust in the instrumentality of ideas, in the effectiveness of action, in the validity of experience, in the reality of the senses, in the contingency of values, and in the value of intuition is not merely “materialism.” Though often seen as a crude nuts-and-bolts philosophy–especially by Europeans–American pragmatism can also be a methodical verification of existence.A methodical verification of existence takes sustenance from Zen. Like Dewey’s pragmatism, Zen mistrusts dogma and encourages education, seeks enlightenment but avoids formalist logic, accepts the body as well as the mind, and embraces discipline but relinquishes ego-centered control. In establishing discipline as a contemplative practice that opens the practitioner to knowledge, Zen loosely parallels the scientific method, in which controls are established in an experimental process that opens the researcher to phenomena. For Kaprow, pragmatism is the mechanics of Zen, and Zen the spirit of pragmatism.

I was personally unfamiliar with Kaprow, the artist who originated the concept of the Happening in the 1950s. But I suspect there are going to be lots of interesting ideas bouncing around in these essays.

And that one phrase: “doing is knowing.” Wow.