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white on white

June 30, 2009

[Bookforum] It is part of Robert Ryman’s legend that he is a self-taught artist. He moved to New York in 1952, at age twenty-two, to pursue a career in jazz. A year later, he took a job at the Museum of Modern Art as a security guard. Paintings had begun to interest him “not so much because of what was painted but how they were done. I thought maybe it would be an interesting thing for me to look into—how the paint worked and what I could do with it.” So he bought some art supplies and began to experiment. At no point, then or later, did he try to depict anything—a face, a figure, a natural object like a tree or a flower, an artifact like a bottle or a guitar: “I thought I would try and see what would happen. I wanted to see what the paint would do, how the brushes would work. . . . I had nothing really in mind to paint. I was just finding out how the paint worked, colors, thick and thin, the brushes, surfaces.” He evidently found the activity sufficiently absorbing that he put music aside. By the end of the ’50s, Ryman was using white paint almost exclusively, as if color interested him far less than certain physical properties of paint. (read)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. severnyproductions permalink
    June 30, 2009 9:07 pm

    Interesting story. As a self taught artist myself its encouraging to hear of success stories like this

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