Saturday, May 06, 2006

Rackstraw Downes, who paints exclusively plein air (on location) and takes months to finish a single canvas:

"Years ago I read a beautiful letter that Stendhal sent to his sister, giving her advice on letter writing. He said, choose subjects you care very much about, but when you put your feelings into words, do it as if you didn't want anyone to notice. When I read that, in the seventies, I thought, that's what I'm trying to do. I don't want anyone to notice the style.

I remember going to the Whitney Annual before my style was at all formed, and thinking that a good painting is one that has a quick come-on, that beckons you very forcefully from across the room. And I thought to myself, wouldn't it be interesting to make a painting that would be totally plain, ordinary and quiet, but if you spend time sniffing around you find endless stuff that would keep revealing itself."

Dave Hickey, who's book "Air Guitar" is one of the best introductions to thinking about art I know, calls this "Huh? WOW!" art, as opposed to the ubiquitous "WOW! Huh?" It's an approach that I feel a lot of sympathy towards, especially in the age of Gursky/Crewdson/Burtynsky.