Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rackstraw Downes, Circumambulation Clockwise Of The Six Sided Bull Barn, Marfa, TX, (Six Part Painting) 2007.

"When you look at old art to learn about its language, you imbibe a taste for its imagery too, albeit unconsciously. You end up not painting the world you actually live in. People forget that in Constable’s paintings, the canals, the locks, the workman’s cottages are the equivalents for their time of our super-highways, clover-leafs, and public housing. The great nationwide system of canals was being built while Constable was painting—it was the latest thing in transportation. Now it’s about the end of the line in sentimentality."

"...I can’t paint a landscape without some notion of man being in there. Anyway, it’s impossible. When Ansel Adams went into Yosemite to find a place where there was no manmade structure at all, he was there with his camera! So the idea doesn’t work. Say you get up in the morning and you want to go on a hike in the mountains, when you are in the mountains, you say, "Oh look at that power line, it’s ruining the view." That doesn’t work for me, because when you get up in the morning, you take your electric shaver and shave with the electric power from that power line. Come on! Acknowledge it. That’s all I’m saying— acknowledge what we are doing, the kind of lives we really lead. That’s why I have these sub-stations. I’m very interested in the appearance of these sub-stations; they’re fascinating. But I’m also interested in the fact that this is the source of energy for most people; this is the way energy is being supplied to your house. The lights, the refrigerator, so much of your life, the tape recorder you’re recording on. So to deny it, to paint a landscape without electricity, is a little strange in a way. And I say I like to make friends with these things and find out what they’re about and how dirty really are they, and the fact that right next to the huge power plant there’s a bunch of egrets feeding in the water. There’s a kind of accommodation constantly being made between man and nature: nature, to me, is anything we didn’t make. But in another sense, nature includes those things we did make too—they’re all subject to the laws of nature."

Two great interviews with Downes here and here. The audio one is a treat. Downes is loud, boisterous and completely irrepressible - dorky even. He also talks about a mile a minute, exactly the opposite of what you would imagine from looking at the work.