1977 Constructions

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At Indiana University they made very clear distinctions between painting, sculpture, printmaking etc. and what I was doing didn't seem like painting to them. They kept saying I had to acknowledge my influences. When I finally told them I liked Richard Diebenkorn (the Cincinnati Museum had a retrospective of his work that year) they were really confused. They were expecting someone much trendier. I didn't particularly want to paint like Diebenkorn -- I'd already tried that -- but to develop a more object-oriented way of working that gave me more freedom.

I asked myself what would happen if, instead of putting paint on canvas, I started more in the middle (in medias res) and considered the canvas as a vehicle that could go forward and backwards. Diebenkorn did this in terms of his subject matter when he abstracted the landscape, then reconstituted the figure/ground, then reabstracted that into a language of space in the Ocean Park paintings.

Not only did they hate Diebenkorn, they hated that I wasn't understanding Diebenkorn the way they did. It would have been better if I'd said Mondrian. I wasn't even being trendy. I wasn't looking for models to copy and, I suppose, I was trying to reinvent the wheel for myself. It wasn't until after I started doing the work that I recognized some of the same ideas in people like Robert Smithson, Robert Irwin, Barnett Newman and others. I was also taking an art history class in Russian Art and I think that had a big influence on me.

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