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  • 500 Words: Robert Irwin

    The meaning of art—and essentially life—according to Robert Irwin, incredible machine. Since everything he says is worth knowing, here are a few choice excerpts from our McDonald's meeting that didn't make the cut. The rest is at Artforum

    "...Ad Reinhardt actually made a great statement one time. He said, 'Art is art-as-art, and everything else is everything else.' Basically the art world right now 90 percent of the time is everything else.

    ...I never taught anybody art. I never taught them how to paint, or how one makes a canvas, or that sort of thing. I would add that on if that’s what they asked for. But basically what you do is everybody has a sensibility. Your sensibility is why you’re there. Your sensibility is the major, not the minor. And so you don’t teach a student to paint or to be this kind of artist or that kind of artist. You help them nurture their own sensibility, so when it comes … you have students on one hand that are like Ed Ruscha let’s say, and Chris Burden on the other hand. Think about the range. How can I possibly teach those two people to do that? I don’t even know. That’s something I don’t have any grasp of. But over a period of time, I help them understand that they’re that, and that’s where their strength lies...

    ...I say, if you look at the history of art through the 19th century, it's 100 years of dismantling the whole idea of a pictorial reality as the role and redepositing it as having to do with aesthetics and how people understand the world this way. Once you think that, you can’t play the game anymore in that way so you have to figure out, how do you? And so, what I did slowly was dismantle my own, and I slowly took all the parts apart and examined every one. It took ten, fifteen years but I actually dismantled the whole thing, not knowing what the result was and not knowing where I would go from there. In fact, in a way at the time there was nowhere to go from there... 

    ... If you’re on an airplane and you look out, especially when you’re flying over the desert, and you see this incredible light, this organic landscape and then there’d be one black line, the road, one line the human being made into a piece of geometry and you watch the whole thing collect around that and actually it becomes like an organizing factor so that becomes like a clue as to how one starts to realize anything you do is going to be somehow an organizing factor in all of this."