PRINT Summer 1965

Robert Irwin

Born, Long Beach, California, 1928.
1946–47: U.S. Army, Europe.
Attended Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, 1948–50;
Jepson Art Institute, Los Angeles, 1951;
Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, 1952–54.
James D. Phelan Award, 1954.
Lived in Europe and North Africa, 1954–56.
Chaloner Award, 1957–58 (Prix De Rome).
Taught drawing, painting, design, Chouinard Art Institute, 1957-58.
On faculty of Art Department, University Of California, Los Angeles, 1962.
Lives In Los Angeles.

Robert Irwin, who does not permit reproductions of his paintings, has prepared for Artforum a statement which he does not feel will clarify what is, to him, a very simple position.

Question: Why do you object to your paintings being reproduced?

Answer: I am concerned with specifics and reject the generalities of photographs. Every element in painting has had both an identity and a physical existence—identity has always lent itself to being transferred in both photographic and literary terms.

The physical existence never has.

Non-objective painting has come a long way to become a language of the physical. The duality of reproductions are a complete contradiction to this premise.

Question: What do you mean by duality?

Answer: The whole point of modern painting has been the defining of “art as art”—and in the creating of an art language, with an art communication. This is singular.

Duality in art is a language of romantic sentimentality using the art forms to recall past experiences and feeling—to color and reconstruct in the mind thoughts of beauty and importance with the idea that they grace the art forms with their meaning.

But this has always sacrificed the awareness of the art form, leaving a half vision which can also accept the total distortion of reproductions as having reality.

Duality works as a language of expediency with the ability to facilitate mass communication and education, and where the transference of ideas can constitute communication, it is a meaningful language.

Its accuracy is limited to the concept of ideas as absolutes. If this is true in art, as in mathematics, that you can give understanding through facts and figures—then art, along with everything else, can be programmed and computed.

But the duality’s truth is very questionable when confronted by the constant state of change (and therefore lack of absolutes)—the inconsistencies, irrationalities and emotions of the human equation.

Non-objective art as I see it removed the referential (idea-identity) from painting—demanding personal sensual involvement as the only accurate human communication.

The question should read—why do we insist on the language of duality by reproductions, negating the essential truth of the painting?

And the answer can only be: expediency.