PRINT November 1985


Robert Ryman’s studio. A wall of reminders.

IN ROBERT RYMAN’S STUDIO a wall is always push-pinned with a random sampling of photographs, ghost stand-ins for near-impossible-to-reproduce original paintings dating from 1958 to the present. Ryman makes no preliminary drawings or sketches for his paintings, so the pale wall of photographs forms a reminder of the artist’s long exploration. The questions consistently addressed in his work are those of attachment, space, and surface, and, by extension, their tandem role in shaping visual perception. This concern has the nature of a formal inquiry; the means are an intuitive attention to minute adjustments and variations, whose sum creates the paintings’ living presence, which includes the viewer.

When asked to comment about his painting, Ryman wrote this note: "Painting does not exist independently as a thing, but exists in relationship. The meaning of painting depends not only on the interaction between a painting and the viewer, but on the painting’s relationship with space. Painting interacts with space (the wall, ceiling, floor, light) and with the viewer. It is the interaction that initiates experience.

“You cannot understand painting by explaining something. You can only understand painting by experience.”

Amy Baker Sandback