TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 1986

AN ORNAMENTED JOKE

THE WATERCOLORS BEGAN AS a conversation with Irene Winter, an art-historian friend, about the way different cultures have evolved their systems of perspective. She described a visual joke she uses as a pedagogical device to explain two of these systems to her students. It turns on familiar iconography—women, house, garden, pool. The perpetual punchline comes with the recognition that some things both stay the same and change. Since I never actually saw the joke, I imagined what it looked like and painted the two worlds it described—ancient Egypt and the Renaissance. This made me want to paint other worlds. Representing 16th-century Persian life messed up the idea of historical sequence, because it clearly showed something else—that very different world views can exist at almost the same time. A kind of logical illogic or illogical logic took over, and the results are on these pages. For me, this has become very open-ended, a series of interlocking questions. For example, did the people who lived in those earlier times think the world looked the way it was depicted in their art, or did they make their art to conform to the way they saw the world? How much do our own conventions affect the way we see and remember their art? Which came first here, art or life?

— A project for Artforum by Joyce Kozloff