PRINT Summer 1994

David Rabinowitch

FROM THE EARLY '70S ON, Don and I engaged In extended conversations, mostly about our earlier work of the ’60s—his stacks and progressions, my fluid sheet pieces, wood pieces, “Phantoms.” Don referred to my way of working as “compressed programs”; my description of his way of working was “a detached evolution.”

One topic we came back to time and again was the problematic of internal and external relations: defining both sets, laying out their respective roles and importance to particular works.

We both felt the need to limit our talk to things that could be spoken of. We agreed that an achieved thing was in essential respects outside the purview of language and that in fact the stronger a work the greater would be the sense of its vulnerability to language. Frequently we spoke of the necessity for a work to maintain “silence” in the face of speech, but we differed on how this was to be achieved. For Don, internal properties seemed to be associated with painting, and he thought of his work as a kind of synthesis of painting and sculpture, a synthesis that somehow transcended both.

Our discussions often concerned the role of scale, which we saw as linked to the function of internal and external relations. Again, we diverged in our understanding of how scale was related to these issues. Don thought of scale as fundamentally inherent in an object; I saw it as a function of conditions of observation, a complex that operated against a work’s status as object.

The treatment of the literal was for Don a much more direct matter than it was for me. Our difference in this respect we traced to our conceptions of art’s relation to nature. Don wanted a work to be a substance in nature—an object; I wanted it to be an aspect of nature.

What was most curious to us both was the fact that a significant work calls forth domains of experience not addressed by formal problems. I always thought Don’s love for the natural world and music was somehow bound up with this.