If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted.

Franz Kafka, Parables and Paradoxes

Spencer Finch hardly looks up as I step into his unusually tidy studio. Bent over, dabbing paint onto what seems to be a large polka-dot drawing, he blurts out a casual “Hi” as he circles his cinemascope-shaped work like a chess master scrutinizing the position of his opponent. A minute later he finally straightens up and looks at me. “You see this color here? It's the color of that chair,” Finch says, pointing to a rust orange piece of furniture sitting across the studio. When I approach the work, I see that the name of something nearby has been finely penciled in around the bottom of each circle: the World Trade Center (visible through the window); the word “real” written on a piece of paper; a T-shirt (now dust rag); a book on Ad Reinhardt;

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the April 2001 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.