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ROBERT RYMAN

Robert Ryman installing an exhibition at Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, September 1974. Photo: Robert Ryman Archives. © Robert Ryman/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

I MET ROBERT RYMAN IN 2003, when I was a graduate student seeking out the would-be subject of my nascent dissertation. I had been curious, mostly, about the man whose ostensibly minimal paintings had already irrevocably altered my understanding of the medium. I was shocked to discover my West Village apartment was only a few blocks north of his studio, which was located in a tall, skinny building next to a then-empty parcel that I had long walked past without really noticing it. When I rang the buzzer, Bob appeared, bespectacled and well-groomed, framed through the window grille. I was a nervous suitor, and earnestly stated my intentions; he didn’t seem much concerned. He wanted to show me paintings. So instead of talking, we stood together beneath the towering ceiling (the space had once been a theater-prop-production facility) and looked intently at a group of white panels in

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