Artists Retrospective

‘What You See Is What You See’: Donald Judd and Frank Stella on the End of Painting, in 1966

Frank Stella, Damascus Gate: Variation 1, 1969–70, acrylic on canvas. KUNSTMUSEUM BASEL/MARTIN P. BÜHLER

Frank Stella, Damascus Gate: Variation 1, 1969–70, acrylic on canvas.MARTIN P. BÜHLER/KUNSTMUSEUM BASEL

Frank Stella and Donald Judd are both having moments right now. There’s an exhibition of Stella’s paintings and drawings at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, in Basel, and on October 30, Stella will have a retrospective that will open at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York, before traveling to the Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth in April 2016. Meanwhile, last month, MoMA announced that it will hold a Judd retrospective in 2017.

In 1966, in a Q&A with Bruce Glaser that was later edited for the September 1966 issue of ARTnews by Lucy R. Lippard, Stella and Judd spoke about how there was nowhere left to go with painting. Anything new, they said, had already been done. There was nothing to be done, except for more hackneyed formalism. In a way, Stella and Judd’s arguments seem even more perceptive today, as everyone debates the state of contemporary painting. They foreshadow, in a sense, the “zombie formalism” debate that has been raging recently, and while many have a more positive outlook on painting today than Stella and Judd did at the time, their arguments feel remarkably contemporary. Their conversation follows in full below. —Alex Greenberger

“Questions to Stella and Judd”
Interview by Bruce Glaser
Edited by Lucy R. Lippard

The following discussion is the first extensive published statement by Frank Stella, a widely acknowledged source of much current structural painting, and Donald Judd, one of the earliest exponents of the sculptural primary structure, in which the artists themselves challenge and clarify the numerous prevailing generalizations about their work.1

Bruce Glaser: There are characteristics in your work that bring to mind styles from the early part of this century. Is it fair to say that the relative simplicity of Malevich, the Constructivists, Mondrian, the Neo-Plasticists and the Purists is a precedent for your painting and sculpture, or are you really departing from these early movements?

Frank Stella: There’s always been a trend toward simpler painting and it was bound to happen one way or another. Whenever painting gets complicated, like Abstract-Expressionism, or Surrealism, there’s going to be someone who’s not painting complicated paintings, someone who’s trying to simplify.

Glaser: But all through the twentieth century this simple approach has paralleled more complicated styles.

Stella: That’s right, but it’s not continuous. When I first showed, Coates in The New Yorker said how sad it was to find somebody so young back where Mondrian was 30 years ago. And I don’t really feel that way.

Glaser: You feel there’s no connection between you and Mondrian?

Stella: There are obvious connections. You’re always related to something. I’m related to the more geometric, or simpler, painting, but the motivation doesn’t have anything to do with that kind of European geometric painting. I think the obvious comparison to my work would be Vasarely, and I can’t think of anything I like less.

Glaser: Vasarely?

Stella: Well, mine has less illusionism than Vasarely’s, but the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel actually painted all the patterns before I did—all the basic designs that are in my painting—not the way I did it, but you can find the schemes of the sketches I made for my own paintings in the work by Vasarely and that group in France over the last seven or eight years. I didn’t even know about it, and in spite of the fact that they used those ideas, those basic schemes, it still doesn’t have anything to do with my paintings. I find all that European geometric painting—sort of post-Max Bill school—a kind of curiosity—very dreary.

Donald Judd: There’s an enormous break between that work and other present work in the U.S., despite similarity in patterns or anything. The scale itself is just one thing to pin down. Vasarely’s work has a smaller scale and great deal of composition and qualities that European geometric painting of the ’20s and ’30s had. He is part of a continuous development from the ’30s, and he was doing it himself then.

Stella: The other thing is that the European geometric painters really strive for what I call relational painting. The basis of their whole idea is balance. You do something in one corner and balance it with something in the other corner. Now the “new painting” is being characterized as symmetrical. Ken Noland has put things in the center and I’ll use a symmetrical pattern, but we use symmetry in a different way. It’s non-relational. In the newer American painting we strive to get the thing in the middle, and symmetrical, but just to get a kind of force, just to get the thing on the canvas. The balance factor isn’t important. We’re not trying to jockey everything coming around.

Glaser: What is the “thing” you’re getting on the canvas?



Stella: I guess you’d have to describe it as the image, either the image or the scheme. Ken Noland would use concentric circles; he’d want to get them in the middle because it’s the easiest way to get them there, and he wants them there in the front, on the surface of the canvas. If you’re that much involved with the surface of anything, you’re bind to find the symmetry the most natural means. As soon as you use any kind of fussiness which is the one thing that most of the painters now want to avoid. When you’re always making these delicate balances, it seems to present too many problems; it becomes sort of arch.

Glaser: An artist who works in your vein has said he finds symmetry extraordinarily sensuous; on the other hand, I’ve heard the comment that symmetry is very austere. Are you trying to create a sensuous or an austere effect? Is this relevant to your surfaces?

Judd: No, I don’t think my work is either one. I’m interested in spareness, but I don’t think it has any connection to symmetry.

Stella: Actually, your work is really symmetrical. How can you avoid it when you take a box situation? The only piece I can think of that deals with any kind of asymmetry is one box with a plane cut out.

Judd: But I don’t have any ideas as to symmetry. My things are symmetrical because, as you said, I wanted to get rid of any compositional effects, and the obvious way to do that is to be symmetrical.

Glaser: Why do you want to avoid compositional effects?

Judd: Well, those effects tend to carry with them all the structures, values, feelings of the whole European tradition. It suits me fine if that’s all down the drain. When Vasarely has optical effects within the squares, they’re never enough, and he has to have at least three or four squares, slanted, tilted inside each other, and all arranged. That is about five times more composition and juggling than he needs.

Glaser: It’s too busy?

Judd: It is in terms of somebody like Larry Poons. Vasarely’s composition has the effect of order and quality that traditional European painting had, which I find pretty objectionable . . . The objection is not that Vasarely’s busy, but that in his multiplicity there’s a certain structure which has qualities I don’t like.

Glaser: What qualities?

Judd: The qualities of European art so far. They’re innumerable and complex, but the main way of saying it is that they’re linked up with a philosophy—rationalism, rationalistic philosophy.

Glaser: Descartes?

Judd: Yes.

Glaser: And you mean to say your work is apart from rationalism?

Judd: Yes. All that art is based on systems built beforehand, a priori systems; they express a certain type of thinking and logic which is pretty much discredited now as a way of finding out what the world’s like.

Glaser:Discredited by whom? By empiricists?

Judd: Scientists, both philosophers and scientists.

Glaser: What is the alternative to a rationalistic system in your method? It’s often said that your work is pre-conceived, that you plan it out before you do it. Isn’t that a rationalistic method?

Judd: Not necessarily. That’s much smaller. When you think it out as you work on it, or you think it out beforehand, it’s a much smaller problem than the nature of the work. What you want to express is a much bigger thing than how you may go at it. Larry Poons works out the dots somewhat as he goes along; he figures out a scheme beforehand and also makes changes as he goes along. Obviously I can’t make changes, though I do what I can when I get stuck.

Glaser: In other words, you might be referring to an anti-rationalist position before you actually start making the work of art.

Judd: I’m making it for a quality that I think is interesting and more or less true. And the quality involved in Vasarely’s kind of composition isn’t true to me.

Glaser: Could you be specific about how your own work reflects an anti-rationalistic point of view?

Judd: The parts are unrelational.

Glaser: If there’s nothing to relate, then you can’t be rational about it because it’s just there?

Judd: Yes.

Glaser: Then it’s almost an abdication of logical thinking.

Judd: I don’t have anything against using some sort of logic. That’s simple. But when you start relating parts, in the first place, you’re assuming you have a vague whole—the rectangle of the canvas—and definite parts, which is all screwed up, because you should have a definite whole and maybe no parts, or very few. The parts are always more important than the whole.

Glaser: And you want the whole to be more important than the parts?

Judd: Yes. The whole’s it. The big problem is to maintain a sense of the whole thing.

Glaser: Isn’t it that there’s no gestation, that there’s just an idea?

Judd: I do think about it, I’ll change it if I can. I just want it to exist as a whole thing. And that’s not especially unusual. Painting’s been going toward that for a long time. A lot of people, like Oldenburg for instance, have a “whole” effect to their work.

Stella: But we’re all still left with structural or compositional elements. The problems aren’t any different. I still have to compose a picture, and if you make an object you have to organize the structure. I don’t think our work is that radical in any sense because you don’t find any really new compositional or structural element. I don’t know if that exists. It’s like the idea of a color you haven’t seen before. Does something exist that’s as radical as a diagonal that’s not a diagonal? Or a straight line or a compositional element that you can’t describe?

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1991, painted aluminum. ©JUDD FOUNDATION, LICENSED BY VAGA, NEW YORK

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1991, painted aluminum.©JUDD FOUNDATION, LICENSED BY VAGA, NEW YORK

Glaser: So even your efforts, Don, to get away from European art and its traditional compositional effects, is somewhat limited because you’re still going to be using the same basic elements that they used.

Judd: No, I don’t think so. I’m totally uninterested in European art and I think it’s over with. It’s not so much the elements that we use that are new as their context. For example, they might have used a diagonal, but no one there ever used as direct a diagonal as Morris Louis did.

Stella: Look at all the Kandinskys, even the mechanical ones. They’re sort of awful, but they have some pretty radical diagonals and stuff. Of course, they’re always balanced.

Judd: When you make a diagonal clear across the whole surface, it’s a very different thing.

Stella: But none the less, the idea of the diagonal has been around for a long time.

Judd: That’s true; there’s always going to be something in one’s work that’s been around for a long time, but the fact that compositional arrangement isn’t important is rather new. Composition is obviously very important to Vasarely, but all I’m interested in is having a work interesting to me as a whole. I don’t think there’s any way you can juggle a composition that would make it more interesting in terms of parts.

Glaser: You obviously have an awareness of the Constructivist work, like Gabo and Pevsner. What about the Bauhaus? You keep talking about spareness and austerity. Is that only in relation to the idea that you want your work “whole,” or do you think there was something in Mies’s Bauhaus dictum that “less is more”?

Judd: Not necessarily. In the first place, I’m more interested in Neo-Plasticism and Constructivism than I was before, perhaps, but I was never influenced by it, and I’m certainly influenced by what happens in the United States rather than by anything like that. So my admiration for someone like Pevsner or Gabo is in retrospect. I consider the Bauhaus too long ago to think about, and I never thought about it much.

Glaser: What makes the space you use different from Neo-Plastic sculpture? What are you after in the way of a new space?

Judd: In the first place, I don’t know a heck of a lot about Neo-Plastic sculpture, outside of vaguely liking it. I’m using the actual space because when I was doing paintings I couldn’t see any way out of having a certain amount of illusionism in the paintings. I thought that also was a quality of the Western tradition and I didn’t want it.

Glaser: When you did the horizontal with the five verticals coming down it, you said you thought of it as a whole; you weren’t being compositional in any way or opposing the elements. But, after all, you are opposing them because vertical and horizontal are opposed by nature; and the perpendicular is an opposition. And if you have space in between each one, then it makes them parts.

Judd: Yes, it does, somewhat. You see, the big problem is that anything that is not absolutely plain begins to have parts in some way. The thing is to be able to work and do different things and yet not break up the wholeness that a piece has. To me the piece with the brass and the five verticals is above all that shape. I don’t think of the brass being opposed to the five things, as Gabo and Pevsner might have an angle and then another one support it, so they’re caught there. I didn’t think they came loose as independent parts. If they were longer and the brass obviously sat on them, then I wouldn’t like it.

Glaser: You’ve written about the predominance of chance in Robert Morris’ work. Is this element in your pieces too?

Judd: Yes. Pollock and those people represent actual chance; by now it’s better to make that a forgone conclusion—you don’t have to mimic chance. You use a simple form that doesn’t look like either order or disorder. We recognize that this world is 90 per cent chance and accident. Earlier painting was saying that there’s more order in the scheme of things than we admit now, like Poussin saying order underlies nature. Poussin’s order is anthropomorphic. Now there are no preconceived notions. Take a simple form—say a box—and it does have an order, but it’s not so ordered that it’s the dominant quality. The more parts a thing has, the more important order becomes, and finally order becomes more important than anything else.

Glaser: There are several other characteristics that accompany the prevalence of symmetry and simplicity in the new work. There’s a very finished look to it, a complete negation of the painterly approach. Twentieth-century painting has been concerned mainly with emphasizing the artist’s presence in the work, often with an unfinished quality by which one can participate in the experience of the artist, the process of painting the picture. You deny all this, too; your work has an industrial look, a non-man-made look.

Stella: The artist’s tools or the traditional artist’s brush and maybe even oil paint are all disappearing very quickly. We use mostly commercial paint, and we generally tend toward larger brushes. In a way, Abstract-Expressionism started all this. De Kooning used house painters’ brushes and house painters’ techniques.

Glaser: Pollock used commercial paint.

Stella: Yes, the aluminum paint. What happened, at least for me, is that when I first started painting I would see Pollock, de Kooning, and the one thing they all had that I didn’t have was an art school background. They were brought up on drawing and they all ended up painting or drawing with the brush. They got away from the smaller brushes and, in an attempt to free themselves, they got involved in commercial paint and house-painting brushes. Still it was basically drawing with paint, which has characterized almost all twentieth-century painting. The way my own painting was going, drawing was less and less necessary. It was the one thing I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t going to draw with the brush.

Frank Stella, Morro Castle, 1958, enamel paint on canvas. KUNSTMUSEUM BASEL/MARTIN P. BUHLER

Frank Stella, Morro Castle, 1958, enamel paint on canvas.MARTIN P. BÜHLER/KUNSTMUSEUM BASEL

Glaser: What induced this conclusion that drawing wasn’t necessary any more?

Stella: Well, you have a brush and you’ve got paint on the brush, and you ask yourself why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing, what inflection you’re actually going to make with the brush and with the paint that’s on the end of the brush. It’s like handwriting. And I found out that I just didn’t have anything to say in those terms. I didn’t want to make variations; I didn’t want to record a path. I wanted to get the paint out of the can and onto the canvas. I knew a wise guy who used to make fun of my painting, but he didn’t like the Abstract-Expressionists either. He said they would be good painters if they could only keep the paint as good as it is in the can. And that’s what I tried to do. I tried to keep the paint as good as it was in the can.

Glaser: Are you implying that you are trying to destroy painting?

Stella: It’s just that you can’t go back. It’s not quite a question of destroying anything. If something’s used up, something’s done, something’s over with, what’s the point of getting involved with it?

Judd: Root, hog, or die.

Glaser: Are you suggesting that there are no more solutions to, or no more problems that exist in painting?

Stella: Well, it seems to me we have problems. When Morris Louis showed in 1958, everybody (ARTnews, Tom Hess) dismissed his work as thin, merely decorative. They still do. Louis is the really interesting case. In every sense, his instincts were Abstract-Expressionist, and he was terribly involved with all of that, but he felt he had to move, too. I always get into arguments with people who want to retain the old values in painting—the humanistic values that they always find on the canvas. If you pin them down, they always end up asserting that there is something there besides the paint on the canvas. My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. It really is an object. Any painting is an object and anyone who gets involved in this finally has to face up to the objectness of whatever it is that he’s doing. He is making a thing. All that should be for granted. If the painting were lean enough, accurate enough or right enough, you would just be able to look at it. All I want anyone to get out of my paintings is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any conclusion . . . What you see is what you see.

Glaser: That doesn’t leave too much afterwards, does it?

Stella: I don’t know what else there is. It’s really something if you can get a visual sensation that is pleasurable, or worth looking at, or enjoyable, if you can just make something worth looking at.

Glaser: But some would claim that the visual effect is minimal, that you’re just giving us one color or a symmetrical painting of lines. A nineteenth-century landscape painting would offer more pleasure, simple because it’s more complicated.

Judd: I don’t think it’s more complicated.

Stella: No, because what you’re saying essentially is that a nineteenth-century landscape is more complicated because there are two things working—deep space and the way it’s painted. You can see how it’s done and read the figures in the space. Then take Ken Noland’s painting, for example, which is just a few stains on the ground. If you want to look at the depths, there are just as many problematic spaces. And some of them are extremely complicated technically; you can worry and wonder how he painted the way he did.

Judd: Old master painting has a reputation for being profound, universal and all that, and it isn’t necessarily.

Stella: But I don’t know how to get around the part that they just wanted to make something pleasurable to look at, because even if that’s what I want, I also want my painting to be so you can’t avoid the fact that it’s supposed to be entirely visual.

Glaser: You’ve been quoted, Frank, as saying that you want to get sentimentality out of painting.

Stella: I hope I didn’t say that. I think what I said is sentiment wasn’t necessary. I didn’t think then, and I don’t now, that it’s necessary to make paintings that will interest people in the sense that they can keep going back to explore painterly detail. One could stand in front of any Abstract-Expressionist work for a long time, and walk back and forth, and inspect the depths of the pigment and the inflection and all the painterly brushwork for hours. But I wouldn’t particularly want to do that and also I wouldn’t ask anyone to do that in front of my paintings. To go further, I would like to prohibit them from doing that in front of my painting. That’s why I make the paintings the way they are, more or less.

Glaser: Why would you like to prohibit someone from doing such a thing?

Stella: I feel that you should know after a while that you’re just sort of mutilating the paint. If you have some feeling about either color or direction of line or something, I think you can state it. You don’t have knead the material and grind it up. That seems destructive to me; it makes me very nervous. I want to find an attitude basically constructive rather than destructive.

Glaser: You seem to be after an economy of means, rather than trying to avoid sentimentality. Is that nearer it?

Stella: Yes, but there’s something awful about that “economy of means.” I don’t know why, but I resent that immediately. I don’t go out of my way to be economical. It’s hard to explain what exactly it is I’m motivated by, but I don’t think people are motivated by reduction. It would be nice if we were, but actually, I’m motivated by the desire to make something, and I go about it in the way that seems best.

Judd: You’re getting rid of the things that people used to think were essential to art. But that reduction is only incidental. I object to the whole reduction idea, because it’s only reduction of those things someone doesn’t want. If my work is reductionist it’s because it doesn’t have the elements that people thought should be there. But if has other elements that I like. Take Noland again. You can think of the things he doesn’t have in his paintings, but there’s a whole list of the things that he does have that painting didn’t have before. Why is it necessarily a reduction?

Stella: You want to get rid of things that get you into trouble. As you keep painting you find things are getting in your way a lot and those are the things that you try to get out of the way. You might be spilling a lot of blue paint and because there’s something wrong with that particular paint, you don’t use it any more, or you find a better thinner or better nails. There’s a lot of striving for better materials, I’m afraid. I don’t know how good that is.

Judd: There’s nothing sacrosanct about materials.

Stella: I lose sight of the fact that my paintings are on canvas, even though I know I’m painting on canvas, and I just see my paintings. I don’t get terribly hung up over the canvas itself. If the visual act taking place on the canvas is strong enough, I don’t get a very strong sense of the material quality of the canvas. It sort of disappears. I don’t like things that stress the material qualities. I get so I don’t even like Ken Noland’s paintings (even though I like them a lot). Sometimes all the bare canvas gets me down, just because there’s so much of it; the physical quality of the cotton duck gets in the way.



Glaser: Another problem. If you make so many canvases alike, how much can the eye be stimulated by so much repetition?

Stella: That really is a relative problem because obviously it strikes people different ways. I find, say, Milton Resnick as repetitive as I am, if not more so. The change in any given artist’s work from picture to picture isn’t that great. Take a Pollock show. You may have a span of 10 years, but you could break it down to three or four things he’s done. In any given period of an artist, when he’s working on a particular interest or problem, the paintings tend to look a lot alike. It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t like that. It seems to be the natural situation. And everyone finds some things more boring to look at than others.

Glaser: Don, would it be fair to say that your approach is a nihilistic one, in view of your wish to get rid of various elements?

Judd: No, I don’t consider it nihilistic or negative or cool or anything else. Also I don’t think my objection to the Western tradition is a positive quality of my work. It’s just something I don’t want to do, that’s all. I want to do something else.

Glaser: Some years ago we talked about what art will be, an art of the future. Do you have a vision of that?

Judd: No, I was just talking about what my art will be and what I imagine a few other people’s art that I like might be.

Glaser: Don’t you see art as kind of evolutionary? You talk about what art was and then you say it’s old hat, it’s all over now.

Judd: It’s old hat because it involves all those beliefs you really can’t accept in life. You don’t want to work with any more. It’s not that any of that work has suddenly become mad in itself. If I get hold of a Piero della Francesca, that’s fine.

I wanted to say something about this painterly thing. It certainly involves a relationship between what’s outside—nature or a figure or something—and the artist’s actually painting that thing, his particular feeling at the time. This is just one area of feeling, and I, for one, am not interested in it for my own work. I can’t do anything with it. It’s been fully exploited and I don’t see why the painterly relationship exclusively should stand for that.

Glaser: Are you suggesting an art without feeling?

Judd: No, you’re reading me wrong. Because I say that is just one kind of feeling—painterly feeling.

Stella: Let’s take painterly simply to mean Abstract-Expressionism, to make it easier. Those painters were obviously involved in what they were doing as they were doing it, and now in what Don does, and I guess in what I do, a lot of the effort is directed toward the end. We believe that we can find the end, and that a painting can be finished. The Abstract-Expressionists always felt the painting’s being finished was very problematical. We’d more readily say that our paintings are finished and say, well, it’s either a failure or it’s not, instead of saying, well, maybe it’s not really finished.

Glaser: You’re saying that the painting is almost completely conceptualized before it’s made, that you can devise a diagram in your mind and put it on canvas. Maybe it would be adequate to simply verbalize this image and give it to the public rather than giving them your painting?

Stella: A diagram is not a painting; it’s as simple as that. I can make a painting from a diagram, but can you? Can the public? It can just remain a diagram if that’s all I do, or if it’s a verbalization it can just remain a verbalization. Clement Greenberg talked about the ideas or possibilities of painting in, I think, the After Abstract-Expressionism article,2 and he allows a blank canvas to be an idea for a painting. It might not be a good idea, but it’s certainly valid. Yves Klein did the empty gallery. He sold air, and that was a conceptualized art, I guess.3

Glaser: Reductio ad absurdum.

Stella: Not absurd enough, though.

Judd: Even if you can plan the thing completely ahead of time, you still don’t know what it looks like until it’s right there. You may turn out to be totally wrong once you have gone to all the trouble of building this thing.

Stella: Yes, and also that’s what you want to do. You actually want to see the thing. That’s what motivates you to do it in the first place, to see what it’s going to look like.

Judd: You can think about it forever in all sorts of versions, but it’s nothing until it is made visible.

Glaser: Frank, your stretchers are thicker than the usual. When your canvases are shaped or cut out in the center, this gives them a distinctly sculptural presence.

Stella: I make the canvas deeper than ordinarily, but I began accidentally. I turned one-by-threes on edge to make a quick frame, and then I liked it. When you stand directly in front of the painting it gives it just enough depth to hold it off the wall; you’re conscious of this sort of shadow, just enough depth to emphasize the surface. In other words, it makes it more like a painting and less like an object, just by stressing the surface.

Judd: I thought of Frank’s aluminum paintings as slabs, in a way.

Stella: I don’t paint around the edges; Rothko does, so do a lot of people; Sven Lukin and he’s much more of an object painter than I am.

Glaser: Do you think the frequent use of the word “presence” in critical writing about your kind of work has something to do with the nature of the objects you make, as if to suggest there is something more enigmatic about them than previous works of art?

Stella: You can’t say that your work has more of this or that than somebody else’s. It’s a matter of terminology. DeKooning or Al Held paint “tough” paintings and we would have to paint with “presence,” I guess. It’s just another way of describing.

Glaser: Nobody’s really attempted to develop some new terminology to deal with the problems of these paintings.

Stella: But that’s what I mean. Sometimes I think our paintings are a little bit different, but on the other hand it seems that they’re dealign with the same old problems of making art. I don’t see why everyone seems so desperately in need of a new terminology, and I don’t see waht there is in our work that needs a new terminology either to explain or evaluate it. It’s art, or it wants to be art, or it asks to be considered as art, and therefore the terms we have for discussing art are probably good enough. You could say that the terms used so far to discuss and evaluate art are pretty grim; you could make a very good case for that. But none the less, I imagine there’s nothing specific in our work that asks for new terms, any more than any other art.

Glaser: Meyer Schapiro once suggested that there might be an analogy between, say, a Barnett Newman with a field of one color and one simple stripe down the middle and a mosaic field of some Byzantine church, where there was a completely gold field and then a simple vertical form of the Madonna.

Judd: A lot of things look alike, but they’re not necessarily very much alike.

Stella: Like the whole of the field. What you mean by a field in a painting is a pretty difficult idea. A mosaic field can never have anything to do with a Morris Louis field.

Judd: You don’t feel the same about a Newman and a gold field because Newman’s doing something with his field.

Stella: Newman’s is in the canvas and it really does work differently. With so-called advanced painting, for example, you should drop composition. That would be terrifically avant-garde; that would be a really good idea. But the question is, how do you do it? The best article I ever read about pure painting and all that was Elaine de Kooning’s Pure Paints a Picture.4 Pure was very pure and he lived in a bare, square white loft. He was very meticulous and he gave up painting with brushes and all that and he had a syringe loaded with colorless fluid which he injected into his colorless, odorless foam rubber. That was how he created his art objects—by injecting colorless fluid into a colorless material.

Judd: Radical artist.

Stella: Well, Yves Klein was no doubt a radical artist, or he didn’t do anything very interesting.

Judd: I think Yves Klein to some extent was outside of European painting, but why is he still not actually radical?

Stella: I don’t know. I have one of his paintings which I like in a way, but there’s something about him . . . I mean what’s not radical about the idea of selling air? Still, it doesn’t seem very interesting.

Judd: Not to me either. One thing I want is to be able to see what I’ve done, as you said. Art is something you look at.

Glaser: You have made the point that you definitely want to induce some effective enjoyment in your work, Frank. But the fact is that right now the majority of people confronted by it seem to have trouble in this regard. They don’t get this enjoyment that you seem to be very simply taken aback by its simplicity. Is this because they are not ready for these works, because they simply haven’t caught up to the artists, again?

Stella: Maybe that’s the quality of simplicity. When Mantle hits the balls out of the park, everybody is sort stunned for a minute because it’s so simple. He knocks it right out of the park, and that usually does it.

1. This discussion was broadcast on WBAI-FM, New York, February, 1964, as “New Nihilism or New Art?”, one in a series of radio programs on art produced by Bruce Glaser; Dan flavin also participated in the program, but his few statements are omitted here. Supplementary statements made by Judd in December, 1965, are included in this revision.
2. Clement Greenberg, After Abstract Expressionism, Art International, v. 7, no. 8, 1962.
3. Yves Klein’s exhibition, Iris Clert Gallery, Paris, April, 1958, consisted of an empty, white-walled gallery
4. Elaine de Kooning, “Pure Paints a Picture,” ARTnews, v. 56, no. 4, Summer, 1957, p. 57, 86-87.

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