How the cat got it's whiskers


When Bernie joined the Navy I took over his loft on Sheffield Avenue just off Belmont in Chicago. The elevated Ravenswood trains went by the 4th story windows of this studio. A walk-up naturally and cold water only but I loved it it was the only industrial studio I ever had and while I made some larger work there I was mostly involved in the transfer of drawing to larger scale containers. Indeed drawing always fascinated me because of the directness and the sort of speed with which you could examine ideas and images. As well I began to feel a resistance to conventions which in those days was the 6 foot canvas as a standard right of passage. I wanted to change my presentational model and for the next few years the concentration in my work was on finding a new way to exhibit it to present it. Abstract Expressionism had become academic, professors helping student drip better, 1963 was the dawn of the 1960's as we later knew the times.Pop Art was at it's full impact and as a young artist it was hard to resist. Yes Andy Warhol did seem to have become as great an artist as any of the AE cats alive or suicided. Pop Art was the first conceptual art (since Duchamp) the first real break with the nuance and aesthetic of abstract expressionism.It was as if the old ways gave out and the rush to novelty and new forms was in full effect. The Op Art exhibition named The Responsive Eye made a stop in Chicago and it had a powerful influence on students. Why shouldn't our work be optical pitched high key and meant to irritate the optic nerve? The concept of a more aggressive retinal art based on ideas often ideas about consumer products was in the air like warm rain. I encounter resistance from older professor throughout the rest of my education in Chicago and later in California. These new concepts seemed to upset the applecart of the recieved wisdom of these older art teachers. Whereas my younger teacher and advisor Ray Yoshita bought a piece from me because he saw the writing on the wall that a new generation of artists were coming of age and they didn't worhip at the same shrines. It really did seem like pop art was the beginning of conceptual art and the general sense was that ideas were very central in this new time. Art that is based on an idea became the central point of agreement between many artists representing divergent tendancies. Even minimalism was ideated, it was imageless pop to some to others it was corporate abstraction. It's purity was posited as an alternative to pop's whorish pursuit of novelty. But in truth minimalism was one of a myriad of styles that opened opportunities for us all to pursue. Meanwhile Viet Nam grinded on year after year eating up our sense of Amerikan culture and creating alot of misery in our society.(not to mention the woe the Vietnamese suffered) Suffice it to say they were conflicted times. But you are born into certain historical times you can't escape these historical forces. This was the case with Karl Marx he saw something coming that like a vast storm can't be controlled. The war in Viet Nam like the war in Korea seemed to be the last skirmishes of the second world war. Like the fireman putting out the last embers before leaving a fire. Only the resistance of the Vietnamese was incredible they were fighting to reunite Viet Nam for them it was a war of national liberation. For us it was an army that did 1 year and went home. No one really bought the idea that the region would fall into communist control but it was the clarion call, we got to stop these commies before they take over all of Asia. Fear is such a tool. American art meanwhile went through the most profound transformation and no time since has been as exciting and inspiring. Indeed it's from this time that many of the ideas about future art are hatched, a more intellectual audience and artist brought us an art of spectacle and intensity.  The future arrived and it was not inclined to do things the way they had before, art was never the same after Andy Warhol's BRILLO boxes.