It’s Day 239 and I was having much difficulty with settling on an artist I wanted to pay tribute today…not because I don’t have a HUGE list of artists that I want to honor, but I wanted one that matched my mood. Then I remembered finding today’s artist a while back and he almost fell off my radar. Please join me in honoring John Zinsser today. I love his work. I am putting an interview with him below from a blog called Visual Thoughts. I will re-link below the interview as well. It was hard to find a large biography on him. For more info visit his website.
1961 Born, New York, N.Y.
Review below is from St. Louis Beacon website.
Review: Zinsser brings bold strokes to Philip Slein
On view at Philip Slein Gallery is New York-based John Zinsser’s Zero Guilt. Zinsser presents nine canvases of painted abstractions, celebrating color in bold strokes. The paintings have a Japanese-aura, emitting lovely interplays of light and density, juxtaposing orange and brown or light yellow with deeper yellow.
The artist’s heavy brushstroke creates a muddy texture – in a good way. I have to stop
myself from touching the canvases, the enamel and oil continuing off the surface in thick pathways of line.
The most successful pieces incorporate a basket-weave motif, such as Slow Life, 2011 and Helen of Troy, 2012. The simple paintings are anything but.
John Zinsser talks about his File Folder Studies
(From a recent conversation with Jean Manuel Beauchamp)
This one’s pretty simple. It says, “War is not the answer.” And then the word “ethanol.” Do you know where “War is not the answer comes from?” Oh, I know, it’s from Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On.” [Sings] “War is not the answer… there are so many of us here.” So, it’s a throwback to my childhood in the 1960s in the 1970s, as a child of pacifist people. And the anti-war movement of the 1960s, you know, with the years of these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grinding on and on, and the hours and hours listening to NPR [National Public Radio] in the studio, you know. Sometimes it seems so simple. Some of these song lyrics. “War is not the answer.” Or, there’s another great one from a Laura Nyro song, or I think maybe she got it from a spiritual, something, again, from the 1960s, the title is: “In My Mind I Can’t Study War.”
Part of the whole impetus of doing this is that if you’re looking at work that is ostensibly non-representational then how does it kind of sit within the mindset of its particular time?
This one says something that you will see often on the side of a portfolio or an art-shipping crate. Stenciled on the side it says, “Do not stack on face.” Which has always struck me as funny because I don’t want to have things “stacked on my face,” either. And, perhaps when you’re making paintings, you’re kind of “stacking things” on people’s “face.” I don’t know. It’s kind of a funny imperative instruction.
I’ve been doing these about eight years now. It was kind of a natural development. I used to work on index cards. In my teaching, I used to use these index cards. I just had stacks of them. Here’s a stack of them over here. Then I just began to transfer this information more formally.
Some of these index cards would refer to something in my teaching. But this one, for example is—I just opened this pile at random—this is
“The Problem of Anxiety.” Terms from a Freud essay that I thought could take the form of painting titles. I had liked “inhibition.” But I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. I had like “vertigo,” of course. And “superego.” And “repression.” But I couldn’t make a title. But some of them did work as titles, like “Psychic Impotence.” “The Unwelcome Impulse.” That one is certainly apropos of painting activity. “Primal Repression.” “Weakness of the Ego.” “Infantile Zoophobia.” I don’t even know what that means. I did find that in a lot of these Freudian terms about the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious there were these beautiful kind of one-to-one relationships to the process of abstract painting.
In the neighborhood that I live in, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, people put books out on the stoop. It’s kind of like we all belong to this book exchange—this “stoop system” of people putting out books and other people taking them. So there are all these people “pawing through” books. This one was a German textbook about optics and visual phenomenology. I have it here. And so it also struck me as kind of funny because I didn’t understand all these words, like “adaptionstimulus.” But they nonetheless had this “diagrammatic” approach that went with the kind of drawings that I was making. So I just cut some pictures out. And then used them.
If you have a book that’s about optical theory, then you’re going to have a lot of primary
colors. And graphic depictions of color. And/or anatomy. All of those kind of naturally go with my own sensibility, which is to use bright, unmixed colors. I like, as I said before, cobalts, cadmiums, pigment-rich colors. There’s kind of a natural one-to-one correspondence there.
It has this forlorn lost artifact quality. Imagine how this book came to the US. And then there are series of decisions that led to it eventually being cast out on the stoop. Then the happenstance of walking by and picking it up. And then trying to respond to it on my own terms. It’s probably from the 1970s or the 1980s or something. You’re holding a pair of 3-D glasses that come with it. Which are to see these various diagrams inside.
This “found subject” matter kind of “tweaks” issues that are already in my painting, which have to do with complimentary color, perception of color, and so forth. It’s funny, when you take something that is an “art practice” and try to marry it to something that is “pathology” or “science,” it doesn’t really work. So it’s sort of a “broken” metaphor.
I was planning on doing this exhibition in Bonn, Germany, so the fact that a lot of these texts were in German, there’s sort of a “mistranslation” of ideas back-and-forth. For me, I’m mistranslating these ideas “back” into this German scientific culture, analytical culture.
It’s funny, after I had done those—all these pictures of eyeballs, and retinas receiving light, the first people who came to visit me were this couple from Bonn and it turned out that both of them are eye surgeons. Just by happenstance. And it shows I strongly believe in “fate” and “synchronicity” and all these kind of things. It was almost embarrassing that I was showing them these diagrams of eyeballs, when that is, in fact, what they do on a day-to-day basis. And here they had come to the US to try to learn something about painting, and instead I had these ridiculous, pseudo-scientific absurdist drawings of eyeballs and optical charts.
So, these things kind of go back-and-forth between knowing and not knowing. And
then, of course, after you do something like that, two weeks later, a month later, a year later, you will actually encounter the thing and understand what it is. So that it becomes meaningful retroactively.
Again the interview is from Visual Thoughts.
I had a lot of fun painting today’s piece. I decided to play with it a bit and make it a little my own. I was just going to use white on the midnight color in the background, but at the last minute I decided to add a little blue to the white. I like the result. I hope you enjoy it! I will see you tomorrow on Day 240! Wow, time is flying by way too fast.