F O R WA R D BY LAUREN OLITSKI POSTER
On the occasion of Caro and Olitski, 1965 –1968: Painted Sculptures and the Bennington Sprays, I’d like to take a moment to reacquaint those quite familiar with the work, and to introduce those who are not, to how these paintings came into existence. Jules Olitski wrote of the experience in a January 2001 essay entitled, “How My Art Gets Made”. The first third of this essay is about the paintings that have come to be known as the “sprays”. An artist’s vision does not strike him in the face, with an “Aha! Now I see the truth!” It lies quiescent; it waits. He finds it as his art gets made. It was the mid sixties; I was teaching at Bennington College. That particular day, a seminar. I said to the students, “How about going over to Shaftsbury and visiting Ken Noland in his studio?” They were eager to go. They knew who Ken was, of course. I say, “of course”, because Bennington art students famously know everything about art, even before they arrive at the college. Anyway, off we go. At this time Anthony Caro was teaching at the college and, hearing what we were up to, happily joined us. So there we were in the noted artist’s studio, surrounded by Ken’s recent work lining the walls. My students made themselves comfortable, sprawled out on the floor, or slumped against a wall. I introduced them to Ken. Ken, a former teacher and
a generous man, I knew welcomed the opportunity our visit afforded. But silence. My students, all female, usually vocal and all knowing, sat slumped, sprawled, forlornly silent. What to do? Tony, maybe to save the situation, turned to me and said, somewhat loftily, “What I would want for my sculpture is to emphasize its density, its materiality.” This remark provoked from me, what seemed at the moment, an amused if not a facetious response, which was, “Well, Tony, what I would like in my painting is simply a spray of color that hangs like a cloud, but does not lose its shape.” Fortunately my remark got a laugh from the students and they began to talk, telling us what art is really about. All in all a successful afternoon. This “spray of color”: I had in fact a year before I tried using spray cans, the kind one buys at a hardware store, but the paintings didn’t work, or so
I thought at the time. I had continued working with paint rollers, rolling, merging colors into one another. It occurred to me as I lay in bed that night after the visit to Noland’s studio [that] a spray gun might speak to my vision. The color cloud suddenly appeared real, something that could be made into art. The next day I drove to the main hardware supply store in Bennington and rented a spray gun. I am apprehensive of almost anything that plugs into a wall. I am defeated by TVs and microwaves. I can handle a toaster, but short of that it’s fear and trembling. It turned out that the spray gun — a sinister looking instrument — comes attached to something called a compressor, a tank-like object, sullen and alien. Later that day, in my studio in Shaftsbury, Vermont, I stapled a large canvas to the floor. I attached the spray gun to the compressor and filled the spray gun container, and held it in one hand while I plugged the compressor extension cord into a wall socket. The compressor
Jules Olitski, Anthony Caro, and Kenneth Noland, at Noland’s home in South Shaftsbury, VT., c. 1964. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Jules Olitski.
INSIDE FRONT COVER
Detail: Anthony Caro GREEN SLEEPER, 1965 painted steel 12 x 58 x 43 inches 30.5 x 147.3 x 109.2 cm Detail: Jules Olitski TRANQUIL ANATOMY, 1965 acrylic on canvas 78 7/8 x 48 inches 200.7 x 121.9 cm
Jules Olitski TUT PINK 1965 acrylic on canvas 97 x 69 inches 246.4 x 175.3 cm
PAGES 43-45 AND 47
Anthony Caro PRIMA LUCE 1966 steel, painted 80 x 143 ½ x 68 inches 203.2 x 364.5 x 172.7 cm Catalogue raisonné # B0880 Private Collection.
Anthony Caro with his sculpture Farnham, 1969 Photo: André Emmerich. André Emmerich Gallery records and André Emmerich papers, 1929-2008. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.