Barry Chapter 1

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S.R. I'm especially interested in the influence. How does the movement of Conceptual art, how does it start? Where was the influence. Now we have some different questions about that and it's also a little bit about the anxiety of influence; because in art history there is a kind of a rupture with Conceptual art. Ok, there was Pop art, there was Minimal art. But then Conceptual art for sure was something like a rupture. It was a totally cut with the idea of originality, with the idea of an author who is preparing the original etc...

R.B. The thing about it is, I don't know what your question is. What is your question exactly? But I would not call it Conceptual art. This was not something I thought about at all. And it was really a little bit later that the term came about; it's not a term I liked. In fact I only know a couple of artists who liked the term Conceptual art, certainly Weiner doesn't like it; ... Kosuth or art & language, and they had a very specific meaning to it. It wasn't a term that I thought of applying to me at all.

S.R. Was there any specific term?

R.B. No. I never liked that kind of boxing-in by category. I knew that if I called myself a Conceptual artist in the beginning, I would absolutely be trapped in that term. And it was not something that I wanted to do. And there was always, by the way, a physical aspect to what I did, even though that physical aspect may just be in your mind; that notion of time or space or something like that was always something that I had in my work. So it wasn't just something conceptual like that. It was not a term that I liked very much and it was not a term that I used about myself.

S.R. Maybe we can come back to this issue. And I have another question about your influences and that is: What was - apart from Conceptual art - the strongest influence on your work?

R.B. I think David Smith said that he's been influenced by everything he ever saw, and I would say that I've been influenced by everything that I've ever seen and heard. I can't think of any one specific thing that influenced me. My own work influenced me; I would always look back on what I had just done and see if I could move past that. Certainly there were artists that I liked, but to pick out some influence – I don't think I could do it, I can't point to somebody's work or something like that, that influenced me. It was always a very personal choice based on what I had done before, and sometimes I would go back to earlier work and see whether I could develop from that. Certainly I was reading a lot, I was looking at a lot of other artists' work, but I've always done that. The artists that interested me were artists like Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, people like that. But to say they influenced me, I cannot directly say; that would mean that I would have taken something from their work. The teachers that I had when I was at school were real artist, like Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Ray Parker, and I liked the way they thought and I liked the way they lived their lives and what the life of the artist was, and this was very interesting to me. I didn't know if I wanted to be an artist when I went to school, to college. I didn't go to an art school, I went to a liberal arts college, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a writer or a music historian or an artist or what. I really hadn't made this decision.But talking to artists and meeting them and discussing their work, and what art was about and thinking about art. Motherwell was something of a philosopher and a writer, and he was someone who thought about art, and I had very interesting conversations with him. I don't think he was a great artist, really, but if you would say he was an influence, he influenced me in terms of the way I approached art from a very thoughtful point of view, a very critical point of view. I had a teacher, Tony Smith, who was in some ways influential, but influential in the way he thought about things, not in how I cover or form or how I create my work, but he had an interesting approach. He was very open to different ways of thinking about art; I liked the way he thought about art and thought about being an artist. But to say that there was some artist, some influence... I read a lot of Merleau-Ponty, I liked very much a little bit of Heidegger, but I think that they just reaffirmed what I was already thinking about in terms of art; I knew that I had to open up art, and not really try to imitate what had happened before me ... So, one thing a tried to do was to really avoid falling into some way of thinking that had already been established, or taking some ideas; say Minimal art which was the most interesting art to me, and then pushing it very far, as far as I can go, and then seeing where that took me and where I could go from that. I think it had more to do with the way I approach art than any kind of influence. I was interested in thinkers and music, Jazz, Bach, I would say someone like Miles Davis or Coltrane or Charlie Parker or Bach influenced me as much as any artist I can think of.


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