1930, Nashville, Tennessee
2019, New York, New York
Ryman on why he paints in all white
Try to slow down as you look at these paintings—in permutations of white.
So what do I paint? And what are my paintings about? I’m not sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever painted a white painting, in the sense of—painting white as a color.
That’s obviously the artist, Robert Ryman.
My use of white is used not as a subject matter, but as a neutral, in order to make elements of painting more clear. White has the capacity to make things visible.
Ryman makes an important distinction between “paintings,” and “pictures.” Pictures give us some sort of illusion—pictorially, emotionally, et cetera. Look closely at Ryman’s application of paint, and how that relates to the surface it’s on. These are issues inherent and exclusive to paintings. They don’t carry any extraneous meaning. Their impact is open-ended.
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