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James F.L. Carroll Interview with Hunter Yoder

James, after viewing your recent show in Oley, Pa at "Clay on Main" I left with more questions then answers regarding your work. What is your response to this, and what are your views on success and failure in your art?

Only questions lead to questions, where as, answers and absolutes lead to dead ends.

My preferences are works that make me uncomfortable. Success and failure is not in my vocabulary.

There has always been a certain dependency on 'material' in your work, almost like the material itself is enough, what am I missing here?

It is about the object and subject as a material as opposed to its historical reference which suggest or implies as when you us graphite to make a figurative drawing that forces the graphite to be secondary or subordinate position to the figurative reference. The two structures are nothing but jambs supporting the doors. The drawing is a blueprint of the base supporting jambs for a structure of Him/Her. The jambs seem to be placed generally like where the joints of the body are. These doors simulate a function of movement, change and process for a juxtaposition of viewing from the standard meaning for doors. That is not the normal way to think or perceive, by posing questions. After 50 years, I wanted to see if I could work with the figure without using arced or curved lines in it structure.

Your major opus, 'Him/Her' continuous piece, which was in the Oley show, the experience of which I initially found to be chaotic, a sort of menagerie of surface and materialistic details. The differences between the 'Him' and the 'Her' according to Patricia Hall was in in the texture of the surfaces. She felt that the 'Her' contained more swirling sensuous texture and 'Him' flatter panels of color. The installation was interactive as the doors either slid open and close to reveal further articulated surfaces. This experience was in stark contrast to your framed 'schematic drawing' in the other room of this piece. The precision and lavishment of attention to the materialistic qualities of the drawing including the varnished edge of the paper it was on was a separate reality onto itself. How important is it to reconcile the framed 'schematic drawing' of this with the experience of the interactive three-dimensional realization?

“Him” and “Her” are separate pieces. The space determines the placement of one or both structures when you enter. You are walking on it (Him and Her) the foundation, the base, the footings like a house (the blue print drawing) the Him structure is the first structure of 13 since 1984, that includes marks and paint on canvas, paper, spheres and wood continuing the question of recycling itself of which all are proposing structures that can be built.

“Him” and “Her” are the only structures that have physically used a figurative reference and title.

What are your views on the secular and sacred aspects of art? Is there any place left for the sacred in the 'new art'?

This is not something that is considered in the thought process, as no conditions are the same. There is nothing new only different ways to put things together.

Any thoughts on the sensuous nature of surface and color in your work? If such aspects exist, how do you reconcile them with your obvious willful intent in your work?

That materials (paint and its marks) are an extension out from the surface of the wood into the perceivers space. This is a continual process of being uncomfortable and questioning the recycling process.

You have lived and worked in Kutztown, PA for most of your life. There seems to be a strong artistic tradition there, outside of the University that one would not expect on a cursory glance. What do you attribute this to?

The reason I would suggest is because of the location, its an area that has the greatest access to people and places but still out in the country. It is 110 miles to NYC, 300 to Pittsburgh, 75 to Philadelphia, 175 to Washington, DC and 125 to Baltimore. You can’t beat that.

Regarding the past sixty years of art in America, in your opinion what are the highlights? Which decades or moments stick in your mind and why?

I believe 1960-1975 was the germination period that energized and set the bases for all the visual, performing and literary arts that continue up to the present. Dance at the Judson church, 1960-65; music with Terry Riley with the recording of “In C”, 1964; La Monte Young, since the early 1960; Steve Reich records “Its Going to Rain” and “Coming Out”, 1965-66 and “Clapping” and “Drumming” in the early 1970’s; Philip Glass, “Music in Changing Parts”, 1970; Robert Ashley set up two music programs in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Mills College, Oakland, California, recorded and produced video opera in the 60’s and electronic medium with voice and text up to the present; Allen Ginsberg, poetry as music in the 60’s; John Cage, working with percussion and sound, teaching and lecturing, wrote the book “In Silence”, 1960

How important is it for visual artists to be able to write about their work?

One has to have dialogue and conversation for storytelling, which are the pieces that are necessary to have something to say. Writing is basic to the necessity of understanding the thinking process.

Can you comment on decision making within the context of creating an art object? Can you speak on color choices in your work?

For me decision-making cannot be a value judgment, color, marks and germs are randomly selected, as they all work together.

The jamb placement is determined by the foundation, base and footing. Decision-making and choices are left to a random process so the time can be spent on physically doing and making it.

On each piece of wood the ends and sides are not painted. Wood painted when purchased (the jambs of “Him”) and found pieces are used as is. Color selection is determined by matching the numbers on the paint jars and the numbers placed on the wood surfaces after the structure has been built. Templates are randomly selected from a stack, the oil markers, about 75 to 150, are randomly placed in line and selected in the same manner.

How do you think 'success' is measured in an artist's career/legacy?

Legacy will be measured by what the artist has said, done and written as it is filtered through the institutional and museum authority with a critic’s spin.

Will Painting as an art form endure another two thousand years?

I don’t see why not.

What are your views on the Internet within the art context? Is the information highway important here?

I see or view the internet as being non-social and isolating, a great library. But it has no life of it own, it is a tool. The internet may one day be used as a medium like Nam June Paik used TV monitors. He put them in an art context not in its own context. Paik called it the Information Highway. The internet lacks a hands on quality. Nothing new just a different way to put things together. The Internet will eventually be judged by the same criteria as painting and sculpture just like photography has been.

How should one approach this media?

It should be approached with no value judgments, it is going to work just like photography in relation to Art History.

As both an artist and educator, can you comment on the dynamic between the two?

The word educator today has no meaning, its too multiple, too many meanings and has become too general. The two words, artist and educator, have nothing in common. They couldn’t be farther apart. Institutions and society have a predetermined premise.

What are your views between art and architecture? Architecture seems to be the place 'mature' visual artists go when they grow up. I think Vito Acconci recently describes the difference as the experience changing from one of spectator to one of inhabiting the object, what is your view here?

Historically architecture was the support where painting and sculpture were shown, inside or outside according to the materials used. Today it is basically an appropriated commercial environmental mausoleum. For instance, the Guggenheim Museum has shown very few exhibitions that work within that space, the building is a sculpture in and of itself.

“Him/Her” structure relates to architecture only in concept. The floor plans, footings and foundations determined the vertical structure. You don’t live or inhabit it. It lets you be a spectator or viewer who can change the view, as an active encounter rather than a passive viewing.

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