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Interview: Jonathan VanDyke

May 24, 2011

Jonathan VanDyke contemplates Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, 1952 (Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1956; © 2011 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York).

Starting Saturday, May 28, 2011, at the Albright-Knox, Jonathan VanDyke will perform The Long Glance, a work in which he will stand and contemplate Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, 1952, for forty hours over five days.

Curator of Education Mariann Smith spoke with VanDyke about the choices he has made for his upcoming performance and what he is doing to prepare. Below you will find a few excerpts from the interview. You can also read the transcript of the full interview. 

Excerpts from an Interview with Jonathan VanDyke

What interests you most about Jackson Pollock and his work?

JONATHAN VANDYKE: Pollock is one of the most iconic artists of the twentieth century, and certainly the most iconic of his generation. . . . I’ve repeatedly stood at length in front of Pollock paintings in museums, and people come up to me and ask questions like, “Why do you like this?”; “Was Pollock drunk when he made this?”; “Was Pollock crazy?” . . . But the most common statement in front of a Pollock is, “I could do that” or “My kid is a better artist.” This interests me. Sixty years after the paintings were made, they still arouse strong feelings. I want to engage a piece that has this power.

MS: Many museums have work by Pollock in their collections—why Convergence?

JVD: Convergence appeared in 1952, not long after Pollock completed his seminal masterworks. Throughout 1951 he was making all-black paintings that were not fully embraced by the critics. He made Convergence in the same period as Blue Poles, often considered the greatest of his late works, and before he entered a period of decline in terms of his productivity and health. If you study Convergence, you can see the substance of an all-black painting under a skein of color. Was this a transitional work, pointing to new stylistic possibilities? To what extent was Pollock re-appraising or even mimicking the works that had become so widely celebrated, while seeking out a new direction? As an artist who has struggled through transitional periods in the studio, I want to stand in front of a piece that embodies this search.

MS: The title you chose for the performance—The Long Glance—has more than one connotation.

JVD: The title The Long Glance is, in part, a commentary on the attention span of contemporary culture, in which consciousness is being transformed by an omnipresent state of distracted half-attention. I wish for the title to playfully imply that, given a degree of focus and the power of an art object, what begins as a brief glance might transform into a gaze that holds.

MS: This performance will require a great deal of both physical and mental stamina. How are you going about preparing yourself?

JVD: I am training for both strength and endurance, as well as working with a dancer who teaches the Alexander Technique, which helps me to balance and position my body for long periods of time. I am practicing meditation to prepare myself for the mental challenges.

This physical and mental discipline is only a framing device for the work, and I intend to leave room for the unexpected. The performance is long enough to conjure up unforeseen memories and ideas and visions. How does focusing the mind and body so steadily on one thing open up the possibility for unanticipated states of consciousness? What will I “see” in looking at this painting for so long?

Download the Full Interview Transcript (PDF)

Related Feature

Jonathan VanDyke on The Long Glance (Video)