Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Check Out Jacob Collins' Interview in The New Criterion!

The New Criterion's David Yezzi interviewed Jacob Collins about his life, work and the world of figurative art. Here are some fun excerpts from the December 2011 issue:

(For the full interview, click here!) 

On working from photographs:
Here's one thing that people say about using photographs: "It's just a tool, You should use all the tools...whatever tools there are you should use. You need to do this job and you want to do it as well as you can and you use all the tools." That then connects to the Old Masters, who used all the tools in the toolbox, any tools in their toolbox they would have used--that's a perfectly fine argument.

What I would say is this: They didn’t have the tools, and that’s why they invented the form they invented. It would be a little bit like saying that you’re deeply into kung fu, and you love kung fu so much. You revere its form, its practitioners, and its history. You show up at your kung fu match, and there’s the guy you think is so great. Then some other guy shows up, and he pulls out a revolver and he shoots your guy, and you say, “What the hell are you doing?” He says “Well, I won, didn’t I?” You say, “Well, that wasn’t kung fu!” And he says, “Come on, it’s just the tools, and I’m using all the tools at my disposal.”

 It’s a ridiculous example, but you might say then “You can’t just bring this in.” They might say, “Well, you’re so hidebound, caught up in your idea of what the rules are; you need to let go and use whatever tools are at your disposal.” You say “That’s ridiculous, that’s not kung fu.” Then they might say, “Look, the inventors of kung fu would have used the gun if they’d had it,” and they would have. That’s a perfectly valid argument. What they were trying to do was defeat the other guy. At that point you have to say, “What is it I love?” I don’t love beating the other guy up. I love the practice of the form, and the way that the guy I think is so great practices the form.

On photo-realism: 
The aesthetic that arose from those old studio practices can still be approached laterally by the use of photography. Inevitably, though, the new practices lead to a new aesthetic. For me, after a short time (and it’s happening fast), those pictures look more and more photo-ey. It’s not something that I could even say is a bad thing. It’s interesting: it relates to magazine ads. It feels modern; it feels like a traditionalist postmodernism. It doesn’t have that sort of stuffy feeling that I love so much, that stodgy, old-fashioned, awkward humanism. It feels like it’s sort of snappier, and I can see why a lot of people like it. I can see why a lot of collectors like it and why a lot of dealers want to really go with it. 

On painting self-portraits:
The funny thing about a self-portrait is: I’m always looking at my work and having a roller coaster of anxiety about whether I’m doing something that’s really beautiful or really successful or powerful. And then, with the self-portrait, the problem is that I’m looking at the work and I’m judging myself as well. I’m looking at the guy who did it. And so when I’m feeling like “This is just awful, what horrible person would make something as debased and horrible-looking as this,” and then there he is! 

 Here's an older self-portrait we had on hand in the office. Looking forward to seeing the new one!

(For the full interview, click here!) 


Kate Stone said...

You know, money is also a tool, and not everyone has that tool in their arsenal. So if a person can't afford to hire models, I don't see the problem with substituting that tool for another one, ie photography.

dorian allworthy said...


I really enjoyed reading the interview! There is s very short and cheerful book by Robert Henri called "The Art Spirit" that covers a lot of these ideas.
Art fulfills a need not only as decoration but as a spiritual guide. A real artist has something to say and how they say it or who likes it does not much matter. The fact is there are vy few real artists and very few paintings from them are *real* art.

Justine said...

David Gluck said...

The one loophole in your rule is that a true master of kung fu can dodge bullets. Some rules are meant to be bent, others are meant to be broken.

Alexandro said...

What a great interview! I wish Jacob Collins could have elaborated on at least how Philip Pearlstein fit into the equation. I'm curious of what he thinks of Steven Assael's studio practice. He works from direct observation similarly to Philip Pearlstein but Impressionism is on his mind.