I’m all about linking the interviews today, aren’t I? But I just came across another one that’s too good to pass on – three Chicago greats in conversation! Richard Hull interviews Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt for the Winter 2011 issue of BOMB, which hit the stands a few days ago on December 15th. The interview (or at least a healthy chunk of it) can also be found online – click here to read it; a small excerpt is below. There is also a 3 minute audio excerpt from the interview posted on BOMB’s website.
Richard Hull: As I was coming up here I was thinking about your collection of works by self-taught artists, contemporary art, and ethnographic objectsâ€”especially with the Ray Yoshida show coming up at SAIC. As a teacher at the school he had a lot of influence on people collecting things. When did you start collecting?
Gladys Nilsson: We bought a small painting by a Sunday painter who couldnâ€™t quite get it right at a junk shop in the early â€™60s because, I donâ€™t know, it seemed like the thing to do. We didnâ€™t start out acquiring things with the idea that we must form a collection.
Jim Nutt: The False Image people [Christina Ramberg, Phil Hanson, Eleanor Dube, Roger Brown] and other students became aware that Ray was going to flea markets, and they started going as a group. It became almost a weekend ritual, but it also had something to do with his idea of going out and collecting images that you see in your eye. It wasnâ€™t unlike his instructing students to cut out images from wherever and organize/paste them in sketchbooks, based on formal relationships. The idea was to recognize the potential of a form or shape beyond the literal reference.
GN: When all of this flea market and Maxwell Street shopping was going on, we were in California. Even earlier on, before the Hairy Who shows started up, people were ripping out ads from backs of magazines or odd photos from newspapers, or picking up junk found on the street, and surrounding themselves with this curious mix in their studios.
JN: People acquired things just because they liked to have them. Itâ€™s the kind of stuff that artists for years have had in their studios. They see something that interests them, quite often itâ€™s a postcard of a well-known painting, but itâ€™s also something from the vernacular or popular, easily acquired in the everyday world.
RH: Does what you collect influence you directly? Say, the African pieces or the works by self-trained artists in your home; do they have an effect on the way you use color or make shapes or images?
GN: Thatâ€™s been foisted on us and others of our ilk: that we were heavily influenced by our collections. I mean, I would be more prone to go to a museum, find an arm in a painting and use it as a source, than to say, â€œOh, my God! Look how Joseph Yoakum draws a tree in a work in our collection. I must use that.â€