Lee Krasner: Excerpts from an Interview
Interview with Lee Krasner
Conducted by Dorothy Seckler
1964, 1967, 1968
DOROTHY SECKLER: You, after all, are assuming that the material that comes up into the painting is basically from the unconscious in any case?
LEE KRASNER: Right. Certainly it stems from that source. Now either one has enough confidence in it or one hasn’t. Naturally you come in unconsciously as you’re painting a painting. To the degree you can let it come through or not is what we’re talking about.
DOROTHY SECKLER: Have you ever felt that the unconscious could be a trap to a certain extent where it could be running your fantasy over the same tracks too much or anything or that kind?
LEE KRASNER: I suppose anything can be a trap. We’re dealing with painting, which is a very conscious situation – you know, in a conscious life, in a conscious world, and with conscious values to determine whether it’s a good painting or not a good painting, removing the element of time as it isn’t necessarily called at the moment. So that, in that case, anything could be a trap. Let me throw that back to what Hofmann said to Pollock on seeing his painting for the first time. I brought Hofmann to Pollock’s studio, as I knew Hofmann, I had studied with him; and I thought he would certainly, you know, dig this. And this is the initial visit that he’s confronted with Pollock’s work. He said, “Ach! You work by heart, not from nature.” And Pollock’s answer: “I am nature.”
DOROTHY SECKLER: Yes, I remember.
LEE KRASNER: Now that, I think you know, sums up that.
DOROTHY SECKLER: Yes. It would be interesting if you could remember, in the case of any of the paintings we’re looking at here, points at which having initiated a rhythm, having begun with a few elements; there would then be the pause or the consideration or, you know, thinking about it or looking at it and so on.
LEE KRASNER: I think that process is there constantly. When one starts using the unconscious as a source to take off, it doesn’t mean that it’s an unconscious painting because the consciousness is there. The artist is there. You’re aware. The point at which you stop or pick up or make your next move is a conscious move. And to speak of your painters today who rebel against this as a source – well, it’s like saying I will only accept one part of myself. To hell with dreams; that’s not part of me; that’s not real. Well, it’s absurd, you know, to conceive the total as self-fragmented. I just don’t get it. It’s of no interest to me. To me, it’s backtracking. It’s like where I came in a long time ago if we can’t pursue a search further through this door that’s been opened. And I’m not interested in a prior theory when I paint my picture, because I think you get an awful lot of dead painting, not interesting, dead, sterile. Well, that’s not very exciting, for heaven’s sakes. One wants to discover.
DOROTHY SECKLER: And Pollock himself never went abroad I gather?
LEE KRASNER: Never did, no.
DOROTHY SECKLER: Had no desire to?
LEE KRASNER: Well, all he ever said on the subject was that you should either go when you’re very young or very old but there wasn’t time in the middle. And he was very much in the middle at that point.
DOROTHY SECKLER: One of the things that has struck me occasionally in talking to younger artists is that some of them whose work is completely different in style sort of lay claim to the heritage of Pollock or to Pollock as a father figure.
LEE KRASNER: Oh, well. It’s a good name to attach yourself to. Let’s face it.
DOROTHY SECKLER: One of the recent ones I remember coming across was Larry Poons, and he said Pollock is so great because he owes nothing whatsoever to European painting – to Europe. He said he owes nothing whatsoever to Europe. I think that’s rather a sweeping statement.
LEE KRASNER: I don’t think Pollock would have said that. I think Pollock was very aware of the past, was conscious of it, and knew that his job was to break through a barrier. Which, indeed, he did. But that kind of denial seems adolescent to me. You know, you wish they’d grow up.
DOROTHY SECKLER: It leads to a kind of lack on continuity.
LEE KRASNER: Well, there’s no such thing. Art has always come from art. I think what Pollock’s example has meant in a very valid way to many younger painters of all styles is a sense that the art is the man, or art is what you live every day although you may not put your everyday objects into it. In his case, he certainly didn’t . But it isn’t something separate from what you are. It isn’t something which you go into a chapel and perform. I imagine it’s had an effect in many directions. It’s hard for me to say. So that when you say that Larry Poons said this about Pollock or that about Pollock, that may be.
DOROTHY SECKLER: It’s sort of nice that they have the hero worship. They’ll learn later that there is continuity. But I do often find it bewildering that so much seems to have been lost, and yet I suppose it never is really.
LEE KRASNER: Oh, it may be seemingly lost for a moment, but I don’t think it really is if you think of time on a little scale. So, to go back to myself for a moment, I still have to say that today the two painters that excite me most – or interest me most, or that still I can move from – are Matisse and Pollock, until I find some other. That’s with all due respect to Picasso and other painters. But these are the two sources that still are the most meaningful to me.
Source: Oral history interview with Lee Krasner, 1964 Nov. 2-1968 Apr. 11, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/krasne64.htm
Steve Peregrin Took: Excerpts from an Interview
PENETRATION Interview, by Paul Welsh
Q : You went to the States as Tyrannosaurus Rex, yes?
Yeah, we went over there at the end of 69, and we’d kind of go on with the M.C.5. and Country Joe and the Fish, we’d sort of go on after some electric band, and people wouldn’t even notice we were on. So I got into this trip, like I would take my shirt off, take my belt off, turn my back on the audience and start whipping myself and being a great devotee of getting out of it thoroughly ripped and wasted after about five minutes or probably more like five seconds they’d shut up. I’d turn round and say, “Right, shut your mouths, sit down and fuckin’ dig it, ya know, try and listen you might hear something.” And they’d dig it, ‘cos that’s violence, and they can appreciate that ya know. It’s the same thing now, you go out and do a gig, and the only way I can conceive of doing solo gigs now is to go out with an electric guitar and plug that in, and roar, and scream away, bellow down the microphone ‘cos unless it gives them a twinge of agony in their ears I don’t think, they think, they are digging it, and it’s weird. People that go to concerts, when you do a concert everyone is sitting down and you can have a wonderful time, it’s like sitting in your own front room. But I prefer doing dances at dances people are staggering around with a glass of beer or whisky in their hand, stoned out of their minds, falling about and shouting at one another. It gets up your nose a bit, in the wrong way, you kind of feel a bit pissed off ‘cos you can hear these people talking. Why should they turn themselves down to your level at a dance ya know? I would be quite happy to go round doing solo gigs with a 2,000 watt P.A. The only time I have used a 2,000 watt P.A. have been entirely wonderful and satisfactory, I mean they can even dance if they want to. The last gig I did, there was just one chick dancing and that was all. All the rest of the people were kind of hiding behind their whiskeys and hamburgers and things and trying to pretend that I wasn’t screaming obscene things down the microphone.
Q : What do you think of violence on stage?
I used to smash all the stuff up with Tyrannosaurus Rex, at the end of the set, I used to smash everything up. Then I broke my hands in the States.
That was my usual thing, we would get to the end of the set and we would do “The Wizzard” which was my licence to freak out. I’d scream such things as “I want a woman”, throw my bottle up in the air and then I used to smash up my moraccas, and the occasional drum, if I didn’t like it. I’d sling things across the stage, and then I’d pick up my chair and Oh, yeah, I used to throw my gong up in the air, kick it and bite it and dribble all over it, ya know. Which I found great fun in, bit like a 1970′s Wee Willie Harris or some thing, ya know. At this gig I picked up my chair, whirled it round my head, and smashed it on the ground. It was a collapsible metal chair which I was entirely unaware of at the time, and it went craaash, craaak, craaak, oooh, ahhh! (A series of chair smashing, hand breaking noises and groans), and broke two hands. I wasn’t too pleased about that, we had to do two gigs a night for a week or something, which in this age of advancement of modern medicine, isn’t too difficult, ya know. It used to quieten people down, don’t know if James Taylor does it, I think he has a band, ya know. But it is an exceeding seventies style sort of be quiet and just play, be obscene and foul mouthed and knock things over, which is pretty weird, I mean hippies are supposed to be peaceful, ya know.
Q : Yeah ………. Do people still remember you?
I don’t really know. Two chicks started phoning me from America, I don’t know how they got the number. They told me how good looking I was, although they’d never seen me. Eventually they said they would have to stop phoning and start writing, as it was too expensive. I used to get lots of groupies waiting outside my old flat, asking if they could stop with me. In fact, I have a chick with a kid, and I now live with a pregnant lady so I am thinking of forming Took’s home for unmarried mothers.