Dear Henry Tate,
The image below [see printed magazine] is a deleted set of notes by the late St Ives-based poet Sydney Graham about his poem The Thermal Stair. We don’t know why he erased it, but the marks he left behind created something equally poetic. As Brian Dillon writes: ‘Erasure is never a matter of making things disappear.’ Throughout this issue, you can get a sense of what he means, such as in the defaced photographs of Communist Party Members who were shot under orders from Stalin. The photographs were originally published in Alexander Rodchenko’s Ten Years of Uzbekistan, but the artist was compelled to deface his own book during the Great Purges.
A more benign deletion is explored in Vincent Katz’s appraisal of Robert Rauschenberg’s iconic work Erased de Kooning Drawing. The artist gave him an ink and crayon drawing, knowing how difficult it would be to reduce it to a blank page. Rauschenberg’s genteel form of iconoclasm became as much a homage to de Kooning as it was an inspiration for the ‘white works’ of Richard Hamilton and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. However, not all artists get consent from their heroes. Jake and Dinos Chapman, who have been longstanding admirers of Goya, took his series of etchings The Disasters of War and made their own additions to the originals. Was this action more a fond handshake with the past than a violation?
Despite how some might define it, erasure is rarely about obliteration. Memory can serve to ensure that even though out of sight, somebody or something is not forgotten. In his first visit to the Tate archive, John Burnside communes, as he puts it, with Paul Nash’s old paintbox and while ‘holding his brushes, opening a box of watercolours’, he realises that the artist had, in fact, ‘been there all along’.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
‘Erasure is merely a matter of making things disappear: there is always some detritus strewn about in the aftermath…some reminder of the violence done to make the world look new again.’ Brian Dillon looks at undoing, from Joseph Kosuth’s Freudian wall texts, to Soviet Russia’s doctored photographs
Robert Rauschenberg was fascinated by Willem de Kooning, and in 1953 asked the artist if he could erase one of his drawings as an act of art. The result has become a cherished and resonant work from that period
Dan Graham on John Martin’s painting of the Apocalypse, The Great Day of His Wrath
Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s first New York solo exhibition in 1986 at the Sonnabend Gallery featured replicas of regular household items carved in polyurethane and cast in rubber. Ever since, the pair of Swiss artists who work collaboratively and in an eclectic variety of media have been intuitively in sync with the changing face of contemporary art
Ryan Gander praises Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s ten-point manifesto How to work better
The diverse body of work created by the Fischli/Weiss collaboration ranges from polyurethane trompe l’oeil buckets to films of home-made rocket-driven vehicles. Patrick Frey explains his documentary on the Fischli/Weiss film The Way Things Go
To coincide with Holbein in England at Tate Britain, five contributors respond to the work of the artist. Michel Onfray, Jenny Uglow, Chuck Close, George Carey and Derek Wilson speak.
Jake and Dinos Chapman obsessively return to Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’ gore-filled The Disasters of War series. Jake himself describes their studio floor debris as, ‘a sediment of Goya pictures’. Christopher Turner surveys the brothers’ ‘rectification’ of the great Spaniard’s work and how they have overwhelmed even Goya’s original with their own distinctive brand of pornographic Surrealism
In the Studio: Will Self tracks the ever-changing relationship between the literary and visual arts from John Keats to J.G. Ballard
For a few extraordinary years in the post-war era, the small town of St Ives was an art centre of international significance. While it was often overshadowed by Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth there was a more subversive and anarchic side to the Cornish phenomenon.
The American artist David Smith was best known for his large muscular sculptures – the product of heavy welding and much sweat. However, we know less about his interest in contemporary dance, in particular the work of Martha Graham. While Graham and others looked to sculpture for new ways to choreograph the human body, so Smith enjoyed studying moving forms
David Smith was best known for his large, muscular sculptures, but also had a vivid interest in contemporary dance. Here his daughter Rebecca Smith describes their relationship and sculpting for play
David Smith’s daughter Candida Smith describes her childhood at Bolton Landing, and the artist in his studio
In his first visit to the Tate archive, John Burnside communes with the paintbox of Paul Nash
Francis Wells on Luke Fildes’s The Doctor 1891, Alexa de Ferranti on William Hogarth’s The Painter and his Pug 1745, Desmond Morris on Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c.1944, Dan Hays on Joseph Wright of Derby’s Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776–80, and Jim Drain on Sonia Delaunay’s Triptych 1963