Interview: Gary Snyder

Between James Barron and Gary Snyder
April 2016

James Barron: Do we know how Janet Sobel administered the drip?

Gary Snyder: Her son, Sol told me that he remembers his mom using a pipette. Perhaps that is how she achieved her control drip, which is consistent with the scale of her work, smaller than Pollock’s.

JB: How much of this is a story of a woman artist being marginalized in the 40s?

GS: It’s partly that. Remember, she moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey, outside the New York art center. Also, the art world from 1946-1948 started to move to the ‘big boy school’ of Abstract Expressionist. As that moment became mythologized, there was no room for Sobel.

JB: It’s remarkable that her work underwent such a big transformation in just three years.

GS: She went from Primitive to Surrealist to Abstract Expressionist very quickly. However, there are aspects of the work that never change. Her faces haunt the work from beginning to end.

JB: I’m intrigued that the faces continue to reappear in some of the drip paintings.

GS: She created a range of faces that have unique emotional qualities. However similar, few are the same. It is a testament to her artistic genius.

JB: There’s a resurgence of interest in her work now. Why?

GS: We are at a point where so much is being looked at anew. The whole notion of ‘outsider’ is being investigated. There’s also a strong interest in the politics of Abstract Expressionism and gender issues.

JB: What else is happening with Sobel’s work?

GS: Lynne Cooke’s exhibition, ‘Outliers and American Vanguard Art,’ will open at The Royal Academy, London in September 2016 and will travel to Guggenheim Bilbao, The National Gallery, DC, The Met Breuer and LACMA.  It’s very exciting.
New York
April, 2016

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