ROBERT IRWIN KEYNOTE ADDRESSParsons School of Design, April 1, 2011
“I was doing large abstract expressionist paintings a la James Brooks. A fellow painter invited me over for dinner one night. He collected rare Japanese bowls. If the karma was right, I might receive one of the tea bowls. For dinner, we ate Campbell’s Pork and Beans out of a can. The evening was going well. After we finished eating, my companion put a small wood box on the table. Japanese tea bowls are traditionally wrapped in hand-made wood boxes tied with ribbon. I opened the box, inside was a pouch containing the bowl. Tea bowls are small, you can wrap your hands around the circumference. I went home with the bowl. I realized that this diminutive bowl had power and energy. I began to think about making small paintings.”
This story illustrates the kind of “lecture,” “talk,” “conversation,” Irwin is famous for. Sometimes you follow it and sometimes you feel lost trying to make the connections that he does. But most of all what Irwin does is ask questions. “We make the world. How and in what way is what I do.”
Less is more.
-Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Less is more when less is the sum total of more.
Less is more only when you understand more or less.