…in the early eighties I did a large amount of musical work; my musical years were about 1977 to 1982. It was a good time for me to do music, because in academia I was studying literature, and therefore at home I wanted to do something different. But I was not satisfied with the visual side of things. My visual impulses are perhaps even stronger than my musical impulses, and I realized that the best thing for me to do was to try to work through a dialectic of my relationship with works, images and the past in general.
That's the reason for The Dialectic of Centuries being the title of my theory book of 1978. It's the subject of Scenes Forgotten And Otherwise Remembered-a Horspiel that I did in Cologne-and it is the theme that eventually elected itself for me to do in various forms in a series of acrylic on canvas paintings (which I began in 1982 and which I'm in the process of finishing this year).
This series falls into several categories. The first group of paintings are based on arrows, and are a direct outgrowth of my musical notations. The second group has maps in it, always maps, which reflect different political boundaries than those of today. The next group were The Brown Paintings-different forms of browns and off-whites and yellows and earth colors and red, with images drawn from the history of magic, entertainment magic, as a strategy for making my peace with popular culture, which I did not altogether succeed in doing. Then the next group of pieces was the Blue Cosmologies, intended for showing in Germany, which traced the history of how people looked at the universe.
And the next series, called The Natural Histories, was about how people looked at nature over the centuries, working through the various classes of fauna. That's the one that I'm in the process of finishing now. Very soon now, I will stop dealing with history or the past-I've done as much as I can with it, and I'll have to deal with other issues-perhaps I'll make objects for a while.
Nicholas Zurburgg: Were you surprised to find yourself painting?
DH: No, no-I've always painted. I've always done all the arts. My mother did some painting, my father composed music, my grandmother composed music. When I was a little boy, my mother's best friend was an artist who had a little art school and in those days-in the late forties, when I was about ten years old-it was a time of do it yourself, and people thought it was a great thing to be able to mix their own paint, so I learned all about grinding down the pigments and mixing them together with linseed oil! I would find myself going up to the old ladies struggling to do this or that, and I would just reach up and make a little nick with my hand, and -“Oh! He’s corrected it!” I was terrible - I was like a little teacher. I wasn’t at all a prodigy by any means, but I did have certain techniques that just came my way, because that’s what happens if you’re a curious ten - or eleven year-old hanging out in an art school.
- Nicholas Zurbrugg interview with Dick Higgins, July 5th, 1993
Photograph: Dick Higgins performing Creative Misunderstanding in front of one of his "Blue Cosmologies" paintings, 1991
Dick Higgins, For Meredith Monk, 1985. Acrylic on canvas
Dick Higgins, Arrow Painting, ca. 1983
Dick Higgins, Columbus' Shadow, Acrylic on Linoleum, 1987
Dick Higgins, Europe 1848, Acrylic on canvas, 1988
Installation view of Dick Higgins, Arrow Paintings, at Emily Harvey Gallery, New York, 1986
Dick Higgins, Scorpio 1836-1882, 1988. Acrylic on canvas
Dick Higgins, Yes, There Were, 1988. Acrylic on canvas
Installation view of Dick Higgins, Maps and More, Emily Harvey Gallery, New York, 1989
Dick Higgins, Dancing Star or Poetry Neural and Seen, 1990. Acrylic on canvas
Dick Higgins, Our Lady of the Floating Loss, 1990. Acrylic on canvas
Dick Higgins, The Blue Butterfly, 1990. Acrylic on lineoleum
Installation view of Dick Higgins, Brown Paintings, Emily Harvey Gallery, 1990
Dick Higgins, Big Game, 1993. Acrylic on canvas
Dick Higgins, Columbus and the Egg, 1992. Acrylic on canvas
Dick Higgins from the "Natural Histories" series, ca. 1991-1993
Dick Higgins, The Opaque and the Transparent, 1991. Acrylic on linoleum
Dick Higgins, Pass, 1994. Acrylic on canvas
Dick Higgins, Adieu, Mon General (Buster Keaton Enters Into Paradise), 1996
Detail from Adieu, Mon General used for "Buster Keaton enters into Paradise" at Caterina Gualco, Genova, 1997
Dick Higgins, Prospero, 1994. Acrylic on paper
Dick Higgins, Dream of Rillo, 1994. Acrylic on paper
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