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 William Joseph Anastasi  (1933 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: minimalism, conceptualism, installation sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
William Joseph Anastasi
from Auction House Records.
Untitled III (Abandoned Painting), 1995
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Anastasi was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 11, 1933. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania from 1953 to 1958. He is an artist noted for his conceptual coolness and seriously irreverent wit. For example, at the entrance to the Scott Hanson Gallery was a piece from 1967, a stick-on wall label that reads:

William Anastasi
b. 1933
Label 1967
Type of paper

Next to it was another label that said the same thing. It was the label's label.

In 1963, he started making "blind" drawings and paintings in which he covered a canvas or paper with a kind of automatic writing done with his eyes closed. The lines were long and looping and formed a tangled skein across the surface. There was a strong feeling of landscape to the drawing, the darkening of the central axis recalling a horizontal line, the linear webbing suggesting sky and sea. In addition to drawings, he had made blind and partially blind painting. The former are purely nonobjective, but colorful and bold, while the latter have letters written on them afterwards.

Anastasi spent a long time at his art. He is part of a tradition that continues to challenge perceptual complacency. As an example, for one drawing, called "April 15, 1989, 32 minutes, 4B," he held a 4B pencil in each hand; with his eyes covered, he moved from one end of the room to the other for exactly 32 minutes, marking the wall in big sweeping movements as far as his arms could reach. In the same room, he made another work on the wall between the old fireplace and the window. He had picked up a stone from the sidewalk outside, and instead of drawing on the wall, he rubbed and scratched at the surface until some of the paint (and even some of the wall itself) came off. He called this kind of drawing a "wall removal."

One day, he was taking a ride on the New York City subway to play chess with a friend across town. He had his drawing supplies with him, so he taped a piece of paper to a board, put the board in his lap, held a pencil in his hand touching the paper and closed his eyes. Then he let the bouncing and tilting of the subway car move the pencil. The drawing that he made on the way to see his friend was, in a way, a drawing of his trip.

Anastasi's work has long been characterized by its use of tautologies, as in an early piece in which the artist showed a painting that depicted, at nearly full scale, the very wall on which it hung. At first glance, his series "The Painting of the Word Jew" appears to continue this high conceptual conceit: each object has the word "Jew" , or "Jude" painted on it. One suspects that a process of nomination is taking place, that the artist is declaring these paintings to be somehow Jewish. Here Anastasi, who is not in fact Jewish, declares himself to be so by artistic fiat. It is meant as an act of solidarity against a historical prejudice, which, for Anastasi, serves as a cipher for all prejudices.

Compiled and submitted August 2004 by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Richard Kalina, "Art in America", January 1990
Mattress Factory, Permanent Collection on the Internet.
Tom McDonough in "Art in America", May 1998

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