Magazine article Artforum International

A THOUSAND WORDS Russell Crotty

Magazine article Artforum International

A THOUSAND WORDS Russell Crotty

Article excerpt

TALK ABOUT HIS ATLASES

Each atlas has a different feel. One is just the belts of Jupiter. That's probably the most intense book I've ever done. A hundred and eighty-six pages. I'd work on it five days at a time and then leave it for a while, do something else. I looked at all my observations of Jupiter, and then just did it out of my head.

You can't draw a globular cluster and make it look like a globular cluster. It's almost impossible. I take the shape of the thing, and the rest is sort of like creating it from the process of drawing. I'm resisting much of the technology. I think it takes away from observation, what your eye can pull in. The Jupiter belt was spinning like a flattened planet sphere, a version of the planet spinning. On certain nights when Jupiter rises at sunset and sets at dawn you can see the whole planet rotate--it rotates fast--and that was the idea, to get that going. It's not a flip book, but you can turn the pages and get a sense of things moving across the page in a way that's really quite cinematic. It's a minimalist system with a maximal process. There's a lot of information going on. Donald Judd would turn over in his grave if you filled a big, beautiful blank book with this stuff. But I like his systems. In a way I'm kind of exploiting that. Agnes Martin is one of my favorite artists. I was using that grid system.

I started collecting these books, historical stuff. Here's a guy, Pannekoek, who drew the Milky Way. He and his wife would go out and camp. He'd do it in the dark, maybe by candlelight. Completed in 1928. It took him thirty years. This is Krieger, a German who drew the moon. He worked himself to death. Today, half those amateur astronomers up there in the mountains are probably ex-hunters. You can't hunt as much as you used to, so they've turned to the astronomic field. They do get something similar there--the reward is incredible when something comes into your field of view; you fall off the ladder looking into the eyepiece.

On that ladder alone up there I actually feel creeped out. I feel like I'm looking at something I shouldn't be looking at. That light, there's something sacred about it. It's traveled so far. It's amazing, like eavesdropping. Experiencing Saturn through the eyepiece. You can't believe it's real. It's so perfect. Looking at a supernova remnant in Cygnus in the summer--it's like a very faint veil of gas. I can't put it in words, but I can attempt to draw it. It's almost a feeling. The really old light, this faint object, something cataclysmic we can't even imagine that happened 40,000 years ago is just drifting through the galaxy, and it happens to look really beautiful.

I think the text I use has a way of bringing back the reality of this kind of stuff. Weighting and unweighting. That's how the books function--they sort of breathe that way. You can go from density to something really light. I'm doing a huge book for my New York show at CRG Gallery next year. It's going to fold out to seven-by-thirteen feet--a sculpture basically, with drawing. Massive. I'm going to have to build a bridge in my studio to get to the middle of it. That's scale again--push it to the limits. You heard I was doing a drawing of the universe. That's so great.

This is the finder scope, just to see where you are. I open the roof, pull the truck up, drop the tailgate, have coffee, snacks, and people just come over and hang out. …

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