The Oral History Project
BOMB’s Oral History Project documents the life stories of New York City’s African American artists.
“I didn’t want to paint figuratively. I didn’t want something that was overtly referencing the social issues around me, but I wanted to find a way to describe them. How do you internalize this? How do you make a form that forces a painting to be an experience that is not necessarily easy to see, handle, or look at?”
“The reward is getting through the tough stuff. And that’s what’s perplexing about the art thing. When I was going to school there were kids that could draw their asses off. There were kids that were better draftsman than me, for certain. But no one was more determined than me.”
“I don’t want to mention names, but there are several black artists that would like to shoot me today because they weren’t in that show. Some of them are dead, but the ones that aren’t dead still give me a lot of bullshit every time I see them.”
“I’m fighting between control and letting nature take its course.”
“It turns out making art was the best idea [for me]. My mother’s idea was good because it got me started. She said, ‘Look, you are skinny; you are little. You can’t hang out with your daddy and them big guys.’”
“My work was just like art history; it was all Velázquez, Goya, Cézanne, and Soutine. But when I saw Morris Louis I saw a way into the present.”
“I obtusely landed in the best place possible.”
“I just wanted to be sure I didn’t get caught not expressing what I thought was important to me. That can easily happen, because you can easily get discouraged by not being allowed to participate, or just being ignored, when you know your work is beyond ignoring.”
“We have to tell the truth in the image.”
“Photographers and artists are alchemists at the highest level, I think.”
Clark talks to his friend and fellow painter, Jack Whitten, about growing up in Louisiana, coming of age in Chicago, heady days in Paris, and living in New York City when the abstract expressionists ruled.
“I would like to do more of that kind of thing: travel, spend some time in a place and really work from a different vantage point. I don’t know what will happen in my work from that, but I trust my ability to find the tools to find my way into my work. I think I will sit out in the woods more.”
“The collage works are going to be life-size. My work increased in scale when I realized that I wanted people to enter the worlds or to see them almost like dioramas— these places that they could be immersed into, with their own social structures and their eco-systems.”