Automatic, Internal + Blind: William Anastasi

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Anastasi has been creating his unsighted works and Subway Drawings for decades, separating artistic creation from conscious thought and allowing various environments to influence the physical action of creation. In the late 1970s, Anastasi reinvestigated his Subway Drawings of the early 1960s while riding on the subway to and from daily chess games with FCA co-founder John Cage. In these drawings Anastasi surrendered to the movement of the train to transform lines onto paper.

As Cage once said of Anastasi's work, “It's not psychological; it's physical. "

In 2007, he took part in the artistic performance "Blind Date" at the White Box Gallery in New York. In the performance, he and fellow artist Lucio Pozzi both drew dozens of artistic pieces blindfolded in an 8 hour long artistic duel.

Artist Statement

From earliest memory I have been drawing every day. But I cannot be certain whether this practice started before or after having first heard Jeanette Corona Anastasi, my mom, calmly remarked, "But of course the best thing anyone could be in this world is an artist." How an immigrant without higher schooling came upon this idea was never revealed. But I believe its effect on me was profound. It wasn't until 1960 before I began to whisper to myself, nervously,

“Maybe you are, after all, an artist."

I moved to New York in 1962. That year Philip Guston, by accident, saw three of my plaster on tar paper works. He was enthusiastic about them and wrote a letter recommending my work to Betty Parsons, who had a gallery on 57th Street. She visited my East Village apartment, bought some works for her own collection and placed three other works in a group show in her gallery. I would eventually show works made between 1960 and 1969 in five solo exhibitions in New York. Extraordinarily strong, positive writing reflected some of those shows, but buyers were not impressed.

In retrospect I believe that this neglect was a marvelous example of foul-is-fair. I am now certain that an early financial success would have been an obstacle to a steady and normal development. At present this sort of success has come my way, but it has not diminished my decades-old identification with a remark from the beginning of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason,

“Nearly through the whole of my work I have felt doubtful what to do."

- December 2009

John Cage Award for Contemporary Arts: Read Here

Check out his works at MoMa here!

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