The New York Tapes publishes for the first time a series of interviews conducted with seminal East Coast artists and their associates–including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland and Andy Warhol. They were recorded in late 1965 and early 1966 for the documentary television series USA: Artists by famed curator Alan Solomon, who was a fixture in the New York artworld. This was a logical extension of Solomon’s curatorial projects of the period, including his organization of the United States exhibition at the 1964 Venice Biennale.
The half-hour format of the episodes meant that a vast amount of Solomon’s original interviews, some of which lasted an hour or more, wound up on the cutting-room floor. At some point after the series was completed the original filmed and tape-recorded interviews were lost. A single set of typed transcripts, preserved in Solomon’s papers at the Archives of American Art, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution (co-publisher of this volume), is the sole complete record of the original interviews.
The New York Tapes gathers these interview transcripts and publishes them as a group for the first time, extensively illustrated with numerous stills from the television programs and related documentation. The transcripts make available material that was not included in the final programs, while also revealing how what was included became subtly manipulated to fit the format of documentary television. An informative introduction by editor Matthew Simms sets the project in context and highlights the differences between the interviews and the films, shedding new light on a germinal moment in postwar American art and how it was presented to the public.