Recorded conversations with artists offer unparalleled first-hand insight into the creative process. For Al Held, in particular, the format served as a vital pulpit for communication. Held was never modest in front of the microphone: one oral history interview, conducted in 1975, comprises over ten hours of conversation.
In 1976, André Emmerich interviewed Held, an interchange that underscores an artist-dealer relationship that valued the genesis and substance of works of art over their utility in the market. During their long relationship, which spanned from 1963 until the André Emmerich Gallery was sold in 1996, Held was interviewed many times at his studios by Emmerich, who frequently photographed the artist at work.
In an excerpt from the 1976 interview, Held explains how one might find a language to understand his large paintings of overlapping geometric forms. “Structure” gives way to “simultaneity” and then, ultimately, to algebra, as ways of locating a language by which to describe his recent works.
The twenty-eight-page interview transcript has remained unpublished, and is part of the Al Held archives maintained by the Al Held Foundation. Notations on the typed pages are in Held’s hand.