Art Feature: Notebook Drawing

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


-Notebook Drawing, Ira Joel Haber

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, writer, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in the USA and Europe and he has had 9 one-man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum & The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007, his paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 184 on-line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn.


You are a multitalented and prolific artist, with works created in a variety of media. When it comes time to create, do you tend to default toward a particular medium? How do you recognize the best manifestation of an idea?

I love to make things, sculptures, paintings, collages you name it, and I love to do it.  I have no set way of  working on my art. Since 1969 I have been making small scale sculptures that consist of landscapes and architectural images. Sometimes they have been placed in boxes, and sometimes outside the box. The Whitney Museum has just acquired one of my burnt floor pieces from 1969. Its a plastic model of a red and white gas station that I altered by burning it or melting it. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist even when I was very young, this was the only thing I ever wanted to be, so for me making art is a natural and always present experience in my life.

Tell us some more about “Untitled Notebook Drawing,” our featured image. The color composition and three-dimensionality of the piece make it so compelling and powerful. What inspired this piece, and how did it come together?

I’ve always done notebook drawings, and like everything they have changed and evolved over time.  I stopped doing notebook drawings for some time, but in 2010 or around there I started to do them again while I was teaching a senior workshop in drawing. While they drew I started to cut and paste up magazines and pasted the elements on notebook paper. I worked on them more extensively when I got home, because I had more materials to work with but the early steps took place in the workshop, I had to keep busy in order not to get bored so that’s how the “new” ones started. As time went on they became more complex and layered like the one that you are publishing, which by the way is from 2014.  Look, I don’t think much when I make something, I just do it. I add to the paper with what is around me. I love to paint and draw and the notebook pages (which number in the 100’s) are loose and free.     

What is the process of creating art like for you? How do you know when a piece is complete?

A piece is done when it’s done. I know that might not be a very satisfying answer, but I know because I am happy with the result. It hollers at me: “Leave me the fuck alone, Ira Joel.” I tell my students that it’s important that they know when to leave the piece alone, to leave the building as they say. I know when to leave the building.

How has your artwork evolved over time? What have been the most challenging obstacles to overcome as you’ve progressed?

I have a deep body of work from 1969 and on. I love my art – I’m sorry but I do – and the biggest obstacle I’ve faced is the indifference I have come up against from the New York art world. Their enormous stupidity and vanity is mind boggling to me. Now I’m not a little boy lost (I’m no longer a little boy), and I had a lot of success when I was very young. I was in the Whitney Sculpture Annual in 1970 when I was 23 and had my first solo show at a very prominent gallery in New York City when I was 24. Things change and sometimes one’s life and career do not always go the way one would like. That said I have had enormous support from various grants and the recognition and support from literary magazines and journals has been a constant joy to me, with over 200 of them since 2007 publishing my art. I also get great support from social media especially from Facebook which is a constant support for my art.

What characteristics do you find necessary when establishing a place to work? How does setting influence creation? And what, if anything, do you find 100% imperative to getting work done?

Right now I live in a small apartment with one bedroom set aside for my studio. I make my art fine, sure its not as wonderful as having a big space like the one I lived and worked in for 31 years until I was evicted by the greedy landlord who got me out so he could get big bucks for the space. This was in Chelsea. I’m not bitching, but when I had to make the move to my small space in Brooklyn I felt like I would never make art again, which of course was silly and narcissist of me. I make art no matter where I am, and I think this is true for any artist. The restrictions that I’ve had to deal with just pushed me to more creative heights. I wish I was a rich artist because I’m limited in my funds and can’t spend a lot of money on art supplies, but again where there is a will there is a way.

Are you working on any projects currently that you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m of course making more notebook drawings, postcards, and I did a series of “open pieces” made of found wood and other found materials and houses that I made from paper, clay and plaster. I’m pleased with them.

If you could turn the world on to one artist, who would it be?

Me of course. Just joking. There are many artists whose work I like way too many to single any one artist out.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

The GoldFinch by Donna Tartt was epic and mostly compelling. I’m also a big fan of Paul Auster and recently finished a book of his memoirs. Right now I’m finishing up Just Kids by Patti Smith, I’m reading it as a challenge to myself as I’ve never liked her or Mapplethorpe and I want to see if reading the book will make me more sympathic to them, but I’m not counting on it.

Linsey Jayne is a wave-headed poet with a penchant for jazz who received her MFA in creative writing at Fairfield University. Her writing has been published in such publications as The Standard-Times, The Dartmouth-Westport Chronicle, and exactly.what.  She has served as the chief poetry editor for Mason’s Road, as well as the student editor for the Bryant Literary Review and the opinion section editor of The Archway. Linsey is currently at work on her first collection of poetry, entitled Idle Jive.

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