John Yau (Rail): Have you ever seen a U.F.O.?
Jasper Johns: Yes. When I was in the army in Sendai, Japan, a friend and I saw odd lights moving through the sky and we made a report. We were told that there had been x number of sightings in the last month.
Above is an excerpt from a conversation our Art Editor John Yau had with Jasper Johns in the February 2007 edition of the Rail, on the occasion of the artist’s exhibition Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955–1965 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It’s an example of a wonderfully cryptic and memorable exchange between an artist and writer, and an example of how well understood artists feel when they speak with John. He is able to establish a trusting rapport between their lives and works as an inseparable condition. He assumed editorship of the art section in the summer of 2005, when founding editor Daniel Baird departed for an editorial position at the Toronto-based magazine The Walrus; ever since, John has faithfully produced innumerable stimulating conversations along with challenging, illuminating reviews every month.
Together with Ben La Rocco and Thomas Micchelli, both of whom began to write for us as early as May 2004 and October 2005, respectively, and both of whom joined as co-editors in September 2009, John has developed the art section into what it is today: a democratic space featuring diverse voices from both older, more established writers and emerging younger ones; as well as a substantive one, numbering 18-19,000 words an issue. More importantly, under John’s leadership the Rail, as a whole, has benefited from his advocacy of under-recognized, overlooked artists or simply those who are less inclined to be part of the art world establishment. Our collective aim has been to create a dialogue that is well defined and well balanced, providing questions instead of answers. And for this, we are most grateful to John for his unyielding and selfless commitment and for the vision he has shared with us in the last seven years and it is with sadness that we announce his resignation as Art Editor. We wish to express equal gratitude to Ben and Tom for their shares of editorial brilliance and unmatched dedication. While each has departed to pursue their own new directions, all will remain important voices within the Rail: John will continue to share the editorship of the Brooklyn Rail/Black Square Editions with me, as well as occasionally contribute as Consulting Editor. As for Ben and Tom, they each will maintain a role as Editor-at-Large.
Meanwhile the Rail’s Manager, Rose D’Amora and I, will be working with Managing Editors Patricia Milder and Kara Rooney until our new program of invited guest editors, alternating from issue to issue, is materialized. Lastly, we would like to send our congratulations to our friend Kate Haw who has just left Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, as the Executive Director of Development and Administration extraordinaire, to become Vice President for Development at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.; also, our belated happy 95th birthday wishes to Rosamond Bernier! And on a sad note, we would like to send our deep condolences to the family and friends of our beloved artist, Vita Petersen, on her recent passing.