Barbara Rose

  • A Conversation with Gene Davis

    When did you join the Jefferson Place Gallery in Washington?

    ALICE DENNY SAW MY WORK in Corcoran area shows or in a local group show. She may have seen my one-man show at Catholic University in 1953. I also had a show at the Franz Bader Gallery in 1956, so I wasn’t totally unknown. The Jefferson Place was a co-op gallery founded jointly by Alice Denny and a young wealthy collector around town whose name escapes me. It was made up mostly of the American University group who were oriented toward de Kooning and the figure. They included Robert Gates, Joe Summerford, Helene McKenzie Herzbrun and Bob

  • Georgia O’Keeffe’s Late Paintings

    THESE DAYS IT IS FASHIONABLE to believe that we already have an accurate picture of the quality art of the sixties. The idea that any important work is unknown to us seems out of the question. Yet there exists a body of work done during the decade of the sixties, almost unknown to the general art public, which I believe will endure when the media favorites of today have long faded. I am speaking of the recent paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe which rounded out her recent Whitney Museum retrospective.

    The works in question were painted in virtual isolation in O’Keeffe’s barn at the remote Ghost Ranch,

  • The Graphic Art of Jasper Johns, Part II

    As we look back from the middle of the twentieth century, what makes a medium artistically important is not any quality of the medium itself but the qualities of mind and hand that its users bring to it.
    —William Ivins, Prints and Visual Communication

    By innovation is meant simply an emphasis to which the contemporary public is not accustomed. Thus, to a people improvident through excessive hopefulness, the artist who disclosed the cultural value of fear, distrust, or hypochondria would be an innovator. Any “transvaluation of values” is an innovation, though it be a reversion to an earlier value.

  • The Graphic Work of Jasper Johns

    IF ONE OF THE VICES of current criticism is the exhaustion of superlatives, then it is not as crucial to dwell on the quality of Jasper Johns’s graphics now as it is to investigate other ways in which they are remarkable and unique. When quality is so apparent, to speak of fineness of impression, blackness of black and subtlety of values seems more the province of connoisseurship than of criticism. Yet the work does pose essential critical problems. Among these is the relationship of Johns’s graphic oeuvre to his work in other media. In his graphic work, Johns explores the same set of themes

  • The Origins of Ray Gun

    I have a dream about a “happening” at the Yale Art School. A costume of baroque gold chandelier and a white body with detachable bra-tits (worn by) the resident genius whom I know. I later assist in the presentation in a clean hall before a conservative audience. I look in tube, am popped in eye. Surprised but play along. Followed by rubbing out of traditional paintings accomplished by trick of turning off light behind chromo of painting.
    —Claes Oldenburg, notebook entry
    Provincetown, July 18, 1960

    ONE OF THE DIFFICULTIES IN attempting to reconstruct Claes Oldenburg’s development is that he has

  • Problems of Criticism VI: The Politics of Art, Part III

    We are revealing new pages of art in anarchy’s new dawns . . . You who are bold and young, make haste to remove the fragments of the disintegrating rudder.
    Wash off the touch of the dominating authorities.
    ––Kasimir Malevich, To the New Limit, 1918

    The same fat surplus which burns in Viet Nam feeds us. Let the art armies be disbanded. In the wake of the anarch, all marches are up . . . Art is what we do; culture is what is done to us.
    ––Carl Andre, statement in “Sensibility of the Sixties,” Art in America, 1967.

    IF THE PRAGMATIC METHOD IS, as William James describes it, “the attitude of looking

  • Painting Within Tradition: The Career of Helen Frankenthaler

    THERE ARE FEW INSTANCES IN WHICH the critic has to evaluate work that has had some special personal significance for him; but those instances are often the most challenging. When I abandoned the provinces, I came to New York to study the Old Masters. But Morningside Heights soon proved less compelling than 57th Street. This was something I couldn’t justify for a long time. One day, however, I saw abstract paintings that succeeded in preserving many of the qualities I admired in the Old Masters—especially the lightness and airiness of the great “painterly” painters like the Venetians—without

  • Problems of Criticism V: The Politics of Art, Part II

    Perhaps it will be the task of an artist as detached from esthetic preoccupations, and as intent on the energetic as Marcel Duchamp, to reconcile art and the people.
    ––G. Apollinaire, The Cubist Painters, 1913.

    . . . I believe that art is shedding its vaunted mystery for a common sense of keenly realized decoration. Symbolizing is dwindling––becoming slight. We are pressing downward toward no art––a mutual sense of psychologically indifferent decoration––a neutral pleasure of seeing known to everyone.
    ––Dan Flavin, “Some Remarks,” Artforum, December, 1966.

    My monuments and other manifestations

  • Problems of Criticism IV: The Politics of Art, Part I

    I CAN IMAGINE, IN THESE days of global intercourse and indiscriminate CIA subsidy, a cultural summit meeting at a health spa outside of, say, Montevideo. Here South American revolutionaries, who might be underpaid intellectuals by day and guerillas by night, could sunbathe with their Yanqui opposite numbers, former Trotskyites who now contribute to the mass media, discussing cultural problems of mutual interest. Eventually it might hit home that American culture, and in particular American art, the commodity lately found most useful in selling the American way of life, is as unwanted and as

  • Washington Scene

    It’s hard to believe that the sleepy Southern town that was Washington, D.C., before the Kennedys sparked a cultural renaissance has emerged during the styleless LBJ era with a certain style of its own. Not the least of the new stylishness is the small but definitely percolating art scene. The scene had its start in the fifties when Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland both lived and worked in the Capital and Clement Greenberg was a frequent visitor. Things began to happen with Alice Denny’s brief tenure at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, where she scheduled one of the first Pop art shows in

  • The New York Painter

    So little data linking the various generations of American artists exists that an exhibition like The New York Painter, which documents such connections, is indeed welcome. Representing a capsule survey of American art, the exhibition, a benefit for the N.Y.U. art collection, assembles an entirely respectable if not exactly overwhelming group of works. The main point of the show is to establish relationships between teachers and students. For this purpose a useful chronological chart is made available, which provides us with a few interesting historical footnotes, such as, for example, that

  • George McNeil

    George McNeil manages to avoid falling into either of the two major pitfalls that plagued late Abstract Expressionism: poor color and the lack of coherent structure. His color—predominantly the complementary hues of red and green, orange and blue, is adroitly set off by touches of black and white. Because his palette is so conventional, the paintings don’t mean much as a color experience, but the brilliance of the hues does manage to keep the paint lively and healthy looking and to compensate for the deadness that naturally issues from overpainting. The best pictures—Cassandra and Clarabel—tend