Barbara Rose

  • 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

  • Abstract Illusionism

    PERHAPS THE MOST STRIKING FEATURE about the recent work of several leading abstract painters is what appears to be a return to illusionism. Accomplished through a variety of illusionistic devices including the use of two-point perspective, orthographic drawing, and warm-cool color contrast, a new type of illusionism may well be the single common denominator linking the most advanced painting being done today. It has been obvious, for the past year at least, that a shift in focus from the acknowledgment of the flatness of the picture support which characterized the abstraction of the early sixties

  • Claes Oldenburg’s Soft Machines

    CLAES OLDENBURG, IS THE SINGLE Pop artist to have added significantly to the history of form. In order to perceive this, however, one must look beyond the Rabelaisian absurdity of his grotesque imagery to the inventiveness of his shapes, techniques, and materials. These are sufficiently original to identify Oldenburg, not, as he has erroneously been seen, as a chef d’ecole of Pop art, but as one of the most vital innovators in the field of contemporary sculpture, whose vision has affected the work of many other young artists of his generation.

    Every major artist dreams of reconstructing the world

  • Ellsworth Kelly as Sculptor

    ALTHOUGH HE IS CELEBRATED primarily as the painter of elegant hard-edge abstractions, Ellsworth Kelly deserves equal renown as the creator of some of the best sculpture done in the sixties. Covering the full range from reliefs to free-standing floor pieces, Kelly’s sculptures are intimately tied to his paintings in their forms, colors, and precise, sharp contours. It is, in fact, as a resolution of certain problems raised by the paintings themselves that the sculptures may be seen.

    In his most recent paintings, a series of monochrome panels shown last March at the Sidney Janis Gallery, Kelly has

  • The Value of Didactic Art

    1. THE ARTIST AS TEACHER

    ANDY WARHOL IS LIKE CÉZANNE in only one way: he is the primitive of a new art. Along with Jasper Johns, Robert Morris, Carl Andre, Ad Reinhardt and Marcel Duchamp, whose activity provides the closest parallel with his own, Warhol is one of the principal didactic artists of our time. All valid art, of course, teaches something; but until the fifties, Duchamp was the only major artist to consider each art object he produced primarily a lesson in esthetics.

    I am defining didactic art as art whose primary intention is to instruct. Within the terms of this definition, Jasper

  • Nakian at the Modern

    WHEN GASTON LACHAISE DIED in 1935 he left American sculpture bereft of a major talent. There were, however, two young men who showed great promise. One was David Smith, and the other was Lachaise’s apprentice, Reuben Nakian. Now, in the sixties, large, quasi-retrospective showings of each force an evaluation of how they used that promise as mature artists. Nakian’s recent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art makes it clearer than ever that although the two represent opposite poles of American sculpture, Nakian is perhaps the only sculptor of his generation whose work bears comparison with

  • An Interview with Robert Murray

    B. R.: When did you begin to find the conditions of the studio unsatisfactory and begin to work with commercial or industrial processes?

    R. M.: I started out as a painter. I have never actually studied sculpture. During the summers of 1957 and 1958 I worked in city planning offices in Regina and Saskatoon. The people in Saskatoon told me of their intention to commission a piece of sculpture for the grounds of the City Hall and at the time I recommended a sculptor in Regina. A year later they wrote to me in Mexico asking if I had any interest in the commission and I decided to have a go at it.

  • An Interview with Jack Youngerman

    Q: Were your early paintings, in Paris after the war, geometric?

    A: No, not really. When I started painting, I hadn’t seen anything that was happening in America. I’d been to the Modern Museum once and that was all. I went straight from Kentucky to Paris by way of the Navy, because in 1947 all the art schools in New York were full. In Paris I really wasn’t in the art world. I lived in a fantastically removed way. I knew a few American painters like Ellsworth Kelly and Bob Breer. At that moment, two kinds of abstract painting were being done in Paris a soft kind of abstract impressionism—by Bazaine

  • The Second Generation

    TOWARD THE END OF THE FIFTIES, talk that the de Kooning style had hardened into a transmissible manner was an issue of such importance that Art News ran a two-part symposium in 1959 on the subject “Is There a New Academy?” Those who offered opinions included veteran abstractionists John Ferren, George McNeil and Jack Tworkov, figure painter Alex Katz, and second-generation New York School painters Milton Resnick, Ray Parker, and Friedel Dzubas. Not surprisingly, since painters don’t like to be pinned down, there were few direct answers. The most out and out negative response came from Frieden

  • Filthy Pictures: Some Chapters in the History of Taste

    IT IS SURPRISING THAT Sir Kenneth Clark, in his “The Nude, A Study in Ideal Form,” confines his discussion of the most obvious category to which the nude belongs, the erotic, to a few remarks in the opening chapter, in which he differentiates the naked from the nude. Pausing only to dispute the Victorian notion that the nude as a subject should not arouse erotic desire in the viewer, he contends instead that “no nude, however abstract, should fail to arouse in the spectator some vestige of erotic feeling, even though it be only the faintest shadow––and if it does not do so, it is bad art and

  • Beyond Vertigo: Optical Art at the Modern

    IN AN OMNIBUS EXHIBITION called “The Responsive Eye,” the Museum of Modern Art has housed together in one amorphous (and hence relatively meaningless) category examples of nearly every kind of non-painterly painting done in the West since the war. (Also included were some glass, plastic and metal objects, descendants of Constructivist and neo-Plastic sculpture.) Within this category, which, I take it, was meant to be comprehensive but ultimately was only confusing, were: 1) works by the various European visual research groups (the Spanish Equipo 57, the German Group Zero, the French Groupe de

  • Looking at American Sculpture

    THE WHITNEY MUSEUM’S ANNUAL EXHIBITIONS OF AMERICAN ART, which show painting one year and sculpture the next, have been easy to dismiss for some time (like the Carnegie and Guggenheim Internationals) as serving up the same predictable hash of the academic and the second-rate, garnished with a few masterpieces that always seemed to have gotten in by mistake. But recently things have been looking up at the Whitney (and one can only be thankful to whomever put the burr under the old walrus). Last year’s painting Annual was relatively interesting, and the current sculpture show is certainly a fair

  • 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

  • The Show

    THE WHITNEY MUSEUM HAS COME a long way since Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney institutional­ized her collection in 1931, and most of it has been downhill. The inaugural exhibition in its sleek new Madison Avenue quarters, Art of the United States: 1670–1966, is no exception to the general decline. Up from the storerooms have come all the standbys of a legion of Whitney an­nuals: Bernard Karfiol, Leon Kroll, Eugene Spei­cher, Abraham Rattner, Paul Cadmus, George Too­ker, et. al. The 19th-century works (borrowed for the occasion, since the Whitney long since dumped their own collection in order to buy

  • Brice Marden, David Novros, Paul Mogensen, Ralph Humphrey and Peter Gourfain

    To cross the street from the Wise Gallery to the Bykert is to experience a disorienting cultural shock. McNeil’s violent images and strident palette couldn’t be farther from the muted withdrawal of the younger generation displaying their works in a Group Show at the Bykert. Seeing the works juxtaposed is to see illustrated two diametrically opposed world views.

    There is no question that the paintings by Brice Marden, David Novros, Paul Mogensen, Ralph Humphrey and Peter Gourfain at the Bykert aspire to be radical art. All are more or less “minimal” in that they are monochromatic or close to it.