Francis Naumann


    He who resolves never to ransack any mind but his own, will soon be reduced, from mere barrenness, to the poorest of all imitations; he will be obliged to imitate himself, and to repeat what he has before often repeated.
    —Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourse
    to Students of the Royal Academy,
    December 10, 1774

    SEVERAL RECENT ATTEMPTS TO ASSES Man Ray’s contribution to American Modernism in the period immediately following the Armory Show of 1913 have found his work “derivative,” “provincial,” “minor,” and “lacking in creativity.” “At his worst,” one historian concluded, “Ray was a second rate imitator

  • The Big Show: The First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, Part 2

    I have become a mere machine to register picture values.
    —Henry McBride, in The New York Sun,
    January 28, 1917.

    THIS RECONSTRUCTION OF THE EVENTS surrounding the First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists (Artforum, February 1979) has relied primarily on the day-by-day accounts supplied in the newspapers. We must turn to the more extensive reviews and magazine articles, however, to find how the major critics of the period responded to the exhibition and its principles.1

    Most critics, promodernist and conservative alike, found the immense size of the Independents exhibition physically

  • The Big Show: The First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, Part I

    The modern artist must understand group force; he cannot advance without it in a democracy.
    —Jane Heap (in a review of the Independents, The Little Review, Winter 1922)

    THE FIRST ANNUAL EXHIBITION of the Society of Independent Artists opened at the Grand Central Palace in New York City on the evening of April 10, 1917. Thousands gathered to celebrate what was to be the largest art exhibition ever held in New York—almost twice the size of the famous Armory Show four years earlier. This First Independents’ Exhibition, or “the Big Show” as Rockwell Kent later dubbed it,1 contained some 2,500

  • Steve Reich

    The musical compositions of Steve Reich serve as an excellent example of an ordered system that undergoes almost no alteration in the actual execution of the work. In other words, once Reich decides on the so-called mathematics employed in each composition, the performers mechanically carry out the orchestration according to this predetermined structure—that is, a straightforward, nonimprovised reading of the sheet music. This is a traditional aspect of his work, but what I’m getting at is that Reich makes no attempt to remove his personal control and self-expression from his music, and disclaims

  • Paula Tavins

    The recent paintings of Paula Tavins continuously seek structural clarification. Although the compositional organization depends on the use of a rectilinear grid, she feels no obligation toward the structural dictates of this grid, but uses it rather as a framework or referential guide. For example, in Revenge, she began by first penciling on a 2” x 1” modular grid over raw, unstretched canvas. She then arbitrarily brushed on a light, uneven magna wash that tended to dissolve the surface into an undefined illusionistic mass. As if to defend the integrity of the picture plane, she refers again

  • Red Grooms

    “The Ruckus World of Red Grooms” transformed the fifth floor of the New York Cultural Center into an entertaining Disney-like extravaganza. Rather than trying to compete with Edward Durrell Stone’s obtrusive wood-paneled interior, Red Grooms simply covered it with a retrospective exhibition of his large environmental constructions: The City of Chicago (1968), The Discount Store (1970), and The Astronauts (1971). Smaller constructions, selected theatrical pieces, paper movie facades, and various props used in past films were displayed in adjoining rooms.

    If you happened to come out of the elevator

  • John De Andrea and Martin Hoffman

    Grooms makes puppetlike wooden objects that figuratively represent people; John De Andrea fabricates polyester resin sculpture that looks exactly like people. He takes casts of models sitting, standing, or reclining, being careful to record every minute detail, from goose bump to acne. The figures are hand brushed with oil paint and completed with all the required details, from eyelash to toenail. In one particular piece the model was a middle-aged pregnant woman sitting in a chair with her legs crossed. She was dressed in a dingy beige-colored set of undergarments. Across the room a rather

  • June Leaf

    June Leaf is basically a Chicago artist. This is not to say that she works out of Chicago, for in the late ’50s she left there for New York. Many of the Second City’s more prominent talents have sought more open pastures, among them Oldenburg, Indiana, Chamberlain, Golub, and Westermann. But since the time of her departure Leaf never completely sloughed off Chicago’s provincialism—Golub’s expressionism, Albright’s magic realism, and Rosofsky’s grotesque imagery still inform her work. Ironically, her main influence, and theirs for that matter, came from trends in past European art rather than

  • Rosemarie Castoro

    Rosemarie Castoro’s work takes on an autonomy drawn both materially and thematically from her earlier development. In 1970–71 Castoro worked on environmentally scaled panels covered with charcoal hatchings. In 1971–72 she exhibited large flat graphite “broom-strokes.” More recently she has been concerned with what she calls “exoskeletal auras”—usually figures or their outlines (radiating auras) in crowd situations, for example groups at an exhibition opening or units marching in a parade. In her current show she again deals with people; however, the forms are no longer figural representations

  • Robert Rohm

    Robert Rohm’s recent show of sculpture veers away from the theatricality of his exhibition in this same gallery last year. In the earlier show he transformed the space into what appeared to be a dormant construction site dimly lit by mechanic’s safety lamps. He must have sensed this to be a situation dangerous in its seductiveness, just as earlier he feared that his rope grids resembled the net-draped walls of a “seafood restaurant” (Artforum, April, 1970). The current sculptures deal with problems explored in the earlier work with cut rope grids and drooping latex—one that engages the wall as

  • Ray Ring

    John Dewey, in Art as Experience, contends that anyone can enjoy flowers, but in order to truly appreciate them one must first be committed to understanding something about their complex nature, and eventually one can go on to enjoy an “esthetic experience.” Similarly, when I first saw Ray Ring’s paintings I felt compelled to decipher what appeared to be an extremely logical design in order to more clearly “appreciate” what I saw.

    Most of the paintings in the exhibition consisted of small panels in which an abstract proposition was stated and then methodically carried through all its possible

  • Don Celender and John Fawcett

    Don Celender’s art is an entertainment. It takes the form of a one-man letter-writing campaign whereby Celender, in the name of a newly instituted art movement, contacts high officials in various organizations asking that they each execute a preposterous proposal. The proposals are written with an ingenious literary wit, eliciting responses ranging from sympathetic interest to outright anger. For example, as part of his Political Art Movement he sent a letter to Lawrence O’Brien, chairman of the National Democratic Party, asking that he “Train the orangutans at the Oregon Primate Center to master