John Bernard Myers


    LEE KRASNER, WHO DIED June 20, 1984, and whose traveling retrospective began at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and will open at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in December 1984, was a painter with a wide range of themes and techniques. Collage compositions, however, were one of her favorite media. She took a keen interest in how she titled her pictures, but like many artists she sometimes ran out of ideas as to what to call what. “Come for dinner,” she would say, “I’ve some new things I want you to see.” And I knew we would be having a delicious and hilarious conversation about naming


    THE EMERGENCE IN THE PAST few years of two sculptors, Anne Arnold and Nancy Graves, has brought to the fore the question of why most serious artists have given so little consideration to the depiction of animal life and behavior. Oddly, there is no end of wooden, plastic, or stuffed creatures on view in supermarkets, frame shops, and boutiques. In most galleries and museums the results are somewhat better, but not much. Could it be that such depiction demands a kind of attention rare in contemporary sensibility?

    The story is told that when André Breton went to Mexico to visit Leon Trotsky,


    Tanzt die Orange! (Dance the Orange!)
    —Rainer Maria Rilke

    IS IT POSSIBLE to make a sign, a symbol, a gesture that cannot be transformed into words? Could it be true, recalling one of Karl Kraus’ witty epigrams, that language is the mother of thought? But imagine George Balanchine muttering impatiently, “Why should I bother to compose a ballet for dancers if I can ‘say’ the whole thing in words?” Most other artists would join him in agreement. They would be right in suspecting so shallow an interpretation of the science of linguistics.

    We have come far since the first insights of Ferdinand de

  • Words and Pictures: Notes on Alexander Pope and William Carlos Williams

    MEYER SCHAPIRO HAS POINTED out an interesting relationship between words and pictures:

    . . . a great part of visual art in Europe from late antiquity to the 18th century represents subjects taken from a written text. The painter and sculptor had the task of translating the word—religious, historic, poetic—into a visual image. It is true that many artists did not consult the text but copied an existing illustration either closely or with some change. But for us today the intelligibility of that copy, as of the original, rests finally on its correspondence to a known text through the recognizable

  • The Perils of Hindsight

    “THE FIFTIES: ASPECTS OF PAINTING IN NEW YORK,” Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Milton Avery, William Baziotes, Nell Blaine, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Michael Goldberg, Adolph Gottlieb, Grace Hartigan, Hans Hofmann, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Alfred Leslie, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jules Olitski, Jackson Pollock, Fairfield Porter, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Larry Rivers, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, Bradley

  • The ‘Terrible’ Larry Rivers

    When this you see remember me.
    –Gertrude Stein

    “I WILL NOT,” ANNOUNCED CLEM GREENBERG several years ago, “be seated opposite that Rivers throughout dinner.” The Rivers picture in question was The Ace of Spades; the host, and owner of the painting, was William Rubin. Greenberg’s declaration summed up nicely his distaste for a painter whom he had once praised lavishly in an article written for The Nation in 1949 and whose later work he dismissed as “terrible.” Indeed, given Greenberg’s often rigorous taste, the art of Larry Rivers could not meet the required standards of malerische-ness, or the

  • Surrealism and New York Painting 1940–1948: A Reminiscence

    Ideas move about as softly as though on doves’ feet.
    —Friedrich Nietzsche

    THE CONVERGENCE OF SURREALISTS on New York began with Max Ernst and continued when the leader of the movement, André Breton, also arrived in the early 1940s. These were only two of many artist refugees from France who had escaped the ongoing crunch of the German army. New Yorkers had, of course, already heard of Surrealism. Some American painters—for instance the “Magic Realists”—imagined that they were producing local versions of Surrealism. But the bona fide proponents were as yet unknown in the flesh. Their impact was

  • “The Black Pope”

    IMPROBABLY, A SERIOUS STUDY OF André Breton, founder and leader of the Surrealist movement, has been crucially missing in spite of all that has been written around the subject. Anna Balakian has essayed this task in a biography* which has taken her over a decade to complete. Essentially it offers an ambitious exegesis of the most difficult texts, and not only clarifies many aspects of the movement but illuminates the complex, extraordinary personality of André Breton. For those of us who knew not only Breton but also his colleagues and followers during the New York phase of Surrealism, Miss