Lawrence Alloway

  • Strike at the Modern

    ON OCTOBER 15, 1973 two editors of Artforum Lawrence Alloway and John Coplans—interviewed four members of the strike committee of PASTA (The Professional and Administrative Staff Association of The Museum of Modern Art) Susan Bertram (Senior Program Assistant, International Program), Jane Fluegel (Associate Editor, Publications), Jennifer Licht (Associate Curator, Painting and Sculpture), and Joan Rabenau (Administrative Assistant, Education). The questions posed by the editors are in italics, and the answers given by the four staff members have been set in roman type. Artforum contacted The

  • Residual Sign Systems in Abstract Expressionism

    A PROBLEM THAT RECIPROCALLY INVOLVED both subject matter and formality engaged the Abstract Expressionist painters of the middle and late ’40s. It was how to make paintings that would be powerful signifiers, and this led to decisions as to what signifiers could be properly referred to without compromising (too much) the flatness of the picture plane. The desire for a momentous content was constricted by the spatial requirement of flatness and by the historically influenced need to avoid direct citation of objects. Something of this train of thought can be seen in Barnett Newman’s reflections on

  • Design, Nature, and Revolution: Toward a Critical Ecology

    Tomás Maldonado, Design, Nature, and Revolution: Toward a Critical Ecology, trans. Mario Domandi (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1972) 139 pages, hardbound.

    Design, Nature, and Revolution is a brilliant example of how to handle large-scale ideas in compact arguments. In form it consists of a text, pages 1–77, followed by 55 pages of (easily legible) footnotes. The first half of the book has an admirable momentum; the second half is a dilating compendium of reflections and references. The book is important for its examination of the scope of design, in the sense of “an art at the service of

  • Lawrence Alloway

    TWO QUOTATIONS: “Agnes Martin’s channels of nuance, stretched on a rack of linear tensions which ‘destroy the rectangle’ are the legendary examples of an unrepetitive use of a repetitive medium.”1 Thus Lucy Lippard. Robert Pincus-Witten: “Eva Hesse’s drawing during 1966–68 emphasized modular and grid arrangements alluding, in this way, to the high regard in which Agnes Martin was held.”2 Martin’s reputation is clearly stated here, both her status as legend and the interest of other artists. She ceased to paint in 1967 which did nothing to diminish her high if narrowly based reputation. An

  • Institution: Whitney Annual

    ART CRITICS AND JOURNALISTS tend to treat the Whitney Annual as an occasion to exert themselves a little. Faced with the potpourri, barometer, cross section, or mishmash as the Annual has been variously called, critics like to take stock of the current scene and write a think piece rather than a straight review. These are almost always perfunctory, shallow, and self-confirming; for instance, James Mellow will reflect on “The Death of the Avant-Garde” or Emily Genauer will dismiss the artists: “File Them Under Junk.” In general, critical reaction has been dutiful if not enthusiastic, but with an

  • Sam Francis: From Field to Arabesque

    SAM FRANCIS’ POSITION ON A generational basis is complex. On one hand, he was born in 1923, which places him with the second generation of artists, like Raymond Parker born in 1922, Ellsworth Kelly, 1923, Kenneth Noland, 1924, and Helen Frankenthaler, 1928. On the other hand, his mature style was achieved by 1950, which is to say he was close behind Rothko, whose vertical stacks of big rectangles did not coalesce out of smaller, subdivided forms until 1949. Frankenthaler’s much-cited Mountains and Sea was painted early, also, in 1952. The fact that Francis and Frankenthaler were early starters,

  • Robert Smithson’s Development

    SMITHSON’S SCULPTURE OF 1964–68 is regarded as belonging with Minimal art, but this view needs qualification, partly because of the way in which his later development throws retroactive light on earlier pieces. The reason for linking him with Minimal art is not hard to find: he made the connection himself. In an article of 1966, for example, he writes particularly about Flavin, Judd, LeWitt, and Morris1 and in 1968 discusses the writings of Andre, Flavin, Judd, LeWitt, Morris, and Ad Reinhardt.2 These names do not exhaust his references, but they amount to a primary emphasis. Aside from the

  • The Genius of the Future

    Anita Brookner, The Genius Of The Future (New York: Phaidon Press, 1971), 16 pp. black-and-white illustrations, 172 pp.

    MY EXPECTATIONS OF ANITA BROOKNER’S The Genius of the Future were high because her subject, art criticism, has emerged recently as an object of study. To the writing of criticism has been added self-awareness of the act of writing and, as a result, some currently practicing critics have become aware both of present problems and of earlier art criticism as a subject. A study of Diderot, Stendhal, Baudelaire, Zola, the Goncourts, and Huysmans as art writers sounds like a marvelous

  • The Search for a Legible Iconography

    TO EXPLOIT A PHRASE of Marx’s: Latin American artists are driven by “the nostalgia for a content.” This content must take account of a complex situation: though complex it is known to everybody and announced continually; it is the interplay of European, Spanish (a special case), North American, and Indian culture. What is wanted is an art that is not ideologically bound to a donor culture, which has come to mean exclusively an imperialist culture. Neither the iconography of art nor an existential commitment to art as a project can satisfy this demand, the former because of ideological contamination,

  • “Reality”: Ideology at D5

    DOCUMENTA, UNLIKE THE VENICE Biennale, has always been a centralized organization, not as some Americans suppose because of a Teutonic rage for order but because this is the only way to control the mid-century abundance of art when sampled on a large scale. It is also the only way to control the plurality of interest groups, at ministerial, mercantile, and independent levels activated by an exhibition of this magnitude. This year, to the fact of centralization, was added a decision that the show be thematic. In the past it was unnecessary to do so: the second Documenta in 1949, like the Biennale

  • Network: The Art World Described as a System

    The first exhibition of a newly made work of art is in the studio. This first audience of the artist’s friends views the art in the work place in which it was created, in the artist’s presence and associated with the rest of his life. The satisfactions of his contact are obvious, both to the privileged group and to the artist in touch with his peers. The second exhibition, as a rule, is in an art gallery where it is seen by a larger but still specialized section of the public. (The average attendance at an art gallery during a show is rarely more than a thousand people.) From the gallery the

  • Derealized Epic

    ROSENQUIST’S STORIES, OBLIQUE, RAMBLING, and vivid, give a sense of his take on America. “He was black with dust, but there were white circles around his eyes outlining the goggles he wore while plowing.”1 “In Six Flags Over Texas, an amusement park near Fort Worth, I got into the simulated Louisiana Riverboat. A young man in costume began to pole the boat through an s-shaped ditch filled with water. The boat started with a jerk, actually being propelled by huge teeth coming out of the water.”2 Here is an earlier version of a story recorded by Jeanne Siegel in her interview in the present