Philip Leider

  • PERFECT UNLIKENESS: DONALD JUDD AS CRITIC

    AS EDITOR OF ARTFORUM THROUGH MUCH OF THE ’60S, PHILIP LEIDER PUBLISHED VIRTUALLY EVERY SIGNIFICANT CRITICAL VOICE OF THE PERIOD. HERE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE SIXTH ANNIVERSARY OF DONALD JUDD’S DEATH, LEIDER REEXAMINES THE ARTIST’S CRITICAL ESSAYS AND REVIEWS, AND FINDS IN THEM AS MUCH BREADTH AND DEPTH AS IN THE WRITINGS OF ANY OTHER CRITIC OF THE PERIOD.

    IN ARPIL 1966, the Jewish Museum in New York presented what turned out to be the major show of that year. It was called “Primary Structures,” which was yet another term for “minimalism.” Donald Judd, whose work was in the show, was appalled by the title, and was allowed to publish his disclaimer in the catalogue. Here are a few quotations from his remarks:

    I object to several popular ideas. I don’t think anyone’s work is reductive. The most the term can mean is that new work doesn’t have what the old work had. . . . New work is just as complex and developed as old work. Its color and structure

  • How I Spent My Summer Vacation

    Art has never been a question of life and death…

    —Barbara Rose

    Art is the only thing worth dying for.

    —Abbie Hoffman

    WE TOOK THIS REALLY nice house in Berkeley that some friends were vacating for the summer. Lots of rooms, a few pieces of old furniture, dark wood paneling, and the basic item of Bay Area life, a round oak table around which there always seems to be a lot of people. Shortly after our arrival I was supposed to meet Richard Serra and Joan Jonas to drive down to Nevada to see Heizer’s Double Negative.

    I had been talking to Serra on and off for about two years. He has a gargantuan appetite

  • Abstraction and Literalism: Reflections on Stella at the Modern

    The idea in being a painter is to declare an identity. Not just my identity, an identity for me, but an identity big enough for everyone to share in. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

    —Frank Stella, in conversation

    BOTH ABSTRACTION AND LITERALISM look at Pollock for sanction; it is as if his work was the last achievement of whose status every serious artist is convinced. The way one reads Pollock influences in considerable measure the way one reads Stella, and the way in which one reads Pollock and Stella has a great deal to do, for example, with the kind of art one decides to make; art ignorant

  • Richard Serra

    Stepping into sculpture as if no one were home, Richard Serra continues to systematically lay claim to the entire estate. Sawing, the first piece one sees upon entering the exhibition, comes off as a bulky scatter piece, vaguely indebted to the dedifferentiation pieces of Barry Le Va and Robert Morris. A few minutes of looking reveal the work to be in no sense a scatter piece and in no way concerned with the esthetics of the de-differentiated field. Instead, the piece reveals itself to be concerned with the problem of combining different materials in the same work in some sort of convincing

  • Whitney Painting Annual

    As everyone knows, there are two kinds of Whitney Annual. One year it’s painting and one year it’s sculpture. This year it’s painting, so sculptors like Robert Ryman and Richard Tuttle are rigorously excluded, while painters like Kosuth get to litter the walls with index cards. Lynda Benglis got in all right, though her impasto is a little heavy, but the Whitney doesn’t yet seem to have decided whether the work of, say Lawrence Weiner or Robert Barry is conceptual painting or conceptual sculpture, so they are kept out of both. The problem of Michael Heizer is solved with a master-stroke: a

  • Spaces

    The “Spaces” exhibition isn’t a very interesting show. Nothing really comes off, perhaps because the show’s premises are so wildly overstated. The “spaces” involved are simply rooms, one room per artist (Michael Asher, Larry Bell, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin, Franz Erhard Walter) except for the Pulsa group, which chose the space of the Museum’s sculpture garden. Each artist did something in his room, and what each artist did, even Mr. Walther’s wrapping people up in canvas, is taken by Mrs. Jennifer Licht, the shows organizer, to constitute “examples of contemporary investigations of actual, areal

  • Art in Process IV

    Mrs. Elayne Varian, organizer of Finch College’s “Art In Process IV” show, thinks it’s nice to show preparatory sketches, memoranda, notes, etc., along with the work of art, so that viewers can get some idea of the “process” of creation. She framed all the notes and sketches and instructions the artists provided, and hung them on the wall, sometimes even when there was no creation to go with the process of creation. Most of the written material consisted of letters to Mrs. Varian saying, “Yes, I’d love to be in the show. Here is how you assemble my work.” (Of these the most grateful-sounding

  • Modern American Art at the Metropolitan Museum

    WHEN THE NEW YORK TIMES’ Grace Glueck, in the first of the pre-opening puffs, called what was to become “New York Painting and Sculpture, 1940–1970,” simply “Henry’s Show,” one’s heart sank. So that was to be the way of it: America is given a culture by a handful of geniuses and the celebration of it, come at last, was to be just Henry Geldzahler’s show. Later, Time featured Henry leaning on a David Smith and New York Magazine had four pages of Henry along with some pictures from the exhibition, but smaller. In the end, Grace Glueck turned out to be right—it was Henry’s show, not because he

  • “Art of The Real”

    Some months ago the Museum of Modern Art opened its new “study center”; students and professionals using its facilities will have a pretty problem in deciding whether last summer’s “Art of the Sixties” or this summer’s “Art of The Real” best represents the Museum’s own indifference to the entire matter of a responsible attitude toward the art of this decade.

    We must assume that at some point Mr. E. C. Goossen informed the Museum that he wished to present an exhibition entitled “The Art of the Real”, and that the point of the exhibition, as stated in the catalog, would be that “Today’s ‘real’ .

  • Light: Object and Image

    By now it should be clear that among the various artists working in light, several distinct attitudes have emerged, some in deep opposition to others. Had Mr. Robert Doty devoted a few moments of serious contemplation to these different approaches, the hideous embarrassment suffered by the Whitney Museum at the disastrous history of Light: Object and Image might have been avoided. Mr. Doty’s curious catalog notes that, “Because their work was so appropriate to this exhibition, both Douglas Wheeler and James Turrell were invited to participate. However, both later withdrew upon their own volition.”

  • 1. A Beautiful Exhibition

    REFERRING TO THE GROUP OF “Yippies” (protesting the embalming of Surrealism) outside the Museum of Modern Art the night the show opened, Salvador Dali was quoted by Newsweek (April 8, 1968) as saying, “These are the Dadaists of today.” The remark, if Dali made it, must have horrified William S. Rubin who put together a show designed, perhaps, to rehabilitate Dada and Surrealism, but not to revive them, and certainly not to lend authenticity to the tragedy of mindless self-destruction which so many of this nation’s best youth are enacting, both in life and in art.

    As shown, perhaps, by Dali’s

  • Otto Piene, Nam Jun Paik, Jack Burnham and more

    The Christmas season was not, perhaps, the most tactful time for an exhibition entitled Festival of Lights at the Howard Wise Gallery. As the gallery version made clear, the real competition was in the streets, and Le Park (Avenue) looked lots better than Le Parc (Julio).

    The exhibition contained over thirty works, international in character, ranging from catastrophically boring light boxes from Brooklyn, to electric flowers from Germany (Otto Piene), to “an authentic antique Japanese scroll adapted to the electric age” (Nam June Paik). It was a dull exhibition, because no one seemed to be