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

  • The Cool School

    THE AVANT-GARDE TODAY is that part of the creative world which perceives most clearly the extent to which all the forms and conventions of art (all the arts) have been exhausted. Avant-garde artists today are characterized not so much by what they produce as New (that would be a Renaissance) but by that quick intelligence which perceives, in despair and in disgust, what is already “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable” in the artistic means still current. The word “crisis,” used so commonly in all the arts today, has its deepest reference to the condition which arises when the most advanced

  • Harriet Janis and Rudi Blesh’s Collage

    Harriet Janis and Rudi Blesh, Collage (Philadelphia: Chilton Co.), 1962. 302 pp., illus.

    PITY THE STUDENT, the collector, the ob­server, the artist, trying with pitiful sincerity to find his way in the mad­house of contemporary art history. No sooner does William Seitz clear a cor­ridor with his “assemblage ideas,” than along come Mrs. Janis and Mr. Blesh with their “collage idea,” illustrating their propositions with the same artists and, indeed, the same works. Be­cause the authors of “Collage” are en­thusiasts rather than thinkers, “fans” rather than historians, Seitz is perhaps more convincing,

  • Katharine Kuh’s The Artist’s Voice: Talks with Seven­teen Artists

    Katharine Kuh, The Artist’s Voice: Talks with Seven­teen Artists (New York and Evanston: Harper & Row), 1962. 248 pp., illus. 

    POPULARIZATIONS RARELY ADULTERATE the high quality of stock on the shelves of the bookshop at the San Francisco Museum of Art, but Christmas is the great leveler, and nothing makes better Christ­mas fare than a book of interviews with artists.

    The strange results of interviews with contemporary artists have been accounted for in several ways:

    1. A prevailing bias toward measuring intelligence in verbal terms puts the artist at a disadvantage. Trained in a non­verbal medium,

  • Germain Bazin’s The Loom of Art

    The Loom Of Art: By Germain Bazin. Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 1962. 328 Pp., Illus.

    The large, expensive art books are, for the most part, like nothing so much as our big, beautiful, blonde leading ladies of the screen. Dressed up in breathtaking technicolor, worked over from head to toe by hairdressers, cosmeticians, and other assorted perfection-makers, they are given a jumble of meaningless lines to recite, and presented to the world. At first sight, they are dazzling; later, they pall.

    This one is different. The usual perfection of layout, designed to increase our appreciation of expensiveness,

  • Dore Ashton’s The Unknown Shore

    Dore Ashton, The Unknown Shore (Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown & Co., 1962), 265 pages, Illus.

    ALTHOUGH DORE ASHTON HAS BEEN closely involved with avant-garde American painting for many years—particularly as a critic for the New York Times—it should be borne in mind that this book comes late. Almost two decades have passed since the emergence of the great painters of the New York School, and a good deal of critical analysis has seen its way to print. Still another analysis, coming this late, would be expected to be less breathless, less sketchy, would have to justify its existence, would have,

  • Art: USA: now

    Art: USA: now, edited by Lee Nord­ness, text by Allen S. Weller (New York: Viking), 1963.

    2 volumes, 475 pages, illustrated.

    “THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED to

    Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Johnson,

    who, had they been asked,

    would have insisted it be dedicated

    instead to the American artist.”

    Probably not. A much more likely sug­gestion might have been:

    For Fibber McGee and Molly

    Who Made All This Possible

    For Mr. H. F. Johnson, of course, is the Chairman of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc., better known to radio and TV listeners as “The Johnson’s Wax Company,” who one day invited Mr. Nordness “for a luncheon in which the

  • Frank Stella

    Born Malden, Mass., 1936.

    Studied painting at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., with Patrick Morgan.

    Studied with William Seitz and Stephen Greene, Princeton University; received BA, 1958.

    Lives in New York City.

    AS MICHAEL FRIED HAS POINTED OUT, the particular formal postulate to which Stella has so far bound himself has been the deduction of the entire picture surface from the shape of the picture support itself; the stripes of Stella’s paintings become a striated surface echoing the shape of the canvas itself. But no sooner do we come to grips with the structural aspects of Stella’s art than

  • Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

    Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Distributed by New York Graph­ic Society, Greenwich, Conn). 96 pages, illustrated.

    Parents who find themselves stupefied by the vapid quality of present-day children’s books will find this selection a joy. Illustrations for each of the fables selected range from 15th-cen­tury Italian woodcuts to drawings by Alexander Calder, and the fables themselves are presented handsomely print­ed in translations also ranging from Caxton to Marianne Moore. J. J. Grand­ville’s 19th-century wood engravings, which have been charming

  • Comment

    The following information was released by Dr. Richard F. Brown, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; on November 8, 1965:

    RICHARD FARGO BROWN, DIRECTOR OF the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, through his attorney Louis C. Blau, today regretfully announced his resignation because irreconcilable policy and operational difficulties have developed between the professional staff and the private board of trustees. Brown has chosen to remain with the museum through January, 1966, in order to effect an orderly transition with whomever is to be his successor, and to complete matters in

  • Arne Hiersoux

    Serial painting—the repetition and elaboration of a single theme or image through a series of paintings—exposes the artist to the greatest risk. In return for the advantages of minimum distraction from the working out of his theme, an atmosphere of obsessiveness which locks the viewer like a vise into the artist’s mood, and a purity of presentation, the artist must accept the magnification of any faults in his conception and the failure of everything if the theme of the image will not bear the intensity of scrutiny he demands. Hiersoux’s exhibition of serial paintings runs all the risks without

  • Manuel Neri

    A few of the painted plaster figures on which Manuel Neri has been working have appeared here and there during the past few months. The 82nd Annual of the San Francisco Art Institute fea­tured one, a group show at the Berkeley Gallery another, and two more were seen at the recent Oakland Museum sculp­ture exhibition. On the basis of them one might have expected a more finished quality, technically, and a more lyrical quality, emotionally, in this one­-man exhibition. But technical finish has never interested Neri and that inclina­tion toward the lyrical that one suspects to be native to his

  • “Recent Painting, USA: The Figure”

    This exhibition is a black eye which will be a long time in wearing off the face of the Museum of Modern Art. Some sort of Junior Council put it together, which is less of an excuse than it is a warning––unheeded by the San Francisco Mu­seum––to other museums to be wary in booking it. This Junior Counci I sent out a broadside a couple of years ago, announcing the exhibition and request­ing figurative work to be submitted by artists all over the country. After seeing the response, the logical thing for the Museum of Modem Art to have done was to simply call the whole thing off, but––who knows

  • Victor Moscoso

    The subject matter is strange, capricious, arbitrary, but the content is of one cloth—a vision so intense, compelling, and individual that one wonders why this young artist must be hanging his exhibitions in his studio. He is probably the best figurative painter on the West Coast today.

    The little show has some rare gems: a complicated, disturbing arrangement of heads, masks and hands called Two Conspirators with Banjo, a series of “Biblical Scenes” that show a violent disregard for color, and a small painting called Fifty Grand, titled, evidently, after the Hemingway story, a blurred image of