PRINT July 1962


ARTHUR SECUNDA: IS THERE ANYTHING unique about Los Angeles art, Los Angeles artists, or the work that’s being done here? How would you describe the current art scene in Los Angeles?

Arnold Schifrin: One of the things that is unique here is that an artist can live. There is an old saying that in New York you make it as a painter and in Los Angeles you make it as a teacher. The thing is that here you can live. I’m a man with five children and I teach very little . . . maybe twice a week and the rest of the time I can paint. I have a good standard of living in the United States now after World War II, and that is a big chunk that is unique.

Secunda: Do you think this has something to do with your own special capabilities or would you care to generalize this idea?

Schifrin: I am fortunate as a teacher. That may mean that I bring in a little more money having latched on to a job at the University. I could have made it other than that though. We were struggling but I could have made it. It was very easy to come here. There was only Lorser Feitelson, Rico Lebrun and Henry Lee McFee; three old-time painters. In New York there were all my old friends—all men who were much worthier than myself, no matter what I was potentially. The point is that there were 300 paintings in a museum, 225 or even 250 were invited, 75 spaces were for young men and go fight it out. Maybe your work was not that good so you came out here and your work was shown. Here you started off very easily. The L. A. Art Association let you show there and it got started. If you had something good you found a little gallery. I was refused by many galleries. I’ve been refused by Frank Pens three times (so he taught me how to paint three different times in three different ways) so then you went away and the paintings matured a little more. You got a show somewhere else and that was a start.

Secunda: As a dealer how do you feel about this, Paul?

Paul Gerchik: I have the unusual position in that I’m a practicing painter who as a kind of challenge opened a gallery in the midst of the best known galleries in the area. For me this was an extension of what Arnold was speaking of, making a living. Arnold has touched upon a scene that I know very much about. I was born and raised in New York. I went to the Art Students League and I know the gallery scene there. The situation here in art simply represents an extension of what we see in the outside world. A working man has better opportunities to live more gracefully in this city. Therefore by the same thinking, an artist can live better and he does. But apart from this, this city represents for me the coming art scene of this country and I’m not using this statement in a provincial sense . . .

Schifrin: Yeah . . .

Gerchik: . . . I am not a Texan. I have a feeling that the important painters in the United States, will, to a great extent, come from this particular locale. It presents physically the kind of place where a painter wants to work. I remember when I came out here just before the war and one of the gallery people said to me, “Why did you come here? Do you want to be a beachcomber?” I thought of where I had come from in New York, which is an extremely tough place to exist on the terms that one does here. That was vintage 1940. Today in 1962 it is possible to make a living either as a teacher or in one of the allied fields that the art world encompasses.

Secunda: Lorser, you have been here for a long time. Do you find this characteristic which Arnold and Paul feel is so advantageous—the fact that it is basically easier to live here—is conducive to a healthy creative atmosphere?

Feitelson: I came here in 1927 just by accident. I was shuttling between New York and Paris and we expected a baby. We had a little girl in New York and came out here to get away from the cold weather when she was five weeks old. Talk about a desert—this was not only physically bare but artistically as well, and in the hands of guys who were making money selling potboilers and running around in Pierce Arrows. They used to call them “Eucalyptus painters” in those days. No one ever heard of Modern Art. If you even talked about Van Gogh you were a radical of the worst kind, a dangerous guy. So I felt very much alone. I met Peter Krasnow and a few others. Then all of a sudden I learned to like this thing. I was doing very well with Daniels and I liked this because it was the first time in my life that I was away from an art circle. All my life I had been in the center of the art world. Here I found I couldn’t sell my work. I had no audience, therefore I painted for my own satisfaction and what a wonderful thing that was! I didn’t have to go down to the Rue du Seine as I did for 3 1/2 years to see what was going on and watch all the other artists leaving their studios to do the same thing. Whether they liked it or not, this got into their pictures. And their conversation was so ingrown it was like cannibalism. They were eating their own ideas and each other. Auto-cannibalism. A guy didn’t know what the hell he even thought without the support of a lot of pals. This was a revelation to me. I started to paint pictures for myself and for the first time I really enjoyed art like I never did before. I discovered myself and found what a wonderful thing it is to paint without these invisible guys on my back. “Will some little gallery like this thing” “What will the boys down at the Café say?” Then there is this other thing that Arnold spoke of. We were paying big rents, getting nothing for it and all of a sudden here we have hot water, a garage and trees and for a change it was wonderful. I said, “Why the hell are all these artists knocking themselves out in those goddamn cockroach ridden places in New York when they can live in grand style?” Food was very reasonable in those days and I loved it. I didn’t miss the outside at all. I enjoyed the isolation. I enjoyed developing things while knowing there was no market for it. I had to do it to my own satisfaction and if the satisfaction was not great enough—to hell with art. Then little by little, things started to change.

Secunda: This leads to the next point. Arnold, do you feel, in the light of what Lorser has just said, that the relatively recent changes developing in the local scene, have made it more stimulating or more difficult for artists to function creatively?

Schifrin: Some of these answers have to be somewhat personal. Each artist has to find a way to work by himself, one way or another. This, of course, is part of being an artist. There are no museums here in which you can see really important pictures. This does not seem as if it can change because the good pictures have been bought and they are all in other museums. The background which artists need one way or another is not here. The old saying that Los Angeles has such a marvelous climate that everything that is dead in the rest of the world is still alive here, is somewhat true—but not especially. You can make it anywhere. Thinking for fun—if you want to be nasty—of some New Yorker’s pictures. Every year you see fellows who have gone away to Cape Cod for the summer to paint landscapes. When they come back they have these sketches that they have done during the summer and then they make landscapes from them. They are not very good landscapes because they don’t live in it all year around, having this real affair with it. Of course, conversely, they can do marvelous paintings of the city, and so on. But to get back to the original point, I do think that Los Angeles seems to need a lot more dealers.

Secunda: How has the artistic development of the local scene affected you in the past few years, Paul?

Gerchik: The Ryder Gallery opened its doors a year and a half ago. I’m sure that the chances for any gallery folding inside of six months were greater at that time than they are now. Even though paintings have been collected for a while here, we don’t have the tradition of established art cities like New York and Paris. However, there is a tremendous amount of publication going on. Art books are on best-seller lists. The world has shrunk to a point where we know almost immediately what is going on in Rome, London, Paris and New York. This, in turn, does have an influence on the painters, the art world, and the young students here in Los Angeles. An awareness of what’s going on in New York also has its effect on the person who is collecting paintings, on the young couple who are budgeting themselves and will no longer be satisfied with a paper reproduction in a fancy frame from a local department store. They come into a gallery and ask for a painting to be paid out on the installment plan. They need an original work of art. In Los Angeles today we have an ever-growing audience of people of modest means who will not have anything but an original painting in their little tract home. This is the reason for the need for galleries here. This is also why, if I may make the comparison, gallery business in a city like San Francisco is at a standstill. Their population has not grown since the war. This city has grown to be the second largest in America and with this growth has come this demand for works of art.

Schifrin: But Paul, is it not still true that people who want a very important painting will still go to New York and the New York people who want a very important painting will go to Paris?

Gerchik: I’m afraid this is still definitely so.

Schifrin: We’re talking now about taking care of our own . . .

Feitelson: . . . It’s the emergence of everyday publications and no matter what you and I may think about Time or Life they have done a terrific job to awaken the public. In the early days I brought great shows here and I couldn’t get anyone to see them or even get a review. I organized the first Juan Gris show here, 85 pieces, and we finally sold one for $200 to Von Sternberg and it’s now in the Guggenheim Museum. We put on the first expressionist show and we couldn’t get anyone to see it. Today this has become a part of collecting simply because the guy who knows about it has been able to put it into verbiage and in newspapers and on the air. The public now has an attitude towards understanding. We see it and can measure it in the kind of exhibitions that are taking place. We do not have to apologize for what is being shown and collected today.

Gerchik: It has come as a pleasant surprise to me in the past year to see people coming into my gallery with a developing taste and an eagerness to learn more. With the familiarity which an audience can only gain through constant exposure to art will come an understanding, from a layman’s point of view, of what the artist is trying to do. Of course there are many puzzling things happening so far as the layman is concerned, but no longer is this a layman who comes in with a sneer. He has already been made aware of an existing world of art through those Time magazines. Just before he died, Jackson Pollock said to Selden Rodman, “I would rather have my paintings reproduced in the Saturday Evening Post than in Art News.” This might be the attitude of any artist who would like to see the social function of his work completed. This is, from easel to gallery to collector to museum or home or wherever it may find a place of dignity as a work of art. Even when the lady comes in from Sherman Oaks and says “I would like to match my curtains, my drapes, my rugs, my couch . . .,” it’s not my role to sit in Olympian judgment on this lady. My function is one of the teacher who must emphasize that no matter what she has come in for, (if I believe in the art I’m selling) she will leave this gallery with a further knowledge of what painting can do. That it quite conceivably can outlast her rug her drapes her carpets and her couch. At least it will have an importance equal to her most valuable table-lamps.

Feitelson: Stendhal used to be on Wilshire Boulevard and I used to lecture my head off at his shows. When Picasso’s Guernica was shown, all the Sanity in Artists organized and called it communism. I was supposed to defend the painting and hardly anyone appeared to hear me. This may be hard for you to believe but imagine being insulted by this audience calling me a pansy for talking about this picture. I may have other things but not that yet. The Nude Descending the Stairs, Picabia’s The Boxers, The Man on the Balcony by Gris, you name them and we had them. The great big improvisations which we finally found a sucker for—Peggy Guggenheim, we took her for $800—that great big marvelous improvisation of Kandinsky’s. We could hardly give them away. Then little by little things started to pick up. Finally Arthur (Millier) would condescend to write an article always undoing it at the end, you know the sort of thing, “I may be nuts” or “I’m not even quite so sure that I’m right” at the end of the thing.

Secunda: Would you say that our major guidance has come from the East?

Feitelson: Naturally. The people who could talk about these things had to have previous experience and it was not experience from merely looking at pictures. These fellows had to do a lot of dirty work. Many of these were people from the local studios like Von Sternberg. He was a New York boy who made a lot of money and was most abused. He wanted to be a big shot but he was a sweet guy when he forgot about that stuff, and a very sensitive guy too. He was collecting the German expressionists when nobody would even talk about them. He loaded his place with them. Every cent he made he bought these things. The movie people who were making money and who never had a pot before, all of a sudden felt what a wonderful thing it is to have these pictures in your home when you have a big salary. And they started collecting. I remember putting on a Soutine show in Stanley Rose’s Bookshop on Vine Street. His place was always filled with top guys from horse racing and bootlegging and I talked him into having a gallery. I told him these guys liked art and he ought to start having shows in there. We owe a great deal to the pioneer boys in the movie field who started this thing. The next step then was that their underlings started collecting. The dealers knew these boys so they started bringing in pictures. The Stendhals and the Hatfields were a beachhead and soon the others gradually started to bring in Chagalls, African sculptures, Mirós, etc. This was back in the early ’30s.

Schifrin: You have to remember that the reason New York or Paris continued to grow was that there was a market there, and people came from elsewhere to live there. New Yorkers are not all New York grown people . . . your Jackson Pollock is from here, and so on. While it’s true that we too had to come from elsewhere, maybe that’s exactly what the clue will be. Los Angeles is growing and people are coming here. This becomes where the market is and where we are living. As late as 1950 it was very hard to sell a painterly painter, which is Soutine, which is myself. So when I first went around with my pictures, (and at that moment there was Rico and his thinner, more draftsmanly painting) I was rejected. No one handled me at that point.

Gerchik: I’m reminded of a time when you and I spoke together, Lorser, a few years ago at the Art Association and we were discussing the question of regionalism in art. The impact upon the painter who reads in Time magazine that a de Kooning show sells out to the tune of $100,000 or more can be a disastrous, devastating one . . .

Feitelson: . . . I agree, I agree!

Gerchik: . . . because he becomes involved with the great American success story on such a level that painting has never known anywhere with the exception of maybe Picasso or Matisse.

Scrifrin: It’s a shame we have three reasonable men here and not a really different point of view. The three of us were born in a place where there was lots of art and where there were these dangers you talk about—talking too much together, ingrowness, etc. We were willing to get away from it after we had been fed with it a great deal. There are young fellows here who do not have this background so maybe do not stand on their own feet or know the New York scene enough to know that you have to watch out about success. Success is one of your biggest troubles, more trouble than being on the bottom. There is no question about it. There seem to be some regional qualities which are bad that we haven’t talked about yet. There are some that are good too in the sense that you are getting Diebenkorn who in his non-objective fashion was indeed the open space of the West. There is no doubt about it, it is not Eastern painting. The man doesn’t feel that way and never could. Tobey? West. And so on. Because much of the West has been a wasteland you have a number of good cowboy painters . . .

Gerchik: . . . yes, Russell and Remington . . .

Schifrin: . . . yes, they were funny fellows, there is something there.

Gerchik: Not only does this business of the great bandwagon as exemplified by Kline, Rothko, etc., have a disastrous effect on a young painter, or a student who looks for an easy answer, or an artist who can’t find himself, so of necessity looks toward the broad shoulders of the pioneer who precedes him, but even in New York City, this great citadel of culture, I remember when Picasso was everywhere. And not only this Picasso thing, but I remember when we had this tremendous divisionism in the ’30s. I remember the Bentons and the John Stuart Curries coming into New York blaring the bugles of regionalism and finding adherence to their legions. I remember the New York painters defending the East and these encroachments by the middle-West.

Schifrin: It’s healthy though. It’s right and it must be healthy.

Gerchik: Possibly from the point of view that they were not dead, they were alive and were competitive. They knew what they were not.

Feitelson: The artist out of necessity needs his fellow artist. He has always been a minority, perhaps less today than before. There is such a thing as togetherness and yet enough isolation to incubate with your own ideas without sleeping in the other guy’s bed. New York geographically makes that difficult. They all get together at the Cedar or wherever, all the time. Out here if you want to get three guys together it takes five weeks to get the appointment arranged.

Schifrin: Yeah, yeah . . .

Feitelson: Everybody has to travel to get to any one spot. John Ferren, who is originally from out here, would come back every summer to work at Kaminsky’s place. Now he is a very intelligent, sophisticated guy with a sense of humor and knows exactly how the cards are stacked. After he’d shown us his new action pictures and taken them to the Stable Gallery, he would say, “I hate to think of what the hell the guys are going to say about this.” “Why?,” I would ask. “I’ve been whiplashing this area and I just know these boys are going to whiplash me.” Without knowing it, they have created a dogma and a heresy. He worries that he is disloyal to his friends. Without their knowing it they are working so damn close, they become so aware of: the areas they share, that they have become blood brothers. We talked about this and Ferren said, “This is going to kill the group.” He already sensed this six years ago. Originally they had only one thing in common and that was their differences with the outside world. They are all under one roof in a room and the room doesn’t enlarge but they find more ways of walking around that room. The artist needs his fellow artist but if he takes too much he will get diabetes. This can never happen here. Physically it’s impossible. It could happen in San Francisco and other cities but never here. The more we spread out the less likely it is. We only get together rarely, even to talk about art, and if we do it we have an hour’s conversation and don’t see each other for another six months.

Schifrin: It must be so because we had men here who have ruled the roost for a bit and yet had no more than a few imitators. Millard Sheets could have had his full imitators and never has, Rico Lebrun, being a very strong man and a strong teacher, only had a few imitators, and even you Lorser, have been here so long and taught and had so few imitators. So it must be true. This can’t be garbage.

Secunda: Do Los Angeles artists have an inferiority complex about the East?

Feitelson: I ran into Grace Hartigan several times with Dorothy Miller. They took me down to a place in the Bowery. I’ll never forget it. Here was a gal sitting with some artist. She later joined us. She was out here in the ’30s and she asked me what was going on in Los Angeles. I said there was a great deal of painting going on and before I could finish, she said, “Well, there are a lot of Chinese in China.” What a hostile attitude. Later, she asked what specifically was going on. Well, at that time, about six years ago, there was a show on the pier by some guys I don’t know. They had some very handsome things that could hold their own with anybody. These boys were hitting out independently, inspired by New York so far as liberation is concerned. But these were individual good works by young people. Lots of balls in it and you couldn’t be indifferent to it. So I said to this girl, “Well, I’ve seen some experimental paintings that would look very well in New York.” Again she started picking on me and I lost my temper and said, “The trouble with you New Yorkers and I’m from New York, too is this: L. A. is a city that deals with the theatre and movies. We’re in the business of building publicity. You’re doing the same thing but you believe your own publicity.” That ended that conversation. Less than a month ago when I was in New York with Leo Castelli at a Guggenheim opening, this guy starts in, “Oh, Los Angeles is wonderful, we’ve got to have more collaboration.” And then he repeats, “Collaboration, I’m exhibiting my men out there.” So I said, “Does that mean that you are exhibiting Californians in your place here?” “Oh, no,” he said, “they are not ready for that yet.” Don’t tell me about chauvinism! They do it shamelessly. In a way I know why it is. There’s so much activity in New York that they have no time to even think of anything west of the Hudson.

Schifrin: I suppose the matter is then for us to find a legitimate way to show ourselves and assume that they are going to keep their own going also. These New York artists have done well, they are shown well, and we’re seeing them. We don’t mind that.

Gerchik: There are 300 galleries in New York and maybe 30 principal galleries in Los Angeles. Remember that New York derived from Paris. I remember de Kooning standing behind Gorky in New York listening to this tall brilliant Armenian. All the life blood and guts Lorser found on the pier here six years ago was very evident in New York at that time, but most of it was channeled in from a place called Paris. Let’s face it. The art world in New York today for the first time is having an impact on Europe and the Orient. They’re in this exalted position of leadership. But like every important movement in the 20th century, whether it began in Paris or Munich or New York, it has a course to run. The important elements of abstract-expressionism will find its way into the language of painting. The major figures will remain major as they always have, and the minor figures will disappear into the garbage can of history. L. A. then, will take what is good and vital from everything that has been done. It will find its way into the suitcase of the painter in this city who will be able to use the findings of a Kokoschka, a Picasso, a Klee and—a de Kooning to express himself if he feels close to it. The continuing life force that is handed from one to the other is really the crux of the situation. Whatever is meaningful here will not simply grow out of a planet shot down to La Cienega Boulevard to arrive in its nakedness. It will be an outgrowth of all that has happened in the first 62 years of the 20th century.

Feitelson: I agree, but take exception with one point. There is such a thing as an indigenous idiom, an accent, a unique behavioral response. Remember that this area draws people not only from New York but from God only knows where. I’ve got students from Afghanistan, India, South Africa. I’ve got 30 students from Japan. These are men who have never been to Paris or New York and have never seen the Met or the Louvre. The impact of the old discipline doesn’t stand over them. Just like this sophisticated guy Ferren mentioned, when he’s away from New York even for a few months, all the boobies he mustn’t do are off the guy because out here it doesn’t exist. Out here the guys are more virile, they have more sun and more balls. Paris is sophisticated but it’s tired. It’s seeking new sensations but only the exquisite. The boys here are looking for life. The mystical poetic qualities of the North and the farm boys getting into the paint and banging at the things we saw them do on the pier out here are what I’m talking about.

Secunda: Are you implying a relationship between farm boys and painters?

Feitelson: I’m looking at it historically and from a sophisticated attitude. The first rebels in New York, Sloan and Bellows, when they were 25 year old kids, were not painting only with their palette knives and brushes but with their balls—American balls. This could not have happened in Paris. It may be crude but this is our lingo. It’s guts, it’s calling a thing what it is.

Gerchik: In defense of this continuing process I mentioned before, however, these same men were looking at the cultural heritage of Paris and of the 19th century and Cézanne. Did you ever hear Marin speak about Cézanne? He spoke with a kinship that here too was a man who struck out against an existing environment, voicing the same protests about the sterility of the academy and the salons.

Feitelson: Yes, but look at the scene in 1919. Niles Spencer, an old crony of mine, had a show with Sheeler, Demuth and some of the other boys. Some were Henri students and Henri’s only concern was to see that artists fulfilled themselves and then he would send them on their way. These boys returned from Paris with the lessons they learned from Cézanne and post-cubism. When they started getting a reputation and were considered leaders in American painting, they showed in Paris. Almost no one was interested. To them it wasn’t French. They never saw Cézanne painted with goddam stupid New England paint. They called it sterile painting. No matter how much cubism was embodied in it, to them it was New England Puritanism. It wasn’t sensuous, but that’s the whole point. This is the American thing. They couldn’t understand Hopper at all. They thought the guy was a dull painter. They didn’t know his language and why should they? The thing is alien to them. It made no difference what was taken from them. They said McFee paints Cézanne with a dirty brush. The very word American was a dirty word which meant sterile. They were looking for their own image and here these boys were trying to be French. But they could not escape themselves, and this is the point.

Schifrin: Lorser has always been very careful to try to help others. Our artists do need more encouragement. When their work is received a little bit better they will get more courage. There are many men who drop out as things get tougher. It’s not only the finest one that stays. There is a life to live besides painting pictures. Some men fall down in other ways than meet the eye. Many men were worthy a long time ago and deserved much more than they received till now. Some men need encouragement and this is something we don’t have and haven’t had. That may be our only defense against those known New York artists. There are many unknown New York artists who are struggling there. They deserve a great deal of credit for trying to stay in this big, vibrant marketplace. Some of us have chosen to stay away feeling that we could do it anyhow. The area, even if it’s alien, is not the whole thing that makes our painting. But that we can live a life and that in living this life we can also paint our pictures. There are indigenous art forms coming up here. Max Bailey is a fellow who is painting the seacoast but it’s not an Eastern seacoast, it’s a Western seacoast. Anybody can see it. If the kid had had more publicity in these last four years he’d be much better thought of. There is nothing so wrong with him, he’s got plenty, plenty, that boy. I think that abstract-expressionism was not the great American splurge. It was built from the European refugees after World War II. Some of the fellows in the East say no. I shut up because I honor most artists. If they say no, I’ll listen to them but I still think it’s yes. I am an Eastern man because my heart is always East but I can paint here.

Feitelson: Something here is going to happen and very soon. I’m not speaking of the obscure future either. It is the recognition of what we call seeing West Coast art in its own context, just as the Paris boys failed to see the New York boys in their own context. This is going to take place but it won’t be here, it will be in New York.

Schifrin: Yes.

Gerchik: These great exhibits Lorser helped put on remained unappreciated because the audience, the people who buy and bequeath paintings to Museum were not here on the West Coast. They were in the great Eastern cities . . .

Feitelson: Bill Copley put on a Matta show and I hate to say it because he’s a friend of mine, but Ross gave it this much space (tiny gesture) and dismissed it like Joe Doakes just arrived in L. A. selling napkins. Arthur (Millier) also dismissed this guy, and here were all these wonderful paintings. Max Ernst, who is a sweet guy, had his first comprehensive show here and all he got from Arthur was a snide indifference. Poor Max, in spite of his being a worldly guy, was hurt. Same thing with Tanguy and Magritte. No reactions, no audience. Magritte said, “The hell with L.A.” What was missing? The education. Now everybody wants to buy these Goddamn things. Now it’s worth something. Why? Because they have heard and seen and know about the thing. Remove this and you have nothing. It was like taking the best pictures to the eskimos.

Schifrin: It’s still pretty obvious that we need more and better critics. I assumed that as we were getting another generation of collectors we would be getting another generation of critics. Before there was only one critic, Arthur, and he was kindly towards art. Our new critic in the Times isn’t even kindly towards art.

Feitelson: This is a big problem . . .

Schifrin: . . . he knows nothing and he is unkindly. Arthur only knew some certain things but he wasn’t unkindly. So we do need more here, and desperately.

Feitelson: I don’t think it’s criticism alone. The papers should give more space to art itself without having to have the . . .

Schiffrin: . . . Well, what happened to your TV series?

Feitelson: We got a wonderful reaction. A lot of people would call up the artists and buy pictures from them . . .

Gerchik: Arnold brings up an important point though Lorser. Here we are, the second largest art center in America and we are still faced with one critic on one daily newspaper to disseminate the information to countless thousands who may be very hungry to find out what is going on. Should they hear it from one person?

Feitelson: No!

Schifrin: Of course not! What you will end up with is that artists will live here and end up selling in New York and the status quo will continue. However, there are signs of this changing and that’s why we are here.

Feitelson: This is a very sad situation. A publication that has such a huge circulation, my God!—it takes in the whole damned West Coast and into Arizona and New Mexico—and we find that this sheet is being used not to be informative but to carry on personal vendettas we’re not even interested in. There is a responsibility. Let’s get the people to know what it’s all about.

Gerchik: How?

Feitelson: Two ways. First of all the guy has got to be informative and know what the thing is all about and if he does not know . . .

Schifrin: Who are you talking about?

Feitelson: . . . The man who writes in the paper. If he is fair and really wants to enjoy his job and feel that he’s doing a good thing, any area that is outside of his experience, he can call on a half dozen people and ask them, speak to the artist, speak to the dealer, speak to some guy who knows this kind of art and quote them without sticking his neck out. The idea is to present the artist’s point of view, we’re not fair to him. I can’t see how this would hurt the critic. It would elevate his position in that he is trying to promote an understanding of art even if it’s controversial. I don’t give a damn how controversial it is. Let’s hear what the fellow has to say. He doesn’t have to endorse him, he can say, “I don’t endorse him,” or, “I think this and that,” but in the long run all of this can help the public. I’m talking about those who are half-interested in art really becoming more involved mentally. Then you will find the acquisitions. Without mental involvement there are no acquisitions and it’s that simple.

Schifrin: I presume Seldis thinks he is fair but what he seems to be doing is building a large career for himself. One of the things that he’s doing is bringing what he feels is a better art from New York and the world to L.A. to build Los Angeles up and leaving us out, with the exception, of course, of the man that he admires. That seems to be his plan.

Feitelson: It’s worse in Paris and it’s horrible in New York. When I was there recently, Elena Rosenthal asked me to come over for a little party she was supposed to have for the critics. I said, just kidding, “I hope they don’t quarrel.” She says, the other day Sam Hunter and Clement Greenberg, she had to pull them apart. They are worse than the artists. It’s human to differ, but I think we must not forget we could bring the house down on ourselves.

Secunda: Gentlemen, are there any conclusions you would like to draw from our discussion? What does the future hold in store and what further needs are there besides more and better critics and galleries? Does the La Cienega phenomena need to be directed in any way?

Gerchik: We spoke of education and of reaching large groups of people. There is something happening on this street that is extraordinary. We have taken people away from the cowboy operas on TV on a Monday night. We have made it a pleasurable, interesting, exciting event. We have said to the man who works all day, “you will not hear about your wife’s afternoon, you will join her this evening.” I would like to see this extended to, not only an evening when the restaurants are closed, but, for example, to a Friday night when the galleries might remain open. The galleries have a function as educational prophets. They cannot function as shopkeepers. We don’t stand with celluloid cups and stuff little packages with pliers like J. C. Penney. If we are capable, we must insist, with some sort of educational idea, that what we are selling is slightly more important than a potato and as precious as any diamond. We are speaking of a cultural involvement of great groups of people and we cannot allow snobbery or ask people to remove their shoes as if they are walking into a Shinto Shrine. We must reach out for the people. They are hesitant. We must say that they have a right to walk into a gallery knowing nothing about art and that they will, hopefully, meet knowledgeable people who will act in their interests, for their enjoyment, with their involvement as human beings in the work of something which up to this point may have been a dark mystery to them. This is the function of an art gallery

Feitelson: I agree. We are in the same position as the boys in New York were who were sitting around saying, “What we need in this country is some place where you can congregate contemporary art.” You know what happened? The Museum of Modern Art. If anybody had said to my friend, “You are right, there is going to be a Museum of Modern Art,” they would have sent him to a psychoanalyst right there and then. We have something now. We’ve only to do a better job and hit it while it’s hot, and take the greatest advantage of what we already have here.

Schifrin: I wish we weren’t finished because this starts the point for me. How to make it more so? I have no worries about L.A. I know that as it continues to grow, more and more artists will come. There will be good artists and I assume, if we get more publications that know what they are talking about, more dealers who seem to know what it means to be a dealer, and more critics, that it will start to go. So I feel that it is quite marvelous. It’s true, it seems to be a little early but this is the right time to talk about it. This is the right time that you (Secunda) as a new critic are coming in and that the magazines are coming out with things. They have apparently waited. We would have liked them 10 years ago but evidently only now it’s right. I’m quite positive that in the next decade there is something in it. I just throw this at you now as fun; if I were to be a dealer tomorrow, I would not have a gallery. I would get the six best painters I believed in, spend no money on rent, be a bachelor, have someone in to cater my affairs, have people over for dinner and sell paintings.

Feitelson: Well, if you put it that way then you’re not serving the public. If you had a nice blond you would do much better.

Schifrin: Taking men that I believed in would be marvelous. I would give them some money every month, take all of their pictures just like the rest of the boys, and have them in my cellars so that 30 years from now I would have it all—all their green period, all their blue period, all their red period . . .

Secunda: . . . are you gentlemen drawing any distinction between galleries that have as their only aim to make money and those that feel they have another function?

Schifrin: . . . every damned dealer I’ve heard for ten years here tells me, “I am NOT an educator, I’m NOT here to educate the public, I’m a shop-keeper!”

Gerchik: No, no, no, Lorser knows this lesson . . .

Schifrin: . . . Felix Landau is a shopkeeper . . . 

Gerchik: After 30 years Lorser comes up with a hopeful attitude. For every shopkeeper, whoever he may be, there is always a man who comes along who promises to reform the situation as LaGuardia did by throwing all the slot-machines in the East River. We cannot separate one from the other; the gallery is a commercial venture and there is its pitfall, but the gallery with taste and courage and energy can overcome this pitfall. There is enough good painting being done now in Los Angeles, which, if we as gallery people and artists would find, we wouldn’t have to demark so clearly the area of commercialism and good painting. The two are not incompatible. What is important is the belief in the area we like to live in. We feel that there is a strong current of good painting going on, whatever its origins. It exists. Sir Edward Hillary said when asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, “. . . because it was there.” Why do we paint in Los Angeles? Because it is here and we are here.

Feitelson: . . . that’s true, it’s true . . .

Gerchik: It is a part of the vital explosion of today’s life that Los Angeles is and is a monument to.

Schifrin: . . . After all, remember that Picasso once lived in La California! (laughter)