TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT August 1962

LETTERS

LETTERS

Sir:
I would like to get one or two things straight. Mr. Feitelson on the panel claims to have started the Stanley Rose Gallery. This is one fact I do know—I started it. He came later where I exhibited him, and many other local painters—some for the first time. Later he took over the gallery and did put on some fine shows.

Having read both the Los Angeles and San Francisco panels, I could only come to the conclusion that the artists in Los Angeles are still inflicted with a provincial patriotism and a cultural inferiority complex that hasn’t changed since the last decade. The expatriates from New York are similar to the American Ghosts that haunt Paris. It is not the artists concern where he lives only inasmuch as his needs as an artist are fulfilled. In that sense he is an internationalist.

They, the panel, seemed more involved with security, a pleasurable life, or whether Los Angeles is going to be bigger than New York and we’ll have more galleries, more dealers, more collectors, more museums, more art lovers, more critics, more exhibitions, more write ups in Life and Time, more, more—ad nauseum. Gigantism never made art.

The San Francisco panel was full of ideas and bristling debate that should concern the artist. Whether one agreed or not, what was said was pertinent to what artists are concerned with. What a difference!

If I hear the word “balls” again, I’ll scream.

Wishing you all success.

—Herman Cherry
New York


Sir:

I subscribe above all else for I suspect and greatly hope, that Artforum will help lift the veil of provincialism enveloping California, and mainly San Francisco, art. And going another step—it may well give critics the opportunity to whet their skills also, in a more elevated and free medium for them than newspaper space allows. Criticism is, of course, as difficult if not more difficult than the creating of paintings, of dances, of theatre, for one must learn the art of words as well as the ‘art’ of painting or the ‘art’ of dance or the ‘art’ of theatre. By these last three ‘arts’ I mean the fundamentals involved therein.

Criticism, as found in this city, is much too much involved with the personal tastes of the critics with little regard to general elucidation or what stimulated an artistic effort to come into being. Criticism is so artistically uninitiated that it comes out somewhat like comparing Marlene Dietrich to Lotte Lenya on the basis that they are both, after all, German. Art is, in any form, self expression to varying degrees. The first chore of the critic is to determine if the artist has genuine talent, and then, if so, Lord save the critic, it is his second chore to evaluate the world the artist has created. To ‘compare’ continually in criticism is a great fault. Through his natural digestive approach to life the artist has already done all the comparison needed.

Art, in San Francisco and California, battles only the fad-ism of the public. Young artists do not have their fingers stepped on by the trudging ever present forces of “Chicago,” “New York,” “Mid-West 1930s,” “German” and “French” schools of thought. Our mountains here, I fear, not only keep out Eastern snow, but much of Eastern Thought. Decadent as Eastern Thought may be, it is at least something against which the young can revolt.

As a very brilliant educator once told me—“Baden, it is perfectly easy to put on a tie, so why not? It is so much more difficult and rewarding to shock people with your mind rather than your dress!”

That is why, say, the recent collection of ‘local’ artists at the Museum of Modern Art here in San Francisco was so poorly received and reviewed. These people are not reacting against, shocking, any one. They, like the local beatniks, have merely put on the vestiges of abstract painting—without any rebellion, thought, or accomplishment, as do the abstractionists outside of California.

P.S. I was amused by the article written by Lester Longman in your last issue. I once studied at the State University of Iowa under Eugene “Papa” Ludins and James Lechay—and how these two great men survived the asininity of Mr. Longman, and his administration, remains a mystery to me.

—Baden Garth
San Francisco


Sir:

Many thanks for the copy of Artforum with Mr. Leider’s review of “Embattled Critic.” I certainly made him mad, didn’t I?

—John Canaday
New York Times


Sir:

Frank Lobdell was involved with major and abstract painting during the middle and late forties, earlier than many New York school artists. He is not, as you have erroneously reported, a second generation artist. To devote a scattering of perfumed verbiage to an artist who well may be the most significant voice here on the west coast is certainly your prerogative, however you have an obligation to stay to fact.

A fresh, informed and critical appraisal of this area’s painting is long overdue and to be welcomed. The lack of precisely this kind of approach in the past is responsible for the misinformation you cite as fact.

—Irving Blum
Ferus Gallery
Los Angeles


Sir:

I know John Coplans’ paintings, and I have heard him speak with force and intelligence. I am, consequently, confused by his hasty dismissal of the Matisse show reviewed in June Artforum.

Mr. Coplans reminds us that the gouaches were created while Matisse was in his eighties and cautions us against sentimentality and nostalgia. He hardly need have done this. The works themselves dispel the slightest trace of these two qualities. But I am encouraged by the aspect of the artist who attains in his latest works, if not a resolution, at least his most energetic and cogent expressions. W. B. Yeats might have stopped writing good poetry with “Adams Curse” and still have been a great modern. But his best verse was written some thirty-five years later while in his seventies. In the same way Matisse’s later work is not great because he simply managed to continue to produce; those products were final statements, final conclusions, expressed with the power and skill and ideas resulting from a life’s work.

In trying to evaluate this power and skill I can only say that every hard crisp shape, every linear curve, and each electric color, seems to be there for a reason and at the expense of painful elimination, and selection.

But shapes and lines and flat colors are not enough. If they were, those people whispering in the modern museums, “You see mother, they’re just interested in design” would be correct. However, Matisse has a theme and his theme is life and a celebration of life in loud clear tones. In the case of these works, size seems totally justified and commensurate with the starkness of his shapes and colors. All this is tempered by a lyrical quality.

He shows us plant life—imaginative and exaggerated. But mostly he shows us women, for in spite of all the recent socio-psychological studies of women (in the plastic arts as well as in literature), a woman is life-giving. Matisse creates a universal woman and seems not the least bit interested in evaluating her. It is more a question of presenting her.

I am so pleased that your publication serves as a means of communication for the ideas of Mr. Coplans and others. But I would hope that Mr. Coplans might reconsider his estimation of Matisse’s latest works.

—Helen Petit
New York


Sir:

Congratulation to the publication of Artforum.

—Baleria Protect
Mexico City

DISCUSSION
THE PLACE: Nowhere
THE TIME: Better never than now

THE CAST
(in order of appearance)
Primera, Art (Critic)
Shipwreck, A. K.
Goodnik, No (Shopkeeper, he)
Tifelmother, G. O. M. O. A. I. S. C.,
(Grand Old Man of Arts in Southern California)

PRIMER: All the avant-garde magazines in New York are publishing discussions. Our editors want to get into the library of the Museum of Modern Art, so here we go. Our question is: “Would you say there is a scene out here?”

TIFELMOTHER: I was crossing the Rue du Bac on my way to the Boulevard Saint-Germain when I saw a man who looked like Picasso . . .

SHIPWRECK: Yeah, yeah . . .

(NO) GOODNIK: I’ve been in this business a year and a half . . .

TIFELMOTHER: . . . Walk into a pissoir. It was then I decided to leave the fleshpots . . .

SHIPWRECK: Yeah, yeah . . .

PRIMERA: Are you implying a relationship . . .

TIFELMOTHER: In New York I’m always running into Grace Hartigan with Dorothy Miller . . .

GOODNIK: I was standing behind de Kooning who was standing behind Gorky . . .

SHIPWRECK: Yeah, yeah . . .

PRIMERA: I was standing behind Nordland who was standing behind Seldis . . .

GOODNIK: It all started wit divisionism in the Thirties . . .

TIFELMOTHER: What we need is a good burlesque show where artists can meet—sort of a PINK PUSSY CAT WITH BALLS!

SHIPWRECK: Yeah, yeah . . .

GOODNIK: After all, remember that Bellini once stayed in the Palazzo Popodopoli . . . (laughter)

—Eliot Fraser
Los Angeles