PRINT March 1963



I fail to find any justification for your critic’s opening remarks in the review of my recent Jasper Johns show, in which he minimizes the scope of the exhibition by suggesting that it was not really a “retrospective” as described but merely a “pick-up” show including work from 1957 to the present. Although this subtle distinction in terminology seems innocent at first glance, the implication that my exhibition was hastily organized from works conveniently at hand is inescapable.

Almost a year’s time was in fact consumed in gathering the works for the exhibition and, quite frankly, I resent the way in which the seriousness of my purpose was so summarily dismissed. My intention was, from the very beginning, to present as contemplative an exhibition of Mr. Johns’ oeuvre from a historical standpoint as time, resources and the general scarcity of his work would permit.

The exhibition consisted of 30 works including pictures of each year from 1957 to 1962. That major examples of the flag and target themes were not present (which your critic felt disqualified the show from functioning “as a true retrospective”) seems relatively unimportant when one considers that at least 14 works in the exhibition were major by any standard, and that the full set of Mr. Johns’ outstanding lithographs (12 in all) were presented here for the first time.

The fact remains that this was the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Jasper Johns’ work ever presented in a private gallery in this country. It attracted international interest and most of the major pieces in the show have since been acquired by museums and leading private collectors. Not bad at all for a “pick-up” show.

Everett Ellin
Los Angeles, Calif.

Permit me to express my deep and solemn appreciation for the most direct, honest and intelligent appraisal of the Jasper Johns show (by Donald Factor, Vol. 1, No. 8). The works were indeed assembled at random and hardly represented a retrospective exhibit. I personally had serious misgivings about the quality level of the group and was hoping for someone to express that view. What is most valuable to me, however, is that you avoided the cautious “poetic description” technique adopted by ultra-sensitive, trembling and semi-blind . . . critics who are fearful of an artist’s stature and terrified to be wrong.

May I, in turn, congratulate the editors of Artforum magazine for their bold and forceful reporting. . . .

—Ivan C. Karp
Leo Castelli Gallery, N.Y.

John Coplans’ “Notes on the Nature of Joseph Cornell,” (Vol. 1, #8) was brilliant; the article, along with his recent writings on the pop artists and British painting leave no doubt in my mind that he is one of the keenest art minds around today. His reviews, which are often completely infuriating have the merit, at least, of being clear, even when he is completely wrong-headed. A writer, in these days of wretched, vague, uncommitted reviewing, who makes his position clear and speaks his mind without concern for consequences is worth his weight in gold to any magazine.

—Marilyn Solomon
San Francisco

I learn from Artforum that so-and-so’s canvases come “dangerously close” to being decorative. Congratulations on your courageous stand against beauty.

I surely hope, by the way, that your reviewers are all sincere; for instance that they select the most UN-decorative house, on the ugliest street. And for wives or mistresses surely nothing decorative!

I am now convinced that the true mission of art is to stink. Then, by contrast, that standardized, massproduced chromeplated world in which you fellows “back home” live will seem idyllic If so, might I make one little suggestion:

When sculpting (that is, of course, when wiring or brazing broken sewer pipe together into “symbols,” “idioms,” “protests,” phalluses, “vocabularies,” and totems, why not be honest? Washing out the sewer odors! Is that not morally equivalent to being “dangerously close” to the decorative? Besides, it’s a downright lie. Dishonest, I’d call it.

So keep up the good work. Let’s not let anything as subversive as beauty creep or crawl into art. Or clean odors.

Ken Beldin
Tenanting, Mexico

Artforum performs a tremendous service in keeping us Eastern provincials informed of what goes on on the West Coast. I have found many of your articles and comments sharp and interesting. Pray that you do not become imprisoned in any straight-jacket of parochialism whether rear, middle or “avant.”

—William C. Seitz
Museum Of Modern Art, N. Y.

In Artforum, Vol. 1, #7, on page 8.,my painting SH Painting #2, 46 x 36", was reproduced as a horizontal painting, and in doing so, twelve inches were cut off the top and bottom of the painting. I see no excuse for such a thing . . . and sincerely hope this does not again occur to my work or the work of any other artist.

—Emerson Woelffer
Los Angeles, California

Vic Smith demonstrated his admirable writing ability in his well-worded review of the “California Watercolor Society’s 42nd Annual Exhibition” at the Long Beach Museum of Art. However, his comments fell into exactly the same pattern as three other reviews written earlier in this area, because he, too, confined his observations to include only the paintings which were awarded prize money. This similarity almost leads one to suspect that not one of the four critics actually attended the exhibition, but instead formed their opinions simply by reading the show’s catalog and studying the photographs of the winning entries! I sincerely hope the writer you assign to review this same collection while it’s at the Richmond Art Center this month will have some original comments to contribute about some of the other talented watercolorists represented, instead of offering your readers nothing but another “variation on the list of winners.”

Aside from the above, I would like to thank you for creating what is probably the most satisfying art magazine ever printed for the enjoyment and recognition of western artists and their admirers.

—Rosalie Hunt 
Los Angeles

This year I have had the pleasure of serving as President of the Board of Trustees of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Your article on the Museum about our fall activities and the purchase of Wyeth’s That Gentleman pleased all of us. I have always had such high regard for Mr. Askew and his work and am delighted to find him contributing to your magazine. I wish you great future success.

—Mrs. Eugene Mcdermott 
Dallas, Texas