TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT November 1963

LETTERS

Letters

Sirs:
The essence of Dr. Chipp’s letter in the October issue of Artforum seems to be that he was not free to make the kind of selection for the Paris Biennale that I suggested, in my article, would have best represented the sculptural activity of this area. If Dr. Chipp’s mandate did not, indeed, permit him this freedom, I would be prepared, of course, to withdraw my complaint. But the problem is that Dr. Chipp’s letter does not make the facts clear at all. Is he saying that the USIS in selecting “the sculpture workshop . . . to provide one of the exhibitions . . . ” ruled out the possibility of including artists not working at the University? Was the theme of “sculpture having its origins within the University ” given to Dr. Chipp, or was it invented by Dr. Chipp? (In either event, does “sculpture having its origins within the University” mean the same thing as “student sculpture,” of which the exhibition is largely comprised?) In short, were the restrictions Dr. Chipp lists imposed on him, or were they invented by him? If the former, I would offer my immediate apologies; if the latter, I do not think that Dr. Chipp’s letter touches the substance of my charges.

—John Coplans

Sir:
My letter was a correction of Mr. Coplans’ erroneous statement that I was appointed “for the specific purpose of obtaining a Western sculptural representation” in Paris. I heard nothing of such a purpose, and I wonder where Mr. Coplans did. The appointment was for the specific purpose of selecting the work of sculptors associated with the University workshop, as the decision had already been made by the USIS that this group was to be invited. This decision was conditioned by the dominant theme of the Biennale: travaux d’equipe, or group projects, in contrast to the usual “cross-section” type of exhibition. Under such terms, other Western artists were in no way arbitrarily excluded, as Mr. Coplans feared.

Finally, another point of fact: the show is not “largely comprised” of student sculpture, as Mr. Coplans states. Only two of the eleven artists were students when the show was selected in the Spring of 1963, and only one of them is now.

—Herschel B. Chipp
Berkeley, Calif.

Sirs:
Is it your poor research or provincialism that allows you to pretend that the state of Washington does not exist? When you name as “California Sculptor” George Tsutakawa you err greatly; his home is about two miles south of mine, in Seattle.

Although we have but very few who break through with excellence, there are many who are painting as honestly and competently as those in California and who could benefit from having both favorable and unfavorable points of view focused on their work. You cannot accuse an area of being isolated when you are guilty of isolating them.

—Mrs. J. J. Albi
Seattle, Washington

Sirs:
I should just like you to know that we all felt Artforum’s review of our Thomas Moran Exhibition (July 1963) was an especially fine one. Sensitive and objective, it was one of the most intelligent of any of the notices we received. It was especially satisfying in light of the fact that your reviewer appears initially not to have been particularly sympathetic to this chapter of the history of American Art. It is indeed refreshing to have such a responsible publication in this field.

Richard G. Carrott
Chairman, Art Department
University of Calif. at Riverside

Sirs:
This is to clarify some information incorrectly presented in your review of “New Accessions, 1962–63,” at the San Francisco Museum of Art (September, 1963). The painting referred to as recently acquired by the museum I believe is titled “Heronymous Revisited,” dated 1957, and was a private gift from me to a friend in the Bay Area who, without my authorization, sold it to a collector who has donated it to the museum. It is a painting I would not have authorized to represent me. When I gave it to the original owner I mentioned that I did not consider it one of my best and I only gave it because of an old friendship; it was an entirely personal and private transaction. Also, the statement by your reviewer that I am not represented in the San Francisco Museum’s permanent collection happens to be untrue. They purchased a painting of mine in 1958, titled “The Sheik,” which is definitely in their collection.

—Sonia Gechtoff
New York City

Sirs:
“Cézanne and Lichtenstein: Problems of ‘Transformation’” (September) by Erle Loran posed an interesting question: Why did Lichtenstein copy Loran’s diagrams? It occur red to me that possibly Lichtenstein was annoyed with Loran’s dissection of Cézanne’s paintings, and angered by the audacity of the man to attempt to EXPLAIN a work of art by means of outlines, arrows, broken lines, and letters of the alphabet.

“Serious, ennobling art means too much to man in his automated world. He needs the look and feel of something sensitively made, by hand,” so says Loran who has himself “automated” Cézanne’s work. Lichtenstein appears to sacrifice his own art for ART. He seems to question Loran’s “ funny pitchers.” Loran doesn’t seem to see his diagrams as such, in fact, (in regard to “Man with Folded Arms” by Paul Cézanne, by Erle Loran, by Roy Lichtenstein) he says, "the Ben Day dots in the background of Lichtenstein’s copy of my diagram . . . ruins the value of my original drawing,” (emphasis mine). Ho! Ho!

But Loran does seem to be getting the message in spite of his defensive attitude. He says, “It (Pop Art) is forcing more and more artists and critics and curators to show their hand. It will make us say what we really think and believe. It may encourage man’s eternal search for the myths of the soul.” BRAVO! Mr. Loran and Mr. Lichtenstein, for if Lichtenstein’s work lacks transformation, it has at least begun to transform some of its viewers.

Pjete Lundstrom
Rolling Hills, Calif.

Sirs:
Early in the 1940’s Erle Loran published “Cézanne’s Composition, ” a book which codified in very simple terms an esthetic for modern art. As the title indicated, composition—methods of organizing form, space, and color—was the exclusive concern of the book, and Loran made it clear, through the text and through the bold, simple diagrams, that composition was not necessarily related to representation of objects of individuals. In this he was influenced by, and in turn he influenced, non-objective painting. Loran wrote about “ solving the problems of their profession,” and, to the abstract artist, the painting became a “problem” to be solved. This problem—apparently the universal problem of all painting—was “controlling and unifying the total space in relation to the picture plane,” or, in other words, “organizing 3-dimensional space illusions so that they achieve balance in relation to the 2-dimensional picture plane.” Thus formulated, the problem functioned as an intellectually supported armature upon which to create the painting. The important point is that Loran demonstrated and codified, in visual terms that artists could easily grasp, a provocative and stimulating esthetic system. He gave the artists an intellectual and rational basis for understanding the issues with which they were more and more choosing to be joined. He gave them a starting point and a confident relationship to the whole history of painting.

Recently Mr. Loran has renewed his literary contact with the art world in two articles (Artforum and ARTnews, both Sept. 63) stating that the work of Roy Lichtenstein in particular and of Pop artists in general is not art. His position, I think, has a certain contemporary significance that is larger than one man’s opinions on art. It may be understood in terms of the theories expounded in “Cézanne’s Composition,” and, because these theories have been widely accepted, it illustrates, as does the flood of newer work that is “not art,” the death of an esthetic and something of the esthetic—that personal threat to Loran—which is coming into existence.

Actually something of the new esthetic was in existence long before “Cézanne’s Composition” was written. I think it is widely accepted that the origins of Pop Art may be partially traced to Duchamp’s ready-mades. It would be interesting to know Loran’s views on these famous works. Are they, too, “not art”? But, after all they are “sculpture” and do not need to be considered by an esthetic of painting. Look at Duchamp’s masterpiece “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even” (1915–23), however, or “To Be Looked at with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour” (1918). Both works are essentially two-dimensional “paintings,” and yet their use of glass as a ground and their separation from any wall integrates “foreign” elements into the “composition.” As we look at the work, we also see the features of the room beyond and any activity that takes place there. Perhaps we see someone else looking from the opposite side. Even the fixed shapes and colors that are thus integrated change and move as the spectator moves. Certainly here is anarchy in two-dimensional composition!

Without detailing the historical chronology of alternatives to traditional composition—a chronology that would include the early black, white, and red works of Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns’ numbers, and Tinguely’s motorized “paintings,” but not such Pop predecessors as Schwitters and Stuart Davis, I think it is sufficient to point out the contemporary disenchantment with composition-as-a-problem, with composition-as-subject. The tendency away from painting, as such, into combines and constructions and into such experiments as the addition of motion and sound is one symptom of this. The experience of many painters is leading them to agree that the solution of the compositional problem has lost some of its importance. It may be only a minimal necessity—perhaps something that might, in some cases, detract if it were absent but not necessarily something that will determine the positive experiential qualities of the workrather than The Ultimate Good.

In attacking Pop Art, Loran mentions only Lichtenstein by name and Warhol (“soup can painting”) by inference. It Is obviously the work of these two that is most opposed to Loran’s theories of composition. Rosenquist, for example, elaborates a neo-cubistic rearrangement of his images. He transforms them in terms of composition. But the rows of almost-identical silk-screened photographs of soup cans or of Marilyn Monroe in Warhol’s work is as much an affront to, and a denial of, traditional and Loranian composition as is Lichtenstein’s refusal to alter the composition to any great degree. Does this mean that we need new “rules” of composition? Do we need new terms to explain the esthetic functioning of Pop Art? Since I mean only to point out the death of a certain esthetic theory, I will leave these questions to others, but Loran’s position and his relationship to Abstract Expressionism cannot be treated completely without reference to the “content” of Pop Art.

If art ultimately, whatever its means, is a spiritual concern, and Loran would seem to agree that it is, it is of course impossible for one person to deny the spiritual experience of others. Loran can not, no matter what technical reasons he gives, state that anything from which others profess to obtain an esthetic-spiritual experience is “not art.” I do not claim to be able to completely chart the spirit, and certainly it may encompass “the unknown, the obscure and the strange” which Loran praises and which has already found wide expression in art, but I am pretty sure that at its borders, at least, the spirit rubs against the physical world as it is perceived by the senses, and the images of Pop Art cannot be denied as being spiritually irrelevant. Nor can they truthfully be said to have nothing to do with “the symbol, the myth, the letting go of unconscious drives.” Their mythology is one of the present rather than of the historical past. It is a mythology, among other things, that is transformed by a subtle infusion of conscious and unconscious comment. The intellect, for example, makes clear distinctions, yet in almost all Pop Art we sense the blending of love and hate that indicates deep unconscious pressures. (And even Abstract Expressionism is only an indication that must be interpreted.)

It is to this content, as well as to the denial, of his theories, that Loran responds. Lichtenstein may love Cézanne—or perhaps he loved him in the past—but he is also hurt by what Loran and mass reproduction have done to Cézanne. Loran sees this. He knows what the Ben Day dots really mean. He feels the implication, similar to the satiric transformations of “Gulliver’s Travels,” of the enlarged size. He sees that the work was done in oil on stretched canvas, the traditional materials of the painting tradition, and senses the connotations. The fact that he cannot accept any of this—that perhaps he cannot even admit it—is understandable. But he cannot make artists or the public ignore Pop Art. And he cannot bring his esthetic back to life.

Michael Kirby
St. Francis College
Brooklyn, New York

Sirs:
Michael Kirby’s letter was pure pleasure for me. His questions and doubts do not impinge upon the main thesis of “Cézanne’s Composition” at all. He seems merely to wonder how open minded I am about new art forms. I have been fascinated by Pop Art since it first appeared, and in some events I could be accused of promoting it. Going back to Duchamp’s ready mades—even if they are art, they are not painting—and I like his painting better. What they accomplish in the history of art is to sensitize our capacity for perception. Many objects, fallen into desuetude, have come to be viewed as beautiful for their rusted, corroded surfaces, their strange, suggestive forms. Stankiewtz, like many others, has made art from junk. But didn’t Cézanne demonstrate all this by making monumental masterpieces out of the most ordinary objects and subjects? We certainly don’t need “new rules of composition” to explain Roy Lichtenstein. I have never seen a painting by him that was not entirely traditional and conventional in its arrangement, very neat and carefully worked out. I don’t think he is making fun of any of the drawings he copies. What I mean by composition goes far beyond making balanced arrangements. Good arrangements are likely to be mere two-dimensional designs, having no relation to the creative plastic problem. Composition in the deepest sense is a creative process. We can learn many valuable principles of composition from great artists, but there is no system; there are no mechanical rules. My Cézanne diagrams are merely an attempt to penetrate the mystery of these under lying principles. They are not rules. Scientific perspective is an example of a system with rules; it has nothing to do with the creative process. Any subject can be transformed into art. If Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns are Pop artists, then Pop Art is full of originality, invention, wit and strange beauty.

—Erle Loran
Berkeley, California

Sirs:
I feel strongly that Miss Margary Mann has every right to dislike my work and to say so publicly in detail (September). However, when she castigates me for dirty prints I must object. Also when she makes errors of fact, I must also object. The errors of fact are,

l. There were no black and white prints on display at Bolles Gallery in my show.

2. There were no photographs printed through filters in my show. The method of producing this type of photo graph is so well known that it is embarrassing that Miss Mann is unaware of it. Any package of Kodak color film could explain it. In addition, several European and American photographic magazines have recently called attention to this method. All of the prints were printed by Technicolor and so far as I know they do not offer this service.

3. There were no photographs on display containing light leaks. On this point I am afraid Miss Mann has stumbled badly. Hoisted by that old petard of photography as art. When one reads these art photograph reviews it brings to mind a photographer banging away shooting over and under hoping to get an interesting effect, and then some critic telling the world how the photographer did it. The photograph which Miss Mann thinks has a light leak was exposed in an especially modified double lens (and I don’t mean twin lens) camera. The heart of Miss Mann’s blindness in this matt er is that Walter Snelgrove bought this picture (it was the first of this series sold) and presented it to the curator of Gump’s Gallery. If Miss Mann wishes to talk about art, she should develop the eye of a painter.

Let me return to the matter of the dirty prints. This inanity appears to stem from Miss Mann’s delusion that there were black and white prints on display. There was one in the portfolio and the port folio was in the curator’s office. It was not part of the show. No photographer in his right mind is going to place a portfolio which has cost him hundreds of dollars to produce where any wandering juvenile might walk off with it.

Also there is the questionable injection of Weston’s work into the review. The ignorance of ordinary photographic methods and materials Miss Mann reveals in this reference are truly astounding. This section of Miss Mann’s contains a number of misconceptions about photography. One cannot tell whether she is espousing photography as art or documentation nor does she explain in what sense she believes photography is tied to reality—in itself a pathetic idea. If, as she says, she has seen the sculpture many times she must know that it reached its peak two days before the storms of last winter. I first photographed it between downpours. If Miss Mann is suggesting that I should have exposed my sinar to the storm she is being foolish. If she is not suggesting this her comparison with Weston’s 8 x l0 contact print can have no meaning. I cannot resist asking why Miss Mann did not lug her 8 x l0 view camera out into the storm and properly document or work the sculpture through the convolutions of her imagination. Criticism, name calling and general bitchiness are a two way street and Miss Mann has shown herself to be glaringly unethical, ignorant of photographic technique, methods, and materials.

—William Jackson
Berkeley, Calif.

Sir:
Re Artforum, September, pg. 53 and quoting: “A lesson in mishandling of materials can be learned from placing oneself in the middle of Miss Bowler’s exhibit and turning a full circle. Plastic resin and bright pigment are used to produce objects which are totally meaning less as works of art.” Understandably moved by the above quoted “review,” I should like to make a random observation or two. It would seem to me that all your reviewer has said is, “I don’t like it.” Elsewhere in the publication an equal “I like it” is given to other works. I would like to pose this question: In either negative or positive instances, does such judgment aid either the art-buying public or the artist in improving their taste or his/her future efforts? I think not. I respectfully submit that wherever a judgment is offered in either direction, an expository word or two is in order. Otherwise, your journal might just as well become a simple calendar indicating merely what’s showing where. The description of my work lacks understanding of the medium and its use as a flowing, three-dimensional plastic capable of transparent and opaque forms to produce ultimate depth and imp act of meaningful shapes and color.

Patti Bowler
San Francisco