PRINT December 1963



Robert Arneson sounds (Letters, Oc­tober) like the woman who goes to a bar, drinks a 11 night with the handsome stranger, goes home with him and hollers rape the next morning.

Arneson is certainly not unaware of the mechanics nor of the personnel that run the State Fair Exhibition, nor is he unfamiliar with the crowd-pleasing paci­fiers that the organizers want in this show year after year. (His irreparable mistake was to agree to re-select the potboilers and other scatological ex­amples of pottery to “round out,” “bal­ance,” or secure the safety of the show after an argument with the Director because his first selection was too “far out.”) Mr. Arneson, to be sure, has sens­tivity and prescience—consider his work—and to impose his esthetic tempera­ment on these people is obviously an incomprehensive chore.

The State Fair, considering the cash awards and premiums, could be one of the most important shows on the West Coast, but as a confidant of the people presently running it, Arneson does nothing but perpetuate its myth.

—Mickey Kane
Sacramento, California


Your vituperative review of “Recent Painting, USA: The Figure” may have been fun for “P.L.” to write but can hardly be classified as thoughtful criti­cism.

After several paragraphs of abuse, the review concludes that the exhibition established that “the figure is a hope­less direction in contemporary American painting.” There is a strong implication that the reviewer felt this way even before he went to see the show.

The use of novel new materials or un­expected images does not guarantee high artistic accomplishment either. Mediocre work is also produced by art­ists whose choice of banal subject mat­ter “promises vitality . . . shock and outrage.” Funny papers and bathroom fixtures may or may not produce good work.

What the maligned exhibition really did show is that there is so much var­iety to the various ways in which artists approach the figure that “figure paint­ing” is no single direction at all and encompasses much that is good and bad and unexplored.

—Paul Sack
San Francisco


Margery Mann’s review of Wynn Bul­lock’s showing at Toren Gallery, demon­strates a rigid conceptual approach to photography, which is not only self limiting but psuedo-intellectual. She states: “Abstraction in painting is an expression of the inner spirit of the painter. Abstraction in photography is the recording by the camera of what the photographer perceives as the es­sential design which reinforces the real­ity of the object.” The photographer is not and should not be limited to selec­tively choosing those qualities he re­gards as essential for the purpose of reinforcing the reality of an object­—whether familiar or unfamiliar. The re­viewer confuses the function of photog­raphy with the mechanical limitations of the camera.

There is no less an inner spirit guid­ing the creative photographer. For many photographers the snapping of a shut­ter commences a long series of crea­tive steps. (Henri Cartier Bresson dele­gates all his darkroom work today). The various techniques, selection of papers, surfaces, developers are no more or less confining than the painter’s brushes, canvases, paints. The photographer uses a lens to gather I ight in various forms, textures, etc., in the same man­ner the painter uses a brush to gather paint. All of the above are merely tools and are limiting only to the extent that the user’s artistic insights are limited. Painters and photographers freely bor­row each other’s so-called techniques in searching for what they regard as truth in art—which transcends arbitrary clas­sifications such as “photography,” or “painting.”

The creative “abstract” photograph is a manifestation of the photographer’s “inner spirit,” and should not be condemned because it does not bear re­semblance to objective reality—more importantly it resembles inner reality. Who is the paranoid?

—Burton Katz
Malibu, California


The esthetic sacrifices demanded by the efficient movement of traffic ex­perienced by the City of San Francisco have now reached into one of its mu­seums. Presumably to accommodate the large crowds attending the Rodin exhibition, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor chose an installation that would facilitate the large scale circulation of people, but inhibit thought­ful study and proper viewing space re­quired by the sculptures. The life-scale pieces such as “John the Baptist,” “Age of Bronze,” and “The Walking Man” are all shown as if emerging from walls of a most unfortunate yellow. (Shades of the Egyptian Serdab.) Candidate for the most preposterous single installation of the year is that of “The Walking Man,” shown flanked by two large potted plants and seen against a ye I low backdrop. (The total effect is like that of a poster advertising beach­combing on a South Pacific isle inhab­ited by head hunters.) While it is im­possible to move completely around the large scale figures as Rodin desired, one can squeeze between the smaller sculptures and the wall and at least see them close up. (Revolving sculpture stands seem not to have been heard of at the CPLH.) So systematically does the installation discourage critical see­ing that one suspects it was delib­erate. The four related sculptures, “Tor­so of the Walking Man,” its two differ­ently scaled versions with legs and the “John the Baptist” are carefully separated by rooms and a partition. (Was the museum aware they belonged together or did they have a fear of be­ing didactic?) One of the great portrait heads in the history of sculpture, that of Baudelaire, is encased at belt level in glass and so lighted as to be unrec­ognizable. After having the five small­scale “Burghers of Calais” for many years, the CPLH still cannot figure out how to install them. At first they sur­rendered to the pyramidal form and then retreated to a higgledy-piggledy stepping stone arrangement. The ex­hibition’s success was in spite of its instaIlation, still another tribute to Ro­din’s power.

—Harry Covert
Palo Alto


The article on our Melanesian Exhibi­tion (October) probably represents the longest coverage we have received on any exhibit, and as such is most wel­come.

Thank you again for devoting so much space to the exhibit. I have no doubt that many will be enticed into seeing it. Your magazine is the only news source that covers most of the art exhibits on the West Coast to say nothing of ethnographic exhibits that have significant interest to the art public. May you prosper.

—Alex Nicoloff
Lewie Museum of Anthropology
Berkeley, California


I was delighted and pleased and surprised to find so excellent a review of photography as that by Margery Mann on the “Photography in the Fine Arts III” exhibition.

Criticism in photography is at a low ebb these days. In fact it has been for years, consequently this lively and still cheerful review, with its indication of a knowledgeable critic (for a change) is much needed. I hope that you will pubIish other reviews of the outstand­ing, and even not so famous photog­raphy shows in your region.

—Minor White, Editor
Rochester, N. Y.


We appreciate the fine story on our Winslow Homer Exhibition and are sorry that it is necessary for us to point out several errors in the captions on pages 22 and 23 of the November issue.

Page 22 is “Sponge Fishing,” water color, 14 x 20, undated, loaned by Can­ajoharie Art Gallery, Canajoharie, New York.

Page 23 (top) is “Water Fan,” water color, 14 1/2 x 20 3/4, 1898/9, loaned by Mrs. John A. Holabird.

Page 23 (bottom) is “Snap the Whip,” oil, 22 x 36, 1872 loaned by The Butler Institute of American Art.

—William E. Steadman, Jr., Director
University Art Gallery
University of Arizona


When Artforum was published a year ago, I was of the opinion that it was filling a void that existed in the West. I am most happy to see that Mr. Gerald Nordland has been appointed Associate Editor, since his articles in Frontier and various other publications have always been incisive and informative.

With all good wishes for your continued success,

—Jerome AlIan Donson, Chief Consultant 
Office of Cultural Affairs
City of New York