PRINT January 1964



The three jurors (John Baldessari, Peter Voulkos, and Robert Irwin) of the recently judged La Jolla Art Center Annual had a moral and a professional obligation to select a show representing the best in art in California. In view of the fact that a good deal of the art they threw out had been shown in prior exhibitions of national stature, that the art center was obligated to the extent of 2,000 dollars to purchase and thus further encourage the arts of California—through the competition—and that the artists involved in the competition had expended a good deal of personal monies in shipping, fees, etc., this obligation was inescapable.

The jury system in the West is a time-honored institution. In the event of a hung jury, the officials have always been empowered to dismiss the jury unable to come to a decision and choose a jury that can succeed. Since such seems to have been the case behind the scenes in the present instance, I suggest the above course of procedure for all such future exhibitions.

It appears that this particular jury was so enamored of their own works that they were incapable of seeing the merit of any of the other hundreds of competent artists in the state. If such is the case, they ought only to have succeeded in eliminating themselves from any future jury duty.

It has been suggested that maybe they dismissed everything simply so that they would not have to go through this rigmarole any more. This hypothesis is beyond consideration, because, if such were the case, they had the ethical obligation of refusing to serve. They chose, rather, to select a show. If they employed the jury podium merely as a stage on which to draw attention to their own antics, they are guilty of violating every professional standard, and deserve the wholesale condemnation of all who are concerned about art.

Robert Freimark
Anaheim, California

John Coplans’ Pop Art article in the October issue of Artforum recalls a viewing of Pop Art at the L.A. County Museum last summer. As a graduate of Abstract Expressionism of the forties in New York and earlier movements in Mexico and the U.S. of the thirties I viewed Pop Art with mixed feelings. Pop art is by no means the first protest against European domination of the art world and its esthetics.

The “American” kick of Pop Art recalls Thomas Craven’s promotion of his “authentic” mid-west Americans: Benton, Wood and Curry, with Reginald Marsh of New York bringing up the rear . . . all in the thirties . All of these chosen “men of art” of Craven were highly conditioned by the European pictorialism of a bygone era as they were burdened by a heaviness of content plied by a slick brush. Pop Art, as befits the times, reduces the focus of the “American Scene” to the commonplace, salable objects . . . all within what used to be termed “buck-eye” commercialism of Coney Island . . . a low gravity esthetics of its own.

There is a hard and heavy urgency in Pop Art that is similar to but considerably below the humor of Dadaism in Europe following World War I. Without doubt Europeanized esthetics in the U.S. needs a renovation, but appeals to patriotism, and commercialism and quantitative one-sidedness can hardly do the job. The reverse of the coin of Pop Art’s “impersonal industrial technique” is a personal commitment to the company-mind of institutionalism. In this sterile cause their fellow rebel is “Contract Art,” another variety of commercialism.

Pop Art is a “thing-minded” art. It seems to dig big the thing or the object that dominates humans at the subhuman level. In this propensity for the thing, the object, Pop Art fails the first test of the true artist. Pop Art plys a version of realism . . . a one-sided notion of reality based upon appearances and reactions, glorifying sensationalism yet for few exceptions quite unable to face up to the figure. For those who know their psychology such concentrations as well as avoidances are significant. In its sensationalism, Pop Art would make the part greater than the whole. Momentarily it is interesting, but in its lack of perspective (historical) I doubt its staying power to carry the torch for the highly composite American way of living.

A. J. Schneider
San Pedro, Calif.

The Cedars-Sinai Contemporary Art Exhibition, asked our gallery to give ten works by Keith Boyle for their recent exhibition in Los Angeles. Terms were: all shipping, both from Palo Alto and Los Angeles, to be paid by Cedars-Sinai, the gallery to forego all commission, and the artist to receive only fifty percent of the sales price.

The paintings were duly shipped according to instructions. A few days before the opening of the show, a representative phoned stating the paintings had arrived late, and that Cedars-Sinai would not live up to their promises and Lanyon Gallery would be responsible for all expenses.

Two letters were sent, November 20, 1963, and December 9, 1963, requesting that the paintings be returned to Lanyon Gallery. No answer was received, but a letter was received from an attorney representing the Cedars-Sinai Art Exhibition, stating that the paintings had arrived too early, and denying all responsibility for shipping costs.

For too long California artists, the public, and galleries have been exploited in the name of charity. To add to this the present mentioned injustice is intolerable. I protest.

William R. Fielder
Lanyon Gallery, Palo Alto

It seems to me that the three La Jolla jurors did nothing less than their duty. Why is the statement: “There was nothing worth exhibiting this year,” a less admirable one than the statement, “There was nothing much worth while so we chose the best of a bad lot.” It seems to me an excellent application of a principle set down some time back in an Artforum article: “If no artist or painting is appropriate to an exhibition, then perhaps there is a defect in the idea of the exhibition.”

Homer Jacobson
Los Angeles, California


My sincere congratulations to Mr. Philip Leider for his remarkable defense of “Cézanne’s Composition” against the mindless anti-intellectual drift which has made it the butt of so much misdirected abuse. I remain puzzled only by the failure of Erle Loran, who has done a lot of writing lately, to confront his attackers so directly. His own voice seems shrill and evasive when dealing with either Lichtenstein or, in the recent Artforum, with Michael Kirby’s challenging letter.

—Patricia Behar
Berkeley, California

. . . Leider should know better. Dissatisfaction with “Cézanne’s Composition” long predated Lichtenstein’s cocktail- party trick, and it is unfair to associate serious misgivings about the book with an identification with Pop Art. Secondly, why does Leider ignore Loran’s repeated statements that Cézanne is only an example of a system of space composition which can be applied to all art, past, present and future, a far cry from the modest scope which Leider insists on giving the book?

Marvin Cohen
San Francisco

The La Jolla fiasco is the first real life Happening. Three jurors enter, paintings pass before them, pass out again. The jurors leave. There is nothing.

David Buschman
San Francisco

JCM’s review of my show at the New Mission Gallery (November) reveals her as the pauline frail of the art world. After a five minute appraisal of my work, she states that the materials and objects in my reliefs have nothing to do with life. Are religious icons, gas masks, slot machines, guns, musical instruments, red wagons, FBI wanted posters and parts of boats and houses unevocative emblems of our being? These objects are frequently altered by paint, burning, or fragmenting as well as by purposeful juxtaposition with other objects and forms.

Perhaps JCM simply could not identify the objects. Perhaps it might be instructive for JCM to see her report card (remember to have Mummy sign it):

JCM might better employ her talents by running a lonely hearts column for artists (Dear JCM, I am a freckled teen-age pointillist who has fallen for . . .) but I hope others will be spared such a paucity of critical insight.

Lewis Carson
Berkeley, Calif.