PRINT February 1964



Many articles in your magazine have in the past provoked within me the impulse to comment. After just reading the very moving “An Open Letter to an Art Critic” by Clyfford Still in your December issue, I feel prompted by the inspiration of Still’s profound outrage to do no less than he and for at least this once articulate some ideas which I now send along to you.

First, let me state I have not always, in fact, seldom, been sympathetic to the views expressed by your staff writers, so this is not just another letter by an admirer. Though few issues have failed to arouse me, my response has been largely akin to outrage or futile contempt for what has seemed in your publication an almost malicious and contemptible bias bordering on blindness, the motives for which, I suspected, would no more bear a penetrating inspection that do the motives of those against whom Clyfford Still is speaking.

All of the above notwithstanding, let me thank you and congratulate you on publishing such an article. If your action in so doing carries the realization that you have in the past, to use Still’s words, “. . . abetted-demanded the empty, the socio-literary, the blatant effect that arrested the jaded and insensitive for a moment in their boring rounds,” then you are indeed to be doubly congratulated for a courageous, if not heroic, bit of self-regeneration.

If, however, you published this pious, believing that what Still decries miraculously excludes you, then your incognizance of his implicit meaning is for many readers a wonderful blunder. In any event, and for whatever reasons, has appeared in your pages and being anxious to extend to you the benefit of doubt, please accept my appreciation for presenting a bit of insight by one whose voice speaks with unmistakable authority. Perhaps If I had known Mr. Still and/or had the opportunity of seeing more of his works than the one or two that I recall, I would not have been so unexpectedly moved by his pronouncements. Suffice it to say, you would be doing a great service to us all if more statements by thoughtful and articulate spokesmen, artists, et al, could be published whether or not they coincide with the private convictions of your editorial staff. This would, it is true, reduce the space available for the gallery chatter and spokesmen of the esthetic vested interests, but it would seem a small loss.

In conclusion, should you continue with more articles of this magnitude, you will have won the respect and admiration of a skeptic, and additionally, fulfill the promise of your publication’s title.

—Fred Spratt,
San Jose, California

The following statement on the Fourth Annual of the Art Center in La Jolla has been distributed by the Art Center:


As you may be aware, none of the more than 400 entries submitted in the open competitive part of the 1963 Fourth Annual Exhibition of California Painting and Sculpture was accepted by the jury.

This unusual situation—we know of no parallel—has been disconcerting not only to the artists who entered and to the public who expected to see the competitive section of the exhibition, but to the Art Center and its Exhibition Committee, who support but do not necessarily agree with the jury’s decision and who feel a word of explanation is due:

This year, as stated in the prospectus, and in contrast to our three previous Annuals, it was decided to set up the exhibition in two parts:

(a) An open, juried competition.
(b) In addition, an invitational section (which is now hanging in the galleries).

Where, in the past, entries have been judged and selected by one juror, it was decided this year to employ a statewide all-artist jury.

Three regional three-man juries were accordingly chosen by the Annual Exhibition Committee. These represented Francisco Bay, Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Each regional jury was asked in addition to choose seven artists who would be invited to submit a work to the Annual separate from the competition. Members of the juries themselves were also invited to submit a work.

From these three regional juries, one member each served on the final jury which judged entries in the open competition portion. Members of this jury were John Baldessari, Robert Irwin, and Peter Voulkos.

From several jurying methods suggested, the judges decided that a work could be included in the competitive section only with their unanimous agreement. This is one of the toughest jurying methods they could have selected, eliminating all possibility of compromise.

We can state truthfully that within this structure they proceeded conscientiously and carefully and within the entry rules under which artists submitted work. A fair competition did take place because all entries were thoroughly inspected, considered carefully, discussed and reviewed by the jurors. Furthermore, the Art Center made no attempt to influence their decisions.

In any open competition rejection of some, even the larger portion of submitted works unusual, and total rejection of submitted works has always been a latent possibility in any juried show.

We certainly could not have foreseen the end result and although the jurying was technically faultless and everyone’s intentions were good, this jury’s decision to require unanimous approval proved unworkable as a means to provide an exhibition.

Thus, the Art Center is in an anomalous position; it may not agree with the jurors’ judgment; it couldn’t foresee the results of that judgment; but under the rules stated on the prospectus the Center could not overrule the jurors’ decision.

It is doubtful that the particular of circumstances—which in the jurying method, the nature of the work submitted, and the individual jurors’ preferences—will again occur. Nonetheless, we are concerned: this is the fourth of the series of such Annuals. They are now well-established; we feel that they have come to have meaning in the art world; and they are, and will continue to be, a significant part of our overall program in years ahead. It is our purpose to make them more so, and this year’s experience points up the need for a re-assessment of the basic reasons for subjecting art to competition and the technical methods of competitive selection.

The Art Center believes the idea for this year’s Annual was a good one. . . . A combined competitive and invitational exhibition and the proposed means to reach this end were fair and workable. We regret that this idea was not realized and we are seeking ways to insure its fulfillment in the future. In this respect your comments or suggestions will be appreciated.

—The Art Center
La Jolla, California

I take the liberty of mentioning one point which I feel is most appropriate and pertinent, whether intended or not. Few men could better exemplify the antithesis of my work than Marcel Duchamp. Please remember I speak without rancor—I have known Duchamp personally and well for many years—and I approve the juxtaposition. When all the social platitudes and psychological clichés are forgotten the issues will become clearer. When all the work of our hands and minds have been sublimated to symbols the essence of our commitment will remain revealed in the pages of your magazine. I refer to Duchamp’s masterpiece, his urinal—and Still’s not so modest painting, 1957-K.

—Clyfford Still

It was refreshing to read an article as straightforward, clear and concise as Gerald Nordland’s on Lachaise (December). The importance of Lachaise’s sculpture is rarely noted and understood by few. The discipline involved in serious sculpture is evident in the extended dates attached to his work. The range of kinds of work: portraits, studio studies, and public commissions, is notable, and illustrates the ability and experience necessary in a sculptor. Sculpture as the art of sensuality and as a fulfillment of mythological continuity is well stated.

In a few words Mr. Nordland has said very much. It is regrettable that more photographs were not reproduced to reinforce his statements.

—Ralph J. Turner
Dept. of Art University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona