TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 1967

LETTERS

Letters

Sirs:
I, Carl Andre, being of sound mind and body, do hereby will and bequeath:

A) To Miss Barbara Rose: Andy Warhol; the primitive of a new art; Jasper Johns; Marcel Duchamp; the principal didactic artists of our time; a lesson in esthetics; didactic art; pure didactic art; that whole class of found objects; “unassisted-ready-mades”; Rauschenberg’s portrait of Iris Clert; “good taste”; bad taste; no taste; self-criticism; Michael Fried; Andrew Wyeth; formalist criticism; Dada; dialogue; brillo; this mixed class as a spectrum; the dialectic of art history; works of little or no intrinsic value; the running dialogue which is art history; Disegno vs. Colore; negative didactic art; Kubler; formal value; Friedel Dzubas; “no”; and finally, a new esthetic, an esthetic that has fresh formal meaning.

B) To myself and the world remaining I reserve in perpetual care the art of my sculpture.

Signed on this day the Eleventh of April, Nineteen-Hundred-and-Sixty-Seven, at the Ninth Circle, New York, New York.
Carl Andre
New York, N.Y.

Sirs:
Having been an engineering student and having been exposed to Bucky Fuller, I quite naturally reacted to your recent article (Marc ’67) on the work of Kenneth Snelson. He has quite effectively reduced tension and compression to a minimum, but in doing this his work becomes dangerously close to being only a simple force model. I can appreciate the difficulty involved in making a force model, having constructed some myself, but I’m forced to wonder how much more these structures actually are. I realize that photographs alone will not give an accurate picture of his work and that any statement about his work may be invalid for this reason. Physically tension and compression are present in his work, but there seems to be little perceptual evidence of it. The tension members create lines that indicate only direction and the compression members are in no way deformed to indicate the compressive forces placed upon them.

I find Mr. Snelson’s pseudo technological explanation of his work quite humorous. I especially like the way he considers himself “the inventor of the principle.” Even Fuller, who has done much more with tension and compression doesn’t consider himself the inventor of principles. I also react to Mr. Snelson’s attempt to avoid giving credit to Fuller for being an influence on his work, when it is obvious that Snelson probably wouldn’t be working in the direction that he is had he not been exposed to Fuller.

I believe his statement that an engineer couldn’t calculate one of his pieces to be totally false. The calculation would be complicated but elementary. The location of all compressive members could be set on paper and then the tension in each tensile member could be calculated. The chief difficulty would come in the actual assembly of the members. Each compressive member would have to be held rigidly in its final position by some type of jig while the calculated tensile force was applied to each of the tensile members individually. This method of operation would work. The principle is used at present in a machine built by C. C. M. (a Canadian bicycle manufacturer) for the alignment of bicycle wheels. In this machine the compressive elements, the rim and hub, are held perfectly rigid while a calculated pressure is applied mechanically to each spoke.

It would be nice if the artist could move out of the area of applied technology to that of basic research. With a better background, people like Snelson might be able to do it.
Albert August Eisentraut
San Jose, California

Sirs:
I usually refrain from answering art critics, since, in most cases, their own words return to haunt them in time. But I would like to correct one major inaccuracy in Max Kozloff’s article on my work in the April issue.

Morris Louis was not my mentor. A little basic research on his part would have established this fact. My present style of edge-to-edge stripes was conceived in 1958 and first exhibited in the fall of 1959 (two small paintings at the Dupont Theater Gallery, Washington, D.C.), nearly two years before Louis undertook his centered columns of color. A large edge-to-edge stripe painting of mine was shown at the Jefferson Place Gallery in the spring of 1960. A one man show of my stripe paintings was held at the same gallery in 1961. In fact, the first time I ever saw one of Louis’s so-called stripe paintings was in the Abstract Imagist show at the Guggenheim Museum which I believe was held sometime in 1962. Louis did not show his pictures in Washington, D.C.

I must confess that I am not too familiar with the criticism of Mr. Kozloff, but, as an insight into the depth and accuracy of his judgments, let me quote two pronouncements from his five-page attack on Clement Greenberg in the June 25, 1963, issue of Art International

1. “I can’t imagine anyone who recalls the Delaunay and Kupka of 50 years ago considering the compositions of Noland and Louis as ‘original’.”

2. “I have never felt buoyed up by a Newman canvas, only hemmed in. Further, I have never detected the interdependence of any two of his forms, but rather that all of them are static, gratuitous and indifferent.”

Mr. Kozloff obviously has a right to his opinion of my work, but why was it necessary, one might ask, for him to parade all that turgid verbiage before your readers to justify his position? In the light of the visual or optical frame of reference against which all painting must be judged, what does it mean, for example, for Mr. Kozloff to characterize my paintings as “heartless?” It should be overwhelmingly evident that Mr. Kozloff does not possess one of the great eyes of our time.

In spite of all that I have just written, let me say that I am flattered that Artforum would devote two full pages and four reproductions to this wrong-headed, Cyclopsian view of my work.
Gene Davis
Washington, D.C.

Sirs:
Mr. Francis O’Connor’s article in the May issue of Artforum is an excellent contribution to our biographical knowledge of Pollock’s early years. I must take exception, however, to what I consider his misleading discussion of Pollock’s wall-size pictures which is in turn fundamental to another crucial issue he joins, that of Benton’s importance for Pollock’s mature style.

After mentioning Benton’s (and Orozco’s) presumed influence on Pollock’s later creation of wall-size pictures, Mr. O’Connor appends this note:

On entering the room in the New School for Social Research where Benton painted his murals you are surrounded by a brilliant, vibrant environment which, though perhaps dated in its subject matter, still lives in its swirling color and rhythmic, pulsating form. Pollock saw these murals—which cover all four walls—in the process of their creation. He posed for some of the figures. To my mind they are far more relevant to his future development than the splendid late Monets he never saw. See John Canaday, Mainstreams of Modern Art (New York, 1959) pp. 188–9 and William Rubin, “Jackson Pollock and the Modern Tradition,” Part II Artforum(March, 1967), pp. 28–37.

The context of the reference to Mr. Canaday’s book and my article implies that one or both of us suggested Pollock’s having seen and/or been influenced by the large late Monets. I find no such suggestion in Mr. Canaday’s text. My own stated clearly (twice) that “the big late Monets could have been known to him [Pollock], if at all, only through reproductions.” I did discuss earlier Impressionism—which Pollock did know—as the point of departure for a development that culminated in the “all-over” style which Pollock—among others—was to explore. The late Monets were discussed as “offering a type of the large-size picture toward which Pollock was working quite independently”; at issue were affinities, not influences. It was in attempting to characterize the particular nature of the new type big American picture that the late Monets were first discussed, not by me but by E. C. Goossen in his pioneering article, The Big Canvas. In his text, and later on in mine, these Monets were considered in contradistinction to mural painting such as Benton’s and the Mexicans.

However, Mr. O’Connor’s note, in conjunction with certain observations in his text, raises an issue far more crucial than the possible misconstruction of my views. The thrust of his argument is that contact with Orozco’s and Benton’s murals—particularly those in the New School—had a considerable “relevance” for the wall-size pictures Pollock was later to make. Any number of writers have observed that Pollock’s contacts with Benton and the Mexicans may have gotten him interested in a wall art though they have had to accommodate this to the fact that he remained throughout his life an easel painter. In my chapter on Pollock’s early work, I affirm these contacts as a possible beginning of Pollock’s interest. But such vague rapports have seemed to me inadequate simply because the six wall-size Pollocks (like the biggest Rothkos and Newmans) are so utterly different in nature from Benton’s murals, or, for that matter, from anybody’s murals (as the term is normally defined).

Mr. O’Connor and I read the Benton murals very differently. Where he sees “a brilliant, vibrant environment” which “still lives in its swirling color” with only the subject matter “perhaps dated,” I see squirming forms in dirty colors staggering under the burden of anecdotal interruptions that occasion confusions both of scale and recessional space. Though Pollock did show an affinity for Benton’s rhythms in some of his early student works, the latter’s mannered Grecoism is a far cry from the “pneuma” of Pollock’s mature lyricism. The point of my article was that Pollock was doing something new in making a wall-size picture that was “neither a mural nor an easel picture.” Benton’s murals (down to the curious pranks he plays with mouldings at the New School) are organized with respect to architecture; Pollock’s wall-size pictures are autonomous creations. I have characterized them (and the big Rothkos and Newmans) as "forming a new category in which the intimacy and environment of the cabinet-size easel painting is preserved while the picture—drained of illusion—achieves the size of a mural painting independently of that genre’s social and esthetic implications.

I arrived at the above formulation by looking at the pictures, but am delighted to find its essence confirmed in a hitherto unpublished statement which Mr. O’Connor now makes public from the file of Mrs. Pollock. In 1947, Pollock wrote:

I intend to paint large moveable pictures which will function between the easel and mural . . . I believe the easel picture to be a dying form, and the tendency of modern feeling is towards the wall picture or mural. I believe the time is not yet ripe for a full transition from easel to mural. The pictures I contemplate painting would constitute a halfway state, and an attempt to point out the direction of the future, without arriving there completely.

Pollock’s ideas here are still in an incipient and somewhat vague state; he feels that he will only “point out the direction of the future.” He was too modest. The new type of wall-size picture he pioneered three years later (along with Newman, Rothko and possibly Still) was the future—or at least, a future—as the subsequent history of American painting demonstrates.

With regard to understanding Pollock’s mature style, all Mr. O’Connor’s arguments tend toward emphasizing the importance of his student work and studies with Benton as over and against what O’Connor calls “the broad sweep of art history” by which he evidently means that line of European modern painting (Impressionism, Cézanne, Cubism, Picasso and Surrealism) through which I and others have characterized his mature style. I am far from denying importance to Benton in Pollock’s early formation; my chapter on the early work in Jackson Pollock and the Modern Tradition discusses Benton’s teaching methods in particular, as well as other points raised in material most generously provided me by Charles Pollock in whose footsteps his younger brother Jackson came to New York to study with Benton.

Mr. O’Connor’s desire to inflate the importance of Benton in Pollock’s later work leads to the extraordinary assertion that “the critic who wants to relate Pollock’s later work to Cubism must begin with Benton.” Almost every writer has discussed at least his 1942–46 pictures in terms of Cubism; not one of them has seen fit to mention Benton in this regard. Are they all remiss? Surely the kind of work Benton did at the time he influenced Pollock has nothing to do with Cubism. But Mr. O’Connor considers that Benton’s own early contact with Cubism “certainly contributed to Benton’s handling of the problems of form organization as seen in his methods of compositional analysis” and that these, in turn, are “at the core of Pollock’s craft.” Yet though Benton himself (in a citation by Mr. O’Connor) states that Cubism had “possibly suggested directions” in the formulation of his teaching method, he quite rightly characterizes his finished product in terms of Luca Cambiaso, Leonardo and Dürer. “Modern Cubism,” he observes about his method, “had nothing to do” with it. Benton’s extraordinarily fine and succinctly written essay on the Mechanics of Form Organization in Painting confirms this; we discover him at every turn working within a pre-modern, illusionist framework. When he speaks of “cubistic” modeling, he makes crystal clear that he means a Renaissance-type simulacrum of sculpture in the round (which can mean Cubism only to those who still think there are cubes in it).

Pollock studied with Benton for two and one-half years, ending in 1932; that the Benton influence is crucial, critical or even important fourteen painting-years later in Pollock’s classic style seems to me demonstrably mistaken. The “all-over” style is inconceivable without European modern painting of which it is an important evolution; it in no way presupposes Benton or the Mexicans. Benton was important in Pollock’s student life as a friend and teacher; as an artist, Pollock had rejected him long before his own maturity.
William Rubin
New York, N.Y.

Sirs:
I want to correct several errors in my article on the early Pollock (May, 1967). In the Benton quote at the bottom of the center column on page 17 the phrase “accidental form construction” should read “occidental form construction.” On page 21 at the bottom of the first column the possible date for Pollock’s first meeting with John Graham should be 1937—not 1938. In footnote 9, page 23, it should be stated that while Siqueiros’ “Experimental Workshop” was started at the end of 1935 Jackson and Sanford probably did not work there until sometime during the first half of 1936.

I shall not engage in tedious debate with Mr. William Rubin. My approach to Jackson Pollock is based on a well-documented knowledge of his evolution as a man and artist. In due course, with the appearance of my catalog for the Museum of Modern Art’s current Pollock retrospective and ultimately with the publication of the catalog raisonné I am writing, the wealth of evidence informing my approach will be available. I intend to publish a major study of Pollock’s relationship with Thomas Benton which will answer Mr. Rubin’s letter. As for now, I shall leave it to the reader to judge the pertinence of his remarks in the light of my full text.
Francis V. O’Connor
Washington, D.C.