PRINT May 1968



Mr. Tillim said all the “right things” about Lichtenstein in January. He talked about David Smith, Frank Stella, and the “death” of Pop art. And he gave us the ultimate sample of “in”-criticism: words from Greenberg that Lichtenstein’s recent work “proves” that “abstraction painting is now fashionable again.” How Lichtenstein must be laughing: he hasn’t been able to enjoy so hostile a review in years.

Has it never occurred to Mr. Tillim that “Modern Art”—the title of the show he was discussing-is one of the battered phrases in the Greenberg camp of critics? And that Greenberg’s analyses of it in 20th-century art history use the “late” Cubism of the 1930s as a central fulcrum from which art evolves (or devolves) forward or backward? And that, as a result, the Modern Art of the 1930s has become discredited as a style? And that Lichtenstein tikes nothing better than to play with discredited styles.

If this revival of a discredited 1930s style proves to Greenberg that “abstraction painting” is back, it is an ultimate in irony. For it would also “prove“ that Greenberg sees 1960s paintings through a 1930s vision and that his “Post-Painterly Abstraction” is indeed a retrogression and a “fashion” rather than an “authentically new episode in the evolution of contemporary art.”

Mr. Tillim should be complimented on his ability to be so moved by the art he criticizes; he responds in a manner which complements its message. In comparison with artists’ recent criticism of the Greenberg Academy, Lichtenstein’s work stands out both for its plastic form and its knowledge of the rules under which the opposition plays the game. Its “high” quality in this dialogue has been “proved” by the Tillim response, and Artforum is to be congratulated for its referee’s choice of whom to react to Lichtenstein’s work.

—Barbara M. Reise
London, England

In Andrew Hudson’s review of the Washington Artists (March, 1968), he referred to the inclusion of Paul Reed in the 1965 “Washington Color Painters” exhibit as an example of the “existence of other lesser members of the ‘School’.” And with this remark, Mr. Hudson dismisses Reed as having relevance to the movement.

Mr. Hudson must have read no further than the front page of the catalogue for that show. Of Reed, Gerald Nordland, the then Director of the Washington Institute of Modern Art, writes “Paul Reed has followed the most heartfelt dogmas of the color painters and has carried some further than any other. He is the only painter who continues to explore the possibilities of transparency which were set out originally by Morris Lewis.”

In reviewing that show for the Washington Post, Elisabeth Stevens wrote “ . . . there is no doubt that Reed’s ‘extremity’ occupies an important position in current American Art.”

Since that time, Reed has gone to bolder experiments with color transparencies on shaped canvases. He has even extended his well executed color progressions to a third dimension in steel sculptures.

An artist whose work is now represented in the permanent exhibitions of more than twenty major museums here and abroad, certainly “measures up” if not at many points exceeds “the quality of the other five“ referred to by Mr. Hudson.

—Jean Roberts
St. Louis, Mo.

The review you ran recently on Barbara Rose’s book (March, 1968) was hardly a piece of objective critical writing, in spite of the fact that the book presented many serious weaknesses. Particularly objectionable was the reviewer’s tone of supercilious vindictiveness, which in the end produced a piece that was vicious, childish and squalid. I’m afraid your willingness to publish it must be characterized in the same way.

—Juliet Jennings
New York, N.Y.

Refer March issue “ . . . on an American artist’s education . . . ” by Dan Flavin.

Although I am not terribly inclined semantically, I am able to discern, perhaps as the result of some good art instruction and a knowledge of the author’s work, that Mr. Flavin is merely a member of that “other“ institution.

—Neil Parsons
Associate Professor of Art,
Western State College of Colorado
Gunnison, Colo.

Plaudits to Dan Flavin for his penetrating article on the education of an artist.

—Olga Seem Kooyman
(Art Educator)
Glendale, Calif.

For Flavin’s “. . . on an American Artist’s education . . .” (March, 1968): AMEN.

—Richard Mizdal
Passaic, N.J.

I note that on p. 50 of the March issue Al Held’s painting The Dowager Empress, which is in the Whitney’s collection, is not so credited.

—William C. Agee,
Associate Curator
Whitney Museum of American Art

Most of Max Kozloff’s piece on The Academy (Books, Feb., 1968) was fine with me (I haven’t read the book). He enjoys a lot of sentences I don’t really absorb but I let them ramble by (I don’t want to read the book). However, his parting few paragraphs on the recent resort to procedural and structural elements of technology in. art as being a process destined “to establish an academic convention all over again” are full of useless thinking. The fact that he is generalizing in these paragraphs is obvious. I don’t really mind Mr. Kozloff or Art News or even me generalizing about the old European Academies. There’s not much else to do with them at this point. It is sort of disgusting, however, to read a critic of Kozloff’s standing (I have benefited from his perception in certain cases) generalizing about work being produced right now. Because it is appearing right now, it is too important for that. There are a lot of particular things being done now, as always. We artists are notoriously interested in particular things. Critics are notoriously interested in trying to throw many particular artists in the same boat, as if they were better comprehended in such close proximity. There is something more than group dynamics to deal with these days. The art that’s being produced which utilizes various aspects of today’s technological establishment de-serves better than the vague sort of fear tactics which Mr. Kozloff applies to it. Can’t we either get down to the particular thing or leave it alone? Generalized coverage and social impact we can get from our local newspaper.

The fears are unrealistic. Things are simply not happening like that. Mr. Kozloff should get around to more studios (or factories if that’s where it’s at). I think I would let him in. The idea that artists are using some of the astonishing varieties of technology that are open to them (as it is to everyone else) hardly seems like a basis for deciding that the resulting art is subject to scientific “disinterestedness.” Government grant or not, I can’t imagine an artist being “disinterested“ to the effect of the output of his equipment no matter how expensive or sophisticated that equipment is. I just can’t imagine that. Does Mr. Kozloff think we are charlatans or just fools unable to handle our own interests and large sums of money at the same time? His implications here are saturated with an old, romantic view of the artist’s life-style that isn’t interesting anymore.

At the nitty-gritty level of actually putting something together, I fail to see what similarity there is between technological processes and structures in the hands of an artist and those same processes and structures in the hands of a scientist. How is the myriad of possible effects produced by combinations of resistors and capacitors any more or less “cumulative” than the possible effects of paint on a surface? I think such a comparison is implied in Mr. Kozloff’s attitude but I find trying to relate such things irrelevant. If one were to say that building a circuit is, per se, more or less “deterministic” than making a painting, it would show that the speaker has had little experience with the actual procedures involved in one or both activities. (I know Mr. Kozloff knows how paintings are made but he might commune with someone struggling with electronics for a while.)

Technology, the money it produces, and the money it takes to produce with it, is a complicated subject. There is danger and degradation involved in it all, but Kozloff is confused. A good deal of technology is 5 being expended in 19th-century endeavors. The rest of it has made a new mental environment necessary. I am writing this from Canada because I found it necessary to escape induction into the brutally insane war in Vietnam which is, in part but inescapably so, the result of a technology’s desire to perpetuate itself and “progress” in the cumulative and scientific sense. I think I am aware of the humanistic dissatisfactions that a usage of technology can evoke these days. I am also aware of my own fascination with certain unique properties and processes which electronic circuits and electric light, for instance, provide. The feasibility of utilizing factors such as distribution, disposability, placements, places, time perception, and perception in time which are well negotiated but which transmit a low-definition pattern through their tenuous presence somewhere within the large environment which North America makes is considerable.

Getting back to where I started, there are a lot of different things being done by different people with different approaches. These different approaches are sometimes the result of, and sometimes the cause of very different kinds of equipment being used. The result of most of this is as bad to me as it apparently is to Mr. Kozloff. But, being a fair lot, we expect to be taken on one at a time.

—Donald Joyce
Toronto, Canada

I am writing my Dissertation on the history of American assemblage, from 1915 to the present; I hope to publish this as a book. I invite all collectors of American collage and assemblage, who wish to have their works included in this essay, as well as friends of the artists, to write to me, now, at this address:

—Gary R. Goldberg
Department of Art History and Archaeology
809 Schermerhorn (26F)
Columbia University
N.Y.C., N.Y. 10027