PRINT Summer 1969




In his article on de Kooning (April), Darby Bannard tries very hard not to write like a painter. He seems to be influenced by a current style of art criticism which translates the visual into an indirect language based on logical and sociological ideas. A year ago he objected to the phrase “lemon yellow” for a color in a painting, preferring “light yellow green” as more accurate. The first phrase implied a particular sensation, the second that color is an intellectual idea. The second is a critic’s term; and to be as indirect and accurate as Bannard wants, it requires also that one be told the chemical names of the pigments and the manufacturer, for anyone (relying on his senses) knows that Winsor Newton’s cadmium green pale is different from Block’s.

He uses the word “quality” as a category of, excellence, as a teacher might, who has to give marks. An artist who wants to remain inside his art uses this term as a category that has nothing to do with measure.

It leads only to misunderstanding to talk about art as though it were scientific or logical.

The biologist Gerald Maurice Edelman in a recent number of the New York Times expressed the difference between art and science very well: “The difference between art and science is that art concerns itself with the particular, the arbitrary, and can look at many worlds at once, while science is concerned with the general, dealing with recurrent events in a world that has one value at a time.”

Bannard thinks he should talk of de Kooning’s paintings one at a time. If he would think like an artist he would be able to realize that there is such a thing as one quality (in my sense, not Bannard’s) in the whole of an exhibition of one man’s work, just as there is a family resemblance between siblings. And one can describe this just as one can describe, say, the quality “French” in a culture, without having to see every particular French thing. Certainly one can recognize it.

Bannard’s article comes most alive when he describes directly in active (rather than visual) images, with verbs rather than nouns: “All around the edges of Excavation the pieces stiffen, shrink and polarize; they bat against . . . the edge like summertime flies.” This makes one want to look at the painting. But he also says that “It is easier to point out what is wrong with a painting than what is right. Mechanical faults are not too difficult to find if you go at a picture objectively. Wrong things lend themselves to talk; what’s right, on the other hand, just seems right. A painting is like a living organism, or is built like one.” He makes Excavation, which he dislikes, seem very much a living organism: the paintings he approves of don’t come to life in his words. “A good soap, for example, is one that washes things clean; we can say what soap is for so we can also say how well it does what it is supposed to do. Paintings do something or we wouldn’t have them around, but no one has been able to say just what that is.” Is soap built like an organism? Is painting useful in an analogous way to soap?

He says that Excavation is the largest painting in the show, maybe the largest de Kooning ever made. It is about 6 by 8 feet. Labyrinth, also in the show, is almost six times larger, about 16 by 17 feet. He says nothing about it. Does that mean there is nothing wrong with it, since it doesn’t lend itself to talk? How does it relate to Bannard’s claim that de Kooning’s weakness is large-scale many-elemented painting?

Bannard seems not to trust the visually specific. He prefers the most generalized meanings for nouns and adjectives; those that can be used in the largest number of contexts like the recurrent events a scientist looks for. And sometimes he seems to be trying to invent a bureaucratic tool of control—a sort of Roberts’ Rules of Order (or Greenberg’s Rules of Order?) for rationalizing the operations of the art market.

—Fairfield Porter
Southampton, N. Y.

Mr. Porter’s letter is diffuse and hard to answer. It seems to be a defense of “art” against “science.” Art and science are not opposed, they are just different. The conflict rages in the imaginations of artists and serves only to protect ego against rigorous thought.

Mr. Porter is an artist and he thinks very visually. This is reflected in his letter, but one must be bound by the rules of the present activity, and think like a painter when painting, and a writer and critic when writing criticism. The confusion of roles and rules is the underpinning of all the rotten semi-literate art writing which abounds today. It’s everywhere, fouling everything, like the oil slick in California. Accuracy comes out cold, I’ll admit. But what’s the alternative?

—Walter Darby Bannard


I would normally have to ignore a letter such as Mr. Robert Witz’s (March, 1969), on just such happy grounds as that you have your opinion and I have mine and that’s the way the cookie/world crumbles. But I think in this case, because the communication (and hence the intention) through magazine reproduction is less than adequate, I, must, with your permission, say a few words.

I would first of all never insult this country as I love it perhaps even as well as you. I would, however, in my way presume to change it. My method, as is the method of most artists, is a system of focus and point of view.

Now, to the actual piece which reads as book from left to right. On the left side are the propaganda devices. Uncle Sam of the First World War, Kate Smith singing God Bless America, the Marines on Mount Suribachi. (Incidentally, Joe Rosenthal of the San Francisco Chronicle was assigned to cover the showing of my “Portable War Memorial” and he flatly refused, the reason being that he was an A.P. wire photographer at the time he took the picture. The wire service made a fortune from it and he had had a belly full by the time my piece was shown in San Francisco.)

Anyway, the Marines stand in front of a blackboard-tombstone that contains some 475 chalk written names of independent countries that have existed here on earth but are no longer. Places such as Akkad. Now, I don’t know where Akkad was, probably you don’t, but somebody once said to somebody else, “You stay the hell off Akkad or I’ll get a gun/spear/rock/club and I’ll do you in.” The earth has always been pretty much the size it is now, but the boundaries that men place on it do change at great human cost, with questionable justification.

The next section is “business as usual” with tables to sit at and real Cokes to be bought from a real Coke dispenser. The clock is set at the current time and all is quite pleasant until you notice that the last tombstone which represents the future (and is necessarily blank) has a very small human man form crucified to it. His relationship is perhaps 2 inches to 9 feet. Upon closer investigation, hopefully with Coke in hand, the viewer notices that he has burned hands indicating mankind’s nuclear predictability and responsibility.

One last point, the tombstone of names has an inverted cross which says “A Portable War Memorial Commemorating V—(here is a small blackboard square) Day, 19 (here is another small blackboard square).” This permits updating with the piece of chalk that is provided. The sculpture could be assembled, for instance, in Montreal with a “C” in the first square and the appropriate date in the second commemorating V.C. Day (victory in Canada), if we ever get into a serious conflict with our good neighbors to the North.

I think the fighting instinct is natural and even necessary, but I want to see it propagandized and channeled by thinking, responsible leadership. The wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world can never “win” in a one for one confrontation. (“Of course they won, they were the biggest.”) Our moral/ethical posture is not so shining that we should weight other cultures with it. We should, perhaps, as a nation and as individuals, understand ourselves and our influences to a far greater degree.

I truly regret those men/all men who have died in the futility of war because in their deaths I must comprehend our future. In peace,

—Edward Kienholz
Los Angeles, California


The enclosed article, “Two Forms of Primitive Art in Micronesia,” from Micronesica, (1): June, 1968, contains some information relative to large paintings located on several cliff sides among the Palau Islands of the Western Carolines in the Western Pacific.

These monumental works, as yet relatively unknown to even specialists in the field, are rapidly being destroyed as a result of the local hunting practice of shooting pigeons as they fly in front of the cliffs. Any pigeon clever enough to avoid being shot endangers the existence of a group of very. curious, unusual, and hopefully historically significant creations of early man. The damage accomplished up to about four years ago has been extensive. I have no record of what damage, if any, might have occurred since that time.

I am writing you about this in the hope that you and others may be instrumental in taking and urging remedial action.

It would be sad enough for them to be destroyed if everything about these works were known, but I believe I am correct in saying that the present article, together with a monograph by Dr. Robert K. McKnight, are the only published references to these truly awesome creations.

—Paul Robert Henrickson
Department of Art
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa


I feel some background information concerning the “interview” with me (May) should be given.

I was contacted last fall by Dr. Kurt von Meier; he informed me that Art International had approached him for a critical essay on my sculpture. I agreed to collaborate on this project and to give Dr. von Meier full access to my work and ideas.

Later, Dr. von Meier asked me to his house, for breakfast, to informally discuss my work and record the discussion on tape. During the meal I freely discussed aspects of my work as well as my personal life. It was mutually understood that the tape was to serve in lieu of written notes.

Dr. von Meier afterwards showed me a draft of a lengthy article which included much of the taped conversation. A small part of the interview had been altered and added to; for example, “right into its deep, clear guts” (Artforum, May 1969, p. 56, first column, twelfth line from the bottom). I informed Dr. von Meier that I did not wish for the interview part of the article to be published. I understand Dr. von Meier communicated my wishes to the editor of Art International. However, neither the interview nor the article was published.

I was not approached concerning the publication of the interview in Artforum. By the time I found out the interview was to be published, it was too late to protest, the magazine had already gone to press.

I note with regret that the dimensions of two pieces are missing in Artforum’s reproductions, therefore the scale of the sculptures is ambiguous. Candy Cones, (page 57) is 72” x 12” x 12” (each); Large Wedge (page 58) is 80” x 32” x 18”.

—DeWain Valentine
Venice, California


The Lower Manhattan Expressway as presently mapped would connect the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges with the Holland Tunnel via Broome and Kenmare Streets; the location of access routes has not been made public. An imminent $1 million study by the architectural planning firm of Shadrach Woods extends the area affected by the proposed 10 lane highway to the area between Canal and Houston Streets.

As it now stands, large areas of the Lower East Side, of “Little Italy,” and all those areas adjacent to Broome Street would be razed—thus destroying large residential communities, 600 to 800 small businesses, 8,000 blue collar jobs, important examples of cast-iron architecture—and loft space for artists. This will have the same effect as the demolition for the World Trade Center—scarcer space and higher rents.

Eventually artists will be forced to leave Manhattan to find working space.

As artists we are dependent on the availability of proper, reasonably priced studios, as a culturally viable city, New York, is dependent on our presence. New York artists, if they make themselves heard, represent a. strong economic and political minority (witness the Artists Tenants Association strike of 10 years ago). The Lower Manhattan Expressway has been on the city maps since 1941. It has been stopped before and it appears that it can be stopped again.

Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton on April 3, 1969 presented a proposal to:

1) De-map the Lower Manhattan Expressway as now routed.

2) Re-route it around the tip of Manhattan, expanding and connecting parts of the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway. Sutton will ask the City Board of Estimate to delay any action on the Lower Manhattan Expressway for one month so that he can hold public hearings to expose his plans to public view. He hopes to gain the support of City Council President Francis X. Smith and Comptroller Mario Procaccino, both of whom sit on the Board of Estimate, and each of whom has more than one vote in contrast to the single votes of other board members.

Therefore, if you oppose the present route of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, you should, immediately:

1) Write to Francis X. Smith
City Hall, New York, N.Y. 10007
and Mario Procaccino
Room 530,
Municipal Building New York, N.Y. 10007
expressing your support of Sutton’s proposal and why, and urging them to vote with him. (Even a postcard will help!)

2) Find out when the public hearings will be held, attend them, and express yourself!

3) Spread the word.

You have the opportunity of exerting influence, please use it! For more information call Joan Wager, 777-9090—Lower Eastside Neighborhoods Association—119 Suffolk Street.

Ken Jacobs Alex Katz Ada Katz Roy Leat Robert Mangold Sylvia Mangold Jack Powell Michael Snow Naomi Spector Sylvia Stone George Sugarman Bob Swain Stephen Antonakos Jack Beal Sandra Beal Rudi Burckhardt Scott Burton Tom Clancy David Diao Donald Droll Stylianos Gianakos Al Held Eva Hesse Robert Indiana

The following letter, dated May 1, 1969, mimeographed, was received in the Artforum offices on May 2, 1969:

Thank you for your recent communication regarding the Lower Manhattan Expressway.

As you may be aware, this matter last appeared on the March 7, 1968 calendar of the Board of Estimate at which time the proposal for de-mapping was defeated by a vote of 16 to 6.

I cast my 4 votes to have the Expressway plan eliminated or demapped, because I was and am still greatly concerned about the loss of housing to so many residents in the area.

If the matter ever comes back to the Board for reconsideration, I will give it my utmost consideration.

—Mario A. Procaccino

On May 3, several artists, admittedly given to visions, claimed to have seen a ship, a black freighter, turn into the harbor of New York.