PRINT March 1971



In texts by Mr. Joseph Masheck which appeared in the September and December issues of Artforum, there are misstatements which need to be corrected lest they creep into the literature, especially since the first of his assumptions is used to confirm some very dubious observations about Louis’s work. In the September issue, Masheck says—by way of committing Louis to “body-motor determination” that it is as “easy to empathetically reconstruct” as the“kinesthetic action” in “the work of, say, Kline . . .”—that “surely the very title of such a work as Louis’s Saraband (1959) is meant to suggest the irrevocable dance gesture in time quite as much as a Nijinsky by Kline . . .”

I am not quite sure what an “irrevocable dance gesture in time” is, but I am sure Louis did not have it in mind, since the title Saraband was given to the work by me some months after Louis completed it. As with certain other modern artists, titles were of little interest to Louis, who preferred them to numbers simply for reasons of convenience. Many of the titles of his works were suggested by friends.

In the December issue, Mr. Masheck states that “while I have not seen it remarked anywhere, the ‘Veils’ of Morris Louis may, in their collective title, refer not only to their appearance but also to a concept of Schopenhauer’s which was taken up by American artists around the turn of the century (it appears many times in John La Farge’s Considerations on Painting: the ‘Veil of Maya’, which separates the self from the selves of others.)”

Mr. Masheck errs here in the direction of over-interpretation. The term “Veils,” used for a type of Louis picture which he began to make in 1954, certainly has no relationship to the “Veil of Maya”—or any other veil for that matter. I can say this with absolute assurance, since I coined the term myself, and it just sort of stuck, as a useful way of distinguishing a certain type of Louis painting.

—William S. Rubin
Chief Curator, Painting & Sculpture Collection
Museum of Modern Art, New York

RE: Joseph Masheck’s review of Brice Marden in your January issue.

Brice Marden is not “the guy who sat on Cézanne’s tombstone.” In both the Artforum ad and his announcement, Marden is sitting on a monument to Cézanne which is at the base of the steps leading to the Orangerie from the Tuilleries. Had Mr. Masheck spent less time musing on the advertisement and more time dealing with the paintings, he might have noticed that the paintings were made up of one, two, or three sections (never four as stated in the review). Perhaps in the future Mr. Masheck will wish to deal with the paintings themselves rather than comparisons (whether to Reinhardt or to a “pool table top”). I am confident the experience will be rewarding to him.

For the record, Marden does not paint with “oil and wax encaustic” but with a mixture of oil paint, beeswax, and turpentine, as was pointed out to Mr. Masheck when he was in the gallery. The proportions of these materials, the actual process employed, and the resulting surface are different from that of an encaustic technique.

—Klaus Kertess
Bykert Gallery
New York, N.Y.

We may well be witnessing the twilight of Robert Morris’ artistic life. His article on three “younger” artists in your January issue seems to be an all-out attempt to put off the inevitable. He seems intent on assuring his place in the art of the ’70s, perhaps without contributing any of the products himself. By recognizing the life-styles and works of three unknown artists, he attempts to re-invent himself once again and create a prototype of relevant activity through which he can survive another decade. He attempts a resurrection of his worn-out self through the unconventional nature presented by the three artists who, as explained by Morris, wish to remain anonymous and outside the system. This kind of literary deception allows Morris to enter into a situation and come away with the essence while leaving the donors with nothing. His desperate need for recognition can barely be sustained by his present artistic activity. Morris has remained a rather amorphous figure who has had a great effect on the contemporary esthetic. His intentions have been disguised to the present. The public is now on to him: rather than seeing him as the art world’s chief iconoclast, we choose instead to see him as a deceptive, yet pathetic, figure fading away.

His past work has insured his credibility; time is his worst enemy. The public can no longer take him at face value, neither as a significant artist nor as a particularly sensitive weather vane. Most of those he has helped, as in the Castelli warehouse show, have sworn off further contact with him. He got these artists together in a formalized space, summed them all up, and put it all forth in a personalized form. Hardly responsible for that which he himself produced afterwards, his sense of politics and gift at manipulation, perpetuated this design.

He has again done this through his involvement with the three artists in the article, as shown in the diagram taken from Marvin Blaine’s work . . . another piece of Morris’ art grafted from the thought and development of another artist.

—Mark N. Edwards
Madison, Conn.

Mr. Edwards is evidently into res-cuing damsels in distress. I’m not.
—Robert Morris

The only thing that Robert Morris proves by his statement, “It seems a truism at this point that the static, portable, indoor art object can do no more than carry a decorative load that becomes increasingly uninteresting,” is that he is unaware of where the real (underground) action is today, or that he is not and never was an artist.

To believe that the decorative gallery object or the “studio or factory generated commodity” reflects anything more than art marketplace salesmanship, is to fall for one of America’s oldest games as formerly practiced by county fair con artists and medicine sideshow hucksters.

One need only compare Morris’ silly statement to the impact of the Hans Hofmann paintings (same issue, Jan. ’71) to realize that no true artist ever gave a damn about “object” or settled for decoration.

—Herman Rowan
Minneapolis, Minn.

I read the review of my show (January 1971) and found that it, totally failed to come to grips with the major aspects of my show. When Dextra Frankel (director of the gallery at Cal State, Fullerton) and I conceived of the show, our intention was to make clear the full range of my ideas and vision, because we felt that my work had been misunderstood and misperceived. We decided to include my name change (which was already in process) and to do a catalog which would provide a context for my work. It is important to note that I changed my name legally. I did not use an alias. I elected to use the legal process because married women are non-persons legally and I wanted a name of my own.

We placed the statement of name change (See ad: Artforum October, 1970) in the entrance to the gallery and on the cover of the catalog. The catalog included a list of names of twenty-five women and statements by George Eliot, Sojourner Truth, Simone de Beauvoir, and me. My statement was: “Until the egos of both male and female are valued equally throughout all levels of society, the work of a female artist cannot be clearly perceived or accurately judged. For our standards of judgment and modes of perception arise from a history which is primarily the record of the male, the imagery of the male, and the perceptions of the male.”

The list of women’s names included painters, writers, political activists and women who have distinguished themselves by struggling for the rights, dignity, and identity of women in and out of the arts. I consider these women as representatives of my history and was proposing, in the catalog, that my work must be understood within the context of this struggle.

My paintings, which I consider my major work, were dismissed by the reviewer as “demonstrations of my theories” (unexplained) and my catalog was not mentioned, and my name change was described inaccurately as an alias, with no attempt to understand its significance.

These misperceptions and omissions arise from a misunderstanding of my art and of the way my femaleness relates to my art. In my work, my name change and my catalog, I make explicit my commitment to an Art that is emotional, direct, sensate and derives from my psychic and emotional struggle to realize myself as a female. I believe that “Pasadena Lifesavers,” the fifteen paintings included in my show, fully fulfill my commitment. To understand these paintings, one must approach them with a willingness to experience reality through the physical and emotional framework of a female.

“I do not delude myself, as Man does, that I create in proud isolation . . . woman’s creation, far from being like man’s, must be exactly like her creation of children, that is it must come out of her own blood, englobed by her womb, nourished with her own milk. It must be a human creation, of flesh, it must be different from man’s abstractions.”
—Anais Nin, Diary 1934–1939.

—Judy Chicago
Los Angeles, Calif.

Regarding Knute Stiles’ review of my “Sixteen Sentences” in the S.F. section of your Jan. ’71 issue: the 16th sentence of my piece was misquoted, with one too many “in yous.” It should read as follows: “The continuation of this sentence in you by the effect it has on you, and the termination of this sentence in you by the termination of you.” The mistake, coincidentally, was indirectly acknowledged in the piece’s 14th sentence that ended with “. . . the future transformation of this sentence in your mind by confusing parts of it whether you realize it or not.” So, although it, along with the more common “transformations” in the review, served to verify my piece, because of questions I’ve already received regarding the misquotation, I’d like to have this letter printed to acknowledge the sentence’s “transformation,” and to show its first form as given above.

—Richard Olsen
San Francisco, Calif.

It has long been rumored that serious difficulties attend the ascription of dates to the paintings of Hans Hofmann, and now it is the turn of Artforum to succumb to these difficulties. In the January issue, a color plate of a Hofmann Landscape is given one date on page 35, while a half-tone of the same painting on the following page is given another date, five years later. Time will surely settle this question of time, but for such accounting there is no time like the present.

—Faithful Reader

1940 is the correct date.

For a major exhibition on the sculpture and drawing of the late Eva Hesse, I would appreciate any information on collections which include the works of this artist and photographs or other pertinent information concerning exhibitions.

—Donald Droll
c/o M. Knoedler & Co., Inc.
21 E. 70th Street
New York, N.Y. 10021