PRINT April 1971



In Barbara Rose’s “A Conversation with Gene Davis,” there are two erroneous statements for which I must take full responsibility. At the outset, however, I think it only fair to point out that the article represents a tape-recorded interview, “off-the-top-of-my-head,” if you will, which I never saw in type until it was too late to make corrections. Undeniably, the two errors to which I make reference would have been corrected had I been given the time for an unrushed editing of the copy.

Following are the two errors:

(1) In the answer to the first question regarding the organization of the Jefferson Place Gallery in Washington, D.C., I stated erroneously that the Gallery was “founded jointly by Alice Denney and a young wealthy collector around town whose name escapes me.” Actually, it was organized by a group of artist-teachers at American University with Mrs. Denney as its director. Members of the cooperative gallery included such artists as Joe Summerford, Helene Herzbrun, Robert Gates, William Calfee and Ken Noland.

(2) The second and more serious error is my hazy recollection of seeing “a life-size expressionist male nude (painted by Noland) in the window of the Jefferson Place Gallery” early in 1959. There was such a painting, but it was NOT painted by Noland, even though someone, either in jest or malice, so informed me at the time. Frankly, I had serious misgivings about the accuracy of this statement shortly after I made it, but, in the rush of events, promptly forgot it. It was hearsay, 12 years removed, and I should have checked it. The import of the statement does a disservice to Noland, and for this, I am truly sorry.

—Gene Davis
Washington, D. C.

Additional correspondence concerning various factual matters raised in the interview with Mr. Davis was received too late for publication and will appear in the May issue.—Ed.

We feel compelled to protest against Emily Wasserman’s encomium of the work of Joseph Raffael shown at the Reese Palley Gallery in San Francisco last fall (January, 1971).

While we recognize the artist’s skill in applying paint to canvas, we were both overwhelmed by the vacuity of the artist’s statement as such. (And we had been primed by friends whose taste and opinions we respect to respond favorably to Raffael’s work.) Certainly we were not impressed by “. . . a strong spiritual aura and an atmosphere of magic or ritual” Rather, we were stunned by the massive display of kitsch. “. . . Zen-like flashes of recognition . . .” did not come to us. Rather, we were reminded of the sort of window decoration that one sees in chi-chi shoppes!

Far from displaying “. . .the unrationalized openness and trust of a child . . .” that, according, to Miss Wasserman, one must bring to works of primitive art, Raffael utilizes the whole western painterly tradition up to Impressionism in his interpretation of non-western personages and artifacts. Where Gauguin—“decadent” western bourgeois though he was-discarded contemporary artistic conventions in an attempt to see life as a child or a primitive, Raffael embraces outmoded western conventions of color and brush stroke. In our culture-conscious, if not always perceptive, age, his King Tut or his Buddha would make acceptable covers for issues of Life.

Raffael certainly does “. . . bypass conventional good taste . . .” or, as we would have it, good taste tout court.

—Robert H. Mcdonald
—Theda Shapiro
Riverside, Calif

With regard to Jack Burnham’s “Art and Technology” (January):

Technology is the adaptation of scientific information to human purposes. The substantiation of purposefulness in techniques, e.g. medium conceived as message, dehumanizes technology; creating an abyss not bridging the gap between the “Two Cultures.”

“Software” (at the jewish Museum) demonstrated the absurdity of the technocratic approach. No software is found in “Software,” only hardware and naive exercises in Aristotelian Logic like Donald Burgy’s Order Idea.

Burgy’s excursion into Aristotelian thought presented as “software” is the ultimate absurdity. “Throughout modern times, practically every advance in science, in logic or in philosophy has had to be made in the teeth of the opposition from Aristotle’s disciples.” This statement by Bertrand Russell is particularly applicable to the area of Russell’s most significant work—the development and codification of the language of software—a logic of connectives, “not,” “and,” and “or,” as an alternative to a logic of categories.

The expression of mathematical statements as combinations of logical connectives demonstrated in the Principia Mathematica (1913) plus the refinement of electronics more than twenty years later make possible the digital computer: so much for technological determinism.

Disregard of the practical aspect of technology, the elimination of human purposes, necessitates that there be no software in “Software”; there can be no problem solving without a problem.

Technology is the modern heir of art in the sense of craft. Technology is the most vital instance of contemporary “arts” in this older sense of the word. The beauty of the products of technology equals that of the crafts . The beauty of a Greek vase and a moon shot are comparable.

The Dominant role within Art history of certain institutions—Church and Museum—contributes to the preciousness of the art object, its otherworldliness. The aura of reverence surrounding an icon derives from an aspect of the tradition of art distinct from and contrary to the craft tradition as ancestor of technology. To treat computers, telephones, televisions, etc., as icons, is to connect the disparate and obscure relationships between art and technology

—Ruth Long
Providence, R.I.