PRINT Summer 1973



Below is the appeal to the community of artists sent out prior to a protest demonstration Easter Sunday in front of the Museum of Modern Art.

In the preface for the Attica Book we said:

Attica—one year old—is no longer a locality upstate New York. This three-syllable word is a battle cry and lament—the Guernica of America’s dispossessed.

During the short time since publication, the Attica Book has reached many destinations—from the Tombs in New York to a bookshop in Oxford, England, from cultural institutions and universities to individual readers in the South. Ronald King, a prisoner-poet whose work is included in the book, wrote to us: “The only time previously I saw my name in print was on a court calendar. . . .”

During a relatively short time this painfully timely book-art-portfolio stirred the conscience and raised the hope in the fight against injustice both on the “inside” and the “outside” and has become widely known . . . except in the leading art institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art.

In the preface to the Attica Book we said:

It is right that the artists who make their visual statements in this book should constitute a wide stylistic spectrum, from expressionist outcry to laconic conceptual incision. A collage of indignation, witnessing the communality of America’s artists speaking for a shared truth.

The Attica Book, a statement by 48 leading American artists is an art event as well as a statement of conscience. It was presumed that the Museum of Modern Art will recognize it as such and, at least, make it available to the public by placing it in its bookshop, run by the department of publications of MoMA (nearly a half of the artists in the Attica Book are represented in the museum’s permanent collection. Curator William Rubin sent us a letter expressing strong support, as did other high officials of the Modern. Yet on March 19 MoMA informed us through the business manager of publications, Ms. Marna Thoma, that they will not carry the Attica Book. They gave a flimsy excuse: MoMA’s bookshop is non-profit, so is the Attica Book, and that would “break a precedent.”

The true reasons remained unsaid: that the curators and the staff once again did not dare to offend Gov. Rockefeller, as they did not dare in the past on similar occasions. The Attica Book thus follows the Mylai Poster, and a statement by 48 American artists is relegated to the sidewalk

The Attica Book will find its way to the conscience of America, MoMA’s Thoma helping or not. But as artists we must protest the indifference and servility of a public institution which rightfully should represent us. We must:


—Cliff Joseph
Benny Andrews
Black Emergency Cultural Coalition
Rudolf Baranik
Irving Petlin
Artists and Writers Protest
New York City

Editor’s Note: Orders for the Attica Book can be sent to 97 Wooster St., New York City 10012. The price is $6.95 plus 50c for mailing and handling. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go toward the distribution of free copies within the prison system.

In Panama and Guatemala, my husband and I visited all the locations of Muybridge’s Central American photographs. In our pursuit of them, it was often necessary to rely on landmarks, such as volcanoes, for in Guatemala, many of Muybridge’s subjects have been destroyed by the earthquakes of 1902 and 1917. But Muybridge made this difficult, for in his photographs he moved mountains, and even changed the shape of the volcano Agua, to make it conform with his idea of how a volcano should look. In a general view of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, he inserted three peaks, and in a view of the coast from off Champerico, on the Pacific, he spread them apart. These observations clarified for us the sense of Muybridge’s landscape work. He was an expressionist of the camera, who pulled the landscape around to make his picture right. It was only in his motion studies, and particularly those conducted for Leland Stanford, that he abandoned all notion of “artistic effect,” which he had gathered through the writings of Henry Peach Robinson, and through his own familiarity with landscape painting of the nineteenth century.

—Anita Mozley
Stanford, California

Editor’s Note: Mrs. Mozley organized the Muybridge show at Stanford University discussed in the March, 1973, issue of Artforum by Hollis Frampton. The exhibition will be at the New York Cultural Center from May 10–June 30, 1973.

I request one last opportunity to clarify my position regarding Bruce Boice’s articles on the question of aesthetic quality (Artforum, October, 1972, and February, 1973).

Boice is obviously correct in theory; we cannot discuss anything with authority but our own subjective experiences. This is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the reduction of “objective reality” to terms of subjective feelings. However, I believe Mr. Boice is incorrect when he asserts that we should not try to “infer sentences about the work of art” from our responses to it. Unless he is proposing Solipsism, it seems clear that every subjective response is to something that appears to exist objectively in the world and that pragmatically it is sensible to assume that it does exist. Even the physical sciences and philosophy can only try to “infer sentences” about things in the world from subjective experiences.

Since human beings possess a nature which is remarkably constant—despite some individual genetic variations—I think that to “infer sentences” about works of art from subjective responses to them is a rather obvious and logical thing to do. If the appetites, drives and desires which are basic to human nature were singular, erratic, and inconsistent, Mr. Boice’s point would be well taken. However, in view of the existing circumstances, there is every good reason to infer a causative connection between what we perceive as things in the world and subjective experience.

It is of course true that we call the things good or not good. Mr. Boice correctly points out that this is not strictly accurate. However, this is a common linguistic habit which simplifies verbal communication. To discuss works of art, or anything else, in purely subjective terms would be insufferably tedious and boring.

In sum: Mr. Boice and I agree that aesthetic value has no absolute, objective existence. Mr. Boice seems to believe that it has no existence at all. I believe that it is subjective but not whimsical. It is located in the relationship between the individual and the work of art (which, let us remember, was created by another human being). It depends in large part on the relatively constant nature of human beings and socio-cultural contexts with values created and accepted by human beings.

In addition, I take exception to Mr. Boice’s implication that I am trying to relate aesthetic quality to statistics. I consider statistics—particularly those concerning Mr. Boice’s mail—singularly meaningless. The only facts about his mail that would interest me is who is included in the 2/5ths for and 3/5ths against him. If they have given any indication, I would like to know, for my own reasons, where Clement Greenberg stands, what Harold Rosenberg, Dore Ashton, Hilton Kramer, Meyer Schapiro, Peter Janson, Eugene Thaw, and many others think about this question. Furthermore, I would not be surprised if Meyer Schapiro was more responsive to aesthetic value in the art of Cézanne, for example, than my neighbor. I would even go so far as to consider it important, and not just in terms of personal preferences. My neighbor has every right to choose what he likes for himself. However, his choices have no broad social or aesthetic significance and Meyer Schapiro’s do.

I will not recount once again the special historical circumstances that made it all but inevitable that a Count Nieuwerkerke or Albert Wolff would attribute more aesthetic quality to a certain kind of art than it warranted and none where much was deserved. The story is familiar and the final arbiter, history (an accumulation of informed, expert opinion) has decided against them.

I am concerned, however, that by denying “the validity of aesthetic quality” Mr. Boice is apparently denying the existence of art. This does seem to be a foolish position. Is Mr. Boice willing to accept the logical consequences of such a position? That is because human beings have invented values rather than discovering them they are invalid? If so, then I acknowledge his logic; he is an aesthetic (and by extension, since it is also anormative discipline) ethical nihilist.

—Edward B. Henning
Cleveland, Ohio

The snag in Mr. Henning’s argument about inferring sentences is that he has shifted the subject of discussion from ‘what can be inferred from value statements,’ to the ambiguous area of “subjective response,” by which he means the perception of physical facts. He then argues as if the argument were about ‘what can be inferred from sentences asserting facts about the physical world.’ I am in complete agreement with him on inferring sentences about the physical world from assertions of facts about the physical world. Unfortunately, this is not the issue. The issue is rather with what can be inferred from value statements, such as: “This painting is good.”

Actually my mail is now 4 to 3 in my favor, which is “singularly meaningless,” but not more so than the statistics of Mr. Henning’s panel of experts. I have no intention of violating the secret ballot of this postal election, but I can assure Mr. Henning that all of my mail is from experts. Considering the source can be meaningful in determining the probable truth of a piece of gossip, but not in supporting an argument. Unfortunately, if all the names Mr. Henning mentions agreed with my argument, that would be no indication that I was somehow “right,” or had even formed a good argument.

Finally, I hope, if history as described by Mr. Henning is “the final arbiter,” is there any reason to suppose that whatever decision it has made about Count Nieuwerkerke is somehow “final?” Is history, then, over? What if in 50 years the “accumulation of informed, expert opinion” agrees with Count Nieuwerkerke? I am not somehow against value or value statements; I have values and make value statements. I have only tried to clarify what they can mean and what they can’t.

—Bruce Boice
Hartford, Connecticut

I understand why it is easier for critics to deal with visual art in terms of sociology of politics rather than in its own terms which are essentially nonverbal. However, as an artist who has been working for some time, I cannot help but resent the glib description of my work as deriving from “societal conditioning,” in April Kingsley’s article, “Women Choose Women” (Artforum, March, 1973). Originally my pieces were cast in latex, and when later I turned to canvas as a less referential material, sewing was the most logical and organic way of constructing the pieces. It is ironic that when male artists use this technique it is never referred to as “domestic.”

After years of struggling to be taken seriously, it is unfortunate for women that the critics who appear to be supporting us have simply found other means for putting us back in the closet or kitchen. Rather than approaching our work in terms of individual statements in the larger context of contemporary art, it seems easier for them to demean our efforts by finding easy categories to lump us all in. And after all, why not? Sexism is as common in women as in men, and since women have been traditionally forced to deal with the material rather than the spiritual, it is difficult for our “supporters” to find any content in our work other than the mundane considerations which they have been conditioned to expect from us.

—Paula Tavins
New York City

I am writing in reply to the Artforum interview with Emile de Antonio (April, 1973). During the interview Mr. de Antonio said that the great young artists, like Stella, are concerned because there isn’t anybody coming up behind them. “They can’t hear the hoofbeats behind them.” Although I agree with him, my complaint is that Stella (and his generation) and Mr. de Antonio himself are part of the reason that the whereabouts of the young artist is unknown.

Some of the reasoning behind de Antonio’s decision to make Painters Painting should help him, Stella, and all the rest answer their own question. De Antonio said that he grew up with these artists, he knew them, and that these last 25 years belong to him.

I’ve got news for him. Not only did he grow up with these artists, so did America. Actually the American, or more precisely the New York art scene and the last 25 years belong to those artists. The art scene in America was virtually born with these artists. What we had was a situation where a lot of things were happening or being born at the same time. Artists, galleries, dealers, and, in general, the American art scene grew together.

As for Stella and his generation, they made it in just under the wire. Everything that goes up must come down, and so it is with art. The only problem is that as things get tighter, something must give. This means that young artists are the ones who must suffer, because most of the modern American masters and their followers are still alive and working. Therefore the door is being closed on the young artist and the guy who is standing behind the door, with the key in his pocket, and the cigar in his mouth, is none other than Frank Stella himself.

One last thing, Mr. de Antonio, you said that conceptual art is a sign of exhaustion. Maybe it’s not exhaustion, but frustration.

—Robert L. Hammond
Buffalo, New York

Re: review/February, 1973 Artforum. Laura Dean and Dance Company, Circle Dance, LoGiudice Gallery, December 1972.

My work is schematized, obsessional, moralizing and self-disciplinary. “But if one is not a believer, fascination decreases as the pattern and variations become known.”

—Laura Dean
New York City

In the article, “Institution: Whitney Museum,” Artforum, March, 1973, the 32nd Corcoran Biennial was incorrectly described as the 33rd.

“Black Americans in the Visual Arts,” Artforum, April, 1973, listed the National Archives, Washington, D.C., as having tapes of artists. The reference should have been to the Archives of American Art, a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution. Paul Cummings has taped interviews with black artists for the oral history program from which transcripts are available for use by scholars, graduate students, and writers at the five research centers of the Archives in Washington, New York, Boston, Detroit, and San Francisco. In addition, the Archives has in its collection of original material the papers and records of more than 30 black artists on microfilm.