TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 1974

New Voices

ART-WORLD CENTRISM IS UNDENIABLY breaking down. Even as New York has emerged in the last couple of decades as an international art-making center, so museums, galleries, and now art periodicals in outlying communities have become increasingly conscious of their own potential to contribute to the enrichment of contemporary art. All of the publications included in this survey of art magazines outside New York have arisen since 1970.

This growing publishing action is, after all, only natural. It is clearly impractical for the national art magazines to speak directly to art outside their geographical range as it is being made. At this point, it seems that new art needs a strong critical voice to advance it into national awareness. And there is this question of dialogue—art seems to make its most daring leaps when it has a spirited criticism to butt up against it.

Perhaps, as more magazines arise, art information and criticism in North America will become something more than the hit-or-miss patchwork it is now. Still, overview—the time when it will be possible to speak of new art here and not just mean New York and Los Angeles—is still a long way off. The decentralization of art activity that the National Endowment was in large part intended to promote1 remains an ideal. But it is not because some people aren’t trying. To cases.

Artweek: started 1970, $8.00 a year, 45 issues, 1305 Franklin Street, Oakland, California 94612. It is a well-illustrated white paper tabloid averaging about 20 pages. Editor/publisher Cecille McCann does not view her magazine as a critical journal. “I think of Artweek primarily as a trade paper for people in the arts, as a service publication. We’re the major source of information on what’s going on in the West Coast. I hoped it would be a communication device serving the working professional artist.” Nearly everyone connected with the publication, McCann said, has been or is currently a working artist.

The backbone of Artweek is its calendar, which lists exhibitions and competitions throughout California. The paper reports on photography, video, and artists’ performances, as well as painting, sculpture, and crafts. They advance no particular kind of art. Artweek’s extraordinary openness—what might be termed a gelatinous editorial policy—is its main virtue and handicap. The paper offends no one, and it is the only publication I found that is breaking even on advertising. But it contains a confusing mix of material, including some thoughtful, analytic critical articles, as well as what looks like press releases often written by the organizers of the exhibitions under discussion.

Journal: $15.00 a year, six issues, from L.A. Institute of Contemporary Art, 2020 Ave. of the Stars, Century City, California 90067. Only one issue of this 50-page glossy white journal has been published (in June, 1974), so it is impossible to say how it will go. Interim editor, Fidel Danieli, said that, since the L.A. Institute of Contemporary Art2 also publishes an information newsletter, the Journal will not devolve into a mere house organ for the ICA. “On one level, the Journal is operating as a bulletin, and on another level as a kind of general interest art magazine.” The editorship of the magazine, he said, will “rotate like the curating of shows” at the ICA, with each editor serving at the discretion of the Institute’s Editorial Committee.

The first issue contained two interviews with established local artists Dewain Valentine and Tony Delap, two reprints, excerpts from the minutes of discussions attending the founding of the ICA, and several smaller pieces. “I don’t want tons of interviews or tons of heavy criticism,” Danieli said. “I’m interested in skipping from one stylistic approach to another. Still, artist interviews are one of the most important things you can do. Criticism, no matter how good or how powerful it is, is always secondhand.” Danieli said that the Journal will include catalogue essays for all ICA shows, and catalogue essays from shows at other California cultural institutions. It will not undertake reviewing tasks, although, Danieli emphasized, this may change under the next editor.

I must confess extreme suspicion of the Journal. It seems to lack a certain sense of purpose, and with a rotating editorship and editorial policy directly controlled by an Institute committee, it seems unlikely that the Journal can chart a course independent of the institution that controls it.

File: started 1970, $2.00 a year, four issues, from Art-Official, 241 Yonge St., Toronto, Canada M5B 1 NB. This is not a critical journal, but a quarterly art piece published by a group of artists in Toronto, “Canadada.” Printed on pulp paper with a glossy two-color cover, File resembles the Life magazine of the late ’40s in affect, and the Whole Earth Catalogue in effect, and reiterates what might once have been called a countercultural pattern. It publishes interviews, reportage, and other information about the activities of neoDada, Fluxus spinoffs, and mail art groups throughout North America. And, just as the Catalogue engendered the Menlo Park Institute, so File has grown along with the twin organizations General Idea (Toronto), and the Western Front Lodge (Vancouver)3 This collaboration, coeditor AA Bronson explained, is unusual, “because historically there has been a huge gap between Vancouver and Toronto’s art scenes. Connections have run historically more north-south—Toronto-New York, and Vancouver-Los Angeles.”

Since it is an art piece and not at all concerned with criticism, it seems unfair to criticize File for the high order of craziness it exemplifies. Nevertheless, the magazine is as consistently obscurantist as it is illuminating in the coverage it does provide.

The New Art Examiner: started 1973, $5.00 a year,ten issues, 5433 S. Greenwood, Chicago, Illinois 60615. This feisty pulp paper tabloid publishes with boldly political aims. The paper’s first issue included a frontpage editorial headlined with muckraker Lincoln Steffens’ motto, “Without fear or favor.” In November, 1973, The Examiner commented and expanded on an article dealing with the Chicago Art Institute which had appeared in Chicagoan magazine. Since then, the paper’s writers have built their own investigative campaigns (complete with editorial cartoons and caricatures), taking on Chicago museums, galleries, and arts organizations, and hopefully prompting arts professionals to a clearer recognition of their accountability.

In summer of 1974, The Examiner profiled the newly appointed chairman of the Illinois State Arts Council, Bruce Sagan. (The IAC is but one of a network of state arts councils dispensing National Endowment money and whatever funds they can raise from their state legislatures.) In the same issue, the paper published excerpts of IAC proceedings on The Examiner’s own application to IAC for grant money which revealed Sagan’s antipathy toward them.4

Editor Jane Allen (a student of Joshua Taylor and Harold Rosenberg at the University of Chicago) and English Associate Editor Derek Guthrie wrote a weekly art column for The Chicago Tribune from 1971–73, when they were fired for “unprofessionalism.” Allen charges that the reason, in fact, was pressure on their editors from the Chicago art establishment,5 and it was then that they decided to launch The New Art Examiner.

Allen feels that the increasing government support of the arts and the inevitable political climate it is generating is something that The Examiner must deal with. Eventually, she said, she hopes to extend coverage to the National Endowment. But before the paper takes on national tasks, she said, it must fulfill its commitment to sharp analysis of the Chicago scene.

The Examiner regularly puts the goads to art critics writing for other Chicago publications (and to critics who visit the city to lecture) in articles, editorials, and Betty McCasland’s column “Critics’ Critic.” Like most of her volunteer staff, Allen is an artist—a painter—who found that “social, political, and economic influences on art were interfering dreadfully with esthetics, and I wasn’t able to be purely formalist in approaching my art, which I would have liked to have been early on. There was too much pressure on the other side; and the moment you begin to look at it, the bigger the pressure gets.” Too much criticism, Allen feels, “succumbs to these pressures by simply burying its head in the sand and refusing to deal with them. I see Artforum take forays in the other direction from time to time, but they can’t integrate it into their normal format, so these articles always stick out. . . . I see our magazine as just doing preparatory work for the establishment of a new kind of criticism. We are interested in seeing art both in terms of esthetics and its general social context.”

The Examiner is low on photographs of artworks (a problem they acknowledge), and the critical styles evidenced in the paper’s centerfold review section are not markedly adventurous. Analytical pieces on the nature of criticism tend to fall into cant.

The Original Art Report: $10.00 a year, five issues, from Frank Salantrie, P.O. Box 1641, Chicago, Illinois, 60690. This spirited four pager appears to be the work of one man. Frank Salantrie’s monthly is more like a news service, and makes no pretensions to general appeal. It covers important conventions, scandals, and the like in Illinois with a broad commitment to “the preservation, comprehension, and progress of artists and art.”

Events that particularly outrage Salantrie are typographically prefaced by “TOAR ROAR.” Although it makes occasional art-critical asides (but carries no illustrations), TOAR is not an art-critical journal. Rather it is more in the tradition of iconoclastic American political journals like the I.F. Stone Weekly.

Straight Turkey/artmind: started 1974, $10.00 a year, five issues, 3682 Redondo Beach Blvd., Torrance, California 94612. Straight Turkey promises a “good dose of West Coast punk criticism” in its pages, “and there is even some high art elitism to love or hate.” The magazine, which runs about 50 pages on glossy paper, contains a mix of interviews, speculative writing, and rough-hewn opinionated criticism.

The magazine emulates Avalanche in its interview style. The conversations Straight Turkey publishes are edited only by the artist, and contain pauses, coughs, and laughter. The speculative writing sorties fearlessly into the realms of literary, poetic, and autobiographical style. Editor Timothy Silverlake explained, “If language can be as flexible as painting, then different meanings are developed. It’s kind of a reaction against ’Write it this way or it won’t be coherent.’ ” Silverlake said that much of the writing in Straight Turkey developed in response to the theoretical styles in Artforum. “There’s either two ways you can go with writing—you can find a larger dictionary, or reuse some of the smaller words.”

“The Newer Dialectic” (June–July, 1974), for example, was written by Ingmar Jargone (a decidedly suspicious sounding name) in direct response to Lizzie Borden’s “The New Dialectic” (Artforum, March, 1974). Jargone’s reasoning, I suspect, reflects Silverlake’s editorial response to letters critical of Straight Turkey received (and published) after the first promotional mailing: “It was decided that . . . the magazine would be a transition from the actual occurrence of the information to the public, much as television functions when it documents an event. . . . We were not concerned with fitting into an academic model of coherence; very few real occurrences fit into intellectual patterns of understanding.”

Robert Zweigman’s “The Man Twice” (ST/artmind 3), a frankly literary and episodic piece about growing up art-minded in Southern California, hits me (a California boy myself) where I live. The same issue contains a complement to Zwiegman’s article—a scathing rundown by Walter Gabrielson on the frustrations of teaching art, “Byzantium cum Tenure.” Although the reviews frequently fall into a species of coy snideness (such as the suggestion that Chris Burden “see a shrink” or “join the SLA”), writing such as this addresses the southern California art community in a manner too direct to be ignored.

Straight Turkey embodies contradiction. Although it is printed on expensive glossy stock, the magazine runs a startlingly low percentage of photographs in comparison to text. Copy is “typeset” on an electric typewriter and simply reduced. While this may form a point of doctrine, it makes the magazine extremely difficult to read.

Straight Turkey does not pay its writers, and relies mainly upon received material. Silverlake said, “the magazine reflects a great deal of what people are thinking rather than what they wish they were thinking.” But, he went on, “I don’t think our ideas are particularly regional—that’s kind of a dead issue. It sidetracks what the business is about, which is to make something interesting. I would hate to be an L.A. art magazine.”

Sunday Clothes: $5.00 a year, four issues, from Lame Johnny Press, Box 66, Hermosa, South Dakota 57744. The journal is in many ways the textbook case regional art magazine. “We here in the Midwest are just beginning to get around to art, and avant-garde is some time in the future,” editor/publisher Linda Hasselstrom wrote me. “So far as we know, we’re IT between Kansas City and Los Angeles.” However, Hasselstrom went on, Sunday Clothes is interested in seeing work from artists around the country.

Vanguard: started 1972, $2.00 a year, ten issues, from Vancouver Art Gallery, 1145 W. Georgia, Vancouver 5, B.C., V6E 3H2. Editor Norah Kembar frankly describes Vanguard as the house organ of the Vancouver Art Gallery. This pulp-paper eight-page tabloid, she said, “is didactic, an information journal containing support pieces for our special events program. These pieces put our special events into context where we have events that are esoteric, or that require more elaboration.” The gallery, which is funded by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, originally published a glossy paper calendar of its activities, like many other museums. “But the problem was that the deadline was always so early that everything was dead by the time it got out, just flat and uninteresting.” Since Vanguard is produced within the gallery, and the camera-ready copy sent out to a local printer, it has resulted in considerable savings as well as flexibility over the old bulletin format. Since Vanguard first appeared, several other museums in British Columbia have followed suit with tabloids of their own. I know of no museums in the United States putting out similar publications.

Much of the material in Vanguard is written by the gallery staff. “Special events stuff is provided by the artists,” Kembar said, “but it’s pretty heavily edited and rewritten here. That’s my function—I’m the gatherer. Presentation of copy is something I care intensely about. Artists, as you know, are not necessarily capable of writing very clearly.”

The Vancouver Art Gallery also publishes Criteria (started Summer, 1974), a white-paper critical magazine which is inserted in every other issue of Vanguard. Criteria is under no obligation to deal only with gallery programs, and its editorial policy is determined separately from the house organ in which it is contained. Coeditor Ardele Lister explained that Criteria was started because the established Canadian art journals, based in Toronto, have failed to deal with avant-garde art in the Northwest.

Criteria, Lister said, has taken on the task of critical examination of Vancouver area art, but eventually the magazine plans to break loose from Vanguard and draw writers from all over Canada. Although it is precipitate to judge Criteria on the basis of the single issue I have seen, the paper has a clear and radical intent. At this point, they seem to be having difficulty focusing, since Lister said they plan to cover theater, film, and poetry, as well as the visual arts. They also plan to initiate reviewing activities.

Criteria, sheltered but apparently unencumbered by a municipal gallery, is in a privileged position unavailable to American critical journals. The paper actually need only maintain the quality of the features formerly published in Vanguard to prove out.

Alan Moore

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NOTES

1. It is clear from the Congressional Record of debate in the House of Representatives on National Endowment funding for the current fiscal year that this was, in fact, uppermost in the minds of legislators from nonurban areas.

2. The Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art is intended to serve as “a catalyst for the support and recognition of art in Southern California.” They are committed to exhibitions of local work (including video and performance), educational functions, and maintenance of a comprehensive and nonexclusive Artist’s Registry of slides. Although the ICA was in the planning stages in late 1973, it seems that it will in some measure have to fill the gap created by the recent conversion of the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art into a showcase for the Norton Simon collection of Old Masters.

3. More information about these two groups is available in Avalanche, Winter/ Spring, 1973, “The Gold-diggers of ’84, An Interview with General Idea,” and Avalanche, Summer/Fall, 1973, “Business As Usual On The Western Front: An Interview by Willoughby Sharp.”

4. Eventually The Examiner received a $5,000 grant from the IAC. In return, the paper plans to publish five special supplements dealing with the visual arts throughout Illinois. Sagan objected to funding The Examiner because it was “a newspaper of general circulation, one which is involved in general news reporting and political criticism.” Despite the official assertions to the contrary I have received, the minutes of the IAC proceedings The Examiner published once again raise the problem of censorship, both subtle and gross, which appears to be unavoidably linked to the grant funding of art publications, whether it be by private or public institutions.

5. Allen and Guthrie’s reactions to their dismissal from the staff of The Chicago Tribune are contained in an article the two wrote in Studio International, November, 1973.