PRINT January 1977



Mr. Alloway, in his article “Site Inspection,” rightly begins by clearly qualifying the inability to document large outdoor works. Smithson’s Site/Non-Site works best avoided the difficulty by combining site and documentation as well as bridging the disparity between Earthworks and “gallery” (as traditionally understood to be a vehicle for documentation).

Very little is mentioned in the article about a significant aspect of viewing the works discussed, particularly Double Negative and Las Vegas Piece, that also qualifies documentation of these works; that is the anticipation the witness experiences to journey to the sites and the sense of danger inherent in the journey. Las Vegas Piece, for example, is a 70-mile round trip over a rough and little-used desert road, difficult to travel and remote from any population. The sense of danger and risk that is evoked during the trip is, I believe, a significant part of the gestalt of the work. Danger, of course, was more discernible in the Spike Pieces of de Maria. Danger in the desert is subtle; lack of water, vehicle failure, rattlesnakes, cold, heat and isolation. The one work of Smithson, I feel, most similar was the Palanque Hotel in Mexico, strictly a documentation. Listening to Smithson’s narrative description for an hour and a half provoked the listener to see, and describe to himself, objects and details of the hotel, anticipating which were of most interest to the artist. An old suspension bridge spans a decrepit and ruined swimming pool to reach the bar. This image is not too dissimilar to crossing the Nevada desert in the summer, savoring whatever life-saving fluids await the traveler making, hopefully, the satisfaction worth the risks.

De Maria had requested that Las Vegas Piece not be photographed. Whether or not his intent was because of the mystery and physical effort involved in finding it I don’t know, but it is unfortunate Mr. Alloway did not respect the artist’s request.

I take exception to the proposition that large works need be realized “where there is no prior civilization, or very little.” Several major works and proposals by Doug Huebler were realized in metropolitan regions, such as the New York-Boston Exchange Shape; Variable Piece #1 4,750 ft. by 4,750 ft. by 600 ft. high or the 42° parallel work which encompassed the entire continent and depended on civilized areas (post offices) for its execution.

Tom R. Zabriskie
Salt Lake City

Americans always like to feel that they are living dangerously. The “sense of danger” Mr. Zabriskie refers to is covered in my article, adequately so far as I am concerned, by my references to solitude. I like Robert Smithson’s Palanque Hotel narrative with slides, too, but do not consider it an Earthwork, or if it is, it is not one I have visited (the point of my article). It exists, I think, really as a non-site.

Walter de Maria suggested using the photographs of his Las Vegas Piece and he supplied them. It seems that Mr. Zabriskie’s solicitude for artists does not include keeping up to date with them.

Douglas Huebler was not included in my piece because physical existence is a prerequisite for Earthworks. Marcel Duchamp had the idea of naming the Woolworth Building, thus making it a readymade, but though it was the tallest building in the world at the time Duchamp had the idea, it does not make him into a sculptor in the sense of the word used in “Site Inspection.”

—Lawrence Alloway
New York City

Jeff Perrone has so many problems in his vicious attack of the criticism of Lawrence Alloway that it is difficult to know where to begin. Not only has he attempted to confuse the reader with brief quotes taken completely out of context, but he has entirely misconstrued Alloway’s methodology.

On Abstract Expressionism, Perrone does concede some credit to Alloway, but he sorely underestimates the historic importance and uniqueness of this critic’s work, work which not only grasps the central ideas on the subject but also opens up innumerable avenues for further study and deeper comprehension. And as for the de Kooning-Hess matter, Alloway is attempting to educate the reader that the role of the critic is not trying to tell the artist what he does but rather to look, listen, study and interpret what the artist himself does and says.

Alloway is alone among his peers in his uncanny ability to discuss and intuit with intelligence the diverse artistic trends of our time. No other critic provides such rich, documented information and insight into the total situation. And this is achieved by the direct knowledge and understanding of the artists themselves—who, after all, are the creators. He never “. . . accepts uncritically the voice of the artist” but extrapolates the truth by approaching the artist as the primary source of knowledge of the work of art. Nothing he has ever written has been done with blind allegiance to anyone—artist, critic or popular preference. (I suggest that Perrone begin by reading Alloway’s article on artists as writers which, incidentally, appeared in Artforum.) Alloway stands apart from the “academies of critics” where ego takes over too often, where intellectual jargon subsumes the art and its creator under the yoke of contrived theoreticism.

All this is not to assume that Alloway never makes a mistake. Baudelaire chose Guys as his model, yet who would deny the contribution of this great critic. The fact is that Alloway, rather than deny factors of inevitable change, always stands ready to further develop his position as time brings new facts to light. In this way, he has avoided the kinds of traps which have all too often ensnared even the more intelligent such as Greenberg.

Alloway has cultivated his craft over the years through an innate intuitive grasp combined with concerted work and study—of both current developments and the history of art. (He is widely knowledgeable and his talents as a teacher have rarely been acknowledged.) I suggest that Perrone start doing some homework. (The Nation alone should keep him busy for a while.)

Barbara Cavaliere
New York City

One cannot argue with “intuition” and “Alloway is alone among his peers,” and other such puffs. In fact, the only arguable criticism Ms. Cavaliere can muster up for this resounding Alloway adulation is that I have not done my homework. I was reviewing a book by Mr. Alloway, not the last ten years of Artforum or the last eight of The Nation. If Ms. Cavaliere thinks that Mr. Alloway’s best criticism can be found in these journals, and not in his book, she had better take that up with Mr. Alloway, not with me.

—Jeff Perrone
New Haven, Conn.

As a long time subscriber to Artforum I have frequently noticed a tendency on the part of the magazine to ignore the work of California artists, no matter how high the quality of their work, in favor of New York “establishment” artists. But never before have I been quite so outraged as by Barbara Baracks’ article on Artpark in the November 1976 issue.

Having visited the park this summer it was clear that the most exciting and popular piece with the artists as well as the visitors was the large sandbag structure by Lloyd Hamrol, an artist well known in California. Hamrol’s piece, perhaps more than any other work there, seemed to fulfill the promise of Artpark—to encourage work that is more humanized than what usually passes for Art between the covers of your magazine. Why wasn’t his work even mentioned?

The only reason I can imagine is that Ms. Baracks doesn’t know what she’s doing, or she was trying to earn points with the New York establishment. Why, too, was there no mention of Connie Zehr, whose work in the park was every bit as good as those artists Ms. Baracks chose to include.?

When is Artforum going to replace New York bias with esthetic values that reflect the richness in art that is developing throughout the country?

Diane Gelon
Los Angeles

As a fellow collector of conspiracy theories, I regret to inform Ms. Gelon that Stanton Kaye, credited in my article as co-creator of the extensively discussed The Amazing Bow-Wow, is a Californian. So is Ron Davis, featured in Nancy Marmer’s article following mine. So, for a long period of time, was I.

I omitted mentioning more New York artists I met during my one-week stay at Artpark than I omitted all non-New York artists combined. This gave me the space also to discuss work by a Puerto Rican, a Floridian, and a Canadian. Or do they not count?

—Barbara Baracks
New York City