PRINT January 1980



To the Editor:
I just finished reading Ted Castle’s “Leon Polk Smith: The Completely Self-Referential Object” in the September 1979 issue of Artforum. While I enjoyed Mr. Castle’s article, particularly since it seems to me that Smith’s contribution to American modernism is not sufficiently well known, I believe that Mr. Castle might be interested in knowing the origin of the term “hard-edge.”

The late Jules Langsner in his 1959 Los Angeles County Museum exhibition catalogue entitled Four Abstract Classicists first coined the term “hard-edge” in reference to the California avant-garde paintings of John McLaughlin, Carl Benjamin, Frederick Hammersley, and Lorser Feitelson. Langsner’s exhibition of the works of these artists traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Art and also to the Institute of Contemporary Art in London where presumably Lawrence Alloway saw the exhibition, read the catalogue essay and subsequently became “one of the first to use the term” hard-edge. On page ten of his exhibition catalogue essay, Langsner for the first time defines the term “hardedge” as follows:

Abstract Classicist painting is hard-edge painting. Forms are finite, flat, rimmed by a hard clean edge. These forms are not intended to evoke in the spectator any recollection. They are autonomous shapes, sufficient unto themselves as shapes. These clean-edge forms are presented in uniform flat colors running border to border.

I realize that in terms of Mr. Castle’s article my reference to the origin of the term “hard-edge” may seem like needless quibbling. However, I also note that the hard-edge painting practiced by the California artists of the late 1940s and 1950s seems to have been inadvertently omitted by Mr. Castle when he refers to other hard-edge painters working contemporaneously with Smith. I hope this letter will somewhat remedy that unfortunate oversight. Apart from this one point, I very much appreciated the objectivity and the clarity of the writing in Mr. Castle’s excellent article.

—Joseph E. Young
Department of Art
Arizona State University

To the Editor:
This is just the familiar letter of an author who is astonished to find his text scrambled and falsified by a fault-finding critic. In this case, David Carrier (Artforum, October 1979, p. 44) complains that I have related LeWitt to far too many other artists to make any clear points. It is his privilege to feel this way—I, in fact, had quite consciously spread the net of 20th-century art wide enough to give LeWitt’s work the more traditional context that many other critics had wanted to deny it—but not his privilege to fictionalize my text. I never wrote, to take one example, that “like Mondrian, Tobey, and late Monet, LeWitt’s vocabulary is ‘rigorously restricted to fragmented geometric or quasi-geometric parts.’” My reference here was exclusively to Analytic Cubism and Mondrian’s Cubist-oriented work and had nothing to do with Tobey and late Monet, whom I referred to in quite another context. Without going into further boringly legal corrections of Carrier’s other misquotations, I hope I have made my point.

—Robert Rosenblum
New York, N.Y.

To the Editor:

In his article “ Recent Esthetics and the Criticism of Art,” David Carrier raises the question. “Could the visual arts become allographic?” and he mentions that X-rays reveal Titian’s hand in Bellini’s “Feast of the Gods.” He goes on to say the painting possesses properties of esthetic significance (not found in an imaginary polaroid copy), by which he has confused the properties of two distinct images; the original painting and its X-ray. The X-ray does not show esthetic significance in “Feast of the Gods,” it shows historical significance in that painting. The X-ray does show esthetic significance in the X-ray of that painting, and nowhere else.

—Robert Kame
San Francisco

To the Editor:
My traveling exhibition “Carl Andre, Sculpture 1959–1977” was installed by me and remained on display from May 23 through July 1, 1979 at the University Art Museum, Berkeley. At no time did I agree to allow my work to be included in any other context at the museum. The use of my name in connection with any other exhibitions or programs at the University Art Museum was made without my consent. More specifically, the work Angelimb was created exclusively for my traveling exhibition. All assertions to the contrary are false.

—Carl Andre
New York, N.Y.

This museum scheduled Carl Andre’s traveling exhibition with an understanding of the artist’s agreement that the site-specific work to be created in Berkeley would be considered in two ways. On one hand, it would be part of the retrospective; secondly, the piece would be recognized as one in a series of site works done during the season at Berkeley. When the first public announcement of the series was made, we were surprised that Andre objected to being included in the series. Andre and the museum considered canceling the exhibition, but then agreed to a method by which both exhibitions might proceed. The museum suspended all references to the series entitled “Space as Support” at the time of the traveling exhibition. On his part, Andre included the following statement in a postcard to me, dated 2 February, 1979. “I will let you decide if you wish to include me retrospectively in the catalogue.”

—Mark Rosenthal, Curator
University Art Museum