PRINT February 1980

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

Allegiance to one kind of art or to one kind of thinking about art is inappropriate, at this time, for a serious art magazine. (At other times this has not been the case; blinders were absolutely necessary for ideas and actions to evolve and, further, for them to exist with the justice their time demanded.) Blinders would be fatal now. A magazine must learn from art if it is to be about art, and it must cross the same boundaries that modern artists have worked so hard to break down. This is not to say that it is right to ignore that which existed within the old boundaries—only that it is imperative to explore and include further frontiers. Therefore, I have no choice but to commit myself to editing a magazine which includes and considers all the best ideas, challenges, work and questions put forth by modern contemporary artists and writers on art.

An art magazine can be a vehicle for the work it chooses to consider, but, even more, it can be a cultural forum, where important and difficult thought can be expressed—telescoped—in such a manner as to indicate to us things to look for and ways of seeing. An art magazine must not make a dead fact out of art—art is not a bone to be picked; a good magazine must be a servant to the idea of art. Art is stronger (at least less fragile) than we sometimes think, and it can and must stand up to our questions and to our scrutiny.

The past three decades have seen multiple revolutions in art: revolutions of form, revolutions reflecting politics, revolutions of media, revolutions of theory, revolutions of practice. Each had its own singleness, then each cross-pollinated. As a result now we have many “isms” and several totems. We have a complicated landscape, but not a labyrinth—if careful attention is paid to the many guideposts and markers.

This magazine is a forum. It is not a didactic organ. It is for artists, writers, critics, art historians and for all interested in visual art ideas. It is about the continuance of vital academic analysis and of responsible, direct criticism. Sometimes it is also about letting the art speak for itself. Perhaps, most important, it is about the struggle for an adequate syntax, and a clear and truthful vocabulary. Only when there is a language can we talk about art. The past decades have produced a serviceable language for certain of the “isms” but as the art evolves so must the language—new abstract painting and sculpture deserves a well-matched dialogue; in certain areas, performance art, to name one, verbal pickings have been pretty slim, period.

This magazine is only alive if its readers consider it so—if they participate in the forum, if they tell its editor what they think. There must be editorial freedom, together with room for disparate points of view. It will grow only by allowing others to grow, by acknowledging the contributions of those within and without the mainstream.

As editor I will do my utmost to protect the integrity and the fullness of this forum, to make the most potent use of these precious pages.

This issue is extremely atypical of my plans in that it is thematic. I decided that, to begin, it was necessary to think about and to acknowledge an elementary but fundamental question/problem—the page. During the last decade the value which artists placed on work and ideas that could reasonably (economically and physically) be distributed to larger audiences than is possible with, say, a unique object, caused a major and far reaching concept to flourish—multiplicity—multiples, prints, photographs, video and artists’ books. Since publishing is intrinsic to all of these forms it, too, needed to broaden both its technological and conceptual self-definitions. The very possibility of the page as a direct and primary arena, as an alternative to the wall, was once again recognized and declared as fact: as ground.

I invited thirteen artists to join in this issue. They represent a wide range of views but they have in common an admitted, proven exemplary commitment to using the page as ground. Apart from the reviews none of the pages in this issue is a reproduction of a work of art, all are primary art intended for this, and only this format. I also invited the editors of three other magazines to participate. Each represents a different sensibility along a wide spectrum. They are united by editorial integrity and tenacity to their individual goals. Their dynamic solutions for the printed page have propelled our understanding of how the contemporary page can work.

As with any other contributors, all of the artists and magazines were paid for their work. Artists and editors received the same instructions: "Your project may run two, three, or four pages. A side of one page counts as one page. If you work in color please remember that we cannot run color on consecutive spreads. The trim size of our page is 10 1/2 (width) x 10 5/8 inches (height). Our standard body text typeface is 9-pt. Helvetica Light. Our headings are usually 18-pt. Eurostyle Bold.

“This is not a contract which guarantees inclusion in Artforum. As editor I will be making final decisions as to the project’s inclusion. I cannot send proofs for your approval. The work will be returned to you after it has been run but it will be marked up as is necessary for production. . .”

I should also say that each person or group had, perhaps tryingly, a short deadline—in some cases less than a week—a situation inherent to a periodical as opposed to a book. I thank the contributors. I especially thank them for their enthusiasm. This issue is by no means all inclusive. There are many many others who “belonged” in it.

The first project is by William Wegman; the next by Jenny Holzer and Peter Nadin. The names of the others are indicated throughout the magazine. In this particular issue the writers serve as anchors.