PRINT Summer 1980



To the Editor:
I am writing with reference to the review by Joanna Frueh discussing Elyn Zimmerman’s work (Artforum, February 1980, p. 103), because . . . this piece, according to both the photograph and the description, repeats the configurations of my 1977 environmental sculpture Greene Street Oracle, exhibited at the Sculpture Now Gallery, New York City in September 1977.

I am enclosing photographs and reviews of my sculpture which were published in Art in America, Art News, and ARTS magazines that year. According to your reviewer, the current sculpture in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art utilized a white column and a black reflecting pool six inches deep, both of which were of course the central components of my 1977 environment. The work you reviewed repeats elements from my oeuvre to the point of visual quotation without proper acknowledgement of the source. Also, according to your reviewer, Ms. Zimmerman exhibited in New York City from the mid-seventies on, and I am very surprised that the artist should not be conversant with my Greene Street Oracle sculpture.

In any case, I would very much appreciate your printing this letter in the interest of historical documentation and, for the same reason, I would like both the artist and critic to be made aware of the letter and to comment upon it.

Salvatore M. Romano
New York, N.Y.

If I had known your sculpture Greene Street Oracle, I certainly would have mentioned it in my review of Elyn Zimmerman’s visually similar installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Not having experienced your work it’s difficult for me to comment on any similarities of meaning. Whatever they may be, I find it fascinating that artists, like scientists and scholars, sometimes “discover” an idea almost simultaneously. For instance, images repeat over the past few years in the work of several Chicago-based artists, but with diverse symbolism: evening gloves (Auste, Phyllis Bramson, Hollis Sigler); plush chairs (Bramson and Janet Cooling); wild animals (Cooling and Sigler); stagelike interiors (Bramson, Cooling, Sigler). In this case, as in yours and Zimmerman’s, historical documentation is valuable not so much in order to know who originated an image or idea, which is sometimes impossible, but rather to point out that in a particular culture at a particular time certain ideas/perceptions and their expression are communal.

Joanna Frueh
Chicago, Ill.

Prior to being forwarded Mr. Romano’s letter I knew nothing of his work. He seems similarly to know nothing of mine, except for the reproduction of the “Options” project (an untitled installation) in Artforum’s review. The “Options” pool and its special lighting configuration evolved from a continuing concern for site specific installations, often including reflective surfaces and projected light, long established in my own exhibited work.

It is regrettable that an apparent coincidence of elements in our respective sculptures has distressed Mr. Romano. I feel certain that if he will more closely consider the Chicago installation in particular and its consistency with my work in general, he will find that he has misjudged the situation.

Elyn Zimmerman
New York, N.Y.