PRINT April 1981



Ralph Humphrey wanted

To the Editor:
The Museum of Contemporary Art is organizing a retrospective of the work of Ralph Humphrey for the fall of 1982, to travel in 1983. I would appreciate receiving information concerning the present location of paintings, drawings and watercolors in order to assemble a working catalogue raisonné. Photographs and/or slides would be copied and returned. Radio or tape interviews, lecture notes or other primary source material would also be much appreciated.

—John Hallmark Neff
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, III.

Energism Criticism

To the Editor:
Ronny H. Cohen’s breathless paean to her own taste (“Energism: An Attitude,” September) deserves the Art Dealer’s Association “Label of the Decade” award. It is no mean feat to coin such a pronounceable epithet so lacking in definition that it cannot be misapplied. She has presented the art world with its greatest aid to the digestion of for-the-moment-hard-to-describe works since Lawrence Alloway gave us “Pop Art” way back in the Ice Age (I don’t exactly recall “Popism” as Ms. Cohen calls it, but then I only read English-language art magazines).

What impressed me most about Ms. Cohen’s essay was the canny way in which she dispensed with the one element common to all other “isms,” the one element that has proved to be their fatal weakness: that works of art encompassed by one “ism” should look more like one another than works of art of other “isms.” With good reason, Ms. Cohen tells us, “Energism is different.” Indeed it is. At last, with Energism, we have a tag that is not based on the style or content of the work of art but upon how it thinks of itself. “In Energism” we are told, “the individual work of art . . . is interested primarily in informing the viewer about its own active, vital character.” Also, “what the Energist work of art . . . seems to fear . . . is the possibility of coming across as boring.” Ms. Cohen surely merits attention in psychic circles for the unparalleled acts of animistic telepathy that must have accompanied her research. We should only hope her efforts are not cheapened by the attention of the yellow press (National Enquirer headline: “Picture Speaks To Art Critic”).

But Ms. Cohen must be warned that the art world is a cruel and heartless arena. Even though she pauses deftly to remind us that hers is “this first essay about Energism” she must solidify her position immediately or the spring season will reveal a major Energist show at the Whitney with Ms. Cohen lucky to be footnoted in the catalogue. My advice to her is to publish, as soon as possible, “Energism: The Early Years,” “Energism: Its Roots Including Stellas of the Seventies” and “Energism Revisited: The Second Generation.”

—Michael Findlay
New York, N.Y.

Ronny H. Cohen replies:
ENERGISM, Mr. Findlay, is attitude—nowhere do you address the issue of attitude.
ENERGISM, Mr. Findlay, is emerging—more and more works exemplify the “outer-directed, active and aggressive attitude” of Energism.
ENERGISM, Mr. Findlay, is all around you—are you feeling uncomfortable?

Kudos for Kertess

To the Editor:
As a loyal subscriber to Artforum, I want to thank you for your lead article in November by Klaus Kertess entitled “Figuring it Out.” Kertess deserves three cheers for showing us that art can be written about clearly and understandably. I also appreciate the concern for honesty that comes through in Kertess’ work.

—Phil Schrager
Omaha, Nebraska

Launching P.A.D.

To the Editor:
P.A.D. (Political Art Documentation/ Distribution) is a motley crew of artists of all ages and esthetics working out of and into New York to build an effective relationship between individual artists, cultural groups and liberal/left political organizations. Our core is an archive of documentation on international political art, housed in New York City at P.S. 64 on Avenue B and 9th Street, under the auspices of Seven Loaves, an arts umbrella group. We are writing to solicit material from all artists who see their work as socially concerned—as commentary, protest, imaginative outreach, community interaction or metaphorical provocation. We follow a general Left perspective and interpret “social concern” in the broadest sense.

The “distribution” part of P.A.D. is more specifically issue-oriented. Our public events are designed to bring together artists and activists. Open meetings are held the second Sunday of each month. We’ve just begun to publish a newsletter which will provide a forum for ideas and show selections of what’s coming into the archive. We will also print original magazine works by our members. In the next couple of months we are sponsoring several events on taxes and militarism in conjunction with a citywide project of original art works in local public places. We’re leading up to a big national exhibition and conference in the fall—tentatively titled “Whose Realism? Whose Reality?”

P.A.D. wants to stimulate the dialogue between artists and the people they think they’re working for. We do not see the individual artist’s gifts and needs being replaced by a dogmatic notion of social work. We do want to combat the insidious idea that you have to leave the world to make art, or leave art to be in the world. Esthetic integrity and social responsibility are not the same thing, but they overlap.

We welcome input from all over, especially ideas about how we can best interact with artists outside the city. The first step is to send us your work so that the archive will be as inclusive as possible. Then it can be used by people all over the world as a resource for political art actions. Please send all material in a 91/2_ x 12" manila file folder labeled with your name. (If you think it’s relevant it doesn’t have to be your own work.) We welcome slides, photos, posters, texts, clippings, publications and other multiples but can’t accept responsibility for original (one-of-a-kind) material. Please send everything to P.A.D. c/o Seven Loaves, 605 East 9th Street, New York City, New York 10009.

—Jerry Kearns, Lucy R. Lippard, Barbara Moore, Herb Parr et al. for the P.A.D. core group

Ms. Credit

To the Editor:
I would like to draw the attention of your readers to the study “Dali the Mythomaniac” included in a special issue of XXe Siècle(Paris, 1980) devoted to Salvador Dali. This article, which appeared under my name, is not by me but by Elena Calas. It was originally published in Colóquio/artes 21, (Lisbon, Portugal) February 1975. A copy was sent the following year to XXe Siècle, for publication in French. Adding insult to injury, the article appeared without the author’s knowledge in a volume (based on the XXe Siècle issue) entitled Homage to Dali, (New York: Chartwell Books, Inc., 1980). Excerpts of Elena Calas’ article were included by me (with due credit given to Colóquio) in “Three Oblique Situations,” Artforum, May 1980.

—Nicolas Calas
New York, N.Y.