PRINT Summer 1984


Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

In her review of “The Ritz” hotel show in Washington D.C. (September 1983), Jeanne Silverthorne mentions how established artists such as Gene Davis were able to maintain their usual positions of high visibility. Ironically, however, she failed to realize that it was not Davis but a young area artist named Jeffrey Meizlik who stenciled over Mr. Davis’ black head profiles with the red international sign for negation. This was done for the very reason of established artists gaining higher visibility and thus credibility; it was a symbolic comment on the lack of meaningful support by area institutions of lesser-known artists.

—William Willis
Preston, MD

To the Editor:

I appreciate Jeanne Silverthorne’s thoughtful review of my work (January 1984). She was not imagining the humor—the subject would be deadly without it. My “rock and a hard place” takes the form sometimes of being too successful in conveniencing people about Goddess—that is, the literal interpretations of my Goddess “messages” blind people to their political content, as well as to other possibilities.

—Mary Beth Edelson
New York

To the Editor:

An exhibition against apartheid in South Africa opened at the beginning of December at the Fondation National des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, in Paris, under the auspices of the Committee of Artists of the World Against Apartheid. I first heard about the planned exhibition in April, when I was visited by Antonio Saura, the moving force behind the endeavor, and Chantal Bonnet, the executive secretary. After inviting me to participate they discussed the show. When it became clear to me that they think in terms of male artists, I raised the question of “gender apartheid.” The discussion was continued during a later get-together with Bonnet, where Carl Andre and May Stevens were present. The antiapartheid-exhibition organizers indicated that they would make an effort to discard the old-fashioned discriminatory practices.

However, when the official invitation, dated April 15, arrived, it was clear that they had not done so. A letter was sent, urging that amends be made, and signed by Andre, Dore Ashton, myself, Vivian Browne, Kate Linker, Ingrid Sischy, and Stevens. A response came four months later, only after Linker telephoned the exhibition committee to ask for an explanation. On September 22 Bonnet wrote to me: “We sincerely regret not having been able to have more women artists, but given our very small staff, and the fact that we have had to contact artists all over the world, it was not possible for us to devote more of our efforts to this aspect of the exhibition’s organization.”

When the exhibition opened in Paris, it included the works of 85 visual artists, among them three women: Magdalena Abakanowicz of Poland, Sultana Maitec of Romania, and Titina Maselli of Italy. Texts by 11 men, described as writers, philosophers, poets, and scholars (Jorge Amado, André Brink, Michel Butor, Julio Cortázar, Basil Davidson, Jacques Derrida, Allen Ginsberg, Juan Goytisolo, Edmond Jabés, Albert Jaquard, and Michel Leiris) were also included in the show. No women qualified . . .

—Rudolf Baranik
New York

To the Editor:

Donald Kuspit, in his preemptive strike on art students (“Forum,” March 1984) ridicules students who are in a hurry to make “‘original marks’ . . . ‘to find themselves’“ and chides them for making ”little manipulations of big media images—star images, a parasitism they expect will make them stars.“ It is as if this were a development unique to art schools and not prevalent in the art world at large. Would that Kuspit were so diligent in his assessment of the current crop of pedigreed artists. ”For all their idealism they are searching for a marketable identity, something the capitalist public will find of intense and immediate interest. . . . “ I may be an innocent, idealistic art student, but this sounds to me like an apt description of the neo-expressionists. It strikes me that they show a ”realistic idealism, with no hint of suffering for a ‘higher purpose’“ and ”the willingness to play the game, on whatever terms." Perhaps the students are too precocious.

In his construction of a straw art student Kuspit takes for granted the student’s “theoretical inadequacy about the nature of art.” But yes, many of us can read . . . and do. Furthermore, we have already become practiced at self-preservation and sacrifice. Today’s students are well aware that there is little room in the halls of learning for more professors. Upon graduation, most work in unskilled and often physically demanding jobs. Their frustration is doubled by the fact that work space is no longer affordable. It is amusing to imagine Mr. Kuspit in his Manhattan loft lamenting that “the idealism of today’s art students seems to carry with it no sense of painful sacrifice, no sense of Goethean renunciation.” Kids today. . . .

I am a recent graduate of Pratt Institute’s painting department and had the genuine honor of Mr. Kuspit’s instruction for several semesters.

—Jay Wilson
New York

Donald Kuspit replies:

No preemptive strike. No ridicule. I was trying to describe a situation as it was reported to me by art students themselves. I am completely empathetic with Mr. Wilson’s point of view, and I assure him there are more sacrifices than he may be aware of living in a loft in New York. I must admit that I had not thought of Mr. Wilson’s own admirable idealism and brilliance in writing my “Forum.”

To the Editor:

I appreciate Thomas McEvilley’s detailed and knowledgeable review of my translation of Michel Foucault’s This Is Not a Pipe (October 1983). It manages not only to describe Foucault’s position (if he can accurately be said to assume anything so concrete as a “position”) but also to place it in a context accessible to those who don’t know his rather heterodox work. Some comments McEvilley makes on Foucault I would debate—e.g., the old chestnut about his resemblance to Thomas Kuhn, whose circulation really ought to be brought to a halt. But mainly I just wanted to express my appreciation for an attentive and thoughtful reading of the book, and for Artforum’s affording it a place in its pages.

—James Harkness

To the Editor:

I was very much impressed by Thomas McEvilley’s penetrating analysis of Michel Foucault’s book on the painting by René Magritte, This is Not a Pipe.

In 1954, probably too early for McEvilley to have seen it, we held a one-man exhibition of Magritte’s canvases under the title of “Word vs. Image.” This is Not a Pipe was included among the 34 canvases on this theme. It was too early to expect any critical appreciation, but for us the show was a gratifying experience. I write because several revealing references McEvilley makes parallel ideas that influenced the actual making of the exhibition—precisely, the reference to the concept of “verbal reference and visual representation,” and further, the all-embracing thought on the “process of semantic-structural disintegration [illustrated] by pitting image and word against each other and against themselves to their mutual loss of representational integrity.” Here McEvilley touches upon the very essence, the raison d’être of the exhibition.

Magritte, whom I knew, was a gentle soul and clothed himself within an inviolable innocence. One wondered from what untapped source came to him the flow of original ideas and how they filtered through to his canvases. In appearance he was more the shopkeeper than the poet and like all poets impulses came on some unconscious level.

McEvilley’s review opens many unusual possibilities for long discussion, presented here only in brevity.

—Sidney Janis
Sidney Janis Gallery New York

To the Editor:

I read Ian Wilson’s “Conceptual Art” (February 1984) with delight and relief. It was a pleasure to see an artist clear away the extraneous (accepted banalities) and get "to the heart of the matter”—language.

—Gary Kleeblatt
Dramatis Personae Gallery
New York

To the Editor:

I am grateful for Lisa Liebmann’s beautiful and sensitive writing on life, love, history, and not incidentally Michael Tracy. (“Michael Tracy: A Full-Blown Geophysical Presence,” February 1984).

—Richard Stout Houston

To the Editor:

During our Kenny Scharf show in February of 1984 a painting was stolen off the wall of the Fun Gallery. Fun is a gallery that operates on trust, both for the artists and our visitors. This piece was not taken by “kids” and we have a fairly good idea of the people involved. They were quite knowledgeable about art and executed the theft in a professional manner.

We are unable to afford high-tech security but are responsible for the work displayed and suffered a severe financial loss in the matter. We hope it will not be necessary to treat art like something that belongs in an ivory tower or bank vault.

The stolen painting was an unstretched canvas, approximately 4 feet by 1. The central figure is a red robot figure with greens and blues spray-painted on the background in a plaid pattern. The piece is titled on the back 1984, and signed “Kenny Scharf, Brazil.”

If this piece is seen by anyone, we would appreciate a phone call.

—Patti Astor
Fun Gallery
New York

To the Editor:

Allan Kaprow’s “The Real Experiment” (December 1983) was one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking articles I’ve read in Artforum. I was particularly interested in Mr. Kaprow’s discussion of Raivo Puusemp and the Village of Rosendale; the information in Puusemp’s “Beyond Art; Dissolution of Rosendale, N.Y.” may be helpful to my organization’s preservation work.

—Andrew C. Trackman
Crosswicks Creek Conservation Foundation
Crosswicks, N.J.

To the Editor:

I very much enjoyed Jean Fisher’s writing on the work of Jack Goldstein (“Jack Goldstein: The Trace of Absence,” November 1983). I got to know Goldstein through helping to produce a couple of presentations of his work in Los Angeles, the last of which was in 1979. Fisher’s writing, in both content and style, very well captured the essence of his imagery. In reading the piece I could easily place myself in my memory of standing in front of his work and could conjure up my own feelings of restimulated ambivalence.

—Dorit Cypis
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

In preparation for exhibitions and monographs on the American artists Charles Demuth (1883–1935) and Ralston Crawford (1906–1978), I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knew the artists or has information about works in private collections or unpublished correspondence or writings.

—Barbara Haskell, Curator
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021