PRINT December 1997




To the Editor:
There is some carelessness in Yve-Alain Bois’ piece on Rauschenberg in the September issue. It first occurs when he says that his belief in a kinship between Johns and Braque was first confirmed by “John Golding’s recent show of Braque’s late work and David Sylvester’s account of it.” I much appreciate the compliment but I wrote no account of late Braque; the article in Art in America in which I argued for such a kinship was about Johns and it developed ideas which I made public at a MoMA symposium on Johns in November 1996, as Robert Rosenblum wrote in your summer issue.

Carelessness about larger matters appears when Bois speaks of having belatedly perceived that Johns had his Picasso. “Rauschenberg had acted as the Picasso of the pair—and I hope one day someone will lay out the degree of his artistic precedence.” Bois then starts doing that himself with a convincing list of areas in which Rauschenberg anticipated Johns: good serious stuff. But that sentence just quoted, so oddly telescoped, is bewildering. I take it to mean that Rauschenberg and Picasso usually preceded Johns and Braque, respectively, in covering new ground. That this was indeed the case with Rauschenberg is hardly surprising, given that he and Johns were both precocious and that he was five years older. But as to Braque and Picasso, everybody now recognizes that they took turns in leading the way. So the parallel is quite distorted.

Another kind of carelessness crops up when Bois writes as if the Rauschenberg-Picasso relationship were of the same order as that between Johns and Braque. It is not. The Johns-Braque comparison is a very literal one. Between certain groups of works by Johns and Braque there is quite a close physical resemblance. The affinity between Rauschenberg and Picasso is altogether more general (for example, that each is probably peerless in his time as a creator of astonishing juxtapositions). Here we have no significant stylistic kinship but merely a correspondence. If we’re going to play that delightful game, finding correspondences between Paris painters of Picasso’s generation and New York painters of Rauschenberg’s is easily extended. Our Léger is clearly Lichtenstein, our Duchamp obviously Warhol; our Derain could be Rivers and our Mondrian is arguably Twombly. Good clean dinner-table fun.
David Sylvester

Yve-Alain Bois replies:
My thanks to David Sylvester for setting the record straight about his piece. I wrote my comments while traveling, away from my library. Johns is a figure well known to me, Rauschenberg very much less so, which is why, when I stumbled upon the various works mentioned in my comments, I felt the same sense of excitement and anticipation I always feel when encountering things that are radically new—a new vein in Picasso’s gigantic output, for example. As to the remark that “everybody now recognizes that [Picasso and Braque] took turns in leading the way”: Is David Sylvester so sure of this? I for one am not, and I’m not so sure that I’m the only one who’s not . . .



To the Editor:
As a longtime reader of Artforum, I was vaguely annoyed this past year by the intrusion on your cover of additional text promoting magazine content. The appearance in September, however, of a smaller photo on the cover along with the extra text—this I find genuinely disturbing.

It seems like the defacement of a venerable institution. The simplicity of the cover—large logo over picture of art, nothing else—is what lent it power and uniqueness. It is what formed the magazine’s external, sculptural essence. The square shape is important, but the additional photo/text on the square sullies the cover’s basic message, which was: Artforum/Art. The name of the magazine on a picture of art.

I am sure there must be others out there who share this opinion. Artforum’s cover was an icon and it has been crudded up with self-promotion. I can’t imagine anything to be gained by this that would offset the damage to your credibility.
Stephen Rose
Indiana, Pennsylvania

Editor’s note: Trivia buffs will note that Artforum first put copy on the cover (other than, of course, the logo) in the February 1975 issue (shown above). Though earlier issues had on occasion included additional information on the cover, such as special issues on sculpture (1967) and film (1971), the January 1975 issue announced articles criticizing the architectural design of a new institution (the Hirshhorn) and voicing concerns over the threatened public culture of museums (the Pasadena Art Museum). Later, in October 1976, the Artforum cover was taken over with an announcement of the opening of P.S. 1 in Queens. Plus ça change . . .



To the Editor:
What an astonishing and cavalier bit of wordplay: “Charlie’s in all probability a murderer.” It’s a bit like saying: in all probability there was a Holocaust! Perhaps R.U. Sirius (Hot List, September) needed to be there in person to be certain that Charlie and his group actually and deliberately slashed and stabbed to death a late-term pregnant women and friends. Maybe they slashed the baby, too, R.U.

But, gee! Let’s forgive Charlie all that because he’s “a first-rate prankster” on the Internet and the damn establishment is envious. Well, Sirius, Charlie is “possibly” brilliant; but, speaking for those of us who lived in LA at that time, I don’t think that possibility warrants sympathy or anger at those big, bad prison officials.
Martin Gantman
Los Angeles

R.U. Sirius replies:
I wasn’t in Beverly Hills during the Manson murders or in Vietnam when Richard Nixon coerced young boys into slaughtering several hundred thousand Asians. I wasn’t in France when Sade battered a prostitute or in New York City when Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol. But I do feel that all of the above are worthy of our interest and consideration, and I don’t demand an orgy of hand-wringing every time someone gives them notice.



To The Editor:
Ronald Jones’ remembrance of Martin Kippenberger (“Swizzle Shtick,” October) is a well-observed depiction of the artist. I would love to have seen the pictures of Sinatra made by the students and the portraits of the students made by Kippenberger.
Christina Thomas
Cologne, Germany