PRINT February 2002




To the Editor:
In his thoughtful review of the exhibition of late de Kooning paintings at Matthew Marks Gallery [Reviews, January 2002], Alexi Worth writes of the “surprising” absence of two 1987 paintings in the show “Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, the 1980s,” which originated at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco in 1995. I was the coauthor of that exhibition's catalogue and its coordinating curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the show's final stop. For the record it should be noted that when the exhibition traveled to New York I added two more works from 1987 (though not the paintings Worth specifically mentions)—one of the masterworks of that year, Garden in Delft, as well as the painting reproduced with his review—plus three other important canvases from 1985 and 1986. Had space permitted others might also have been shown.

Like any great artist de Kooning was uneven, but like very few he made great as well as astonishing, though unresolved, work in “overtime.” We will be debating the merits of individual paintings for many years to come, but that is a testament to de Kooning's unrelenting determination to make pictures that not only met but changed the standard by which we judge his or any other artist's achievement in that decade.

—Robert Storr
Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture
Museum of Modern Art, New York



To the Editor:
I subscribe to Artforum, and while I've enjoyed your fine publication, I also flip through other magazines, including Art in America. Imagine my delight when the January 2002 issues of your respective magazines showed up on the same day, both embracing Gerhard Richter. Shortly afterward, however, confusion set in: Artforum, page 105, lower right, 863-2, Moritz, 2000. Is the reproduction printed backward? See Art in America, cover, Moritz (863-r), 2000. Which is it?

I'm certain that all involved in your forum are incredibly knowledgeable, highly educated, infinitely talented, and can comment on painting as well as any high formalist, but from my vantage someone goofed. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Will this letter will be printed? I didn't think so. Your arrogance continues to fascinate and bemuse.

Marlin E. Bert
Lancaster, PA

Eds. respond:
Arrogant perhaps, but in this case also correct. The orientation of Richter's 863-2, Moritz, 2000, on page 105 is the right one. The discrepancy between the titles of the painting in the two magazines is attributable to whether one follows the ordering system Richter established for the catalogue raisonné or other, previously published citations. We have privileged the nomenclature directed by the catalogue raisonné.



To the Editor:
In regard to the difference of opinion between Peter Plagens and Alex Katz over whether the background color in one of Mr. Katz's paintings is green or dark gray [Letters, January 2002]: Some estimate that seven out of ten males are color-blind to certain shades of certain colors. (I used to get raised eyebrows whenever I brought this up with fellow artists in the heyday of the Washington Color School, when some critics thought the artists involved had an extra gift for color perception.) In this particular dispute it may not be the critic who is color-blind—or it may be that both artist and critic should have their eyes checked.

Eric Rudd
North Adams, MA



To the Editor:
Richard Phillips, previously the purveyor of detached meditations on painted faces vis-à-vis painted surfaces, now sees himself as a meditator on the human condition, with images of an ejaculating vagina squirting in the direction of a smirking George W. Bush? Oh, please!

Adam Lehner's essay [“Moving Pictures,” November 2001] fails to sufficiently explain that Phillips and his gallery tacked up a disclaimer of sorts at the entrance to his recent exhibition noting, the artist's aspiration to offer a meditation on “personal sovereignty and freedom.” In fact, the note read much more like an attempt either to head off potential offense or to elevate the work, at a gravely traumatic moment, to something more substantial.

Phillips's critically inadequate poke at American culture cannot be retrofitted as a weird new way to express basic humanist values. Roberta Smith's complete—and one would hope temporary—loss of critical discernment notwithstanding, Phillips's portrait of George W. Bush still looks like a smirk after 9/11 and is all the scarier for it.

C. Zitelli
New York



To the Editor:
This letter concerns the article Mr. Bankowsky wrote in the October 2001 issue of Artforum [10•20•30], in which he revisits the painting wars of the '80s. With reference to Thomas Lawson's critique of the changing value of painting, the piece pinpoints a transitory stage in art history that has become very important for young artists in the twenty-first century.

The reason Lawson offers for the death of painting is technological advancement: Photographs, he claims, are now more raw and revealing and therefore more powerful. But photography had already been explored intensively before 1980. What about computer graphics and video? With their added dimension of time, these rapidly evolving forms had much more potential to affect the art world.

For those of us who mew up in the '80s, the changes from that decades to the '90s are difficult to discern. In my memory, technology has always existed and doesn't seem like a progressive phenomenon. This article helped categorize a decade too contemporary for young artists to define on their own.

It's difficult to say how artists in the twenty-first century will choose to work. Though it seems reasonable for them to embrace the Cyber Age, it seems as if the possibility of making surprising work with such technology may have already been exhausted. And the very fact that a parallel of art and technology is undeniable causes me to imagine a divergence from this path. Originality begins with rejection and proceeds with a conflicting type of creation—why must technology be the only tool for innovation?

Alison Uljee
Brooklyn, NY