PRINT September 2002




To the Editor:

The review by Linda Nochlin of “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art” [Focus, Summer 2002] is a cheap advertisement for Norman Kleeblatt, the curator at the Jewish Museum. What Nochlin writes about the art and the artists reads like delusionary drivel. From the review it is obvious that both the artists and the curator needed praise from someone, because the art itself is without any value.

I made a suggestion earlier to Mr. Kleeblatt that he should set aside one room in the museum to display in similar fashion “art” depicting close relatives of his who have died because of some horrible happenings: By considering his own reaction to this exhibit he might be able to understand what the general public feels about “Mirroring Evil.” May I make the same suggestion to Linda Nochlin and then see if she would write, “Go see for yourself,” as she does for “Mirroring Evil”?

I thought Nochlin was a responsible adult. Now I wonder.

Paul N. Frenkel
New Preston, CT

To the Editor:

I must take exception to Linda Nochlin’s repeated use of the word obscene in her review of “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art,” a review that derides all attitudes of expression concerning the Holocaust other than the ironic distance employed in the postmodern work she so admires. Nochlin is entitled to her own opinion, but I don’t see that it is fitting to make moral judgments when from any vantage point one faces paradox and the chance to offend.

Perhaps a wiser choice would have been to offer an overview of the deeper, more fundamental historical differences between iconography and iconoclasm, of which the ironic stance is the present-day de(con)structive version. But as self-righteous intolerance on this issue has violently divided whole populations over the last millennium, I would think it would make one cautious about assuming superior clarity when humility best serves everyone involved.

Richard Rappaport

Linda Nochlin responds:

I never “derided all attitudes . . . other than the ironic distance employed in . . . postmodern work.” On the contrary, I admire Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (far from ironic), Barnett Newman’s Stations of the Cross (inspired by the Holocaust, in my opinion), Olga Bernal’s powerful sculpture Train to Auschwitz. None of these is either ironic or postmodern. It is a particular category of Holocaust art that I dislike, an art that aestheticizes suffering and makes delectable belle peinture out of horror and pain. Far from “self-righteous intolerance,” I believe that my position is a critical one. As a critic, I don’t feel cautious humility is a fruitful or meaningful stance.



To the Editor:

Daniel Pinchbeck’s article about his dad [“Prince at Greene,” Summer 2002] was the first I’ve ever understood in Artforum, and I’ve been reading the magazine for FIFTY YEARS! I remember an article in the New Yorker a few years ago I can’t remember if it was Ingrid Sischy on Rosalind Krauss, or vice versa—stating that the writers on the staff of Artforum could not understand each other’s articles and that each writer was convinced that the others knew nothing about art.

When I picked up the issue with Pinchbeck’s article and saw the words “My mother, Joyce Johnson,” I jumped back a few feet. I’ve read a great deal of her work, and I am a card-carrying observer of the Beats. I read Kerouac and Ginsberg when the ink was still wet. I wanted to do what they did, and what Peter Pinchbeck did, but there was no way I had the courage to leave my warm, comfy, West Phila. row house. Instead, I became a very successful bar mitzvah bandleader and later fell into a great job at a local library.

Peter Pinchbeck and I are of the same generation (I was born in 1934) and for the life of me I can’t understand the neglect of his work. You really have to see the work in person, but from the photos in the article, it looks like he had something to say.

Daniel Pinchbeck adheres to the Hoffman first two principles of writing: “Be clear and readable.” It worked for Chekhov and Tolstoy, and it’s working for him. I embrace the memory of Peter Pinchbeck and was very moved by the article.

Stuart Hoffman

To the Editor:

I chanced upon the article/essay about Peter Pinchbeck the other day while skimming Artforum and was moved by it. I suppose most fathers who practice some manner of art come to wonder if their children, particularly their sons, judge it favorably. I faintly recall that somewhere Norman Mailer noted that daughters are more forgiving than sons.

I’ve spent over thirty years writing and have but one but one true book to show for my devotion. Along the way there have been chapbooks, yes, and lots of poems in small literary journals, but just one book. So I was deeply captivated by Daniel Pinchbeck’s account of his father’s life of art, the sheer courage it must have taken his father to persevere.

While there are a few poets that my own son appreciates, largely he stands apart from the literary world. His copy of my book is somewhere beneath piles of Sports Illustrateds or lost behind books about hitting baseballs. I suspect he is bemused because he is afraid to fully condemn the years I’ve given to poetry, afraid because he cannot separate me from what it is I do with passion.

I love the sweetness of Pinchbeck’s essay, how he knew his father with a generosity of spirit that is uncommon!

Red Shuttleworth
Moses Lake, WA

Daniel Pinchbeck responds:

I was overwhelmed by the volume of notes and letters I received in response to my essay on my father and his dedicated life in art. It seemed to hit a nerve—and not only in those who have sacrificed years of their life, without much reward, to a cultural pursuit. I can only suspect this is because the article pointed to something larger than banal questions of success or failure, beyond the convoluted value structures of the art world: the struggle that each of us makes to construct meaning out of our own lives. It is a war fought in secret and in solitude, whether or not the world ever manages to recognize our gifts. In this war, I believe my father was ultimately victorious.