New York

Ten Young Artists: Theodoron Awards 1971

The Theodoron Award are purchase awards (now in their second year) made to young artists on the advice of a committee of the Guggenheim curators. Since all of the artists in the present exhibition were born in the decade of the 1940s and many are just out of art school, the likelihood of their striking new notes—granting the modernist idiom that they choose to work in to begin with—is unlikely. They begin where all contemporary artists of interest begin, in the inherited syntax of the immediately preceding vanguard. This includes, for example, color abstraction, post-Minimalism, and reductivist modes. To these well-occupied options the ten young artists in question—Power Boothe, Ron Cooper, Billy Bryant Copley, Mary Corse, Guy Dill, Andrew Gerndt, Harriet Korman, Dona Nelson, Michael Singer, and George Trakas—range from a perfunctorily academic examination, especially among the painters, to suggestions of unique individuality.

Naturally on such occasions, if this review is ever to prove interesting, its interest will only become apparent in the future when the reputations of the artists in question will have been made or spent: five years—possible apogee, ten years—possible neglect, twenty years—possible resuscitation. Frankly, my immediate overall impression was that the exhibition was weak and studentlike.

Andrew Gerndt strikes me as a noteworthy talent if only for the intractable obsessiveness of his monochromism, which postulates as well an infinity of smaller lateral squares. And Mary Corse has understood, in a way all too Jo Baer-like, that the real problem of modernist painting is not at the location of the center but in what to do with the corners. George Trakas is an arresting sculptor although I find his aggressiveness somewhat decorative. Oddly, the Last Whole Earth Catalog feel of his carpentered assemblages seems very much in the debt of Rauschenberg’s combine paintings of the late 1950s. But my reservations pale in the face of his obvious ambitiousness. Michael Singer is intriguing although his attachments to Andre, Serra, and Morris, come too quickly to mind.

My preferred work is an untitled wooden series by Guy Dill, in which seventeen units were supported laterally by ropes binding them to the wall. Unlike Singer, with whom Dill’s work shares affiliation, Dill has avoided the balancing-act-fundamentalism of Serra, while retaining a refreshed vision of the potentials of Brancusi whose lessons were also essential in the development of Serra and Andre.

Robert Pincus-Witten