Letters


GREEN MOVEMENT

To the Editor:

In crediting the influence of Clement Greenberg for the change of art writing from the "moody prose published in Art News" to a more pragmatic style, your reviewer of Amy Newman's Challenging Art: Artforum 1962-1974 [Yve-Alain Bois, "Phil Said, They Said," October 2000] is mistaken (at least in my case). I was the most widely published writer of articles in Artforum up to 1970, and I was well aware of the Magazine of Art edited by Robert Goldwater from 1943 to 1953 and his antipoetic approach to art writing. In addition, I was an admirer of Lawrence Alloway's many wide-angled articles in Art International and elsewhere in the late '50s, which were also written in a pragmatic style. I did not regard myself as a critic but as an artist who wrote on artists I admired for the benefit of the art audience. (Nor did I write only on art; I was coauthor with Robert Bell of a book on cybernetics.)

Furthermore, from the very beginning of my writing for Artforum, I was wholly opposed to Greenberg's aesthetic prejudices. Again, it was Alloway's influence in the '50s at the ICA in London, where he propagated the idea of the coexistence of styles in many discussions with artists.

Philip Leider had one agenda. It is important to note that I had a different one. When Artforum started he was poorly informed on art and shied away from personal contacts with artists whom on the whole he disliked. It was only much later that he became friendly with Frank Stella and Robert Smithson. I have stated that I admired him as an editor. This admiration was based on the fact that he published everything I wrote, whether on Abstract Expressionist ceramics, Pop artists such as Lichtenstein, Warhol, Thiebaud, and Ruscha, or abstract artists ranging from those using light (James Turell, Robert Irwin) to Mondrian, Albers, Stella, Kelly, Noland. I wrote as well on Monet, Jawlensky, Duchamp, Cornell, and Wallace Berman.

It should also be noted that I was not a paid staff member of An forum until I took over the editorship in 1971. I frequently wrote as West Coast correspondent for Art News, Art International, Art in America, and Studio International. I still admire the freedom Leider gave me to publish what I liked in Artforum. The question of my disagreement with his admiration for Michael Fried's criticism never arose because I avoided discussing it with him.

Whatever I think of him as my editor, however, I am scornful of his personal behavior. I was living in Los Angeles and he invited me to come to New York to take over the editorship of Artforum. Yet he states, in Challenging Art and elsewhere, how much he despised my writings and believed that I would soon destroy Artforum. At the same time he was aware that Gardner Cowles, father of publisher Charles Cowles, would no longer financially support the magazine. Thus it was virtually bankrupt. I cannot conceive of Leider as anything less than malicious in placing me into this financial morass.

Finally, to clear up a matter raised in Challenging Art: Rosalind Krauss speaks of me as a South African and questions my right to discuss American art. I was not and am not a South African citizen. I am British. It is true that for health and professional reasons my father went several times to South Africa for short periods, and consequently as a child I attended a number of schools in Cape Town and Johannesburg. However, I left South Africa when I was seventeen, and at eighteen was commissioned into the British armed forces. Of my eight years of service, close to seven were spent in the Kings African Rifles when I was seconded from my British regiment. …

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