Page 16 - Studio International - November 1965
P. 16

3  British  artists in  New York  by  Bruce  Glaser

                               Richard  Smith  photographed  by  Tony  Evans
                                                                                  Bruce  Glaser What were your reasons for coming to
                                                                                 America, and specifically  New York, to work and stay
                                                                                 awhile?  And  I  am  referring  to  your  more  personal
                                                                                 motivations  rather  than  exhibitions,  fellowships  or
                                                                                 teaching  positions offered  you.
                                                                                  Richard  Smith  I first came in  1959, and that was on
                                                                                 a fellowship which kept me here for twenty-one months,
                                                                                 but  I  had wanted to come to America for a long time
                                                                                 before  that.  I  came  not  only because  of  the  painting
                                                                                 that was going on, but because America was the home
                                                                                 of  other  cultural  manifestations  that  I  like,  jazz,  rock
                                                                                 and roll, the movies and a certain kind of architecture.
                                                                                  During  this  initial  visit  of  about  two  years  I  had  my
                                                                                 first one-man  show at  the  Green  Gallery,  and  I  liked
                                                                                 the people I got to know.  In 1959 the younger genera­
                                                                                 tion  of  American  painting  was  considered  to  be  Al
                                                                                  Leslie, Mike Goldberg and people like that. The current
                                                                                 younger  generation  was just  forming  and  just  having
                                                                               1  their first  shows  and  I  got to  know my generation  in
                                                                                  New  York.  I  enjoyed  them,  I  found  them  stimulating
                                                                                  and  I find the place stimulating.  But when my fellow­
                                                                                 ship  was  up  I  went  back  to  England  for  two  years
                                                                                  because of visa problems, then I came back to America
                                                                                  about a year ago.
                                                                                  Glaser What aspect of American jazz and movies and
                                                                                 architecture is it that you liked?
                                                                                  Smith  They  seemed  more  twentieth  century  than
                                                                                  European  manifestations.  I  think  there  has  been  a
                                                                                  shift in a way.  In some ways  London now seems to be
                                                                                 taking  over  from  Milan  in  a  style-setting  sense.
                                                                                  London  is  becoming  chic  and  hip  in  all  the  minor
                                                                                  decorative arts, in clothes and fashions, in looking and
                                                                                  eating,  and  fashions  in  sound.  But  that's  not  enough
                                                                                  for me.  I  think  New York may  be  consuming a  lot of
                                                                                  London  ideas,  as  is  apparent  from  looking  through
                                                                                  magazines  that  reflect  clothes  interests  and  things
                                                                                  like  that,  and from  listening  to  the  radio stations  that
                                                                                  are  playing  English  popular  music,  but  in  the  major
                                                                                  arts  New  York has more strength.  New  York is really
                                                                                  more radical than London.
                                                                                  Glaser  Does your interest in American cultural mani­
                                                                                 festations extend a direct influence on your painting or
       Something  equivalent  to  the  'brain-drain'  in  science  has           does  your  interest  come  merely  from  a  desire  to  be
       been  approximated  in  the  arts  as  a  remarkable  number              surrounded by a more vital atmosphere?
       of British artists find one cause or another to migrate,  even            Smith I think they have some influence, but I think the
       if  only  temporarily,  to  the  United  States.  In  a  recent           influences  are  pretty  devious  and  they  get  more
       discussion  broadcast  over  radio  station  WBAI  in  New  York,         devious all the time.
       I  questioned  three  expatriate  Englishmen  now residing                Glaser What about you, Allen? Why are you here?
       here  about  the  attractions  of  America,  the  influence  of           Allen  Jones  I  had  a  show  here  (November,  1964)
       New  York  art  and  their  development  as  artists  in  England.        and  that was ostensibly the reason  for  coming.  But  I

       The  artists,  Allen  Jones,  Peter  Phillips  and  Richard  Smith,       also came earlier in the year in the Spring for no obvious
       range in  age from 26  to  35  years and their  responses  are            purpose.  I quite liked the idea of coming with no axe
       representative  of  the  maverick  attitudes  associated  with            to grind, and I like it so much that I decided that at the
       the  younger  generation  of  painters  in  Britain.  The                 first  available  opportunity  I  could  afford  to  get  over
       vigorous dialogue between them and  American  artists  that               here to stay for any length of time,  I would. Those are
       has  resulted  from  their  presence  in  the  United  States             the most  immediate  reasons for  coming  here.  But  on
       is  a  clear  indication  that,  although  they  have  been  drawn        another level the reason I am here is because in London
       to America  out  of  regard  for  her  achievements,  they                you were very aware that the major force that towered
       also  have  a  good  deal  to  question  and  propose  as  well.          above  any  shows  or  anything  that  was  going  on  in
       Their  work  supports  the  strength  of  their  position.                painting,  and  it  is  used  as  a  criterion,  is  American
                                                                                 painting. And it seemed that one just had to get in the
       Two  major  exhibitions  of  British  art  organized  in  the  past       middle of it and go and see and work in this situation,
       year  by  the Walker  Art  Center  in  Minneapolis  (London:              if only it was to lay some sort of ghost.  And, in fact,  I
       The  New  Scene)  and  the  Albright-Knox  Museum                         found from my last very brief visit that my feeling about
       in  Buffalo  (Contemporary  British  painting  and  sculpture),           my identity as an  English painter was asserted.  I didn't
       and  a  considerable  number  of  gallery  exhibitions  from  coast  take  it  as  badly  as  before when  the  idea  of anything
       to  coast,  confirm  the  reciprocal  interest  of  Americans in          going on in  London was to me some sort of second­
       the new art of Great Britain.  The edited discussion follows.             hand  reflection  of  what  was  going  on  in  New  York.
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