Page 8 - Studio International - August 1966
P. 8

The fairness and unfairness of prizes

      Comment by Jasia Reichardt
      On June 14, during the Press view of the   intervention of a well-known member of the   to which the prize system still adheres, and
      Venice Biennale, Henry Geldzahler called a  French Government), the 33rd Biennale   which the jury admitted to be outdated.
      press reception at the American pavilion.   prize list suggests otherwise. Prior discussions  The second is that Le Parc's contribution
      No public statement was made to the       reflect more a 'betting' interest than a   belongs to the realm of public art. What
      assembled crowds, but a few leaflets were   questioning of the jury's suitability—the   Pop art has derived from mass media,
      distributed before it was discovered that this   converse of which is often true in England   Le Parc and other members of the Groupe
      was forbidden by the statute of the Biennale.  on the occasions of smaller prize exhibitions.   de Recherche d'Art Visuel have taken from the
      The statement made by Mr Geldzahler, the   Among artists mentioned as possible     techniques (not the imagery) of the fun fair
       commissioner for the American pavilion on   winners for the two big prizes in painting   and the amusement arcade. The existence
       the occasion of the second official U.S.   and sculpture were Soto, Fontana, Etienne   of each work—electrical or mechanical
       participation in the show, questioned the   Martin, Lichtenstein, Fahlstrom, and   devices—is only partial until the spectator
      very foundations of the system on which the   Jacobsen. In the event both Jacobsen and   puts it into action by pressing buttons, sitting
      whole event is based. The text was as follows:  Etienne Martin shared the international   on a stool on a giant spring, looking at
                                                sculpture prize, but the painting prize went,   himself in one of the patterned reflecting
       The Venice Biennale is the oldest and most
       prestigious of the international exhibitions of   not to Soto, the obvious and deserving choice,  mirrors, or looking at the world through a
        painting and sculpture.                 but to the Argentinian Julio Le Parc, a   variety of extraordinary spectacles that alter
        I have chosen this year four artists, Helen   member of the French Groupe de Recherche   his own countenance as much as the en-
        Frankenthaler, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichten-  d'Art Visuel, whose kinetic, reflecting and   vironment around him. Unlike the games
       stein, and Jules Olitski, all of whose work I feel   light objects have as little to do with painting  made by the Fluxus group, which exist for
        to be serious, weighty, and worthy of inter-  as such as they have with sculpture. (A   the edification of the artist's own esoteric
        national exposure. They are artists in flourishing   propos of this Ernest Goldschmidt, editor of   pleasure and public mystification, Le Parc's
        mid-career; each has made a personal statement   Quadrum, says that whenever he meets a   essays lead the spectator and player into the
       in original formal terms and shows every   young man supposed to be involved with   realm of the absurd. This element of surprise
       indication of continuing possibilities in growth   some creative activity, he asks: 'Are you a   and engaging humour was illustrated, for
       and development.
        I think it unfortunate that the journalistic   painter, a sculptor, or an artist?')   instance, in the games with ping-pong balls.
        emphasis at the Biennales is never on questions   This choice of Le Parc was an unexpected   Three glass-covered boxes of different
        of aesthetic quality, but always on the mechanics  as would have been the selection of the   shapes contained electrically-operated felt
        and politics of prizes. Prizes reflect quality only   Japanese Ay-O—maker of rainbow   pivots which dispersed white or coloured
        in the most haphazard way. No committee or   environments and tactile sculpture immedi-  ping-pong balls at great speed. Le Parc's
        jury, no matter how constituted, can proclaim   ately declared indecent by the Venetian   works were divided into several categories:
        aesthetic quality. The prize and jury system   paper Ii Giorno. Le Parc (born 1928) was the  surface sequences—paintings with elaborate
        must be abandoned.                      sole representative of Argentine. The fact   patterns; reliefs in wood and metal, composed
         I believe that the invitation to exhibit at the   that his' work occupied the entire space   of uniform elements; hanging mobiles based
        Venice Biennale is a sufficient index of quality.   allocated to his country, which on another   on orthogonal forms; light projection boxes
        Every lover of art who comes to Venice must
        award his own private prizes.           occasion might have been filled with work   with continuous transformations of pattern;
                                                by several artists, helped in great measure to  reliefs with changing images as one moves
        How important are the Biennale prizes?   create the sort of forceful impact that made   in front of them; vibrating elements and balls
       To judge from discussions among those    his contribution memorable. Several other   manipulated by the spectator; electrically
       attending (artists, dealers, critics, and   pavilions, of course, also showed the work of   operated objects; shadow-provoking struc-
       museum representatives) this biennial con-  single artists, and to great advantage: the   tures; and, as Le Parc calls them, elements
       vention, i.e. the three days of the Press view,   Dutch, Constant; the Danes—Jacobsen; the   a essayer, including douze paires de lunettes pour
       the concern with them is very considerable.   Swedes—Fahlstrom. Some critics thought that  une vision autre; chaussures pour une démarche
       Speculation adds an edge of hysteria to the   had the British pavilion been devoted entirely  autre (wooden-sole sandals on springs); and
       proceedings, although there is nothing to   to Anthony Caro's work he would have stood  six doubles miroirs. The measure of originality
       suggest that gossip is founded on fact, but the  a good chance of winning the main sculp-  and inventiveness of these works is their
       results are often, and this time in particular,   ture prize, but the decision to share the   strongest and most significant attribute, and
       completely unexpected. Although it is    pavilion among five extremely good artists   the fact that this sort of manifestation could
       commonly claimed that prizes could be,   was a subtle comment on the issue which   be awarded the first prize at Venice is a
       and sometimes are, awarded as a result of   Geldzahler raised so much more ruthlessly.   sign of the changing climate in the assessment
       political pressure (some years ago it was   The significance of the choice of Le Parc   of values on the international art scene.
       asserted that Fautrier received the Venice   should not be underestimated for two reasons.   The members of the jury for the 33rd Venice
       international painting prize through the   The first is that his work fits no categories   Biennale were: Sergio Bettini (Italy),

       Contributors to this issue               Gene Baro, a frequent contributor to Studio Inter-  Frank Whitford is researching into early twentieth
                                                national,  also contributes to  Art International, The   century German painting and graphic art, and has
       Jasia Reichardt, who contributes a monthly Comment   London Magazine,  and other periodicals, and is   taught art history at Camberwell School of Art. He
       to Studio International, is  assistant director of the   London Correspondent of Arts Magazine and Art in   also contributes cartoons to the Evening Standard,
       Institute of Contemporary Arts.          America.  Like Robert Motherwell, Gene Baro was a
                                                close friend of David Smith, and was with him on the   Cyril Barrett lectures on philosophy and aesthetics
       Robert Motherwell, who writes on David Smith, is   night he was fatally injured in a motor accident.   at the University of Warwick, and writes for Kunst-
       himself a major figure in American art, and the                                   werke and other journals.
       Whitechapel Gallery held a retrospective of his paint-  Ann Turner is  a director with the Music and Arts
       ings in March of this year. He was a longtime inti-  Department of BBC Television. Among her produc-  Edward Lucie-Smith,  poet and critic, and  Dore
       mate of the sculptor and is one of the executors of   tions are films on Joe Tilson and on the Calder   Ashton,  the American writer, contribute regular
       the David Smith estate.                  exhibition at the Tate Gallery.          commentaries to Studio International.
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