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been accused by American critics of retreating into   for its permanent collection.   of those by the British; and particularly, amongst
     •     Cubism again—which betrays an incredible in-  So Pollock owed his first introduction to London to   these, of those by abstract painters. Does a double
           sensitiveness to the pictorial facts of our work (or   the Institute of Contemporary Arts—whose Presi-  retrospective of 132 works by Ben Nicholson, put
           is it just a wilful blindness?). Furthermore we have   dent, then as now, was Sir Herbert Read. But   on in April 1965, at two leading New York dealers
           brought to this task of re-complication certain   Pollock was, as I've already suggested, several   simultaneously, really only merit ninety odd coolly
           European resources of sensibility and instinct   years ahead of  all  his friends in New York in   superior words in  Arts (N.Y.)?
           which contrast extraordinarily with the American   becoming known over here. It was not until   When Mr Michael Fried begins his book on
           painters, who seem, by comparison, far more  January 1956, at the Tate Gallery, that most of   Noland, Olitski, and Stella (Three American Painters:
           dominated by the sheerly conceptual, by exclu-  us had our first glimpse of the other American   published by Harvard University in 1965) with

           sively intellectual or systematized* modes of work-   artists I've mentioned. The exhibition was Modern   the words: 'For twenty years or more almost all
           ing. Hence the accusation that our pictures look   Art in the United States, organized by the Museum   the best new painting and sculpture has been done

           `too hand-made'. Actually—they are  meant  to be.   of Modern Art in New York. And although most   in America ... ' is the rest of the world supposed to
           Hence, too, our rejection of the quite incredibly   of these 'first generation' New York painters were   shrug this sort of nonsense off with a smile? Or,
           widespread addiction—amongst American painters   only represented by a single canvas each (and   take the calculated, patronizing cheek of Mr Max
           of more than one school—to the symmetrical format,   Barnett Newman was unaccountably omitted   Kozloff who, in an article in Encounter,  in January
           the symmetrical image set down bang in the   altogether), we were all very quick to get the point   1964, on 'British Painting Today', goes on like
           centre of the canvas. This symmetry, or centre-  of what had happened.             this: ' ... it is hard to be unaware of a general
           dominated format, has become a vast academic   In Arts (New York), for March 1956, I published   deficiency in British art. Timorousness, in itself,
     •     cult, evident even in the best Americans. The   a long article on this exhibition in which I praised   does not accurately express it. Rather, the word
           British 'middle generation'  never  fell for this: we   the new American achievement with unrestrained   underlies the withdrawals and missed opportuni-
           never abandoned the belief that painting should   enthusiasm. Indeed, I was asked only last October,   ties which have resulted from a certain ethical
           resolve  asymmetric, unequal, disparate formal in-  in New York, by a high official at a world-famous   nicety.... Sacrifices of radical positions in British
           gredients into a state of architectonic harmony   Museum, whether I realized that my articles in   painting, when known as sacrifices, are made for
           which, while remaining asymmetrical, nevertheless   Arts, from London, between 1955 and 1958, had   the sake of imaginary virtues. Sensuous restraint,
           constitutes a state of perfect balance, or equili-   been 'crucial for the success of American painting   further, cannot be respected when there is little
    •      brium. That obvious 'unity', of image or format,   abroad' ? I replied that such a result had even been   sensuous responsiveness. And one questions a moral
           which the American cultivation of the symmetrical   my intention.                  [sic] husbanding of energy in a picture when there
           canvas (or `composition'— a nice old-fashioned   In the article in March 1956, I had said that:   is no implication of energy....' And this: 'The pre-
           word which still nevertheless serves) produces so   `the fame of these painters [Pollock, Rothko, etc.]   eminent critical issue so far raised about British
           easily—this is a unity not worth having. Indeed, it   just managed to precede the arrival of their   art centres around its possible loss of 'Britishness',
     •     has short-circuited the whole process of pictorial   canvases.' This was an ideal state of affairs, from   as if the latter was some burdensome form of
           statement, which should involve an elaborate,   the American point of view, and most of the credit   virginity.' Or ' ... the most poignant irony of the
           intuitive adjustment and readjustment of initially   for it must go to such painters as William Scott,   Tate-Whitechapel exhibition [a large double
           warring and disparate elements, until they finally   Alan Davie and the late Peter Lanyon, for instance.   exhibition which represented a pretty thorough
           click into the condition of balance.      And Lanyon, of course, was painting 'like an   cross-section of British painting in 1963], even
            But I began with the claim that it was we British   American Abstract Expressionist' from 1950 on-  when one admits, as I do, that it reflected a coming
           middle generation painters who first rendered   wards—that is to say, for some years before he   of age among certain London painters, was that
           Pollock, Rothko and the others I've named, the   himself or any of the rest of us had any acquaint-  the present New York situation once again catches
           signal service of foreign recognition; and, al-  ance whatsoever with the work of the New York   them off guard....'
           though it is boring, I had better go into this here.   painters.                    To all those in America who would find no
           Alan Davie started the process in the late 'forties   Describing my own reactions to that show, in that   difficulty in endorsing every word I have just
           when he saw, and was influenced by, canvases by   same article in March 1956, I said: 'I was  quoted from Mr Kozloff I will only say one thing:
           Pollock in Italy. Then, in the summer of 1953,   instantly elated by the size, energy, originality,   Wake up! Stop fooling yourselves! There is still
           William Scott spent ten days in New York, on his   economy, and inventive daring of many of the   time to stop yourselves becoming the Mid-
           way home from teaching in Canada, and came   paintings. Their creative emptiness represented a   Victorians of the Twentieth Century—but only if
           back to London with the amazing news that there   radical discovery, I felt, as did their flatness, or   you make an effort to see that in Europe, and
           was a whole group (we only knew of Pollock) of   rather, their spatial shallowness. I was fascinated   particularly in Britain, there is a pictorial scale of
           important new painters at work there (New   by their consistent denial of illusionistic depth....'   values which differs very considerably indeed
           York) —referring to the eight painters I have men-  And: 'I would like to end by insisting that to me   from your own.
           tioned. Their names meant nothing to us: but   and to those English painters with whom I                            Zennor
           Scott was tremendously enthusiastic. I think the   associate, your new school comes as the most              September 1966
           first canvases by any of this 'first generation' of   vigorous movement we have seen since the war.'                    0
           New York painters to be seen in Britain were the   And I renewed my very flattering analysis of
           three or four Pollocks shown at the Institute of   Pollock, Rothko, Kline and Still in an article in   *Since writing this article I've seen a Press Release
           Contemporary Arts in a mixed show of seven   the May 1958, issue of Arts (N.Y.), for instance.   from the Guggenheim Museum, New York, announcing
           painters (the other six worked in Paris) in 1953. I   So I do not think we British painters can be   an exhibition of 'Systemic Painting'. Mr Lawrence
           reacted unfavourably at first: but later, remember-  accused of chauvinism, cageiness, slyness or indeed   Alloway is, it seems, about to create a 'new' American
           ing the one large Pollock at the I.C.A., I began   of anything other than a slight excess of generosity   movement, cutting across existing groupings, based on
    •      to refer to him with increasing enthusiasm in   and openness towards our American friends.   an illiterate use of the word systemic—for it is explained
                                                                                              that he is referring to artists who work 'according to a
           lectures and articles, even mentioning him in the   As I have said, I am not here engaged in justi-
           same breath as Picasso and Moore, I'm sorry to   fying in detail my round assertion of the ascendancy   system, plan, or organized method' as an alternative
                                                                                              to the 'earlier gestural and expressionist style'. That
           say, in the Introduction (`October 1954') to my   of British painting today, in the middle sixties.   the artists Mr Alloway is choosing do indeed work in
           book,  The Changing Forms of Art, and ending up by   But I have accused New York of chauvinism and I   the way here suggested one does not doubt. This is
           criticizing the Tate Gallery, in a letter to the New   will end by asking anyone who really   doesn't know   precisely their limitation and misfortune. But systematic
           Statesman and Nation published on Christmas Day,   what I mean by this to look through the New York   is the only word available to Mr Alloway. 'Systematic
           1954, for not having already acquired works by   reviews of exhibitions by non-American artists in   Painting' though, wouldn't sound too good. Anyway,
           `Pollock, Tobey, Calder, Motherwell', and others,   New York, during the past four years—particularly   this all highlights the very criticism I was making.
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