Page 22 - Studio International - December 1967
P. 22

The two dominant trends were optical art,
      COMMENT                                  in its constructivist and purist versions   to their own style, certain artists prefer to
                                                                                        abstain from the contest and avoid
      Liverpool-London-Paris                   (chromatic and retinal), and modern      immobilizing an important work for
                                               expressionistic realism with the British   several months. Their absence is under-
                                               colouring of pop mythology. To this extent   standable, but it makes for a lack of
                                               the prize list reflects the composition of the   balance in the exhibition as a whole.
                                               exhibition fairly accurately: the first and   The Draconian rule which excludes
                                               third prizes were awarded to David Hockney  sculpture altogether seems out of date
                                               and Joe Tilson, while the second went to   today. Modern experimental art is an art
                                               Malcolm Hughes (rewarded in some         of synthesis which calls upon highly complex
                                               measure for his long years of militant   dimensions of language and structure. In the
                                               activity in the field of geometrical and   last resort the question arises as to how far
                                               constructivist research). Leaving aside   the jury can accept three-dimensional works
      Pierre Restany                           personal considerations (in my opinion the   without disregarding the regulations. There
                                               major omission from the prize list was Allen   is an element of doubt, and this may well
                                               Jones), I can only express my solidarity   discourage artists who work on the margins
                                               with the decisions of the jury, which I   of clearly defined notions of style and feel
      It was a rich experience to serve on the   helped to elaborate. But I do wonder what   themselves the victims of an antiquated
      jury of the John Moores Exhibition. This   the precise percentage of abstentions is in   concept or of orthodoxy in art.
      exhibition—like other cultural occasions in   terms of the real field of English art. How   The British experimental artist tends to
      which I have been privileged to participate,   many important artists were not repre-  withdraw into his shell or emulate the
      in particular the Prix Marzotto—raises two   sented? I was surprised by the paucity of   ostrich; London has confirmed me in this
      problems: selection, and the promotion of   experimental work and pluri-dimensional   impression. Beyond the official avant garde,
      new talent.                              research: there were very few assembled   whether op or pop, unpublicized research
       The John Moores Exhibition is an open   objects and luminous or animated reliefs.   goes on and owes its freedom to both a
      contest in which any artist residing in the   Again, there were very few objective and   measure of indifference to official recognition
      United Kingdom can take part. In addition   structural reflections of contemporary   and a modesty of ambition as far as public
      to awarding various prizes (the first three   technology. The plexiglass structure by   acceptance is concerned.
      are acquisition prizes to enrich the perma-  Hallaway was a pleasant surprise—but   Unfortunately I have no solution to put
      nent collection of Liverpool's WALKER ART   unfortunately it was an isolated example.   forward, because I remain firmly attached
      GALLERY), the jury has a further task to   We found it extremely difficult to select a   to the principle of the open contest. At all
      select just over a hundred works which go   few items good enough to form a techno-  events a greater diversity in the jury is
      to make up the actual public exhibition.   logical section within the exhibition as a   called for; the final discussions in Liverpool
       Is this a sufficiently representative sample?   whole.                           had a serenity arid calmness which did not
      That is the basic problem. Out of 1,600   Are there in fact any signs of experimental   reflect great credit on the jury members.
      works submitted for the Moores prizes,   research in the visual field in England ? A   While something more than the intellectual
      about twenty showed real power of expres-  stay in London and a visit to a few critics,   anguish of a transitional period may be
      sion or original vision. Some sixty others   studios and exhibitions showed me that   needed to rouse London from the official
      showed average quality in the development   research of this kind is going on. The   appendages of a phlegmatic temperament,
      and expression of initiative structural   English contributions to the various Paris   Paris at last shows signs of shedding its
      concepts. The remainder were the usual   Biennales have been highly significant in   disquieting torpor. We are witnessing a
      left-overs inherent in this type of demo-  this respect. It seems that artists of real   gradual but important phenomenon: the
      cratic competition where no prior selection   talent have made their participation in the   State and Municipality of Paris—the official
      is made. Basically these proportions are   exhibition dependent on how they assess   administrations—are gradually renovating
      fairly honourable. We were able to gather   the personality and outlook of members of   the organizational structure to promote and
      sufficient material for a young, living, up-  the jury. The artist has become in some   develop artistic talent and knowledge. This
      to-date exhibition. I shudder to think what   measure the critic of the critic, and the   phenomenon is very important for a
      would happen if a John Moores Exhibition   consistency of the exhibition reflects the idea   cosmopolitan city grown accustomed to a
      were organized in Paris: some 20,000 works   which creative artists have in their own   permanent divorce between official life and
      would be submitted and the jury would find   mind of individual critics. If they consider   the reality of artistic life. Since 1960 the
      it difficult to select 200 worth exhibiting.   the psychology of the jury is too antagonistic   simultaneous crisis in abstract art and in

      Contributors to this issue               David Thompson was formerly art critic for  The   Charles Harrison, assistant editor of  Studio Inter-
                                               Times and now writes regularly for Queen  magazine   national, studied art history at Cambridge University
                                               and Studio International. He has also worked in tele-  and the Courtauld Institute.
                                               vision and the theatre, as well as writing art criticism.
                                                                                        Charles S. Spencer writes for several journals and
      Jasia Reichardt, assistant director of the Institute of   Michael Rothenstein, currently at the Vancouver   reports on art in Britain for the New York Times.
      Contemporary Arts, Dore Ashton, American writer   Print International, has a show at Belfast opening in
      and critic and George Savage, member of the Council   two weeks, and another in Philadelphia next year. He   Christopher Prater established Kelpra Studio, the
      of the British Antique Dealers' Association, are fre-  is also involved in setting up print projects at various   fine art printers, about ten years ago.
      quent contributors to Studio International.   art schools.
                                                                                        Peter Bird is assistant art director at the Arts Council
      Pierre Restany, the French critic and writer, was a   Frank Whitford is at present living in Berlin and   of Great Britain and was formerly director of Bradford
      member of the jury for this year's John Moores   researching into early twentieth century painting and   City Art Gallery. He has visited Sweden many times
      Exhibition in Liverpool.                 graphic art.                             and is married to a printmaker, Birgit Skiold.
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