Page 16 - Studio International - November 1967
P. 16

COMMENT                                  best of both worlds: Oldenburg is the most   sort can really only be classified as having
                                             impressive instance, making things as well
                                                                                      come off or not having come off, i.e.
                                             as making things happen. But the general   achieved something more than individuals
                                             import is that the stable, storable work of   put into it or not. This gives events a special
                                             art has had it.                          sort of deadness, like sleeping only with
                                              Maybe it has— art just keeps dying all the   strangers; presumably it also yields a special
                                             time and there have been historical acts of   attraction, like the prospect of a desirable
                                             mercy-killing and reductio ad absurdum to aid   stranger. In contrast to the painter slogging
                                             the natural cycle. Painting with paint was   it out over a long period in the privacy of
                                             killed by Picasso in 1912; the easel painting   his studio, able to develop his work in the
                                             as a valid object was killed off, again and   presence— and the present— of work he has
                                             again, by Mondrian. It is possible that the   done already, the event maker works socially
                                             more museums become dominant art         and publicly, achieving socially his
    Norbert Lynton                           patrons and art stores, and the more     immediate reward, in a situation where the
                                             painters and sculptors produce works which   present only comes to life (possibly a more
                                             only a museum could possibly want, the   intense life) in the event itself, flanked by an
                                             more the Fine Arts seem to be lowering   ungraspable past and an undirected future.
    We are witnessing a shift from objects to   themselves into a common grave.        The event maker eludes the pomp of art.
    events. Hardly have we got used to works   So one can see all sorts of attractive reasons  I sympathize. Modern art has long had a
    of art being objects rather than         for putting on a happening of some sort,   substantial clowning factor in it, but en
    representations of objects, when there   rather than producing a collection of art   masse it does make a gloomy heap of
    descends on us a veritable torrent of    objects and struggling to get them shown   heroism, Mosaic utterances, commercial
    happenings, ephemeral environments stable   and bought. The purely human attraction   promotion and falsification, historical
    or kinetic, son et lumière without benefit of   must be considerable. Events of this kind   aligning and patterning. He eludes the
    history or romance, pyrotechnical displays   are a communal activity where studio work   phoney art public—or, at least, part of it.
    and auto-destruction.                    is solitary. They spring from notions and   He manages to elude most things in
     The international art establishment of   ideas that can be relatively untrammelled,   fastening his attention on the event.
    course plays its necessary and predictable   and from a partly spontaneous interaction   What he does not elude, alas, is the
    role by taking no notice. The 1966 Venice   between people, a complementary creativity  show-biz image. This has its attractions, of
    jury did make a brave subversive gesture   that is potentially of deep emotional value.   course, and painters and sculptors are not
    against art objects by insisting on awarding   They are a localized activity, non-portable,   immune to them. There are a few historical
    the main painting prize to Julio le Parc for   non-exhibitable. But they can be advertised   precedents for it. Taking a broad view, I
    his friendly but sadly brittle array of optical   and, afterwards, reported on, thus existing   am convinced that this is where he and art
    games, but all big prizes and exhibitions   briefly in a halo of notoriety. But, though   split up. He becomes an entertainer. But
    and generally status-according occasions are   the more star-studded and thus better   whom, ultimately, does he entertain ?
    still designed for paintings and sculptures   publicized among them set off, from the   Himself. In this he is different from the
    and the things that come in the relatively   West Coast to Cracow and Kyoto via Soho,   professional entertainer, willing to use the
    narrow gap in between.                   a scattering of imitations, each event is   material of others for the entertainment of
     The makers of gratuitous events don't   merely itself, over and done with in its real   others. He becomes a personality. Even
    mind that, I am sure: the essence of the   essence the moment the action has stopped.   more than the occasional hero among the
    thing is to be off-off-Broadway. The sharper   This means they are not really discussable.   object makers, he is likely to be seen (and
    the division between them and the        Depending by definition on chance factors   to see himself) as a cult figure. And that
    exhibition organizers, cataloguers, coffee-  (mood, fertility of basic idea, fertility and   means that, for lack of any visible work to
    table book publishers, etc., the better. One   complementarity of invention, accident,   function as a corrective to his public image,
    or two of them actually manage to get the    audience stimulation, etc.), events of this    he becomes his own art object. He should,

    Contributors to this issue

    Jasia Reichardt, assistant director of the Institute of   John FitzMaurice Mills, a picture restorer for 20 years,   Max Kozloff is art critic for The Nation  in New York
    Contemporary Arts, and Dore Ashton, American  lectures for the Institutes of Education, Exeter and   and a staff contributor to Artforum. In addition, he
    writer and critic, are regular contributors to Studio   Oxford Universities, and was press officer for the   has published in several periodicals, such as  Art
    International.                           recent London Conference of the International   News, and Arts. His book on Jasper Johns (Harry N.
                                             Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic   Abrams, New York) will appear in the Spring of 1968.
    Norbert Lynton, head of the school of art history at   Works.                     His article in this issue was originally given as a
    Chelsea College of Art, is art critic of The Guardian                             lecture at the Guggenheim Museum in Spring 1966.
    and contributes to Art International, Cimaise, Quadrum   Eva Tucker's novel Contact was published in 1966 by
    and other journals.                       Calder & Boyars. She has just completed another   Robert Lockwood is a critic and writer who recently
                                              novel, Drowning, to be published in 1968.   visited Greece.
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