THE 80s: 326 YEARS OF HIP
A Group Exhibition of Four Octogenarian Artists
with BORIS LURIE, MARY BEACH, HERBERT HUNCKE, and TAYLOR MEAD
Curated by Anne Loretto, Clayton Patterson and James Rasin
LOCATION: 161 Essex Street btwn Houston & Stanton | New York | January 19 to March 31, 2005
►Info ►Boris Lurie ►Mary Beach ►Herbert Hunke ►Taylor Mead ►Opening views
►Preview by Jan Herman ►Review by Jan Herman ►Review by David H. Katz
►Estera Milman  ►Clayton Patterson ►Estera Milman 
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Interconnecting many scenes from disparate places, living lives well-nigh impossible now, these artists, wending their way through the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s of underground and alternative life, film, poetry, art and beyond, encompass everything from the distant art world of prewar Europe to the literary Beat scene of New York; from German WWII Nazi prison and concentration camps to the Surrealist, Pop and No! Art movements; from the first Holocaust art to the streets, galleries, and museums of Paris, Berlin, New York, London and San Francisco. They’re old, they’re cool, they’re wise ... and they all lived on the Lower East Side. — A catalogue, “The 80s: 326 Years of Hip”, will be published in conjunction with this show. — Please don’t forget to come and meet Mary, Boris and Taylor at the special artists’ reception on January 20th at 6:00. Come see history.
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
(*1924) was born in Leningrad. Imprisoned in the Riga-Ghetto, he was taken to a succession of Nazi concentration camps and was liberated from Buchenwald/ Magdeburg. Lurie came to the USA in 1946, settled in New York City (where he still lives and maintains a longkept studio on the Lower East Side), and immediately set to painting work that went against prevailing artistic and commercial trends. While his Dismembered Women series from the late 1940's may be seen as a passionate reaction against Abstract Expressionism, his NO!art paintings and assemblages from the late 1950's actually predated Pop Art: In the early 1960's, critics such as Harold Rosenberg and Tom Hess already saw Lurie's imagery as an important source for Pop. Lately, Boris is given recognition as a forerunner of much of what deserves to be called avant-garde. Lurie’s work can be found in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Museum of Modern Art, and many other collections. Several of his compelling and provocative works will be exhibited for purchase as part of this show.
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
MARY BEACH (*1919) was referred to by William Burroughs as one of only five women that he ever liked. Given her life, art, and spirit it’s easy to see why the infamous misogynist might feel that way. After Mary was born in Connecticut, her divorced mother moved the family to France in 1925. Growing up amongst the expatriates (Sylvia Beach was a relative), Mary had her first art show in 1943, in Pau. During the latter part of WWII she was interned in a Nazi prison camp. After the war, she married an American war hero (who worked for the OSS). Returning to the United States she began a family while continuing to study, paint and exhibit. In 1957 the Beaches, together with their two children, returned to France, where Mary exhibited at the historic Salon des Independents in Paris; won the Prix du Dome at the Salon des Femmes Peintres; and was exhibited at the Salon des Surindependents. Upon the early death of her husband, and her subsequent meeting of the artist and poet Claude Pelieu in 1962, Mary’s life once again took a drastic turn: Mary and Claude shared a passion for art and literature, and their interest in the new led them to a correspondence with Allen Ginsberg. With the encouragement of Lawrence Ferlinghetti they then moved to San Francisco. Mary quickly started her own imprint at City Lights (Beach Books, Texts and Documents), then promptly discovered and published the young poet Bob Kaufman.
Always painting and working on her collages, which have been compared to those of Hannah Hoech, Mary also translated Burroughs, Ginsberg, Ed Sanders and others for publication in France. Moving to New York City, where she and Claude first lived on the Lower East Side and then at the Chelsea Hotel, they enjoyed friendships and collaborations with Brion Gysin, Julian Beck, Harry Smith (who would later live with them for some time), Patti Smith and many others. Amidst all of this, together with constant moves between Paris, London and the States (Mary has moved 76 times in her life), Mary found time to write and have published her own experimental novel, “Two-Fisted Banana: Electric and Gothic”, which has an introduction by Burroughs.
Mary and Claude eventually settled in upstate New York, where Claude, fifteen years Mary’s junior, passed away in 2002. Mary, now 85, continues to live and work there, creating collages, portraits, and mixed media canvasses -- many of which will be exhibited for purchase at this show.
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
(1915-1996) was the original Beat. A gifted storyteller, natural charmer and profoundly sensitive soul, he was also a hustler, carny, addict, petty thief, street philosopher, chronicler of the demimonde, and the archetype on which a generation modeled itself.
Having run away from home at 16, Huncke eventually arrived in New York in the 1930s, where he immediately headed for Times Square. In the 1940s, Huncke befriended the young William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg, guiding them through New York's underground and introducing them to a world of volatile experience they had never imagined.
His extraordinary ability to relate his life story in pared-down, unaffected prose inspired a new type of literature, free of constraint and self-consciousness.
Although born in Chicago, and having traveled a great deal (riding the rails, hitchhiking,working as an itinerant farmer), Huncke was the quintessential New Yorker -- and spent many of his years living on the Lower East Side.
The author of several books, Huncke is less well known for the abstract and mysterious artwork he enjoyed drawing and painting on cardboard, wood, and other found objects. Never before exhibited, most of the small number of still-extant pieces of his work will be on display at this show.
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
(*1924) is a poet, actor, film director, writer, painter, humorist . . . and legend. Originally from Michigan, Taylor, inspired by Kerouac, hitchhiked across the country five times before finally settling in New York. (He has lived for many years on the Lower East Side). Well known as a “Warhol Superstar” (and star of many Warhol films), Taylor’s credits and accomplishments as a multi-talented artist in his own right are far too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say that he is unique, he is a treasure, and all of his works on display here are just as compelling, intelligent and beautiful as he is.
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Preview by Jan Herman
The 80s: 326 Years of Hip | A Group Exhibition of Four Octogenarian Artists | Mary Beach, Herbert Huncke, Boris Lurie and Taylor Mead [Arts Journal, January 19th, 2005]
The invitation said, "They're Old, they're Cool, they're Wise, and they all lived on the Lower East Side." Needless to say, it was not an invitation to the inauguration. It was an invitation to a group show, and "they" are octegenarians -- Mary Beach, whose 1998 collage "Pepper Head" (right) illustrates the invitation, Taylor Mead, Boris Lurie and Herbert Huncke, who died in 1996 at age 81. But more than age, they share in common the status of artist outsiders.
The Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Museum previews the show tonight with a reception for the artists from 6 to 8 p.m. The show opens Friday in Manhattan on the Lower East Side and runs through Feb. 27 (161 Essex St. between Stanton and Houston, 212-477-1363).
Once upon a time Mary Beach and I collaborated on a San Francisco literary magazine together with Claude Pelieu, Carl Weissner and Norman Mustill. Her life and work, like Meade's, Lurie's and Huncke's, cover a lot of ground -- mostly the alternative underground. From the 1930s on, the gallery notes, their combined experience includes "everything from the distant art world of prewar Europe to the literary Beat scene of New York; from Nazi prison and concentratrion camps to the Surrealist, Pop and No! Art movements; from the first Holocaust art to the streets, galleries and museums of Paris, Berlin, New York, London and San Francisco."
Of the four, Herbert Huncke and Taylor Mead are probably the best known -- Huncke because of his association with Bill Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; Mead because of his association with Andy Warhol (an actor and poet, he was one of Warhol's superstars). Boris Lurie, who survived four years in Magdeburg (SP), a work camp satellite of Buchenwald, is perhaps least known in or out of the downtown scene. I discovered him only in 1973, when he sent an essay over the transom to the Something Else Press for an anthology I was editing. I loved the piece and published it. Here's how it began:
SHIT NO! TEN YEARS AFTER: The art world is in deep crisis and has been for some time. Artificial cultivation of decorative "esthetic" values, reckless investment speculation aided by large numbers of collaborating artists have brought about a situation very much like the last stage of a bull market on the stock exchange. Esthetically and philosophically the bottom has already dropped out. The mini-movements cultivating minor esthetic modes by-passed by the pioneers of modern art are being groomed, refined, enlarged and overstated all out of proportion to their real value. Even amputated splinters of the old rebellious Dada have been converted into saleable parlor games. ...
The "theoretical" part of the art market is supported by museum curators eager to please trustees and to promote large attendance by the uneducated public. It is indebted to artist-producers who operate manufacting enterprises out of mammoth lofts in New York. But the sanctity and reliability of art critics and art publications, whose full page, awe-inspiring ads and color covers have lost their magic, convince the public no longer. The museums are finally accepted for what they really are: corporate entities & private organizations controlled by a small number of not-distinguished trustees whose conflicting interests in the art market should be opened to question.
Such Sanctum Sanctorums have only been picketed; a general clean-up must begin in earnest. And many artists do understand now that their field is not just the production of art. In the most extreme cases, political confrontation has become an art form. Some are in flight from marketable objects in what is viewed as an exaggerated reaction to their unhappy findings. To many, unfortunately, all art has become useless and corrupt.
The hope is that some place, some day, a truly unmanipulated art will appear, that younger artists will become free of the art world hang-ups of their older brothers and sisters of the Fifties and Sixties, and of the poisonous atmosphere of establishment-fostered art. Let's hope they will know better how to handle the success-monster, the ego-monster, the competition-monster, and the monster of in-group camp. These nasy monsters have always had a habit of reappearing.
The first rebellion always begins out of desperation, triggered perhaps by the realization that isolation and inwardness must be broken. The artist who understands this is free only in rebellion.
Lurie went on to describe the history of his and other downtown artists's shows, such as "Adieu Amerique" (1959), his farewell "statement of rejection" when he was about to leave the country for good, he thought; group shows such as, "Les Lions," at the time of the Algerian war in a cooperative basement gallery on the Lower East Side, the "Vulgar Show," the "Involvement Show," the "Doom Show" in 1962, which he described as "a direct attack on the danger of atomic war at the time of the Kennedy-Kruschev confrontation over Cuba, when basement air raid shelters were introduced for unprotected homes and hysteria swept the country."
Mary Beach and Taylor Meade will be at the gallery reception tonight. Lurie, unfortunately, will not. He's recovering from successful heart by-pass surgery, says Clayton Patterson, who curated the group show with Anne Loretto and James Rasin.
Copyright by Arts Journal, The Daily Digest of Arts, Cultural & Ideas, www.artsjournal.com
STRAIGHT UP by Jan Herman (Arts, media & culture news with 'tude), on January 19, 2005
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Review by Jan Herman
BORIS LURIE'S "NO!art" AND THE HOLOCAUST*
Published in: Arts Journal Weblog, New York, January 27th, 2005
Today, when the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau is recalled with "the mournful whistle of an imaginary death train," the little-known No!art art of Boris Lurie looms like a signal from the remembered depths. See, for example, his Red Shit Sculpture (below), or Immigrant's Box, or New York-Rumbula (bottom), or Bowl of Chains, or his Immigrant's Suitcase series.
One terrible irony of Lurie's art is that it is "beautiful" in spite of itself, an aesthetic effect alien to his experience as a survivor of Buchenwald-Magdeburg and other concentration camps, where he was enslaved for four years and where human degradation knew no bounds. But Lurie has probed the human abyss not only with his art but with his words. Here, for example, is the conclusion of his essay about vaporous girlie pin-ups for a 1960 exhibition, "Les Lions," which describes the Holocaust in terms most of us can understand:
The stray dogs in my backyard are perennially hungry. The Monster makes them act out their frustration through formal well-rehearsed action. The dogs beg: they throw their paws around wildly, they run around in circles. Then the Monster throws them some bones. The meat had been all but completely eaten away, but the dogs devour them greedily and fall asleep. And in their dog-dreams they imagine themselves as superb great masters, far away in time and space, performing never ending ritual gestures. But soon they awaken, and they are as hungry as before, and the yard is as dirty as before. I have a painting in front of me. Legibly printed on its right side are the words: Liberty or Lice.
In German, I'm told, this passage is even stronger. Hunde (dog) has much more power, says my German-speaking friend Bill Osborne, "because it is a very strong insult." The idea, of course, is that "humans behave like dogs -- clawing, shitting, wallowing in their own filth, devouring raw meat, bones and all." Ungeheuer (monster) is stronger still, "because it refers to an entity that is undefinable, horrible, beyond description," Osborne adds. "It is a very German word, coming from a forest people's perception of something unspeakable in the darkness of the trees at night." And verschlingen (devour) is far more potent "because it describes the way dogs ravenously slaver over and swallow things whole like bones. The hard, guttural sounds and pounding rhythm of the words increase the starkness of the effect."
* By a nice coincidence the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Museum on Manhattan's Lower East Side is exhibiting some of Lurie's work in a group show that runs through Feb. 27 (161 Essex St., 212-477-1363). The other artists in the show are Mary Beach, Taylor Mead and Herbert Huncke.
Postscript: The opening of the show was jammed. Gallery owner, co-curator (and, I might add, a warm and generous host) Clayton Patterson sent along some photos of the guests. Boris Lurie, left, couldn't make it to the opening because he was recovering from heart by-pass surgery. That's him sitting on the bed at home, with Clayton behind him. There's Mary Beach, right, with the writer Victor Bockris at the gallery. Taylor Mead was having a ball prancing and dancing for guests who came loaded with cameras. Before the opening Mead and a friend were singing songs and strumming banjos at a party in The Pink Pony, a friendly neighborhood restaurant around the corner from the gallery. Come to think of it, Mead might have been playing a miniature guitar. There he is (left) at the gallery with the artist Andre Serrano (far left). Behind them are some of Mead's acrylics on canvas.
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Review by David H. Katz
BORIS LURIE, UNEASY VISIONS, UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS
The Villager, New York, Volume 74, Number 42 | February 23 - March 01, 2005
Born in Leningrad in 1924 into an educated, highly cultured Jewish family, Lurie grew up in Riga, Latvia, and was recognized as having artistic talent at an early age. After the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941, his family was swept up in the maelstrom of the Second World War. At 16 he and his father were captured by the Germans and began a hellish journey through the ghettos and concentration camps of Riga, Salapils, Stutthof and finally Buchenwald-Magdeburg in Germany. His mother, sister and grandmother were murdered, painful losses that immensely affected Lurie and were later to prove central to many of the themes and motifs of his work.
Liberated in 1945, Lurie remained in Germany for a year and worked for the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence. He moved to New York City in 1946 and began his art career there, with figurative paintings in which he refused to flinch from dealing with his experiences in the camps, despite a postwar reluctance among survivors to dwell on, or even mention publicly, their wartime ordeal. Paintings like “Back From Work” (1946), and “Roll Call in Concentration Camp” (1946), with their ghostly, skeletal figures, fluid lines and pearl and sepia tones recall El Greco and Goya; “Entrance” (1946), his portrait of two sonderkommandos, the doomed gangs of inmates forced to remove the victims from the gas chambers, flanking the walkway to a crematorium, is as bleak as it is poignant in its depiction of shards of dignity amid hopelessness.
Under the influence of Picasso, De Kooning and later Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists, Lurie abandoned strictly figurative painting, and through the late ’40s and ’50s worked in a number of disparate styles and modes. A sequence of paintings called the “Feel Paintings” speak to his fascination with American symbols of libertine femininity like burlesque dancers, dancehall girls and pinup girls, to Lurie, a highly charged symbol of American big city life that he returned to in the early ’70s.
Lurie’s role during the ’60s, and ’70s, as a founding member and prima mobila of the NO!art movement elicited some of his most striking, exciting and contentious works. Founded in 1959 by Lurie, Stanley Fisher and Sam Goodman, in cooperation with the March gallery in the Tenth Street in New York, (later known as the March Group), NO!art was a visceral reaction to the dominant movements of the era: Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
NO!art’s self-proclaimed principle was to bring back into art “the subjects of real life,” which for Lurie, Fisher, Goodman and the others were issues of repression, destruction, depravity, sex, occupation, colonialism, imperialism, racism and sexism; the deep stuff, the psychological, edgy, discomforting material that makes people squirm; the kind of paintings you won’t find hanging, color-coordinated, over the wine-colored leather couch in a living room out in the Hamptons.
Lurie freely admits that, like many artistic rebellions, NO!art started “out of desperation; I mean it wasn’t an intellectual program, philosophic program worked out by some philosophers or in some university,” he said recently, while uncharacteristically decamped above 14th St., at a friend’s Park Ave. apartment, recovering from a quadruple bypass surgery, while his chaotic and art-crammed East Village apartment is being renovated.“It started out of desperation because we were already some time in the art world, and finally we saw what was going on and we said: To hell with you, we want to be artists but we’ll do it for ourselves, we won’t be involved with them. And if they want to they can try to get us.”
The basic ideological and aesthetic thrust, was “total self-expression, and inclusion of any kind of social or political activity that was in the world, that took place in the world,” Lurie explained. “Total freedom of expression, and also what was favored was like a protest, an outcry, anything that might be considered a radical expression, that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the expression that was permitted under the then current aesthetics.” Or to put it another way: “The aesthetics was to strongly react against anything that’s bugging you.”
For Lurie that reaction was deeply and understandably connected with his experiences in the Holocaust, and he created different series of works that commented, directly and indirectly, upon those experiences. Most notorious, and to some, offensive, was his 1959 “Railroad Collage,” an elaboration of his “Flatcar Assemblage by Adolf Hitler” (1945), an appropriated photograph of a stack of corpses on a flatcar at Buchenwald. His sarcastic renaming of that horrific image wasn’t enough for Lurie; he took it one step further in “Railroad Collage” by superimposing a cutout shot from a girlie magazine showing the backside of an attractive woman lowering her panties and exposing her ass.
Were these works a comment on pornography and the Holocaust, or the Holocaust as the ultimate pornography? Was it a callous denigration of the victims, or a celebration of eroticism, the life force, Eros, in the midst of an unsentimental and unsparing depiction of death; or was it simply an unvarnished expression of contempt for the diminished humanity of their depraved killers?
Whatever it was, the results, in 1959, were shock and outrage: people leaving the gallery in a rage, letters to editors, condemnation, controversy, uproar — everything a serious artist dreams of provoking.
“I would say they were shocked,” Lurie, said. “When you combine extremes like death, or injury, and all that with sexual aspects, it shocks even today. Because we tend to think different in this way, despite the fact there’s an involvement between sex and death also and so forth. In other words, if you use pinup girls in order to comment on serious things, it’s confusing because the closed-minded person would react to this semi-pornography in a very hostile way. The person whose mind is more open, would laugh it off. But they wouldn’t take it seriously.”
This was especially true at the end of the ’50s, when, before the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Holocaust was still a taboo subject, the word itself barely established as the universal term for the Nazi program for the extermination of the Jews. “Nobody spoke about it,” said Lurie. “Most of the people that I knew in the art world, and my friends, never knew that I was in a concentration camp. It was never talked about. So in that time that everything was opened up, there was also a general historical background to this that happened during this time when Castro won the civil war in Cuba; and it happened at the time when Khrushchev became the head of the Soviet Union and loosened everything up. All over the world there was an atmosphere of loosening up.”
Lurie continued to explore the implications of the Holocaust, both directly and indirectly, in the years to come, with etchings like “Stars of David on Swastika” (1962), a series of “NO-Sculptures” (1964-’66), some made of excrement; various assemblages incorporating the infamous iconography of the Jewish Yellow Star; an entire series of “Chain Works” in 1973, including “Chained Female Shoes,” “Chained Roses” and “Chained Toilet Paper.” His 1964 “Death Sculpture,” chicken heads entrapped in a block of synthetic resin, anticipates Damien Hirst’s modern sculptures of sharks and sheep suspended in formaldehyde.
For the most part, critics and curators of the day rejected Lurie and NO!art, a circumstance perhaps responsible for Lurie’s at-times caustic — “The art market is nothing but a racket” — yet brutally honest views of the business of art, views he has made clear in a number of writings and letters, including notably his great critique, “MOMA as Manipulator” (1970), and the ►“Statement for the Exhibition ‘Art And Politics’ at Karlsruhe Kunstverein, Germany” (1970), which constitutes a sort of NO!art manifesto:
NO!art is anti worldmarket - investment art: (artworldmarket-investment art equals cultural manipulation).
NO!art is against “clinical,” “scientific” estheticism’s: (such estheticism’s are not art).
NO!art is against the pyramiding of artworldmarket-investment-fashion-decorations
(“minimal,” “color field,” “conceptual”): such games-decorations are the sleeping pills of culture.
It is against “phantasy” in the service of the artmarket.
NO!art is against all artworldmarket “salon” art.
NO!art is anti Pop-art: (Pop-art is reactionary - it celebrates the glories of consumer society,
and it mocks only at what the lower classes consume - the can of soup, the cheap shirt.
Pop-art is chauvinistic. It sabotages and detracts from a social art for all.)
At 80, Lurie is as sharp, opinionated and insightful as artists a third of his age, and is still realistic and truthful, perhaps too truthful, about the relationship between aesthetics and commerce in a capitalist society: “Well, an art dealer is a businessman like any other businessman, and his job in this economic society is to furnish goods and to try to make a profit at it,” Lurie noted. “And it doesn’t work any different than selling shoes or anything else. It might be decorated with a lot of big talk and philosophical talk and what not, but it doesn’t make any difference. Because he has to support a gallery, he has to pay a secretary, so a certain reality comes in. So somebody who doesn’t like the artist X, may still deal in him because he can make some money on him. And he may really believe in artist XYZ, and not touch him at all because he can’t make any money, and he can’t waste any time on him.
“Say he likes two artists,” Lurie continued, “they’re working in the same area, more or less, their work is very similar, they’re both very good according to him. One of them is a terrific salesman, and the other one is a completely, he sits at home, and doesn’t know anybody and just keeps on working and so forth. He’s incapable of promoting himself. So as an art dealer, the one who is a terrific salesman, is a much better deal for you because he takes some of the burden off your shoulders.”
Ironically, Lurie has found a great deal of success in the country to which he owes much of his angst-ridden subject matter: Germany, where NO!art is celebrated as a major movement in the history of 20th-century and — with Lurie’s 2004 exhibition, “OPTIMISTIC - DISEASE - FACILITY,” at Haus am Kleistpark, Berlin-Schoeneberg — 21st-century art.
Copyright by The Villager, New York, Volume 74, Number 42 | February 23 - March 01, 2005
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Comment by Estera Milman to Clayton Patterson and David H. Katz
On February 27th, 2005: Although professional courtesy makes it impossible for me to author the solicited "letter to the editor," I would, nonetheless, like to thank Clayton for sharing David Katz's article and to offer the following "inhouse" response to his own well intentioned, albeit short sighted, attempts to "get [Boris Lurie] a little recognition in America," and to Katz's "Boris Lurie: Uneasy Visions, uncomfortable truths [sic]." First, I would like to remind Clayton that his use of the word "America" is somewhat less than politically correct, as such seasonal shifts in PC fashion go. Even loosely described, the Americas encompass (at very least) two continents; one in the Northern hemisphere, the other in the Southern. "North America" is composed of the United States and Canada. Despite the unabashed provincialism that has long informed the world view of many New Yorkers (including some Manhattanites of the counterculture persuation), truth is, the boundaries of the United States, in turn, are drawn with a brush somewhat broader than Greater New York City; even the location of the shifting epicenters of the US artworld are contested, from time to time. For example, sometimes there is LA, Chicago, or even Miami, Saint Louis, Houston, and/or Milwaukee (to cite but a few of many such undisputed power bases) to take into account. Furthermore (and perhaps more importantly) Lurie and Sam Goodman were very real players in the cultural politics of the early 1960s New York artworld and, believe it or not, received much more than "a little" recognition in "America," even within the discourse of the 1960s and 70s. Both of these two aforecited misperceptlons are evidenced in David Katz's uninformed and (perhaps, inadvertently) patronizing narrative. In reference to the latter, I am not here simply criticizing Katz's misspelling of Jackson Pollock's name or his ahistorical, sloppy reference to de Kooning (who, even by the late 1940s was already very much a pivotal figure in the so called, "Abstract Expressionist" circle, right alongside Pollock); far more serious (although perhaps less embarrassing for the author), is Katz's representation of NO!art as "visceral reaction to Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art." Leaving the relationship of NO! to Abstract Expressionism aside, there is little question but that, at the outset, NO! and Pop were parallel phenomena; it was not until Pop became the artworld's self proclaimed anointed successor to Abstract Expressionism that NO! assumed an oppositional (that is not to say "reactionary") stance. If, as Katz has done, you cut the historical legs out from under something, you marginalize it. Both Patterson and Katz are doing Lurie (and NO!) a great disservice by deliberately not building on things that preceded their own personal involvement and agendas, and by not honoring and respecting the very things they should be building on. As an aside, it is interesting to note that in 1961 de Kooning became the much lauded, paradigmatic progenitor of "assemblage," and that the broader subset "assemblage, environments, and Happenings" (within which NO! served as one important component) were all simultaneously discounted/marginalized by the New York artworld in the mid-sixties based on their then understood relationship to "old Europe." If Lurie had, in fact, singled out de Kooning by the mid-40s (as Katz suggests), I would sincerely like to know.
In all the mailings I have received that presented themselves as updates on Boris' health but in effect were vehicles to disseminate information about the group show at the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum, I have not gleaned even the slightest acknowledgement of, or even nod to, the pivotal role the Gallery Gertrude Stein (New York) played during NO!art’s historical collective period or in the more recent past; nor have I noted even the whisper of a deserved credit line to the Janos Gat Gallery (Madison Avenue) which (as I understand it) generated the very prints Clayton is marketing and, not too long ago, successfully facilitated some very substantial "recognition" for Boris in Artforum. Having said that, I would like to move on to Milman.
Methodologically speaking, Katz's lengthy citations from his interview with Lurie are difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from the author's own voice. (Incidentally, the Archives of American Art does not even make transcripts of interviews with living artists available, on site, to the general public without first allowing the artist being interviewed to review, modify and/or approve or reject the transcript. Since Katz's blurring of boundaries between his voice and Lurie's and his decontextualization of Boris's statements as these purportedly appeared on his notes/tapes are highly problematic, I would caution him to follow normal protocol prior to the appearance in print of his "more comprehensive interview" in the London-based Jewish Quarterly.) Embedded in Katz's narrative are propositions that are directly (albeit naively) appropriated from my own 2001, National Endowment for the Arts-funded publication NO! art and the Aesthetics of Doom (copyright, the author and The Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art). While, as a much published historical theorist, I cannot help but be somewhat amused by Katz's assumption that my argued propositions (with which Boris initially did not agree) are "truths," I nonetheless find his blind appropriations to be unethical. Conversely and from an hi stenographic perspective, it is just possible that he himself did not have access to my catalogue essay (and thus could not cite it, as is normal practice) and instead simply appropriated these propositions as they were recounted to him as "truths" by Lurie himself. If, in fact, the conceptual armature of my work has entered the everyday consciousness of one of my historical subjects, I would very much like to know. The blurring of boundaries between primary and secondary literatures is not to be taken lightly by anyone whose life's work is the analysis of the history of the authorship of our histories. Back to Clayton.
As Clayton is well aware (and despite what I know is his anger toward Northwestern University) "NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom" was the first comprehensive, historical retrospective exhibition of the collective's historical period, to be mounted in the United States. When the show opened in the Greater Chicago area immediately following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, The Chicago Tribune (read, The New York Times of the Midwest) singled out the exhibition as the antitheses of "comfort art" and as representative of an art that "stimulates [and] rouses., art as provocation... as the nation girds itself for a long a difficult struggle against terrorism" (November 4, 2001). In addition, on January 4, 2002, the Chicago Reader (read, the Village Voice of Greater Chicago) published a full page, laudatory review of the NO! show describing the exhibition as "one of the best [Chicago area] exhibits of 2001." Critic Fred Camper writes: "Indeed, much of this work registers as a call to action — those these artists admitted they had no solutions." Neither the "Trib" nor the "Reader" felt it necessary to play what Ami Eden (Senior Editor of The Forward) recently called "the Holocaust Card" (see "Playing the Holocaust Card," The New York Times. Op-Ed. January 29, 2005). Nor did Lurie, Goodman, Stein, Gat, Reichelt, and Milman.
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Response by Clayton Patterson to Estera Milman
On March 3rd, 2005: I must apologize for taking so long to respond to Estera’s inquiring mind. I have been very busy, with promoting the art show, putting together a reading for this weekend, finishing a book for a publisher, and a lot of other nonsense. I needed this to spend my time on this response like I needed a new hole in my head. The newspaper is still on the street, and I must send the article out to the waiting public.
2/28/05 19:59 Estera Milman
> Although professional courtesy makes it impossible for me to author the
> solicited "letter to the editor," I would, nonetheless, like to thank
> Clayton for sharing David Katz's article and to offer the following
> "inhouse" response to his own well intentioned, albeit short sighted,
> attempts to "get [Boris Lurie] a little recognition in America," and to
> Katz's "Boris Lurie: Uneasy Visions, uncomfortable truths [sic]."
> First, I would like to remind Clayton that his use of the word
> "America" is somewhat less than politically correct, as such seasonal
> shifts in PC fashion go. Even loosely described, the Americas encompass
> (at very least) two continents; one in the Northern hemisphere, the
> other in the Southern. "North America" is composed of the United
> States and Canada. Despite the unabashed provincialism that has long
> informed the world view of many New Yorkers (including some
> Manhattanites of the counterculture persuation), truth is, the
> boundaries of the United States, in turn, are drawn with a brush
> somewhat broader than Greater New York City; even the location of the
> shifting epicenters of the US artworld are contested, from time to
> time. For example, sometimes there is LA, Chicago, or even Miami,
Saint Louis, Houston, and/or Milwaukee (to cite but a few of many such
undisputed power bases) to take into account.
I see the professional courtesy of not responding, as weakness rather than having any ethical or moral standing. I see it as someone afraid and burrowed in a deep hole in the system, with no commitment to the NO!art cause. A ruse to hide. Give me a break with this professional courtesy crap. What nonsense.
And I accept your thank you for sharing your thoughts. But what should I do about the sarcasm? Sing humbly - a long.... I thank you back.... hohohohoh thannnnnnnk youuuuu, for what? The courtesy of - not criticizing me in public. Please. Save me from your PC grace. I love a good fight for the right reason. I have spent my life fighting people who eat and sleep with the sheep. This fight is not even a slight problem for me.
I show Boris because he is an outsider, because his work has been rejected, because he has no other roost to sit on, because I love him and what he does. I admire Boris and what he stands for. Boris is not a fat plump insider, protecting the fascist vault to the so-called art world. I am an outsider. I forge my own trial and Boris is one of my heros. I do not care what you think, what you write. Spew your guts to the whole world of my ignorance about the so-called artworld. Do not save me from your poison pen. I am here. Waiting.
Boris has suffered and he was one of the first to break the mould by talking about the holocaust through his art. His work is still too strong for America, and yes, I mean America. Boris is a misunderstood genius. But what do I know? I am only an artist, an activist, a street fighter, a questioner of authority, a maker of art who may never crossed the threshold of your Ivy league Castle. I am maker of trouble for those too comfortable with their iron clad protection of the system, and all of the rot that it represents. I am not a PC. I am not a Kerry fan - he and his PC’s are weak people. We are the outlaws of your decadent society.
For me Boris is no meal ticket, as he was for Estera. Estera got paid. I never have. Estera had institutional money and backing or she would have done nothing, just as she has done nothing since she stopped getting paid. She cannot even write a small concise letter. Good excuse professional courtesy. Even an idiot could find a way to write a positive, informative response to David’s article, rather than a negative in house secret rant. Estera can take this fight outside the house. Or if she does not respond to me, since Estera wants to attack me, David, and my efforts, then I can take this inside fight outside the house. Lets get crazy. I know a lot of art people, outsider aesthetic experts, book writers, article publishers, and just plain aesthetic warriors. In fact I am just finishing a political book that I edited; this little fight will certainly fit in. My work is starting to get published. I have no problem defending were I stand. Bring it on I say. I am not John Kerry who took a dive as soon as he was hit by Bush. It will not take me 3 months to get off the mat. I will not take a dive. You will have to kill me to stop me. Go ahead take your shots. Bring it on. Respond, explain yourself or I will go outside the box. Outside the box is a place where I have spent my whole life. I am not one of your willy-nilly conformists.
Some people who I can include in this fight, are people who Estera will know and respect, and others who Estera will not. They may not all be up to the high standards of whats her name? Estera, but hey, we do the best with what we have. We work with what we have. I make my own shit art. I have been branded many things, been called many names. It means nothing to me. Estera is a shill for the system. Tell Estera to bring it on. And I do have the ability to fight. Tell Estera to make no mistake about that--Estera, my dear. Boris and I share a lot of common qualities. I too am a survivor, but of a different kind of war. Like Boris I am no victim, another reason that Boris and I get along. We both understand this part of the battle. I have no problem making my positions and efforts in this No! art struggle, taking it to the public. Believe me, I can make this a dynamic, International battle. Open up the house.
For the most part, I have been more successful, in my 16 and counting years in court, all because of my critically incorrect political actions, my documenting the wrongs of the system, than Estera has been with her court struggle. I have been called an aesthetic terrorist by a Judge in Manhattan’s US Federal Court. Make my day. Correct me if I am wrong in this, I think that Estera pulled out of her own fight. And from what I was told by Boris, the show was hung as the university wanted, so the court action was for not. I am still doing my uncouth political questioning of the system. I am still here. I have not moved, ten feet or been forced out. I support NO!art and what Boris stands for. I have not retreated to a cosy country abode to watch the squirrels.
What do you call my support? Ranting spews, or what should I call them? Pseudo information?
I have gotten Boris attention - in America and even in Europe. Estera knows nothing of my work, who I am, or what I do. Estera only speculates. Estera is no expert in where information about Boris has gone, to what corners. When I was touring East and West Germany, and all over Austria, over several years, I spread the word, showing the NO!art books as part of my display. I went to Stuttgart and bought a box of NO!art books from Eckart and distributed them to people in Israel, to libraries in Germany and Canada, as well as planting book seeds in Austria. True, Estera is an insider, I guess. Institutional I would say. Estera represents the dead academy, the same dead academy as it was at the end of the 19th century. I have no idea who she is. And I am an outsider - no doubt. But as far as spreading correct NO!art information, Boris has included me in all of the shows since he has been activated in Europe. I was included, in the NGBK, NO!art show. I am in the NGBK NO!art book. I was one of the 4 people in the show curated by Boris at the Janos Gat Gallery. I am a part of the NO!art website. I have shown Boris several times. I interested Ami making the NO!art film, a big decision for him. It became his special project, that he had to invest all his money in. Ami used my footage in his film, and yes, it was expensive film. I gave my opinion on his editing. I put John Strausbaugh, Boris and Gertrude together, for Johns long, sorry, newspaper, but excellent article about NO!art.
It is Estera, the academic (sic), who is intellectually dishonest. She never included any of the exhibitions that I did with Boris in her bibliographies of NO!art and Boris. Could she not read the NGBK, NO!art book? DO not tell me that Estera did not have that book, or maybe the cost of the book scared her off. It was not just past shows in her writings about No!art; Estera included the later German shows in Estera’s pork pie. Estera completely, in a dishonest way, took me out. Thankfully I am obsessive about documentation, photographing and video taping, and making cards that I have all of my actions and the more modern No! art history recorded.
Estera could not get Boris to attend her No!art show. When Boris was healthy he came to my shows. I even got Boris, difficult as it was, to go to Buchenwald, where I recorded him throughout the whole trip. Buchenwald was fine, friendly, not spooky at all for Boris. It was our trip to Dora that made Boris very depressed and things got dark. It was after Dora that Boris got sick and I saw depression, roll across his eyes as he sank into darkness. I was a witness to this. I documented this trip. Dora revived Boris’ Infories of the smell, the filth, the sink. Boris shines his light into the darkest corners of mans’ psyche. This is the essence of his NO!art. I have the most video documentation, and certainly a large photo history of Boris from the later years. Dietmar the paper archivist has an extraordinary, meticulous, wonderful, and well groomed collection of paper and ephemera relating to NO!art. I would be surprised if Estera is even in contact with Dietmar. She is not a part of the website. Why not? Arrogance? Estera knows it all? Estera is a genius?
And Estera should be aware, that this in house attack, is being recorded for the history of NO!art, by Dietmar. Dietmar is equally as obsessive about saving NO!art material, as am I. At one time I purchased a NO!art piece from a gallery, and although it was not expensive in the art world sense, it was a burden for me. I support the movement, in whatever way that I can and I do what I can with what I have. It may not be much, but it is the most that I can do. Estera, should be careful with her poison pen: that Villager article has legs, as her rants, also equally have legs. Fear is not a part of this equation.
I accept the point and criticism of not being politically correct. In fact, one of the reasons that Boris and I shared so much in common is our shared appreciation of our lack of politically correctness. Please save me from the PC's. I am not a part of this clique. Not now. Not ever. I realize that you are, or were, an academic (sic). Please, in your enthusiasm to make everything politically correct, do not, make more offerings of correcting NO!art. The death of the movement is slow enough without getting into the sewer of the slaves to these politically correct atrocities. Boris is still too strong for America.
I know that Estera and her husband made an uninformed attempt at placing Boris into the middle of the pack, in an exhibition in Spain. The way that they went about it, shows a complete distain and lack of understanding of the movement and Boris’s intensions. As far as all this insider business that Estera is bragging about read the David Katz article, not for information on Pollock, or the rest of that CIA funded movement, read in Boris’ own words, what he said in the Villager article. Patronizing, yes, we love Boris and his NO!art. I am not suggesting that I am objective in this. NO way. Sorry if you think that I am going to find a writer to objectify Boris, like a piece of meat on a table of some hack butcher. I do not believe that Gertrude even went to the Estera conference either. Gertrude was very upset with the feminist direction the conference took, which she felt had nothing to do with NO!art. She rebelled and said no way. Fuck that. Tell Estera get a grip—
Estera in all of her love and support of the movement and Boris, cannot even visit him? Where is Estera or her side of this debate in supporting Boris? Is Estera writing grants? Or applying for money or trying to make a career, as Gertrude says, on the back of No!art?. Tell Estera to keep telling her lies, about the fact that I have not been a part of this movement. I will prove her to be intellectually dishonest.
Furthermore (and perhaps
> more importantly) Lurie and Sam Goodman were very real players in the
> cultural politics of the early 1960s New York artworld and, believe it
> or not, received much more than "a little" recognition in "America,"
> even within the discourse of the 1960s and 70s. Both of these two
> aforecited misperceptions are evidenced in David Katz's uninformed and
(perhaps, inadvertently) patronizing narrative.
And it is Boris who pulled me into the family of No!art. None of us were there in the 60's, certainly not me or Estera. I have a lot of documentation on Boris and our conversations, so my naiveté, is from hours of talking and documenting Boris.
In reference to the
> latter, I am not here simply criticizing Katz's misspelling of Jackson
> Pollock's name or his ahistorical, sloppy reference to de Kooning (who,
> even by the late 1940s was already very much a pivotal figure in the so
> called, "Abstract Expressionist" circle, right alongside Pollock); far
> more serious (although perhaps less embarrassing for the author), is
> Katz's representation of of NO!art as "visceral reaction to Abstract
Expressionism and Pop Art."
Listen to the tape and the interview with Boris, before you bring out your tiny dull axe. This conversation came from Boris’s mouth not David’s imagination.
Leaving the relationship of NO! to
> Abstract Expressionism aside, there is little question but that, at the
> outset, NO! and Pop were parallel phenomena; it was not until Pop
> became the artworld's self proclaimed anointed successor to Abstract
> Expressionism that NO! assumed an oppositional (that is not to say
> "reactionary") stance. If, as Katz has done, you cut the historical
> legs out from under something, you marginalize it. Both Patterson and
> Katz are doing Lurie (and NO!) a great disservice by deliberately not
> building on things that preceded their own personal involvement and
> agendas, and by not honoring and respecting the very things they should
be building on.
Oh please show me where this invisible Estera is coming from. Show me the Estera commitment to the movement or Boris, or Estera’s real academic understanding of the historic roots of Boris’s painting. Does Estera really believe that this art is coming from a study and a deep relationship to American painting of the period? Please. And Fuck Dada. Estera is a Johnny-come-lately to the movement. Make no mistake there are people in the protest movement of today who are slowly becoming familiar with No!art through my promotions and exhibitions. Tell Estera that at least David and I got a message out to the world. Show me the feedback from Estera’s work. Outside of getting paid for her NO!art project, she is doing nothing. If you work on something everyday, you make a few mistakes but you move forward. You lose a few battles, but the war continues. Instead of Estera trying to be a mentor, she thinks that she is a hit man, or a monster. Go ahead. We will exchange shoots. Estera could have written a letter and included her educated comments and thereby making the NO!art movement larger. Estera could have done something positive. NO, she has some sort of internal need to think that she owns, controls, or understands NO!art. Instead of helping, Estera, in using some excuse of PC correctness and has attacked. Good. We are outsiders. We welcome your attacks. I mean really, what does that serve? It is more intelligent? For Estera’s information. David wrote a newspaper article. He is a newspaper writer. He is not in the Whitehouse Press core, sitting, listening to the same people everyday. Look up some newspaper writers ask them about covering an event. Newspapers are deadline, get the work done and in. I am very pleased that I got David to do the piece. His whole contact with NO!art, is from books that I showed him, and art work, and from the exhibition at my place. He is not a specialist in No! art. He only met Boris one time. The information that he used is from Boris’ mouth. Criticize Boris for the historical inaccuracies. Boris only lived the life. What does he know? We are spreading the message of NO!art and Boris Lurie. We are moving the movement forward. David is a journalist. I agree now with Gertrude when she says Estera is just trying to build a career on NO!art. There seems to be a controlling, angry, devious person hiding under all those leaves in Connecticut. What is Estera trying to do here? Other than build a career, being academically dishonest with Estera’s facts of the modern history of No!art, what is the Estera agenda?
As an aside, it is interesting to note that in 1961 de
> Kooning became the much lauded, paradigmatic progenitor of
> "assemblage," and that the broader subset "assemblage, environments,
> and Happenings" (within which NO! served as one important component)
> were all simultaneously discounted/marginalized by the New York
> artworld in the mid-sixties based on their then understood relationship
> to "old Europe." If Lurie had, in fact, singled out de Kooning by the
mid-40s (as Katz suggests), I would sincerely like to know.
Why didn’t Estera send an intelligent letter to the editor? Estera is claiming to be an art history expert. Why could she not have expanded the consciousness of the newspaper readers towards NO!art. NO! instead she personally attacks me. Good.
> In all the mailings I have received that presented themselves as
> updates on Boris' health but in effect were vehicles to disseminate
> information about the group show at the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art
> Museum, I have not gleaned even the slightest acknowledgement of, or
> even nod to, the pivotal role the Gallery Gertrude Stein (New York)
> played during NO!art's historical collective period or in the more
> recent past; nor have I noted even the whisper of a deserved credit
> line to the Janos Gat Gallery (Madison Avenue) which (as I understand
> it) generated the very prints Clayton is marketing and, not too long
> ago, successfully facilitated some very substantial "recognition" for
> Boris in Artforum. Having said that, I would like to move on to Milman.
First of all, since Estera did not have the decency to ask, this was a newspaper article about the present art show. Only so much information can get into a newspaper. Neither Gertrude nor Janos has seen the show. The article is about getting people to an exhibition and giving information about a show, with as much content as possible about Boris. It is not a Ph.D. thesis. For anyone who has done press, I was very lucky to get two pages in the Villager, a paper that incidentally, has been around for 100 years. Newspaper articles are very helpful and I am most thankful that David did the most he could do. How could I ask him to do more? Hey, David, take a couple of years off, take a class from Estera, then write rewrite this article. Letters to the editor can further promote the show. It is a chance for others to get involved. Janos could have written and said he made the prints, or that he has also shown the work. What is the big deal with that? Get involved. Janos has still not seen the exhibition. Why then, would David include him in the article. Matthias wrote a letter. So did Gertrude, even though she is not inclined right now to push NO!art, but rather her Russian show.
From: "Lincoln Anderson"
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 23:44:43 -0500
To: Clayton Patterson
Subject: FW: russian diaspora
This woman responded to Boris article.
From: Gertrude Stein
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2005 6:02 PM
Subject: russian diaspora
after seeing the article about Boris Lurie who I showed in the 60's you might like a follow up article about the other Russian diaspora artists. Access my website for the exhibition now at the gallery <http://www.gallerygertrudestein.com>
From: "Lincoln Anderson" Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 23:45:53 -0500
I asked her if she thought woman's butt in front of corpses was too intense for our readers.
From: Gertrude Stein
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2005 6:17 PM
Subject: Re: russian diaspora
absolutely not. It was a serious article about a serious artist, but a show of the other Russians who left the Soviet Union would be a good follow up.
Gertrude Stein <http://www.gallerygertrudestein.com>
O I hope that this answers Estera’s question about Gertrudes opinion of my NO!art show. Gertrude keeps telling me she is no longer interested in NO!art. Matthias, letter I emailed out to a lot of people. I included Matthias that way. I include Dietmar.
Why would David write about art form in his newspaper article? Interesting, Estera has heard of the NGBK catalogue, nevertheless she obviously never reads about the Boris exhibitions at the Clayton Gallery.
> Methodologically speaking, Katz's lengthy citations from his interview
> with Lurie are difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from the
> author's own voice. (Incidentally, the Archives of American Art does
> not even make transcripts of interviews with living artists available,
> on site, to the general public without first allowing the artist being
interviewed to review, modify and/or approve or reject the transcript.
Please, we are talking about a newspaper here. We are trying to get recognition for NO!art, which has never been recognized by your art world inner circle. I do not aspire to be a part of that world unless something radically changes with the leadership. This is a new millennium, a new century, so things, hopefully, will change and we are expecting to be a part of that change. From the outside, not from the cozy inside. But It baffles me how Estera is so ill informed as to the actual reasons for NO!art’s very existence. Has Estera never talked to Boris. At the very least actually read the dam Villager article. If nothing else Boris is clear in that article. Boris’s statements to me about the show in Spain are clear. Estera wake up. Get Estera’s nose out of other people’s ideas, in the brotherhood of academia protection, with the repeated same thoughts and ideas in the brotherhood books. If Estera is not going to listen to Boris, then tell Estera to make an original analyses. But it would be better to understand what the horses mouth said. What Boris is saying. Read that dam newspaper. Boris is radically opposed to everything that Estera is talking about. Doesn’t Estera get it? Stop trying to sanitize, clean-up, PC and neuter all of Boris’s work. It is not Steven Spielberg. It is not Popllack. Boris’s work comes from the soul. From a deep dark place that is too scary for Americans to visit. Stop with this need to comfort yourself, in American art history relationships.
> Since Katz's blurring of boundaries between his voice and Lurie's and
> his decontextualization of Boris's statements as these purportedly
> appeared on his notes/tapes are highly problematic, I would caution him
> to follow normal protocol prior to the appearance in print of his "more
> comprehensive interview" in the London-based Jewish Quarterly.)
> Embedded in Katz's narrative are propositions that are directly (albeit
> naively) appropriated from my own 2001, National Endowment for the
> Arts-funded publication "NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom (copyright,
> the author and The Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block
> Museum of Art). While, as a much published historical theorist, I
> cannot help but be somewhat amused by Katz's assumption that my argued
> propositions (with which Boris initially did not agree) are "truths," I
nonetheless find his blind appropriations to be unethical.
Talk to Boris about this. David is a newspaper reporter. He got his facts from Boris. I am sure that David has never heard Estera’s name
> and from an historiographic perspective, it is just possible that he
> himself did not have access to my catalogue essay (and thus could not
> cite it, as is normal practive) and instead simply appropriated these
> propositions as they were recounted to him as "truths" by Lurie
True. All came from Boris. I am not even sure that Boris has Estera’s catalogues. I have never seen or heard him reference them.
If, in fact, the conceptual armature of my work has entered
> the everyday consciousness of one of my historical subjects, I would
> very much like to know. The blurring of boundaries between primary and
> secondary literatures is not to be taken lightly by anyone whose life's
work is the analysis of the history of the authorship of our histories.
I have no idea who Estera is. I am not a part of that world, not do I aspire to hang with these people.
> Back to Clayton.
> As Clayton is well aware (and despite what I know is his anger toward
> Northwestern University) "NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom" was the
> first comprehensive, historical retrospective exhibition of the
collective's historical period, to be mounted in the United States.
On behalf of David, he at least spoke to Boris and got a first person account. After our initial meeting Estera has never spoken to me. Estera obviously has a complex group of ideas of what I think about Northwestern University. I could care less about that institution. It means nothing to me. My malcontent came from Estera’s dishonest history of Boris. She excluded anything I had done with Boris. My first person account of the show was from Gertrude who told me that the Estera’s conference was way off base, and that Gertrude would not attend and thought that Estera was making a career on Boris’s back. My last first person account, was from Ami, who felt that most of the people who attended the show /conference were up tight. Ami interviewed some people at the show who felt that they had no connection to the movement, but were happy to be in the show. I documented a number of people who were considered part of No! art. I will not get into that here, but I will bet Estera is out to sea on a number of these people, and where they stand in the movement. How dare Estera talk about what I like and dislike without ever asking me what I think. Where is Estera’s questioning mind. I never made an attack on Estera’s about Estera's show.
> When the show opened in the Greater Chicago area immediately following
> the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, The Chicago
> Tribune (read, The New York Times of the Midwest) singled out the
> exhibition as the antitheses of "comfort art" and as representative of
> an art that "stimulates [and] rouses.. art as provocation... as the
> nation girds itself for a long a difficult struggle against terrorism"
> (November 4, 2001). In addition, on January 4, 2002, the Chicago Reader
> (read, the Village Voice of Greater Chicago) published a full page,
> laudatory review of the NO!show describing the exhibition as "one of
> the best [Chicago area] exhibits of 2001." Critic Fred Camper writes:
> "Indeed, much of this work registers as a call to action -- those these
> artists admitted they had no solutions." Neither the "Trib" nor the
> "Reader" felt it necessary to play what Ami Eden (Senior Editor of The
> Forward) recently called "the Holocaust Card" (see "Playing the
> Holocaust Card," The New York Times, Op-Ed. January 29, 2005). Nor did
> Lurie, Goodman, Stein, Gat, Reichelt, and Milman.
I have played the holocaust card. One of the claims of NO!art was to be the first group of holocaust artists. Not to play that card is like taking the pop out of pop art. Look at the Hundermark book, the NGBK book. Have someone translate some of Boris’s poetry. Does Estera honestly believe that the holocaust is not a part of Boris’s psyche. That the dismembered woman is about making a perfect painting? The yellow working with the red? A de Kooning look alike? The chains around the rose and the shoes is only about anti-Greenberg aesthetics? Thankfully the Germans talk about the holocaust. It is intellectually dishonest to make all of Boris’s work into anti-abstract expressionism. That response is only an academic’s insecurity, and a need for a reference. A vehicle to fit in. Go to Dora with Boris and talk about abstract expressionism, or pop art. Boris is screaming to be hear. He has a message of demons, and evil, and dark angels. A message of death and tragedy. A message of insanity and social mental illness. A message of sheep. Boris is a reminder. A tortured soul. Boris is the carrier of the burden for all of us. He is a giant among men. A true warrior. An outlaw. A renegade. A pure artist of the highest order. Boris is an original. Fuck all those CIA sponsored abstract expressionists. Listen to the screams, look at those haunting paintings.
Tell Estera to get her face out of mega paraphrased art books and start to really look and think about what she is looking at. These paintings are about some of the darkest moments in human art. Boris is a champion of the people. Forget about abstract expressionism. Tell Estera to stop polluting the content of the movement. Boris deserves his own room in any museum. He also deserves his own museum.
One of the reasons why I was going to distance myself from Boris even though Boris and I fight about a number of positions is that he is weak right now. I can see the vultures, the watchers of sickness and poor health swimming around the outside. This birds of prey are too weak to come into the chamber, but circling around and around. One can smell those demons, gawking in the window, but afraid to come in. Never visiting but just waiting for the clock to turn. Boris is going to fool you. He will be back. And we are just taking a break, from each other- big deal. And again in Estera’s dishonesty, suggesting that I only promote my shows on the in house board. What crap. Do I promote my show? YES. Did I think that the No!art supporters would have an interested in the No!art movement? Boy was I wrong about Estera. She could care less. Did Estera personally ask me about Boris and his health? Yes. Did I tell Estera in an honest and straight forward way how Boris was doing? Yes. Did Estera in Estera’s political correctness, and social niceties, ever thank me for the updates? NO. Estera only used me. Did Estera ever thank Kim for all her very important supportive work for Boris? I will bet not. Estera appears to only be a user. How boring. How tiring it is when the yuppie types intrude into one’s space. It is always for the wrong reasons, and they always get it wrong. It is not that the outsiders never want to be inside, there is just no honest vehicle to get there. It is usually only about narcissism, using and stealing. Tell Estera to build her fantastic, self impressed image somewhere else, until she wakes up. But I have little hope that it will ever happen or that Estera will ever understand NO!art, or be honest about the NO!art history.
I was hoping to get out of this political fighting. I want to move on, but it is always impossible when dealing with the establishment. They never listen, they just cannot hear or see, and it takes a long, long, long time, before any door opens. Estera is a perfect example of the dog at the door. Who wants to get past this vicious creature?
And as I side note I notice that Estera did not even acknowledge the Jan Herman article, which is more mainstream fine art reporting. Estera slams David, but does not include him in Estera's email rant—how honest is that?
skip to top ▲
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Response by Estera Milman to Clayton Patterson and David H. Katz
On March 4th, 2005: Clayton, Never say never. What was Boris so upset about? Please give my best to Dietmar and tell him that he certainly has my permission to include my last communication (as well as the one that follows) on the site.—Estera
Since I wrote the more informal inhouse response for myself, and a few other people on Clayton's listserve (in response to what I understood to be Clayton's request that we all initiate/participate in a dialogue), I thought the least I could do is write something for Boris. The letter I just sent off the the editor of the Villager follows. Since Boris doesn't use email, I'll send the full complement of this last cluster of back and forth emails along to him via land mail. Knowing him as I do, I'm pretty sure he will enjoy knowing that both Clayton and I are, each in our own way, up to our old tricks.
Response to David H Katz, “Boris Lurie: Uneasy Visions, uncomfortable truths” --- I was pleased to learn that The Villager had published an article comInforating Boris Lurie’s inclusion in the ongoing group show at the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum and wanted to commend David H. Katz for his contribution. Conversely, I wanted to offer the following two cautionary observations. Although Katz’s well intentioned narrative suggests otherwise, Lurie and his co-conspirators in the NO!art collective were very real players in the cultural politics of the early 1960s New York artworld and, throughout the so called “decade of dissent” and well into the 1970s, received very visible notice by cultural critics, scholars and artwriters including William C. Seitz (the Museum of Modern Art), Tom Hess of Art News, Lucy Lippard (in her pre-politicized avatar), Dore Ashton, Harold Rosenberg, and Gregory Battcock, among a host of others. Furthermore, at the outset, NO! and North American Pop were parallel phenomena; it was not until Pop became the artworld’s self proclaimed anointed (and strategically depoliticized) successor to Abstract Expressionism that NO! assumed an oppositional (that is not to say “reactionary”) stance. If, as Katz has (perhaps inadvertently) done, you cut the historical legs out from under something, you marginalize it. There is a second issue addressed in Katz’s narrative that I believe is also deserving of explication; one that can perhaps be best articulated by referencing what Ami Eden (Senior Editor of The Forward) recently called “Playing the Holocaust Card” (see The New York Times, Op-Ed, January 29, 2005). Those of Lurie’s confrontational and unnerving works that refer to his adolescent experience in the concentration camps have little in common with the traditional iconography of victimization we have come to associate with visual representations of of that phenomenal range of suffering we have labeled the Holocaust. Some four decades after their realization they come closer, than do any other images of their genre that I am aware of, to serving as visual precursors to a new (and also highly contested) literature currently being authored by contemporary cultural historians who have begun to critique the institutionalization/depoliticization of Holocaust Infory in the United States.
skip to top ▲