The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Letter to the Editor (1968)

Artforum, Vol. 6, (February, 1968) p. 4.


Concerning Max Kozloff's article on color in the December Artforum:

If any critic wants to make "a responsible account of color" he must learn about it first, just as a doctor must learn about medicine. Color has qualities which have been organized intelligently within a descriptive system. There are a number of books which relate this system and which will provide the tools for accurate color description.

It is a shame to refer to a color an artist uses as "lemon" unless the painting is of lemons. If it is not of lemons, then the color is pale greenish yellow. Lemon is the color of lemons and not of paint. If critics start using the affective vocabulary suggested by Mr. Kozloff they will be referring to and invoking things that most likely have nothing to do with the paintings concerned. This sort of association makes everyone cozy but it obscures art.

Darby Bannard
Princeton, N.J.

(Kozloff response):

Mr. Bannard advises the critic to learn about color from books, and to study it as if he were a doctor. I find it odd that an artist, of all people, counsels me to take a medical view of art. And I think even more bizarre his recommendation that the critic bone up on literature in order to describe the colors in a picture. Studiousness of this kind is rather irrelevant to the esthetic experience, and to the task of rendering it in language. My reasons for saying so were explained in the article.

"Lemon is the color of lemons and not of paint." Paint manufacturers who label one of their products lemon yellow will dispute this. I consider their judgment in the matter very natural. If the human mind could not conceive of, and recall colors apart from certain objects, it would never have advanced beyond a very primitive state. Mr. Bannard appears to be saying that a picture containing lemon yellow must compulsively confine it to only one image: lemon, lemon ... lemon!

Max Kozloff
New York City