Appearing in the Walter Darby Bannard Archive by the kind permission of the author.
Art is a strange vocation, one that demands that you make something better without knowing ahead of time what better is, without guidelines or criteria, in a tradition that has been eroded by avant-gardism, doing something that few people understand, with a million-to-one shot at any commercial success at all.1
one of Darby Bannard's students, on and off, since 1989, I have been
exposed to some of his ideas about art. Although I was indifferent
to the paintings he was making about 1989, I admire very much his paintings
from a decade previously and his recent paintings. I knew,
therefore, before embarking on this paper, that I would agree with his basic philosophy
concerning what constitutes quality in art, and consequently how art
should be made.
Bannard's writings have been published entirely in newspapers, magazines,
exhibition catalogs, and the like. He himself has never
attempted to compile a comprehensive exposition of his ideas about art.
The main purpose of this paper is to extract his principal ideas and
observations from his writings and present them in a form which will
emphasize the strength and consistency of the underlying philosophy.
The writings have been published over the past 27 years so that naturally
there are some inconsistencies, but these are remarkably few and not
fundamental. Gaps exist in this philosophy which would probably
be eliminated if Darby Bannard were to compile his ideas himself; except
when I could not resist temptation and felt myself to be on sure ground,
I have tried not to fill those gaps. As far as possible,
I have allowed Darby Bannard's words to speak for themselves.
avoid tedious repetition, I have not indicated the wide areas in which
I agree with Darby Bannard's ideas. In those area I have
sometimes included my own thoughts, making it clear, I hope, that they
are mine and not Darby Bannard's. Where his ideas have clearly
been influenced by earlier thinkers, particularly Immanuel Kant and
Clement Greenberg, I have included quotes from their writings to show
the roots of Darby Bannard's thoughts. Concerning points
with which I may disagree but am not sure of my grounds, I have kept
silent. Where I do disagree with Darby Bannard's ideas I
have stated my disagreement unless the point of disagreement is a matter
of mere detail.
thank Darby Bannard for supplying me with copies of his most important
articles and with the list of all of his writings which is included
as a bibliography at the end of this paper.
Alan J. Smith
Darby Bannard was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 23, 1934.
While attending Princeton from 1952 to 1956 he drew cartoons for the
Tiger magazine and painted for 3 years under Bill Seitz on a non-credit
basis but received no formal art training. After obtaining
his B.A. degree he undertook to train himself in painting and gave the
following account of this experience:
Only an aspiring twenty-three-year-old artist knows the strong and painful emotions that come up when a powerful artistic ambition struggles against an awkward, unformed craft. We prowled around the galleries and museums and devoured the magazines, swiping bits and pieces of style, puzzling over and usually misunderstanding how and why this or that artist did it.
This is the stuff of artistic evolution, the way generations knit the strands together. Other artists' styles and methods became materials literally, just like paint and canvas. They were picked up, handled, discarded, mixed, changed, manipulated for the moment's need. In our day - especially for me, with no formal training - the art world was our master, and we scavenged, like sea gulls, whatever we could ingest.2
by the art world in the mid-1960s followed his first one-man show at
the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City, 1965, and the publication
by national magazines of his first articles on art and aesthetics in
1966. In May, 1967, David Bourdon wrote for Art International
the first magazine article exclusively about his work. In
1968 he did first teaching as a visiting artist for 2 days at Columbia
the decade of the 1970s Darby Bannard wrote and taught widely.
From 1973 to 1974 he was a contributing editor of Artforum, a
magazine of which he later became very critical. In 1973
he had a retrospective exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art which
later toured the country. In 1976 he curated the Hans Hofmann
exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum. He lectured and participated
in symposia and seminars as a visiting critic, professor or artist,
at Princeton, Kent State and the Brooklyn Museum in 1974, the University
of Texas in 1975, Washington University (St. Louis) in 1977, and San
Francisco Art Institute in 1979. He was a member of the
graduate faculty of the School for Visual Arts in New York from 1984
until he joined the University of Miami as Chairman of the Art Department
Darby Bannard has received numerous awards and honors including both a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and a National Foundation of the Art Award in 1968. From 1979 to 1981 he was co-Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts International Committee on the Visual Arts. His work is owned by more than 30 public collections in the USA, Canada, Australia and France, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan, the Whitney, the Guggenheim and the Beaubourg. He lists 72 one-man shows in the USA, Canada, England and Germany, the most recent being at the Jaffe Baker Gallery in 1992. He has also participated in 251 group shows from 1963 to 1992.
two fundamental questions which are investigated by the branch of philosophy
known as "aesthetics" are: What is art? and: What gives human
value to art? (i.e., what makes some art of more value than other art?)
An artist or an art-lover may consider that he can function adequately
without having an answer to these questions, and in 1984 Darby Bannard
What is good art? What makes it good? Why is some art "good" and some art "bad"? How can we tell the difference? These are the questions ... [which] are intrinsically unanswerable, and ... bearing down on them doggedly and fruitlessly merely compounds the misunderstanding which leads to their asking.3
But if a writer about art has no answer
to these questions then his writings are liable to become confused and
self-contradictory, and, despite what he wrote in the quotation above,
the consistency of Darby Bannard's attitude makes it clear that he does
at least propose answers and that his answers have not changed during
the 27 years in which he has been writing about art. He
has never specified what constitutes quality in art, so that his answers
emerge mainly from many comments which he has made about art which embodies
quality. Since all of the evaluations of art in Darby Bannard's
writings stem from this underlying philosophy, it is appropriate to
start by considering his aesthetic ideas.
defining what constitutes art, Darby Bannard gives a variation of the
"art world" definition which, in varied forms, has been promoted
by several writers about art since Post-modernism emerged on the scene.
According to these definitions art is whatever the art world (or "artworld")
accepts as being art; art becomes art by its institutional context.
The variations on this definition revolve primarily around what constitutes
the art world. Arthur Danto, for instance, considers the
art world to be a historical-theoretical background; it is, in his words,
"an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the history of
art."4 Darby Bannard's definition of the
art world, which he calls the "art business," is more comparable
to that of George Dickie in that he describes the institution as composed
of groups of people:
By "art business" I mean not only artists and dealers and collectors, but also the vast interrelated framework of museums, college art departments and art schools, the Endowments, corporate patronage, magazines, art writers, and the thousands of people who read about art and talk about it whether or not they buy it.5
earlier definition of art in the following quotation which does not
refer to the art world or art business is, nevertheless, basically an
art world definition of high art:
High art, good art, art that has lasted, has been made in the Western world for the last 500 years or so. I mean art that had a sense of "being art," as well as being decorative, or religiously inspiring, and the like.6
Of course, art is inanimate and cannot
have a sense of being art; only society, or that segment of society
which makes, views, and is interested in art, i.e. the art world, can
have the sense of a thing being art. A more straight-forward
art world definition is:
An object becomes art when it is declared and accepted as art and exposed for apprehension of its properties instead of its usefulness in relation to other things. ... There are types of objects which evolve from usefulness into art, or become seen and then exercised as art, such as photography and film, or utilitarian objects allowed as art, such as some furniture and some artifacts of primitive cultures. Of course, it is possible for an object to fall away from art; a sculpture used as a doorstop is a doorstop.7
The art world definition seems to arise
naturally from Bannard's factual observation that "art is an invention
of human culture and is sustained entirely within human culture."8
However, it does not integrate with his ideas concerning art quality.
The art world definitions of art were created when the art world, in
the first flush of Post-modernism, was justifying pluralism and the
rejection of hierarchical standards. This rejection is anathema
to Darby Bannard who maintains that there are values, internal to the
viewing subject and not properties of the object, by which art can be
judged. According to the art world definition, the word
"art" may possibly include anything, and therefore mean nothing.
would be more consistent with his other ideas if, like Kant, Darby Bannard
were to define art as that which expresses an aesthetic idea and produces
an appropriate response in the viewer (as discussed below) rather than
as that which is declared and accepted as art. Perhaps his
closest approach to such a definition was the following passage published
in 1986 in which he echoes part of Kant's definition of aesthetic value
("beauty") and points out that having such value does not
make an object a work of art. Art is intended to be such
by an artist; a flower may be beautiful but is not a work of art.
He draws a further distinction between art and objects labeled as art
which may not have the aesthetic value necessary to make them good art.
Art proper, art as art, is that which is met and evaluated solely on its own merits, on its intrinsic apparent characteristics, apart from any criteria or specific usefulness, aside from familiarity or identifiability, without recourse to condition or measure, in a necessarily intuitive manner. I call this the "unconditional aesthetic." Anything can be seen this way. It is a matter of choice. All it takes is a clearly apprehensible, relatively permanent object available to some human perception. This is not the definition of art; it is the defining situation for it.
Entering this situation, coming before this attitude, we have nominal art. Nominal art is what we have chosen to call art, things like paintings and sculptures and the like. The application of the aesthetic attitude to these or other objects yields actual, or, more precisely actualized, art. Nominal and actual. It is an essential distinction. Failure to maintain it dooms most discussion of esthetics to terminal befuddlement before they start.9
In the following definition, formulated more recently in 1990, Darby Bannard does place more stress on the apprehension of aesthetic properties in addition to the acceptance of an object as art:
A work of art is a thing put before taste; it becomes art when it is declared and accepted as art and exposed for a judgment of value based on apprehension of its properties rather than usefulness. ... Certain types of things are evolved by cultures as art, as things to be put before this [aesthetic] attitude, for example, painting and sculpture. There can be objects which evolve from usefulness into art, or which become seen and utilized as art, such as photographs or clay pots. An artifact of one culture, whether or not it is considered art in that culture, can be taken up as art by another culture.10
problem with any art world definition of art is its circularity.
Art is what is recognized as such by the art world; the art world is
what recognizes art. As a definition, it fails to distinguish
any standards by which new art is accepted, or by which it can arise
out of previous art. The definition appeared at a time when
there was a conundrum concerning objects such as Brillo boxes.
Why is a box made by Brillo an object of commerce, but an identical
box made by Warhol an art object? I suspect that Darby Bannard's
answer would be, and probably the answer of history will be, that neither
is necessarily an art object; one is an object of soap commerce and
the other is an object of art commerce, but being an object of art commerce
does not qualify a box as fine art.
in the art world is aware that the historical judgment of art is generally
very different from contemporary judgment. In other words,
judgments change, and even historical relative judgments change.
How, then, can we know that there is any more lasting, fundamental standard
of value than personal preference? The most common answer
to that question, and the one which Darby Bannard seems to favor, is
that certain works of art have been highly valued for many centuries
and most of the remainder has been consigned to the trash can, not by
a few people but by many generations of the art world. This
lasting judgment is often referred to as the "historical consensus."
The notion of a limiting aesthetic stands behind the whole art activity as it is practiced in all phases at all times. The objective evidence for this continuing activity is the consensus. The consensus ... comes down, in an obscure way, as an accumulation of opinion, as the residual matter of the culling process.11
consensus does not mean necessarily that there is some objective property
common to all the great art of the past. It is more likely
that what is common to all the judgments of excellence is the operation
of the human mind, our reaction to those works of art.
Doesn't the consensus clearly show that all great art is shot through with a constant, if inexplicable super-standard, a grand concealed criterion which we cannot comprehend because we are such ignorant, limited creatures? I say no, no such thing. ... The consensus is real, all right. It is the trail left by that process of evaluation and it is the surest evidence of its intensity and pervasiveness. I go along with it, more or less. If you are serious about art, it is inescapable. It does a fine job of culling. But at best it is a convenience, at worst, a cop-out. Great art always presents itself for reevaluation. ... If you are introduced to great art courtesy of history, that's fine. But if you accept the judgment of history without making one of your own, that "great art" will remain, as far as you are concerned, just a dumb monument of culture.
The roots of the consensus are the roots of great art and may remain forever buried. I'm not sure of this. I do think, however, that it is a matter of psychology rather than aesthetics. If we must have at it we should stop fishing blindly behind art for criteria and turn outward to taste, to the phenomenon of valuation, and to the commonality of human experience. ...12
historical consensus is not a proof of consistency in the experience
of art, but it is to be expected as a result of that experience being
consistent. The experience is consistent because of the
similarity in human minds across the brief millennia of human culture.
The commonality of human experience is the basis of the consensus.
Of course there is also the measure of history, the importance our culture gives objects which are useless except as vehicles of something felt but indefinable. If art lacks high human value, then we have been persistent fools, and art is a systematic delusion, a hollow monument. Many of us know this is not true, because we can consult our feelings and report them. We can say art holds something for us nothing else can.13
The canon which the consensus has produced
is useful to us because, as Darby Bannard says, it helps us to "get
to the best art quicker."14
so far as his ideas about quality in art can be identified with a school
of thought, Darby Bannard must be labeled a Kantian. He
tells me that this is due more to an affinity in their mental processes
than to a study of Kant.
Kant's aesthetic theory is the most complex and comprehensive which has ever been attempted, but I will try to simplify a few of its main points in order to show how they relate to Darby Bannard's ideas. The beauty of a natural object is, for Kant, synonymous with its aesthetic worth. Pleasure is the only test of beauty and also the only source of value in the beautiful: "beauty is for itself, apart from any reference to the feeling of the Subject, nothing."15 The relative aesthetic value of an object is determined by the strength of the sensation of pleasure which it arouses. Anything and everything can have aesthetic value, and the pleasure derived from looking at a fine rose is basically similar to the pleasure derived from looking at a fine painting, but there is a fundamental difference between natural beauty and fine art in the added element of intentionality in fine art. Art is expressive of an aesthetic idea contributed by the genius of the artist. The work of art must not only have free beauty but also be fully expressive of the aesthetic idea.
Taste is "the faculty of estimating
the beautiful."16 In order to make a good work
of art, the artist must have taste, and in order to experience aesthetic
pleasure the viewer must have taste. If there were a concept
of beauty, then the judgment of taste would result in knowledge, but
"the judgment is called aesthetic for the very reason that its
determining ground cannot be a concept but is rather ... a thing only
capable of being felt."17
ensuing quotations from Darby Bannard will show how closely his thinking
corresponds to that of Kant.
My view as an artist is that art and the experience of art are the vehicle of the idea of aesthetic value and that the benchmark in any consideration of aesthetics is the experience of art. Although reasoned analysis is indispensable to progress in aesthetics the enterprise will run off track unless constant empirical reference is made to an individual and personal knowledge of aesthetic experience. This means, of course, that we are presented with a subject for observation which cannot be observed, existing objectively only through testimony and evidence, and, presumably, through shared experience.18
observes that a thing may be good for a purpose, good of its kind, or
morally good. In each case we can make a determinant
judgment that the thing is good because we can measure it against a
concept of goodness. The reason that the judgment of a work
of art is aesthetic19 and not determinant is that there
can be no objective concept of goodness for it; goodness can be determined
only by referring to our experience of the work. Darby Bannard
draws a similar conclusion.
To see art for what it is, we must steer clear of theory, semantics, and philosophy and look hard at the actual relationship we have with art, how we treat it, what we do with it. ...
Goodness, goodness in general, is not identifiable. ... Goodness is a consequence of particular judgment and exists only within the setting of that judgment. ... This means that the goodness of any work of art only exists within the setting of a judgment of the goodness of that work of art.
... A sharp knife may be a "good" knife because of assumptions we make about the proper attributes of knives. Some settings for judgment include clear, specific assumptions, or criteria, requiring more measurement than judgment. ... Others, far more common, ... require more judgment than measurement. ... Most value judgments are personal; many are implicit reconciliations with our culture. ... we realize that although we may argue persuasively and compel agreement we can never conclusively demonstrate the rightness of a value judgment because, with one exception, all value judgments rest, in turn, on assumptions of value, and these assumptions, whether they are openly declared, like criteria, or lie hidden in the unconscious, revert, finally, not to proof but to self-evidence.
That one exception is art, or, more precisely, that which is made to be and is apprehended aesthetically. This is what art is. Art, as art, because it is good in itself, depends, by definition and by function, on no prior assumptions of value. ... It cannot be "good for" or "good because." ... Aesthetic judgment, because it is pure judgment, entirely free from recourse to measure, can be exercised only through intuition and feeling because the alternative has been excluded. There are no standards of reference, only experience, the development of taste, and other preparations for judging art. ... Outside of that judgment all art, "good" or "bad," old or new, is not art, not good in itself, but, strictly speaking, objects identified as art waiting to be art. ...20
All flowers are beautiful, each in its own way. Roses or anemones or mimosa are each "best" for some purpose, but there's no proof that one is absolutely best. Quality, "good or bad," is relative by definition. If something is good or bad it satisfies or does not satisfy certain conditions, which may or may not be specifiable, or previously specified. A good soap, for example, is one that washes things clean; we can say what soap is for so we can also say how well it does what it is supposed to do. Paintings do something or we wouldn't have them around, but no one has been able to say just what that is. ... There's nothing literally "true" about art quality.21
art is the most singularly useless thing on earth.22
Practical judgment values an object in proportion to its usefulness in some phase of life, and can estimate that value from the attributes of the object. Aesthetic apprehension includes judgment as it searches for greater aesthetic pleasure. The pleasure, and the value it has, is the "usefulness" judged .... Aesthetic pleasure is all, and only, experience. ... It is intense, swift, lively, unpredictable, unalloyed, indescribable and real, and it has value.23
concept that quality in art can be measured only by aesthetic pleasure
seems atavistic to the contemporary art world. "Big
Culture" (Darby Bannard's phrase, which will be defined later,)
has embraced the notion that anything that can be sold as art must be
art. Although pleasure has been invalidated as an aesthetic
standard, no other standard has been proposed in its place.
We live in a world without aesthetic standards.
Value is easier to recognize and harder to resist in a highly structured system with a clearly stated aim. Any art system which suppresses objective or accepted standards of judgment in favor of individually conditioned judgment of value will naturally encourage a messy multiplicity of forms and claims, a kind of aesthetic anarchy which will eventually challenge the authority and practice of the unconditional aesthetic itself. We are in the middle of this stage of modernism right now .... In fact I think we have come to a point of art as a game of value, just as monopoly is a game of capitalism, but with nothing in the way of explicit rules or delimitations.24
The only outcome which seems possible, eventually, is a return to an aesthetic response as the measure of quality in art. The good art which has been produced in this century, when added to the historical canon, makes the discovery of any objective property common to all great works of art increasingly unlikely. The common element in good art must be found in the experience of the viewers, and, more specifically, in that element of the experience which transcends time and place and is common to all humanity. In 1974 Darby Bannard wrote that art would become increasingly significant to society as its other needs are met and aesthetic pleasure becomes more important.
Improved industrial and social conditions satisfy our needs and move further from our interest, just as religion did when the real harshness of life was alleviated. Art will surpass technology. It is not stationary; it grows and is improved by cultivation. It gives the ultimate pleasure and the most efficient one.25
years later his outlook was less sanguine and he expressed concern for
the vitality of art in the immediate future because of the growing rift
between what is accepted as art and our experience of art.
We forget how fragile [art] is, how it could wither and blow away if unsupported by the life force of human feeling. The explosive growth of all the arts in the last forty years does not mean that art is "forever," like the proverbial diamond. The habit of art can rise up and live and die just like any organism. ... I call art a "habit" because that's what it is. We invented it and we choose to keep it going, because we want to, not because we must. ... I recently read about the rise and fall of what we call "classical music." If the account was accurate it was a lifetime of only a few hundred years - a mere blip in the great scheme of things. This can easily happen to the other arts, to painting and sculpture .... If we take art out of experience we will lose touch with it.26
purports to show that the faculty of taste is the same in everyone by
showing that in all normal persons the human mind operates in the same
way. The universality of the process of aesthetic judgment
Kant calls a sensus communis, "an effect which mere reflection
has upon the mind"27which is common to all men.
"The assertion is not that everyone will fall in with our
judgment, but rather that everyone ought to agree with it."28
But everyone must make his own judgment of taste.
There can, therefore, be no rule according to which anyone is to be compelled to recognize anything as beautiful. ... We want to get a look at the Object with our own eyes, just as if our delight depended on sensation.29
Taste makes a judgment "whose determining
ground cannot be other than subjective."30
"Taste lays claim to autonomy."31
aesthetic judgment may be wrong, but I make it in the expectation that
all will agree with it (although if I am wrong they should not do so).
And a person of whom I demand agreement may be unable to appreciate
the object given to him even though I expect his agreement, or he may
misinterpret his own internal state by attributing his pleasure or displeasure
to aesthetic values when in fact some other reaction ruled his feelings.
If this were not so, if the universal voice were a rule instead of an
idea, we could not account for aesthetic disagreements.
Nevertheless, the sensus communis is our most truly shared sense.
As Crowther writes, "the assumption of a common sense disposes
us to aspire towards universality in our judgments."32
in fine art is not a faculty present in almost equal degree in all normal
persons, as is eyesight. The appreciation of natural beauty
may be present in all normal persons, but art incorporates the intentions
and aesthetic ideas of the artist, and taste in fine art is something
which must be acquired by learning to appreciate those intentions and
ideas. Kant writes that the only means by which taste can
be acquired is by studying exemplars of fine art:
Taste, just because its judgment cannot be determined by concepts or precepts, is among all faculties and talents the very one that stands most in need of examples of what has in the course of culture maintained itself longest in esteem. Thus it avoids an early lapse into crudity, and a return to the rudeness of earliest efforts.33
Bannard's ideas again follow Kant's very closely. Taste
is acquired by experiencing great art and through a knowledge of the
history of art. Taste is a product of knowledge, not a matter
of opinion. Bannard gives a good description of what is
involved in developing taste in fine art.
Value is not a matter of taste. Getting to it is. Taste is the name of the facility we use to get at value. It is individual, imperfect, various, corrupt, undeveloped, unexercised, and so forth. So we get to what is good in art in these sundry ways. But the value itself, the artistic goodness, is not "subjective." If it were, there would be no such thing as great art, only preference and fad, forever. Seeing art well, getting what it has for us, judging it properly, is almost as difficult and certainly as personal, personally felt, as making great art, and it is one of the world's great pleasures. It is a shame to cheat yourself of it by getting caught up in the circus, as so many do, as the art world does. Go at art hard. Be demanding. Work on it like an athlete. Keep in practice. Reflect on your feelings. Change your opinion as much as you rely on it. Listen with your ears; judge with your eyes. Recognize great art, don't identify it.34
believes that in a great work of art both the beauty and the aesthetic
idea are universally communicable. For an aesthetic idea
to count as universally communicable it is not necessary that everyone
will understand it but that it should be understandable to everyone.
Similarly with beauty, not everyone will appreciate it but it must be
able to be appreciated by everyone. "Everyone"
means something different to us today than it would have done to Kant.
We have a global view of mankind; "everyone" includes the
Amazonian indian, the Tibetan yak driver and the Western university
professor. Can we expect one aesthetic idea to be understandable
to all of them? I believe that the answer is obviously negative,
but that is not what Kant meant. The aesthetic idea must
be suited not to individual human minds but to the human mind in general,
to the humanness of the mind. Within our own society a majority
of individuals cannot appreciate great works of art because they have
not taken the time and trouble to educate themselves in the art of our
own society, they have not studied sufficient examples.
They have the latent capability of appreciating those works, but they
do not have the necessary experience. "The best taste,
cultivated taste," writes Greenberg, "is not something within
the reach of the ordinary people ...."35
Darby Bannard picks up this point:
But there are those for whom art remains opaque, foreign, phony, the passion of the privileged few. In one way they are right. Art is for a privileged few, but those few have earned their privilege and deny it to no one. As Oscar Wilde said, "Art should never try to be popular. The public should try to make itself artistic."36
can appeal to a wider audience by being charming. According
to Kant, the presence of charm does not prohibit a judgment of taste
and may not even adulterate it if the charm can be excluded.
But Kant does not like the presence of the charming, the agreeable,
and considers it degrading.
... charms may be added to beauty to lend to the mind, beyond a bare delight, an adventitious interest in the representation of the object, and thus to advocate taste and its cultivation. This applies especially where taste is as yet crude and untrained. But they are positively subversive of the judgement of taste, if allowed to obtrude themselves as grounds of estimating beauty.37
Taste that requires an added element of charm and emotion for its delight, not to speak of adopting this as the measure of its approval, has not yet emerged from barbarism.38
thought finds a corresponding expression by Darby Bannard when he writes
that "likableness can get in the way of seeing; it has a way of
maintains that in order to give aesthetically pleasing form to a work
of fine art, by which its concept becomes universally communicable,
the artist too must have taste. The artist acquires taste
like everyone else, not by inspiration but by practice and correction
using examples from nature and art. He finds the form for
his work by "a slow and even painful process of improvement, directed
to making the form adequate to his thought without prejudice to the
freedom in the play of those powers."40
Then should not artists be excellent judges of art? Not
according to Darby Bannard.
The best judges of art have been persons who love it, are sensitive to it, and are "once-removed": writers, collectors, dealers. Artists are too "deep into" art.41
The inadequacy of artists as judges
of art is most likely due not to a lack of taste but to a concentration
on the aesthetic ideas which are the subject of their own work at the
Kant, the value of beauty goes beyond the causation of aesthetic pleasure.
Beauty is also symbolic of moral goodness. This idea was
a reflection of the idealization of nature during the time of Rousseau
in which he lived.
The beautiful is the symbol of the morally good ... whereupon the mind becomes conscious of certain ennoblement and elevation above mere sensibility ....42
appreciation of free beauty, as found in beautiful natural objects,
is a virtue. "An immediate interest in the beauty
of nature" is the mark of a good soul,43and
"we regard as coarse and low the habits of thought of those who
have no feeling for beautiful nature."44
that does not mean that the art connoisseur is likely to be more virtuous
than other people. In fact, Kant finds that there is most
likely to be an inverse relationship between an interest in the beautiful
in society and an interest in the morally good.
... virtuosi in matters of taste, being not alone often, but one might say as a general rule, vain, capricious, and addicted to injurious passions, could perhaps more rarely than others lay claim to any pre-eminent attachment to moral principles.45
Bannard deviates from Kant's ideas in their particulars, but, unusually
for the present day, he does associate goodness in art with moral goodness,
with what is best in humanity. "Art, as art, is value,
human value, brought down into materials."46
Why do we hold art so high? ... It is clear to me, after twenty-five years of making art, looking at it and writing about it, that our species has invented and evolved art for one fundamental purpose: to be good, to objectify and materialize goodness, to present the best of ourselves to ourselves.47
... art is enough; art is unconditionally personal and pleasurable, a resource, like a vein of ore, solidified goodness, making no concession beyond mere existence, "stones in the river," like Hamada's pots. It's up to us to get what is there; whatever we put between ourselves and the best in art, we put between ourselves and the best in ourselves. That is why Thoreau said that the perception of beauty is a moral test.48
Bannard is, first and foremost, an artist. His observations
about how artists work, and the value of their activity, are straight
forward and down to earth. Typical of their unpretentious
nature is this thumb-nail sketch of how a painting is made by a mature
Most of us start a picture with a general idea of what we want and then play it by eye, and if we are lucky we surprise ourselves and get something better than we intended, and pick up on that and take it from there. This may seem haphazard to the non-artist, but that's how it's done, and that's how art gets better.49
Bannard's analysis of abstract painting contains ideas which every artist
making abstract works should at least consider. This is,
in my opinion, the most valuable part of his writings.
noticeable omission from his precepts for making art is any mention
of craftsmanship. Darby Bannard does write that an artist
must know and exploit the potential, and respect the limitations, of
his chosen medium. Perhaps he believes that this principle
has replaced former ideas of craftsmanship.
art is a process of invention, and invention is a matter of making choices.
For most artists, most of the steps in making a work of art are taken
as given, but every step is really a choice, perhaps a choice which
has become a habit. Great art requires great invention,
which means that the artist is making a great number of choices.
Inspiration consists of recognizing and making the right choices.
"Certainly the failure of a painting is simply and only the failure
of inspiration."50 The only guide which
an artist should use in making those choices is his own subjective judgment,
his taste. As has been seen above, the development of taste
requires time and effort, so that artistic development is a slow and
A fine work of art is a species of invention, and all profound invention is individual. ... Genius is genius by its rarity. ... coming to inspiration, to the full use of genius, is a long process, demanding persistence and patience made more poignant by the loneliness of the trade. The serious artist, ambitious for his art, is prepared by nature and driven by vocation to consult and trust only his own feelings, and to be skeptical of intrusion. He is a self-contained manufacturing unit who will only alter his product from internal need ....51
[Art-making] activity is a series of choices actuated to construct a certain kind of discernable entity. Art quality "comes out" of a work as a reflection of the artist's activity. A great work of art always reflects a high density of choice, within the work and preceding it.52
has human value because it is a record of the artist's decisions.
It needs to have a certain complexity to make it interesting.
Art is a human-to-human activity. The art work is the permanent embodiment of a series of decisions made by the artist. To have human value the work must reflect a certain number of these decisions and to do this the work must have an overt complexity. In other words, it must be relational. This is not a popular view today, and as far as I can tell it is quite unprovable. However, I am convinced that it is true.53
artist's choices must be not made according to an intellectual plan;
their choices should be dictated not by knowledge but by their aesthetic
response to the work as it evolves. The process was described
well in the quotation at the beginning of Part II of this paper.
Artistic creativity does not lie in a concept or in a plan but in the
reaction to the developing visual image, in the choices made as the
work progresses. The artist may accept or reject what happens
in his work, and he may be stimulated by it to try something which he
could never have thought of beforehand. "The essence
of creativity is adaptation to the immediate. ...
Because art is a pure vehicle for creative thought, artists must be
continuously imaginative and improvisatory to handle the perpetually
current moment in their work."54
painting is made of parts; how the parts are put together is what determines
the quality of the painting. The consciousness and pressure
of this simple idea is the basis of the stylistic revolution of modern
art."55 The artist has more flexibility,
more options, if his painting is composed of simple parts.
The most complex paintings can be composed of the simplest parts, involving
a great density of choices.
Because art making is a process of building and evolving, like the evolution of life itself, the simplest basic units of construction will lend themselves most readily to the making of the most complex and highly-developed art. This is in line with plain material facts. A more complex house can be built from bricks than, say, motorcycles. The simpler and more familiar a unit is the more easily it can be handled and the more quickly it will fit an invented scheme. Also, the intense pressure the best artist will put on his work, the rough working-out, giving everything a chance, the willingness, even inner necessity, to go through painful change, quite naturally breaks up pre-existing, involved units of material or process, as would a hammer pounding rock into sand.56
in 1966, Darby Bannard had drawn what is, to my mind, a more telling
analogy to contrast simple and complex building units:
A simpler analogy may help to clarify the difference between a hobbled. inhibited style and one which is free and expressive: the relation between two games, Monopoly and chess. This is not a comparison of games with paintings, it is a comparison of types of complexity. At first glance Monopoly looks like a vastly more complicated and interesting game than chess. The Monopoly board is loaded with plenty of recognizable and meaningful things: money, property, houses, a jail, a pile of chancy secret choices, and so on. It is a lot of fun to play. However, the style of Monopoly playing is determined and limited by the very character of these elements, just as chess, with its extremely simple components, can become an enormously varied and flexible expression of a player's style.57
When an artist develops a certain pattern of basic choices, that pattern constitutes his style. The acceptance of those predetermined choices limits the potential of his work but is a necessary practical measure so that his entire universe is not in flux every time he starts a new piece.
It cannot be denied that artistic expression depends on limitation. The means of expression in painting are paint and canvas, and "style," which springs from the body of decisions the painter has already made about his work, or in other words, the limitations he has accepted as he eliminates and specializes.58
selection of the predetermined choices which constitutes his style is
a critical concern for an artist because it sets the limits within which
he can create.
The ability to build a delimited style which excites rather than inhibits expression, which expands rather than restricts freedom, is one of the traits of a great artist.59
the artist avoids making creative choices, or declines to follow through
with choices which he has made, the art work cannot have great value.
Most so-called minor art is either easy-premise art or is simply unfinished art, art that never used up all the apparatus with which it began, which never stretched its means as far as they go.60
great artist is one who has matured to the point that his decisions
can be made quickly and lightly. "Genius at play is
the source of great art."61 But this does
not mean that a great artist always makes great art.
There are only great and not-so-great paintings. A "great artist" is one who has produced "great paintings" in the past and may do so in the future. If you get right down to it he is only great when he is painting a great painting.62
way in which any artist can fail is in abandoning this lightness of
approach in an effort to make obvious masterpieces. Darby
Bannard wrote about certain Abstract Expressionists:
Each artist evolved a style to produce pictorial effects, and then altered it later on with a determination to produce not good painting but obvious masterpieces. To do this each had to turn against his style to bring devices more appropriate to theatrical effect, which went against the quality of their art.63
Examples of this failure are quoted
later in this paper when Darby Bannard discusses individual artists.
passage on page in which Darby Bannard describes his own development
as an artist shows also how he believes that all artists develop, whether
within an institutional setting or not. Making art is learned
by looking at art. "The best and most serious artists
of any era inherit the results of the thinking of the best and most
serious artists of previous eras."64 To this
they add the developments made by the best artists of their time; for
instance, "as a highly ambitious artist, Picasso took in the best
art around him."65 He has described this
development in more general terms:
When an artist comes to art, as a young person, he or she is faced with the best art of the past, particularly, and most poignantly, with the art of the recent past. Then choices are made, as art is made, but the big choice, the crucial one, is to measure up to what has been done before, not to repeat the art, but to repeat the process. And I think that process, indefinable as it may be, has always been pretty much the same. It is taking real risks, not the fake ones we see today [in 1974]. It is to ingest the best art around you; art is not made in a vacuum. It is taking influence, of the right kind at the right time, but it's also going your own way. ... There are a million-and-one ways to cop out, and there is no moral sanction that says you can't. It just depends on what you want. It is more persistence than talent, whatever "talent" is, and it is more character than ability. Your job is to make something which has aesthetic value, human value, which gives and keeps on giving. It is not easy, there are no ready-made answers, and be wary when you are told there are.66
is because of this symbiotic need that avant-garde artists tend to concentrate
in art-making centers. These centers tend also to be where
the museums and art markets are to be found.
Art is fed by art. That is why there are centers of art-making: Paris in the nineteenth century, New York right now. To the evolving artist, the good artist, half of making art is seeing art, of judging, appraising, evaluating, ingesting, using.67
development takes time. One reason is that the developing
artist's taste has to mature before he can discern which are the best
artists of his time. "Young artists often take the
easy path to direct influence. And the very best artists
are often hard to see when you are younger."68
Discerning the best may be more difficult today than in the past.
Certainly "contemporary artists mature late, in their 30's and
40's. There are few prodigies, prodigies that turn out as
well finally as they do initially. There is something about
this art which demands time, a long apprenticeship."69
from artists does not mean copying them or stealing their style.
In fact Darby Bannard has a low opinion of such imitation and considers
it bound to fail as art.
The "style-stealer" goes after someone else's art-making method, getting at it from the top down by adopting the "ear-marks," the various surface features which follow from the method, like de Kooning's spatters. But even after the style-stealer has fully ingested the style he will not really know how to use it, because it is not his, it is foreign to him. He did not "grow up" with it and it will hang awkward and clumsy on his art, however slick that art may seem at first. It is like trying to be the weight-lifter by stealing the weight-lifter's weights. The smart style-stealer will use one of the many "variation defenses." If enough other artists are using the same style as any particular more original artist, then the style is a popular one, and therefore easy to "get." In order not to be thought an imitator, and still take advantage of the popularity of the style, the style-stealer must alter the superficial aspects of the style while retaining its character. Then his art will look original and be popular. The "new material" variation is one of the easiest and most effective style alterations. Rather than modify the borrowed style by making changes in the method of construction, the artist reaches away from art for exotic or unusual material, and molds it to the art-making method in vogue. Thus Pop art was born: a grafting of illustration onto the tired roots of Abstract Expressionism. The method has proven especially fruitful for present-day sculpture.70
easy road to pseudo-originality may also be a road to commercial success
because the market has already accepted the style which is being stolen.
"The art world only yells `rip-off' when it doesn't like something.
A rip-off the art world likes is called a `new trend.'"71
Sculptors may be more susceptible to this easy road to "success"
It is easier for sculpture than it is for painting to embrace new materials, because sculpture is three-dimensional, as are most other things, so there are more materials available to sculpture. Part of the reason we have what seems to be a sculptural "renaissance" is that old sculpture-making ideas will support so many "new" materials: neon lights, incandescent lights, plastics, auto parts, electronic gadgets, chrome-plated things, literally hundreds of extra-art materials, all of which, it could be argued, are legitimate sculpture materials; that is, you cannot say that it is impossible to make good sculpture of them. These "new" materials make original-looking sculpture. Actually, they stifle originality, because any material brings to art its own terms of structure, and these terms must be learned from scratch, or be adopted from internal necessity, if good art is to be made from them. Materials grow with style; they cannot be grafted.72
other aspects of an artist's development are mentioned by Darby Bannard
as attributes of genius. "One of the first jobs of
genius is to recognize the appropriate vehicle for its own best revelation."73
Having chosen the appropriate vehicle, "a seldom-recognized attribute
of artistic genius" is the "acceptance of the nature of primary
choice."74 In other words, do not try
to make the vehicle do that for which it is not suited.
an article in 1966 Darby Bannard ruminated on the processes necessary
to create a completely original art style.
There is only one way to [create a new style] - start with the simple elements of painting which naturally inhere to painting: color, line, area size, paint, shading, in short, all the infinite means available to inflect a surface with variation. Then decisions have to be made about what to do with all this, what to accept and reject, and how to handle it all in an expressive manner right from the beginning. Of course this may take ten years and 100,000 decisions, and not many buyers will be attracted in the meantime. That's why so few painters really start from scratch, or at least perform the equivalent by completely rejecting or subduing earlier borrowed styles.75
paragraph seems to be a consideration of theoretical fundamentals more
than the outline of a practical procedure. As indicated
in the preceding quotations, "painting styles evolve almost exclusively
from other painting styles."76 There is
no way to remove what is already recorded in the young artist's brain,
and there would be little point in trying to do so.
notion of progress in art, as distinct from evolution, must be used
very carefully, if at all."77 No art style
is necessarily better than the style which it displaces, as an
elephant is not better than a mastodon. It is just
the natural result of evolution, and probably more suited to the society
in which it evolves. Good innovations in art evolve naturally.
the passage of time, a new style which has become fashionable will be
burdened with the variations imposed by style-stealers; its original
value will be lost.78 At that point a radical
change is needed to return to fundamentals, to return to the search
for aesthetic value.
Of course, any sensitive student of art history knows that the so-called artistic revolutions of the past were always conservative, their radicalness striking not at the core, not at the best in art, but at the encrustations of art which has degraded itself to obtain a larger immediate acceptance. ... Very good art, like very good anything, subverts entrenched and corrupt habit. That's why, when it is new, it is hated and reviled, That's why it doesn't sell.79
is a reflection of Clement Greenberg's revised definition of Modernism
which he announced in 1979. Greenberg had pronounced twenty
years earlier, when he was the pope of the avant-garde, that the distinguishing
trait of Modernism was self-criticism; he defined self-critical art
as "art which attempts to be pure in the use of its medium."80
Darby Bannard, like most other advanced artists of the 1960s, adopted
this definition of Modernism. In 1979, however, Greenberg
realized "how inadequate that was as a covering definition of Modernism
or the `modern.'" He redefined Modernism in the following
[Modernism] consists in the continuing endeavor to stem the decline of aesthetic standards threatened by the relative democratization of culture under industrialism; that the overriding and innermost logic of Modernism is to maintain the levels of the past in the face of an opposition that hadn't been present in the past. Thus the whole enterprise of Modernism, for all its outward aspects, can be seen as backward-looking.81
The threat which Modernism had to counter was the commercialization and popularization of art.
What singles Modernism out and gives it its place and identity more than anything else is its response to a heightened sense of threats to aesthetic value: threats from the social and material ambience, from the temper of the times, all conveyed through the demands of a new and open cultural market, middlebrow demands. Modernism dates from the time, in the mid-19th. century, when that market became not only established - it had been for a long time - but entrenched and dominant, without significant competition.82
1979 the inadequacy of Greenberg's earlier definition of Modernism had
become apparent to many other people in the art world. Darby
Bannard did not completely abandon Greenberg's older definition; in
1984 he wrote that "Modernism uses self-criticism to aim at and
maintain high standards."83
Greenberg and to Darby Bannard, the outstanding example of a revolution
in defense of quality was Cubism. Then style stealers came
in and appropriated not only the style but the attitude of innovation
The changes wrought on art by the Cubist style, though they certainly did not guarantee quality, appear to have been necessary to sustain high quality in art. ... The best artists always reject or modify a successful art-making method to forge one of their own, and in so doing make choices which cancel, contradict and change. ... No sooner do we respect apparent newness in art than legions of inferior artists take vulgar advantage of the attitude, because an explicit idea about the nature of art quality will always come in company with inferior art tailored to it.
Great art always seems unusual when it is new because quality always comes in unexpected form, not because one style is better than the one before, but because art quality springs only from the activity of the artist. His art is simply what he has done, and inventive variation of the styles and forms of the best art preceding his maturity is part of the record of his inspiration, just as dependence on these styles is his support and one of his basic materials. Cubism is the record of such invention against the biggest artistic odds of the time and is the style which carries the quality of the paintings produced in the course of its evolution.84
major change in art is not really the destruction of an old style but
the creation of a new one. The present situation in the
art world is so chaotic, so market-driven, that Darby Bannard believes
that we desperately need a change, the next evolutionary development,
another return to fundamental values, to replace the chaos.
A narrow but allowing method has always been a precondition for great art. The true avant -garde doesn't break old rules, it makes new ones. If "anything goes" everything will. ...
We need a new elitism. Until the system of fashion-driven value is replaced by one of art-driven value we will be in decline.85
Though it cannot truly be said that any style guarantees the quality of the art which comes up within it, there have been a few in modern times, such as Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism, which were peculiarly enabling during their time of vitality. Fauvism, particularly, catalyzed some pretty slim talent.86
converse is also true, of course. It is impossible to say
that any particular style cannot support a great work of art, although
it is possible to say that some, such as Pop art, make great works less
likely.Nevertheless, style is, essentially, value-neutral.
is important not to mistake mannerisms for style. Darby
Bannard uses de Kooning as an example:
The "avant-garde" features of de Kooning's work, for which he is best known - big, slashing flayed stroke, tactile mashing and streaking of paint, drips and spatters, deformity and queer attitudes of figures, especially woman - are indifferent to the quality of his art. In fact, these mannerisms serve to weaken de Kooning's paintings and block the full exercise of his talents.87
search for "meaning" is one of the most insidious dangers
facing an artist who seeks to develop a style because he may achieve
public success but be diverted from the real issues of art.
Though art is the most deeply meaningful human activity, it is superficially without meaning; it spells out nothing. An art style that flaunts meaning is a dangerous one, especially for the artist who falls for it. After years of work and recognition his easy beginnings will catch up to him, and he will become an example of "an episode in the history of taste." These insidious styles exist in any art environment; they are tantalizing, and allow themselves to be used easily. By continuously recognizing these attractive traps, and avoiding them, the artist will keep himself free to build and maintain an expressive style on his own terms.88
Bannard regards the size of the traditional easel painting as unnaturally
small, "unnatural" meaning not appropriately related to the
size of a human being. The easel size resulted from the
constraints placed on painting when it was expected to produce an image
Large size is not essential to realist styles because the quality of a realist painting does not depend on it. ... The effects of most realist paintings are complete in modest scale, the scale of "easel painting," which has been the standard scale for hundreds of years, kept this way by tradition and convenience and by the absence of any internal reason to expand. ...
Large realist paintings were usually done not to satisfy the demands of style and materials but to fulfill the demands of patrons, to fill a given, large space or to gain a theatrical effect .... With the tradition of miniature subject matter, quality could come up within the framework of placing and rendering smaller-than-life-size figures and objects which fill the painted area.89
Once the constraint of depicting reality was removed, paintings were free to expand. This did not, however, happen immediately. The first non-objective paintings remained small, easel-size.
Original Cubism evolved as a small-scale art, with small-scale means. ... Because of the extremely high and sustained level of quality we must assume not only that the effects of Cubism were complete in this scale but that larger scale was at least not essential to the quality of the Cubist picture, and perhaps inconsistent with it. ... ... the rough light-dark sparkling touch of the brush worked with the wrist and fingers is its life and breath. And small size fits the talents of Picasso, who is a handworker ....90
the scale of painting did expand to its "natural" size.
Large size, or at least "life" size - the space de Kooning assumed between his outstretched hands - though not traditional is certainly natural.91
Abstract painting seems to prefer large size because the best abstract painting since Cubism has come more consistently in large size, and seems to find its best expression there. But abstract painting should not be considered unnaturally large; it is more accurate to say that realist painting has always been unnaturally small .... The automatic judgment that a painting ten feet high or wide is "large" depends on ... tradition.92
factor which enabled abstract painting to become larger than realist
painting is that it can be made much faster.
... I realized how much speed is a natural consequence of abstraction (though not a necessary one). Realist painting is relatively slower because the detailed depiction of objects and scenes requires deliberate application of paint. This deliberation can be, and has been, carried forth in certain species of abstraction, such as that having "hard" edges, and in the painting of Clyfford Still, and others. Abstraction does not compel speed as much as it allows it; the naturalness of speed is not within the method but within the human brain and hand. This, very broadly, is the "modernness" of speed in painting. It led, also along natural lines, to large size.93
a painting cannot be simply enlarged to fill a larger format, like a
photograph. The change in scale causes a change in the way
the painting must be made.
A big painting is not just bigger than a small painting, it is different, and it is different not only because it has a different effect, as Greenberg has pointed out, but because it must be made in a different way. ... The very large painting demands special mechanical treatment, and must be preceded by a conception adequate for the size. There is visual evidence for this when models or sketches are put up against larger works, particularly of abstract painting; so often the sketch has the feel of life, and the large piece, done as an enlargement on the same terms, is dumb and brittle.94
of the principal reasons why a small painting cannot be simply enlarged
to make a large painting is that the length of the artist's hand and
arm, the size of the gesture which he can make with his wrist, his elbow
and his shoulder, do not change.
Scale can be changed at will, but the other means of painting must be altered by invention to fit scale change. The wrist-and-finger stroke is not like the stroke of the arm and shoulder, and each has a different effect according to the size of the canvas.95
Expressionist drawings of similar motivation will be different in character as they are different in size, because all factors are not variable. The size of the working surface and some of the physical materials can change proportionately but the artist cannot. A small Expressionist drawing done with the wrist and fingers is different from one done with the elbow and shoulder. The mechanical forces producing the line are different because they were made for different functions.96
As abstraction evolved in this century, the methods of realist painting slowly eroded, giving way to the scale of the person, and the small, careful stroke, exercised in the service of miniaturized depiction, has given way to the broad swing of the human arm - with the body, at a distance, not with the fingers, up close. The expansion of "detail" expanded the picture. Painting became "life size," natural size, and the long tradition of miniaturization fell away.97
important feature which does not change with scale is the size of the
mark which a painter can make with a traditional artist's brush.
"The more the stroke shows as paint the more difference size makes.
... size and character mesh in proportion to the visibility of the stroke
in any style at any time."98 "A very large
piece must be shaped by plan instead of stroke. It will
stiffen and harden and ultimately dictate different terms of structure."99
The easiest way to make a very large abstract painting (not necessarily a very good abstract painting) is to eliminate touch and its built-in problem of constant size relative to changing picture size, or to use it as added to other parts of the picture.100
addition to modifying the size of the gesture and the way paint is applied,
there has to be a change in the conception of large modern painting
as compared with a small one.
Seurat's tiny oil sketches may be no finer than La Grande Jatte, but they are certainly different in more than size; they are different in style, conception and character, in a way that a small and a large Ingres or David would not differ.101
an example of a large painting which failed because it was made like
an enlargement of a small painting, Darby Bannard uses Guernica,
made by Picasso, the "handworker," whose best work he admires
greatly. (A description of the failure of Guernica
begins later in this paper at page .)
In making Guernica Picasso applied the mechanics of original Cubism doggedly. The composition is carefully controlled, centered and made symmetrical, darks and lights are pushed to extremes to provide "air" for over-and-under connection, hue difference is abolished, all edges are Cubistically modified - everything in the Cubist bag of tricks is ground into the picture to force coherence on the huge surface. ... Guernica should be the casebook example of the misunderstanding of the demands of large scale and of the failure of theatricality to overcome pictorial weakness.102
The many very large Cubist paintings done after the full bloom of original Cubism show that it is possible to paint large with Cubist principles, but with less of, or without, the life-giving touch of the earlier style, and attempts to re-instill touch in large scale Cubism in terms of original Cubism usually failed. ... It may be possible to take Cubism up to very large scale by deliberately excluding touch ....103
believe that Darby Bannard's account ignores one of the main historical
reasons for keeping paintings "small" which is the size of
the normal domestic exhibition space. Even when paintings
were made to be hung in palaces, the palaces were not intended to be
exhibition halls for the paintings, the paintings were intended to be
adornments for the palaces. Since the Renaissance, with
the rise of the bourgeoisie, there has been an expanding market for
paintings as insignia of culture, but generally only for paintings which
could conveniently be hung above the height of a sofa and viewed within
a typical living room. This is still the case today, and
larger paintings were made, and are still made, primarily for institutional
settings. The increase in size was coincidental with artists'
rejection of the commercial apparatus for marketing their art, as described
by Darby Bannard later in this paper. Apart from special
orders, a contemporary market-oriented painter is unlikely to make paintings
larger than the wall of a typical domestic room or office can accommodate.
the man in the street, the "content" of a painting is the
image of something, or of a space, which could exist outside the painting.
Darby Bannard believes that the inclusion of content of this type in
a painting "weakens a work to the extent that the work depends
on it."104 The possibility of weakening
is not because of the existence of representational depiction but because
the quality of the painting becomes dependent on the subject matter.
Representational painting can be as good as abstract painting, it just
uses paint differently, but representation diverts the artist's purpose
from the full use of the materials of painting.
If a painting depicts something real, or expresses an idea, or serves any art-making attitude other than that which assumes the combined materials make up the whole of the picture, then the units of construction will be in terms of the subject or idea of the picture, and paint, color, shading, modeling and all other natural painting materials bend to fit the need at hand. But if the art-making attitude assumes that art quality arises from the use of the materials of painting to make the painting, then the artist will strive to equip himself with a method of picture construction contrived in terms of these materials, and develop, discover or invent material units of construction - pieces or parts from which the painting can be made.105
Bannard's observation is not that images or depicted space are in themselves
harmful to a painting, but that they may constitute an unnecessary limitation
on the painter.
word "content" should not, however, be confined to such a
limited meaning. A painting without images or three-dimensional
space still has content.
Art without content, so we are told is like an empty ship adrift without a sail, aimless, vacant, doomed to sink slowly out of sight. Content is the moral imperative of the art of our time. ...
Ask what "content" means and vagueness falls like a shroud. It may be subject matter, but only significant subject matter, and maybe it doesn't have to be subject matter at all as long as the work has - how shall we put it? - emotion ....
The professionals don't do much better. For their recent "Content" show the Hirshhorn Museum, defined the word with pitiless exactitude, as "an area of concern." The show itself was no help, consisting, so it seemed, of any non-abstract from the Approved Artist List assertively infantile enough to catch the attention of the curators. ...
"Content" could be a useful word if it were allowed to mean what it should mean: whatever is there to see. ... if "content" meant the observable facts about a work, then aesthetic goodness, or quality, or whatever we choose to call it, would be seen as the result of the evaluation of that content and "content" and "value" would have the conceptual discreteness they must have to be useful terms. Content is quantifiable, visible, localized, and value-neutral. Quality, the aesthetic assessment of content, is unmeasurable, invisible, unlocatable, and purely valuative.
It is very important to understand that content as such, as it stands as specifiable subject matter and material, has no given value, even though, in sum, it presents itself for evaluation. Take, for example, the figure of Christ on the cross. ... the figure as such has nothing to do with the aesthetic value of the painting in which it appears.106
final point made above is the most important. Whatever the
content of the painting, the content is value-neutral. Content
per se neither creates nor detracts from aesthetic value.
In the long run all art is good or bad or middling not for its particular parts and attributes but for the aesthetic assessment we make on it. Art is good by judgment, not inventory. Any system of expression undertaken by any human being will have "life" to the extent that life is given to it. Abstract, representational, formal, or expressionist is beside the point, and so is "content." ... The "life" in art comes out of the "formal," out of the work as a whole, taken in by eye and brain, estimated aesthetically.107
Bannard does not define "abstract painting" but he uses the
term to mean painting which does not depict anything which could exist,
in reality or imaginatively, outside the painting. He refers
to representational painting as "realist painting."
The concept of "coherence" is explained in the following quote
("isolation" is the opposite of coherence):
If a painted surface presents any set of inflections, and is shown as art, it must be relational as long as we are directed to find art there, because whatever art it has must arise from our consideration of the variations on that surface. ... the parts of the painting should relate, and the fewer obstacles the better. ... all of the recent painting which I feel is great painting has a solidly constructed contrivance to freely relate the areas of the painted surface.108
images of the real world have not disappeared, in fact most artists
have continued to work in this way, but in the 20th. century "most
of the apparently best artists accept abstraction for their art.
Despite the considerable advantages of realism they assume it is better
to loosen up the natural materials of paint and let them find their
Abstraction took materials away from the service of depiction and set them out on their own. Without the framework of external reality materials were free to take on any conformation applied by the artist. (Hence the primacy of invention and conception in the best new art.)110
painting has introduced its own set of problems. In fact
there are more problems in painting abstractly than in painting representations.
The problems which Darby Bannard identifies may be grouped into three
types, the problems of isolation, of edge and of color.
The most fundamental problems the serious abstract painter faces are those of edge and isolation; the edge must be accommodated by design because it is the strongest single factor of design of the surface, and the elements of the surface tend to become isolated across the resistant flatness of two dimensions. Realist painting has it easier than abstract painting, and the Impressionists had it the best. ... The great continuing problem of abstract painting has been to build a basis for painting as strong as that of Impressionism without the illusion of reality.111
The problem of isolation. Coherence is not a guarantee
that an abstract painting will be a good painting, it is simply a necessary
condition if it is to be a good painting. And Darby Bannard
sees a tendency away from adopting easy solutions to the problem of
The primary problem of abstract painting, as I have said above, is relating form, of elements of the picture. It is a problem of pictorial quality only negatively; adequately related pictures can easily be bad, but good abstract painting, or so it seems to me, has been my experience, cannot do without strong means for relating pictorial parts. If there is a certain determinism in the evolution of abstract painting toward speed and size and flatness, there is a concomitant drift away from easy relationship. This, in turn, makes visual coherence the first task of inspiration. ... To get together, to make a visual whole, to "hang together," there must be strong visual evidence of interaction.112
traditional realist painting the parts of the picture are images of
objects which are inherently related by placing them in the same illusory
three-dimensional space. When the illusion of that space
is removed, other means must be found to relate the parts of the painting.
Abstract painting cannot keep the space of realist painting because by creating the illusion of deep space the painting becomes no longer fully abstract; the forms could be "unreal," like those in a Tanguy landscape, but they would be depicted forms nevertheless, and non-abstract in material terms, the terms of the best recent painting. ... Objects discernible in realist space have a built-in "relatability" because of the open air in the box-like illusion of extended depth, and this illusion imposes a strong visual coherence on any varied surface. Flatness is the enemy of coherence, because coherence depends on the relatedness of parts, or visual unity, and distinct parts, or units, of the flat picture can easily become isolated from one another, and the picture itself can become the decorated surface of a flat object, and lose its identity as a picture.113
is, according to Clement Greenberg, the primary aim of Modern painting.
Each Modernist artistic discipline concentrated on those attributes
which were unique to it, and the only thing which is unique to painting
Flatness alone was unique and exclusive to that art. The enclosing shape of the support was a limiting condition, or norm, that was shared with the art of the theater; color was a norm or means shared with sculpture as well as with the theater. Flatness, two-dimensionality, was the only condition painting shared with no other art, and so Modernist painting oriented itself to flatness as it did to nothing else.114
Greenberg was probably more dogmatic about this than Darby Bannard.
Greenberg did not say that painting needed to be flat, he said
only that flatness was a characteristic of Modernism, but when he criticized
contemporary art it was normally in terms of the "purity"
with which it used its materials, the most unique of which was the flat
canvas. Darby Bannard has been less insistent, at least
in recent years, on the desirability of flatness. Flatness
"is a mechanical condition of abstract painting, and abstract
painting adapts to it just as certainly as natural forms adapt to the
environment."115 It is flatness which
has created the major problem for abstract painters.
The fundamental mechanical problem facing the abstract painter is the creation of means sufficient to relate the elements of a picture which tend naturally to lock into the visually flat surface. Hofmann made it all the more difficult by insisting on a (usually) thickly painted highly colored and differentiated painting in which each separable part contributes to the complexity and hence to difficulty of resolution.116
is more of a danger for some art styles than for others, one example
being those in which the surface is broken up by discrete brush marks
(but see Darby Bannard's comments on page 54 that Still is an exception)
[Coherence] is a special problem for touch and scale because the exposed stroke becomes a discrete unit in abstract art to the extent that it is tied to depiction or the formation of a larger unit, and relative smallness and multiplicity of stroke increases the difficulty.117
Bannard believes that the need to invent ways in which to make the parts
of a painting cohere is the source of the belief that innovation is
a necessary facet of Modernist painting.
... the obligation of the abstract painter, the job of modernist innovation, is the invention of a device to assure the visual relationship of painted parts. This is why innovation, conception, is so much and so evidently a part of modernist painting, and it is also why today so much bad art is done deliberately, insistently and compulsively in the name of innovation.118
Bannard notes several mechanical means which may promote coherence.
Coherence is visual gestalt, the rendering of a surface so that the surface has sufficient visual integrity to seem plausible as a picture. This can be done in many ways, not only by interconnection of discrete units on the picture surface but by other visual and psychological devices, for example, the use today of pale same-value hues, which not only makes a visually continuous surface but automatically denies identification of the painting with surrounding phenomena.119
color relationship or a close value range, when used to relate parts
of a painting, is more effective when used in a painterly way.120
Outlines are to be avoided.
Painterly treatment of the surface more naturally (though not necessarily) confers unity because dark and light areas, or color areas, tend to cohere in terms of value or color. Drawing, on the other hand, line, is slim and light, covers very little area and is inherently divisive. Line does not work well with Hofmann's loaded surface, though line and loading can work together; Pollock showed us that. And when a thin, drawn line is kept away from its usual function of outlining and enclosing, Hofmann used it well.121
color is used, parts of varied color cannot be too widely dispersed
about the painting surface or their relationship will be lost.
... when color areas are widely separated across a fully painted flat surface they tend to become isolated and lose the effect of relationship. ... Strong value contrast makes areas more specific as area and therefore more susceptible to isolation.122
the definition of the shapes in a painting reduces the apparent isolation
of those shapes. A close value range, in addition to relating
shapes, has the further advantage of reducing the definiteness of shapes.123
"Close-value painting has the visual effect of all-overness, because
there is little light-dark difference for the eye to pick-up."124
"Hue variation is independent from value in this format and the
painting can be carried by a wide range of hue within the very similar
way to reduce the definiteness of shapes is to reduce their size.126
The most specific shape is a large one which contrasts strongly with its surroundings. This kind of shape is most susceptible to the problems of isolation and edge because it inhabits an area very definitely and because the strength of its own edge forces comparison to that of the canvas.127
relationship which we look for between the parts of a painting is a
lateral relationship. We look for a balance between the
left and the right sides rather than between the top and the bottom,
Our eyes are accustomed to painting done in terms of lateral relationship, which holds over from realist painting, and we tend to measure the success of a picture on these terms. In fact, since Cubism (which can be said to have "rescued" lateral organization from the dissolution threatened by Impressionism), this has become thoroughly academic; books are written on composition, "dynamic balance," and these things are taught in the art schools.128
is my impression that the search for lateral relationships is part of
our genetic inheritance so that it did not really need rescuing.
has been such a strong method for relating the parts of a painting that
we have had trouble in breaking away from it.
Whenever abstract painting tried to get away from Cubism it found itself naked and alone, bereft of structural system and deep space, and composition, where to put what, became the first order of business.129
was stated at the outset, the problem of isolation is primarily a result
of the abandonment of three-dimensional space in the quest for "purity"
in the use of the medium. In 1971 Darby Bannard felt that
flatness was desirable because it was characteristic of the best recent
painting. There were other points of view, of course.
Elaine de Kooning said:
In art, flatness is just as much an illusion as three-dimensional space. Anyone who says "the painting is flat" is saying the least interesting and least true thing about it.130
Creating the illusion of a third dimension
is an effective way to relate the parts of a non-objective painting
across the canvas by setting remote pieces at the same illusory depth,
and to create an inherent tension between the knowledge of a two-dimensional
object and the appearance of a three-dimensional depth.
I find no advantage gained by flatness which compensates for giving
up these benefits. The proof is, after all, in the viewing,
not in a theoretical purity in the use of the medium. Playing
with depth is one of the most appealing features of Cubism, the archetypal
Bannard gives us the example of two modern painters who have used depth
successfully to unify non-objective paintings.
Rather than fight the battle of side-by-side painted areas, as so many of his colleagues did ... Hofmann pulled out a specific kind of painted area, a rectangle, which by means of its even color and sharp, specific edge and shape seems to float in front of the rest of the picture. The floating rectangle was a brilliant, one-stroke solution to the problems of edge and isolation. Because it creates a strong illusion of depth the picture surface is no longer visually two-dimensional. ... By carefully balancing size, shape and color intensity Hofmann made paintings in which no part was visually isolated from any other because they could "reach" across apparently empty space rather than across the very resistant fully-painted flat picture surface. ... It is made instead by adjusting the painting in terms of color and paint: area size, value, intensity, hue, thickness, tactility. ...
Ron Davis uses a different illusionistic device to get a similar effect. A typical Davis looks like a large, many-sided plastic container seen from a somewhat elevated angle. The illusion of three dimensions is very sharp and strong. As in a Hofmann, a visual deep space is created in which the colors, in various guises, can be anchored or suspended, and can relate to one another across the apparently empty space created by the illusion. ... There is no edge problem because the edge is fully integrated as part of the design.131
might think that Darby Bannard has reconciled himself to the appropriateness
of an illusion of three dimensions, but the following year he wrote:
[A delicate openness] plainly marks the best painting of today. This openness is "space between." Perhaps it is unnatural to painting. One way or another it requires part of the space given up to paint not to receive paint, or creates a visual illusion in order to fill the canvas, and this kind of painting does not give itself fully to surface, which is the first property of the art.132
The problem of edges. The edges in this context
refer not only to the outer edges of the painting but to the edges of
shapes within the painting. "A history of 2Oth-century
art styles could be written solely in terms of edge and surface, touch
and scale."133 These elements are, of
course, interrelated. Edges play an important part in the
quality of the surface.
was the paradigm of a style built on edges, but, Darby Bannard writes,
"it is interesting to note how important the edge is to a painter
who works in terms of surface, just as the surface was so vital to the
edge-constructing Cubists."134 "Original
Cubism, constructed in terms of edge, was animated in terms of surface."135
within the canvas define shapes, and it has already been noted that
"two clear methods to reduce the definiteness of shape are to reduce
value difference between shapes and to reduce the size of shapes."136
The problem of the edge of the canvas is different.
The edge is a special problem because it is the strongest factor of design of the flat surface. If it is ignored a number of problems arise, according to the style of the painting. One of two things usually happens; either the edges cut off distinct forms which are not similar to the edge, which evokes a feeling of arbitrary design, or a painting of fairly uniform surface with not much light-dark variation turns into an object, forcing visual consideration out of the painting. Any dispersal of colors on a flat surface must make up for these things before it can get started as a painting.137
solution to the problem of the edge of the canvas is to shape the edge
to conform to the design of the painting. This is not easily
Though the "shaped canvas" is one of the clichés of the sixties, Frank Stella, who was the first to make a big issue of it, remains the only one to handle it convincingly. He alone of the canvas-shapers keeps the inside of his picture carefully adjusted in terms of edge and size, so that the shape of the canvas seems to be generated from within rather than applied as an element of design.138
Bannard observes three general modifications to shapes and edges which
were introduced by painters during the 1960s in order to handle dispersed
areas of color on a canvas.
1. Contriving a direct illusion of space in depth without shading which incorporates the features of the edge.
2. Variation of edge and shape of canvas, with regular internal edge reflection.
3. Reduction of specificity of shape.139
writing about Hofmann's rectangles (described on page ) Darby Bannard
notes that shapes and edges which are aligned with the edges of the
canvas have inherent stability, even though they may lack dynamism.
Their orientation does not need justification.
A solid piece of color laid down on a two-dimensional surface for relational purposes must come to terms with the edge because the edge is the strongest element of design of that surface. The piece that lines up with and reflects the borders of the canvas may lose energy and expressiveness but it makes up for it by the compositional "rightness" and solidity produced because the lining-up design seeks no excuse for being the way it is, and, for Hofmann, because it lets color in easily. A piece that is off-kilter, or manifestly complex in itself, or which otherwise departs from the reflecting-of-the-edge setup is obliged to demonstrate just what has been gained by the varying.140
The problem of color. The inability of Cubism to
use color may be seen as one of its shortcomings. Such a
judgment assumes that color is desirable in paintings, which seems to
have been the prevailing assumption in recent decades.
First, why must there be affective color in painting, and second, why is it such an accomplishment to get this color into abstract painting? The answer to the first is simple - there is no necessity for affective color in painting because plenty of good painting has been done without it. But color is a natural, expressive, sensual element of painting. It has come back into painting in the sixties because artists chose to bring it back .... The answer to the second question must be more complex. ... Some of the reason for the eventual "take-over" of expressive color may be that it is a positive, evolutionary way to break the yoke of Cubism ....141
Bannard points out that there is a purely mechanical problem, known
as the "map problem," involved in relating more than four
colors on a flat surface.
If a painting is done in terms of color, that surface must be set up to allow the chosen colors to relate to each other as freely and variously as possible. The first problem is that the flat surface to be painted naturally impedes the relationship of the "pieces" placed on it; these pieces have a hard time "reaching" each other because anything else on that surface gets in the way. It is a problem of topology, the mathematics of surface, known as the "map problem." No more than four specific color areas can butt up together so that each shares some border with another. If another color is added it automatically renders one or more of the colors to some degree remote.142
methods for relating separated color areas have already been mentioned.
One is the use of a close value range; using the same degree of tinting
or shading helps colors to relate. Another is to reduce
the distance between areas of similar color so that they are not widely
separated. Keeping the parts of the painting small helps
in this respect. A third method is the use of transparency.
Pictures which build with opaque light and dark have more severe structural obligations than pale transparent pictures because the areas they contain are more visually definite. Impermeable surface and clear-cut edge demand to be seen and treated as delimited entities, and the fact that they are built emphasizes placement and composition. A pale transparent painting, on the other hand, has a certain unity imposed by the overall lightness within the frame and can be more casual about placement and composition.143
the painting is given the illusion of three-dimensional depth, the need
for other devices to relate areas of color is reduced. The
areas are related by existing in the same pictorial space.
Darby Bannard cites the example of Jules Olitski who eliminates shape
and uses depth, transparency, close value and spattering (color spots
so small that they do not appear as areas) to unify the colors in his
By "atomizing" his paint, Jules Olitski has reduced the painted shape so much that it no longer figures as shape. This is a solution for color painting similar to that of Pollock's for space painting. ... By atomizing his paint Olitski has given his surface opaque color and transparency at the same time. If you spatter red paint on a white piece of paper the result will be a surface occupied by red but not covered by it. If a similar shot of green is applied the same effect will be gained. The result is that the two colors extend across the surface, are visible and contrasting all over that surface, but do not literally cover it. ... Olitski plays these clouds of powdered color over his surfaces just as Pollock strung out his nets of painted line, varying the concentration here and there. Though he usually keeps values close, the value differences which do exist take over through the fog, and the colors can take their place in the various shadowy depths induced by those value differences or sit opaquely on the surface. ... Olitski is obliged to do something about the edge because the pale, close-value surface can close up and turn the painting into a big flat object very easily, and this would force visual consideration away from the painting. ... Olitski simply brings the edge in along one side, or goes around a corner, by masking off a value difference or by drawing a rough and often highly colored line.144
far the greatest part of Darby Bannard's writings concern Cubism and
the art of his time. He has written very little about art
prior to Impressionism, and nothing about art prior to the Renaissance
or about non-Western art. More than one half of all the
quotations by Darby Bannard in this paper are in the sections from Cubism
to the contemporary art scene. His observations concerning
the development of French and American painting from Manet to the Abstract
Expressionists correspond closely to those of Clement Greenberg.
Four or five hundred years ago, when the Renaissance was taking shape, art was made because there were clear needs for it. The aristocrats wanted portraits, the church wanted saints. The audience was small and culturally homogeneous. Subject matter and technical means were limited. Talent was the demonstrated and understood ability to do the job at hand better than the next artist, and art quality and contributions to the evolution of the craft and medium were by-products of the efforts of talent to do that job. Good art went across because this audience was on top and had no reason to be defensive about its taste.145
I might argue with some of the specifics of this statement there would
be no point in doing so because the gist of the statement is clearly
true, especially relative to modern art, which is the main point.
Society was more culturally homogeneous, the purpose and function of
the artists was agreed, and the idea never arose that an artist may
make something for which there was no market because he thought that
it would be better art.
Painting took pains for hundreds of years, with ups and downs, to evolve a made thing which the eye could take in easily as representation of other things. When perspective and modeling were perfected, painting became a "box" of illusory deep space which had a very strong structure and which enabled the easy relationship of large and small parts across the "air-filled" interior. This was the basic system for painting.
The only fault of the system, if it can be called a fault, was that the basic materials of the art - paint and flat surface - were disguised by depiction.146
changes which occurred in the 19th. century were a reflection of the
enormous social upheaval which was taking place, and of the revised
role which art was expected to play in society.
Social changes during the Renaissance and later brought about a non-aristocratic mercantile class supplemented during the Industrial Revolution by a fast-growing, affluent middle class. Both had money to buy non-essentials. Chief among these non-essentials, then as now, was status, moving up. Art, which came to the 19th century full of high-status associations, moved naturally into that sphere of effort. This, in turn, catalyzed an element of the art business which had been quiescent until then: fashion as an instrument of power. This new use of art turned objects of pleasure and indulgence into vehicles of social advancement, using them to attain a station in life rather than reflect and enhance it. More and more, as the middle class grew, fashionable art moved from the job of affecting a person - art's real and only legitimate function - to the job of satisfying group taste, from providing unexpected pleasure to conforming to present expectations.147
burgeoning market for art was created by the nouveau riche, the
new bourgeoisie, who lacked, in the opinion of Greenberg and Bannard,
properly educated taste in fine art.
Aesthetic pleasure, the perception of artistic goodness, which is the single principle for judging art, began to recede in the face of the painful process of intimidation and compliance which comes with status-change. ... Art had to have content and character they could all understand, because that is what they paid for, and "high" became "high-tone" - the classics, the heroic, the grand theme - coated with sweet sentiment, an unconscious parody of the inner superiority they sensed in the art of the past.148
was the new threat to art which was referred to above in the quotation
from Clement Greenberg on page . Modernism, in the view
of Greenberg and Darby Bannard, was the response of the best artists
to the threat to aesthetic standards created by the demand of the new
bourgeoisie. Both Greenberg and Bannard contend that the
first of the Modernists was Manet.
Nineteenth century academic painting fell into a routine of tightly painted browns, grays and ochres in keeping with the sentimental and heroic subjects demanded by a newly-rich middle class which needed pictorial equivalents for its sense of gravity and importance.149
Bannard has already been quoted on page as saying that "the
so-called artistic revolutions of the past were always conservative,"
and this was no exception.
Manet, as Clement Greenberg has pointed out, took issue with all the "stews and gravies" in the paintings of his contemporaries, with all the fudging and hedging, with all the art that manifested its compromising nature by compromising the power of its medium. He went back behind his generation, back to Velasquez and Goya, brought freshness and light and color to the art of his time, and by doing this became the prototype modern artist, the first to bring forth older standards to set against the art of his own generation, the first artist to rebel into tradition. Manet's art was "shocking" not because it was so "far out" but because it was so "far in," because his colleagues and their patrons had wandered so far from home.150
Constable had rebelled against colors like an "old violin"
a few decades earlier, and the Pre-Raphaelites had rebelled into tradition
a decade before Manet.151 However, it is popular
to describe the history of 19th. century art in terms of French art,
and Manet had more direct impact on the history of art than the Pre-Raphaelites.
The rebellion in France probably started about three decades earlier
than Manet among the art students, but at that stage it was premature.
It is questionable that Manet was the first artist to "rebel into
tradition" (a statement which conflicts with the idea that "the
so-called artistic revolutions of the past were always conservative"),
and I believe that Manet, although important, may not be the pivotal
figure suggested by Greenberg and Darby Bannard.
I think the craft of painting reached its apex in 1875.
The Impressionists made common subject matter acceptable and broke high art from the academy, forcefully affirming that painting is its own boss. Their discontinuous surfaces led to the divisionism of the Post-Impressionists, the proto-Cubism of Cézanne and the abstraction of Cubism, and Modernism - the working attitude which says painting is a distinct organism with its own agenda for evolution - became the standard of the time.152
Impressionists rank higher in the craft of painting, in Darby Bannard's
estimation, than any other school. In addition, he sees
them as a crucial step in freeing painting from the constraints of depiction
so that paint can be used as a material. Again, these ideas
correspond very closely to those of Greenberg.
[The tradition of miniature subject matter] forced paint wholly into the service of depiction and restricted not only the potential expressiveness of paint as paint but pointed away from the aesthetic importance of the qualities of the painted surface, from material variety, to the relationship between the depicted subjects and the relationship between these subjects and the viewers' ideas about art and visible reality.153
When the Impressionists looked hard at nature they did not see the smooth modeling of the old masters. Instead, they saw patches of light and shade. They put these patches in their paintings and made the most exquisitely realistic paintings ever made - more realistic than photographs, certainly more realistic than Wyeth. Not more detailed, but more realistic, more what the real scene was when it came to the eye. But when these patches came on the canvas they became patches of paint; the medium was thus inadvertently asserted, and painting was on the road to the explicitly material art we call abstraction - from Seurat to Cézanne to Picasso.
I mention these artists not because they invented abstraction but because each felt the threat of "formlessness" coming in Impressionism, a "formlessness" which appeared in the later paintings of Monet and is coming up in some painting today. Each, in his own way, tried to bring "form" back into painting. By "form," I mean clearly discernible picture parts, just like the old masters, as Cézanne said.154
key phrase in the above quotation is that "the medium was thus
inadvertently asserted" (my emphasis). The assertion
of the materiality of paint may be what a Modernist can see in the Impressionists'
paintings, but, from the numerous accounts which they left describing
what they were trying to do at the time, that was not one of their intentions.
The following quotation is visibly true in that they did isolate their
paint strokes but, according to the artists, it was for the purpose
of conveying the incidence of light, the immediacy of a visual impression,
not to assert the paint as such.
The most realistic depictions of nature ever made - the paintings of the Impressionists - deliberately isolated the paint stroke as a visible unit of the picture, thereby laying the foundation for Cubism and abstraction, and, ironically, the erosion of realist art as a vehicle for the highest quality.155
another occasion when Darby Bannard writes about the Impressionists
he seems to attribute to them intentions which they never acknowledged.
If the art-making attitude assumes that art quality arises from the use of the materials of painting to make the painting, then the artist will strive to equip himself with a method of picture construction contrived in terms of these materials, and develop, discover or invent material units of construction - pieces or parts from which the painting can be made. This is exactly what the Impressionists did.156
Bannard seems to go much too far in the next quote when he writes that,
despite what they said, the Impressionists were really trying to assert
the materiality of paint and their statements about reproducing the
appearance of nature were just an intellectual cover for their real
The Impressionists got the best of both [the depiction of reality and the expressive use of paint] by seeing nature in such a way that abstraction was accommodated. Afraid of the route their art took, they set up an ingenious system of defense, consisting of theory, contending in sum that what was happening to painting was actually happening to nature, and that they were only nature's faithful servants, recording her every whim. This is how they resisted abstraction - not in their paintings, but off the top of their heads. And what they said rang true. ... This method brought abstraction to the surface, and yet it produced the most realistic paintings seen in art to that time, and, to my mind, the most beautiful and complete.157
Bannard now feels that it would be better to say that their art was
"coming apart" by an inexorable process, not by anyone's intentions,
and they worried about it enough to try to defend it.
Bannard does give us an excellent analysis of the advantages of the
Impressionists' style from a Modernist point of view:
Every illusion, every color, every brush stroke was fully and naturally rationalized by the character of [the Impressionists'] style. It seems that all of their problems were solved before they started painting. The problem of relating bits of colored paint across a closed-up flat surface was solved by the illusion of realist depth, which allows the pieces to "reach" each other across the apparent void: the problem of the edge, the strongest element of design of a painting, was solved by the naturally-occurring elements of landscape horizons, trees, waterlines, bridges, houses - all of which reflect the edge and bring it into the painting; the problem of ordering a vast and subtle variation of colors was solved by the strict adherence to what was "seen"; the problem of the subjection of paint to the service of imitation of materials not "natural" to paint was solved by making the paintings actually consist of separate touches of paint distinct enough to stand as paint, though they made up an illusion of another thing. Furthermore, Impressionism may have been the only painting style to fuse the usually antagonistic approaches to art-making: constructive painting, built up from the inside, and "effect" painting, in which the paint is worked to achieve something preconceived. Impressionism gave its practitioners a firmer, stronger base for painting than any style before or since.158
opened up several avenues to the Post-Impressionists, one of which led,
through Cézanne, to Cubism. Another was the road travelled
by Claude Monet which led to almost non-objective painting.
Monet, who alone took Impressionism along a path laid out but never travelled in the 19th century, finally gave that style all the size it could use. As his subjects came up closer and closer to the surface, the paint pushed out to the edges of the canvas and the surface became more uniform in terms of value - forced, flat, low-incident open space coming in at the heels of the lost space-in-depth.159
crucial figure along the road to Cubism was Paul Cézanne.
Darby Bannard sees Cézanne as being largely concerned with depicted
[Cézanne] was a "space" painter, not a "color" painter. He took the patches from the Impressionists, but he used the color bluntly, as the Abstract Expressionists did later, as an "ax" to divide planes. By taking the elements of his painting from painting, instead of from nature, Cézanne started us away from nature and back toward style. Then Picasso and Braque picked up the idea of painting-as-spatially-related-parts, developed the Cubist method of picture-making, and, equally important, returned us to our old custom of thinking about painting as a stylistic continuum.160
and Braque left us testimony to the importance of Cézanne in their
own development, but I have a problem again with the attribution to
Cézanne of intentions which Cézanne never acknowledged.
Greenberg initiated this mode of thinking with statements such as: "...
the problem which preoccupied Cézanne - that of translating volume
and distance to a flat surface without denying its flatness ...."161
I know of no evidence to show that Cézanne was preoccupied with asserting
the flatness of the canvas. Edward Fry observes that "one
must remember that Cézanne's intentions were very different from those
to which the cubists would later apply his methods."162
Bannard feels that he does not attribute intentions to Cézanne but
only describes what Cézanne actually did.
Cézanne lifted the Impressionist art-making method, skimming it off the top, leaving all the softness behind. He flattened out the "pieces" and organized them spatially.163
In his determination to bring order to Impressionism, Cézanne rendered his pictures in a series of flickering frontal planes; his rigorous "constructivism" served the picture and moved away from realist depiction. Paint came out from behind depiction, and the relationship of "pieces" of paint took over the burden of carrying quality.164
do not argue with the latter statement as a description of what Picasso
and Braque saw in Cézanne's paintings, and what they developed from
what they saw, but I do see an implied intentionality which conflicts
with Cézanne's own expression in his writing of his intention to make
strongly structured but "realistic" pictures of nature.
The Fauves used the pieced-painting method to pull a switch on Impressionism: for the natural color of the Impressionists they substituted blunt, primary, "unreal" colors, colors which were invented for, rather than natural to, the subjects depicted.165
Bannard considers that the Fauves developed one of the strongest styles
in Modern art, and after seeing the Fauvist exhibition in London in
1991 I would support his opinion. There were some very strong
paintings by artists who are otherwise little-known, which would support
Darby Bannard's contention, quoted on page , that there have been a
few styles in modern times "which were peculiarly enabling during
their time of vitality. Fauvism, particularly, catalyzed
some pretty slim talent."166
Bannard is echoing Greenberg's earlier assessment when he writes that
"no high-minded artist of the past 50 years has started out and
matured without coming to terms with Cubism."167
Kuspit observed that "in a sense, Greenberg's career is an attempt
to justify the preeminence of Cubism as the modern style with
which an artist must `make real contact.'"168
Greenberg saw Cubism as the culmination of a French effort over forty-five
years "towards a more immediate and franker realization of painting
as a physical medium, with the new recognition this entailed of the
two-dimensionality of the picture plane and of painting's right to be
independent of illusion."169
of the reasons why Cubism had such a profound effect on the art of the
20th. century is that it opened up so many possibilities for further
development in different directions. Greenberg and Darby
Bannard find that the roots of most of the American abstract art of
the '30s and of the New York School tap into Cubism.
In 1912 Cubism was an open-ended, promising, generating style; it started much more than it could finish. Like an evolutionary change in nature, the Cubist style disqualified the past and set up the future.170
In the 30's the predominant style shared by American abstract painters was a loose Cubism derived from the Picasso of the 20's and 30's.171
After Cubism, "advanced" painting arranged simple things in illusionist space. The notion of abstraction, of painting done only on its own terms, is still the forceful idea it was 100 years ago, but it is so tightly associated with the Cubist style that most painting is space painting. Not much else counts.172
Bannard believes that "[Picasso] and Braque, deriving from Cézanne,
brought painting into abstraction through Cubism,"173
but his view of the accomplishment of Cubism is more complex than Greenberg's.
He sees Cubism as primarily a conservative reaction to protect painting
from the formlessness threatened by Impressionism.
Original Cubism was both new and conservative; new, because it eliminated deep realist space in favor of abstraction, and accepted the consequences, and conservative because it did so with the full means and technique of traditionally "good" painting, which acted to "save" painting from the apparent disaster of diffusion, from the dissolution of surface implied by Impressionism and finally realized by Monet, and which was present in some form in all the arts at the end of the last century, in the poetry of Swinburne and the music of Wagner and his followers, and so forth, which provoked in every art a later reaction to discreteness. Cubism took its cue from the Impressionist breakup of the surface into distinct units of paint, and preserved a number of features of painting which Impressionism would have thrown out if it had held painting to its path: deliberate shading, control of detail, central massing of incident, control of internal parts according to the edge and distinct placement - all the baggage of traditional painting with a new face. Abstraction seemed not too high a price to pay to retain an attribute of painting which Impressionism threatened to dissolve, and which was felt to be more deeply necessary to art than realist depiction: the variation of the surface by visually specific units.174
in Darby Bannard's view, Cubism was not so much a deliberate move into
abstraction as a return to a more structured style which willy-nilly
entailed abstraction. The abstraction came as a result of
a new relationship between the painting and the object depicted.
Before Cubism placement was provided by subject matter; one arranged the still life, not the painting. Cubism seduced painting into abstraction by providing a very strong system for composition.175
But Cubism kept most of the important visual properties of natural objects, or, let's say, of realist painting, such as value difference, depth illusion, and apparent surface complexity; ... the only real change is that the features of the subject are modified. The Cubist method forced the subject matter of painting into terms with the picture itself. Cubist paintings became more-or-less abstract because natural objects, if they are to be picture, demand that painting materials make a visual approximation of them, which was at odds with the Cubist notion that the elements of a painting should be ordered in terms of the picture surface and each other. The development of the Cubist style is a visual embodiment of this conflict.176
was not a complete rejection of Impressionism because it adopted the
Impressionist method of applying paint.
Cubism got painting into abstraction by using the Impressionist stroke to hack away at depicted subjects until the subjects were submerged under the varied inflections of relief with vestiges of the subject functioning decoratively.177
principal characteristics of Cubism which Darby Bannard deals with in
his writings are space, shapes, edges and color. He summarized
the use of these elements as follows:
[The exposed stroke as a discrete unit] was also a special problem for original Cubism .... ... hue variation was sacrificed in favor of uniform shading, representation succumbing to the cutting edge of the flat plane, edge reference taking over from realist outline, and the shallow space of flat frontal planes taking over from the deep space of realism.178
Three dimensional depth. One of the most pronounced
feature of Cubism, and to me the most intriguing, is the play with shallow
ambiguous depth. Darby Bannard considers the illusion of
depth to be one of the key aspects of Cubism, which is a departure from
Greenberg's writings. The illusory depth is not, of course,
the deep space of traditional realist painting but "illusion in
depth remained however shallow the implied space got."179
Three-dimensional space is the most important single fact about our environment. ... The primacy of spatial consideration in painting paralleled that in our environment. A reversion to the elemental often characterizes radical action, and when Picasso got into more or less abstract painting, in 1907, he fell back on that most elemental visual fact: space in depth. The depiction of painted elements in illusionist depth became his basic tool and was the first clear-cut method of abstract painting.
Affective color and sensual paint were put away as spatial abstract painting developed. Both of these natural and expressive materials were incidental to Cubism because Cubism wanted elements which could be handled spatially, and spatial differentiation is clearest when the units are sharply defined and similar in kind. Value difference was kept as a tool to fix planes in depth, but complex hue difference would have interfered; by the same token, the soft and sensuous paint of the
Impressionist would have fuzzed the sharp edges of the planes and pushed the surface toward continuousness.180
difference was the principal means by which the illusion of shallow
depth was achieved. As Fry noted when writing about the Cubism
of 1910: "Chiaroscuro contrast has become... totally divorced
from any illusionistic function and used only to indicate the relations
Value difference, light and dark difference, provokes depth illusion. ... For classic Cubism, Cubism as it grew and developed, building a painting with line only, with the apparent loss of illusionist volume and depth, was not a real possibility - this had to wait for Pollock. ... Fortunately, depth illusion catalyzed the effect of Cubist painting.182
spatial relationships, the massing of content at the center, and the
broken paint strokes are all related in the Cubist style.
The illusion of depth was shallow, extending only enough for the necessary connection-to-the-center; the painting was massed at the center. The subject was "destroyed" to bring it in line with demands made by the picture; touch, the quick electric dots and dashes, the rough and ready shading and over-painting allowed so easily on a surface small enough to show the quick work of the wrist and fingers - Picasso's strength - was the final forceful nourish of the Cubist painting.183
A Cubist painting appears complex because of the way the parts are related.
The slight separation of the small planes,
both laterally and in depth, enriches their relationship.
There is a law of the economy of things, which applies to art and nature, and everything else, which could be stated roughly: that which makes the best of any situation is that which does the most with the least, that gets the most mileage with the least waste. Since the quality of a Cubist painting depends on relationships between definite parts, we can infer that the most efficient Cubist style is one which creates the most relationships with the least elements. The visual relationships that one element can have with another are increased if the two are set apart from one another and decreased if they are put together, because the ore surface exposed the ore there is to relate visually.184
Scale. Picasso's and Braque's
paintings were all small, and Darby Bannard believes that the style
developed by them was specifically suited only to the size of their
paintings. The style could not be enlarged without being changed. Three
main factors were involved, one of them being that the shallow depth
is lost. Darby Bannard makes this point when discussing Abstract Expressionism
derived from Cubism.
The Cubist-Abstract Expressionist painting lets very little through; it has the depth created by close, head-on planes, like a pile of awry papers viewed from above. You can expand the size of this sort of picture, but you cannot expand the depth if you use small, opaque planes. So the depth becomes proportionately shallower, and is affectively lost to the painting. This isolates the pieces and cramps relationship.185
Large-scale small-piece Cubist painting with opaque planes loses complexity because it loses the illusion of depth. This in turn lowers the number of available visual relationships.'186
The component of Cubism disturbed by scale is the depth illusion induced through shading and value difference. This depth illusion is necessary to a two-dimensional art committed to complex surface incident which seeks to compose relatively small pieces in terms of the shapes of these pieces rather than hue difference. The Cubist picture cannot function well without it.187
second reason for the small size is simply that the units of the painting
needed to be small.
Cubism was a small-scale style, not because large Cubist paintings were impossible, but because the units of the Cubist work were small in relation to the whole scene depicted, following the example set by the art of Picasso and Braque around 1912, and the method used to paint these small units limited their potential size. Picasso and Braque used these small units because their Cubism evolved as a method of abstracting natural objects. These objects, landscape, still life, or the human face and figure present subtle and numerous light and dark variations. The Cubist method eroded these subjects by means of the process adopted from Impressionism through Cezanne, which took the units of value change available in a natural subject and rendered these value differences into units which could be related by means of their visible likeness to one another. A Cubist painting of 1910 has roughly as many facets of value as its subject - not exactly but apparently.188
third reason for the small size is the small paint stroke with which
the painting is made.
Another way to make a big Cubist painting is to enlarge the pieces. This is what Picasso did with Guernica. But then another integral part of the Cubist method must be thrown out...: the touch, the painterliness that softened the hardness of Cubism, or better, was an attribute of the best Cubist painting, and which became a physical consequence of the Abstract Expressionist technique of large-scale stroking as a method for painting big Cubist pictures.189
Early Cubism required the incising, cutting stroke made by a small brush, loaded with paint, worked by the wrist and fingers. In this way it kept some of the sensuality of oil paint as a hedge against its radical intent. But large scale Cubist painting, until Abstract Expressionism, excluded paint handling of this kind because the wrist-finger technique was inadequate for the size. When Cubist painting got big, then the "pieces" got big. when the pieces got big, they had to be filled with paint; and so they were, with flat, evenly painted areas .... Generally speaking, Cubism demands an active handling of its elements, because the elements themselves lack character. Cubist elements were deprived of individuality so they could be more easily shoved around and arranged.190
size, and the vertical orientation, helped in general to integrate an
extremely fragmented composition.
The picture stayed small, as a kind of tight "belt," to force formal integration; it stayed (usually) vertical because our habits of seeing, derived from the facts of gravity and materials,'let us assume that a vertical construction has more integral strength than a horizontal one.191
Darby Bannard's point is not that
Cubism could not be used to make large paintings, but that the conception
and the execution had to be changed to suit the enlarged size. Guernica
is used to demonstrate this contention.192
Compared to the original Cubist painting, excepting touch, the immediate internal difference seen in Guernica is expansion and dispersal, the immediate external difference size and horizontality. The forms and constructive methods remain pretty much the same. We see, then, that an art-making method devised to handle the overloading and compression of original Cubism will not meet the needs of a very large mural-like space. The structural failure of original Cubism in the scale of Guernica is a failure of connectivity, a problem Pollock later solved by altering the Cubist method to eliminate the things which stood in the way of expansion. ... The free, floating figures are too flimsy and spread put to give convincing structure to the picture. Like a bridge too long for its supports, Guernica buckles despite the contrived, flaccid, central pyramid.193
To make a painting like Guernica as large as he wanted it, Picasso was forced (or so he thought) to make it out of large flat pieces that would have to be built from scratch, because they could not be made quickly by a few strokes of the brush, as was possible on a smaller scale. ... He usually has trouble with large scale, and he is always best when his touch is most directly involved, for example, his drawings and etchings, and some of his sculpture and ceramics. Even the great early Cubist paintings are very tactile, like clay bas-reliefs. Also, Picasso has trouble with conception, with thinking something out, and a mural-size painting must be planned with great care and a regard for the dynamics of scale. He never had this quality of thought, and I think it is one thing which has led him into failure in his later years. Even the early Cubist paintings were not really thought out; they were produced by an intense and aggressive visual imagination, by doing rather than thinking. ... When Cubist "pieces" are enlarged and painted flat they get hollow and thin. ... Picasso tried to paint a huge painting by extending small-painting techniques. It did not work because he was not willing to make the accommodations to scale that his style demanded.194
The expressive failure of Guernica, even if it could be taken separately from its structural failure, is more directly felt and is more tragic, and has more of the quality of meretriciousness than that structural failure. Feeling is the proclaimed point of Guernica, and it is in feeling that its failure is most poignant. ... The grotesquerie advertises itself, calls attention literally, saying "I am wounded, I am screaming, I am contorted by grief." But the emotion is not felt, unless supplied by the imagination and knowledge of the viewer, because the forms are not adequate to convey it. The figures are posed, the emotion is applied, the effect is false.195
Shapes and edges. The
most obvious aspect which strikes the viewer of a Cubist painting is
that it is composed of a great number of shapes, usually geometric and
very similar in size compared with the parts of a realist painting.
These shapes are essential to the original Cubism. They must be
kept simple because excessive complexity would defeat the illusion of
shallow space which relates them, leading to isolation of the parts.
The first factor of Cubist painting is the Cubist piece, a relatively small, low-color elemental shape with an evident visual similarity to the other shapes on the canvas. These elements are kept uniform and uncoaplex so that they may be related by means of edge and shape, since edge and shape are the important variable factors through which the Cubist painting is maintained.196
Cubism demands simple parts because the quality of the Cubist work is carried by the relationship between them. If the parts are themselves complex they will maintain their own identity, which will work against their integration with each other.197
Because there were many surfaces on the applied Cubist painting the paramount problem of that style and the abstract art born from it was to devise a means to relate pieces which otherwise tend to become isolated on the two-dimensional picture plane. This can be done with the over-and-under available in the paper-thin space of the original applied Cubism but over-and-under breaks down if the picture becomes too complex or if the piece becomes irregular.198
edges of the canvas, which were no longer the frame of a window into
a scene from reality, were a particular problem to the Cubists.
As a painting style, Cubism arranges well-defined, rather monochrome units in (an illusion of) space: it slices, fits, balances, trues and fairs, and is by nature uncomfortable with the edges a painting must have, because the edges of the canvas share the character of the standard Cubist element and therefore must be considered integrally - they cannot be anonymous.199
Bannard believes that one way in which the Cubists dealt with the problem
of the edges of the canvas was by massing the content of the painting
in the center, i.e. by staying away from the edges. He wrote little
about this massing at the center apart from a graphic description of
Cubism as "a style of compression, with its edge as ever-ready
reference, blossoming at the center, in the place of greatest pressure
Color. Color was not necessary
for the original Cubism because it "evolved a method of picture-making
which guaranteed immediate visual coherence ... [by] forcing everything
into conformity with design-by-edge."201 Similar
color can relate shapes in a painting, but in Cubism the depth relationships
were established by value differences. The value differences generally
define only differences between adjacent planes. Unnecessary color could
establish conflicting relationships across the picture plane and be
Our first powerful abstract style sacrificed one of the natural elements of painting (color) for an element it had to fake (illusion in space). With a few great exceptions like Matisse, that is the way it has been ever since, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Cubism, free of affective color, has been far and away the most dominant style.202
Cubist drawing in paint rust handle color very gingerly; color is part of surface and Cubism is done in terms of space difference on the same surface that color Bust occupy. If hue difference is complex on a Cubist-disrupted surface the many colors may imply aany pre-existing surfaces and enervate the Cubist attack, which favors repeated value difference of the same hue to bring about illusion and separation in space.203
48 documents of Cubism written during its heyday and reproduced by Fry
seldom comment on the lack of color in Cubism; it was simply accepted.
Kahnweiler testifies that Picasso was aware of the lack of color but
was unable to do anything about it:
Several times during the spring of 1910 Picasso attempted to endow the forms of his pictures with color. That is, he tried to use color not only as an expression of light, or chiaroscuro, for the creation of form, but rather as an equally important end in itself. Each time he was obliged to paint over the color he had thus introduced ....204
small size of the Cubist piece may have been one reason why the paintings
could not accept color. As Darby Bannard has observed, "color
needs size to get across, to show off."205
Bannard elaborated on the need to exclude color as follows:
Strong hue difference would have impeded Cubist working-out for the following reasons.
1. Color areas must occupy the same surface as the spatially-varied Cubist piece; they would specify their own different surfaces which the Cubist piece would be forced to recognize and relate to. It would be like playing baseball on a football field.
2. Strong hue difference would not help the construction of the Cubist picture because hue difference does not easily contribute to the effect of relief.
3. Strong hue difference would present a mechanical difficulty which would lead away from the Cubist method. Each color area would have to be shaded in terms of its particular hue. This would force working the painting hue area by hue area, because, for example, a blackish green will not shade off a bright red. A picture would develop in terms of hue difference, and it would try to go flat, because color is above all a characteristic of surface and wants to spread, or it would divide in terms of hue.206
Cubism as a style has never favored expressive color because it subordinates color to define shape, or uses value difference to shade into depth illusion, which works against the exposure and variation of hue. ... To "show off," color needs friendly surroundings: flow, broadness, flatness - qualities
of surface, not structure. ...
Though not impossible, it is very difficult to make good pictures this way, with straight, bright, "tube" colors. ... Bright color juxtaposition can work when it is used to identify planes, which some of the Abstract Expressionists did .... But bright-color different-hue juxtaposition of areas of similar size across a visually flat surface has been a tough nut because this form of composition thwarts visual integration. ... It is easier and usually better to vary color intensity, to use a red and a grayish red rather than a red and a green.207
can be disruptive in Cubist sculpture also.
Color needs its own kind of space to combine unencumbered. This is why color is so difficult for Cubist sculpture, which establishes itself through clearly perceived shape. Cubist painting sometimes needs color to identify and sort out shape and strengthen connections otherwise hidden in two dimensions, but on Cubist sculpture, especially open Cubist sculpture, with specific exposed shapes, varied color overdefines particular parts and blocks integration."208
1912 color did come back into Cubism when it was "used to identify
already separated Cubist planes, as in Picasso's "hard" abstractions
of the teens."209 "It was no longer the
affective color of the Impressionists and the Fauves but a color at
the service of space, color which served to identify planes and distinguish
areas."210 Color added charm to the style when
its quality was declining.
Color crept back into Cubist painting after the "action" was over, because "applied" Cubism needed a few painterly or sensuous elements to take the place of the spent power of the style once it was generated. Color was used to identify planes as they went under and came up in Cubist illusionist depth, and it gave some life to the unfortunate thin quietness of applied Cubism."211
Bannard expressed a reservation concerning the merit of Cubism as a
painting style due to its inability to accept color.
I have never been comfortable with Cubism as a stylistic vehicle for painting, and I have a rather far-fetched conceit that bringing color back to painting will bring painting back to a natural state it has not had since Impressionism.212
in the 20th. century affective color did return to abstract painting,
but it "had to erode Cubism to get back into advanced painting."213
Color remained the major problem for painters following in the Cubist
tradition. "The only artist of the sixties to convert Cubism
into color painting and make great art of it was Hofmann."214
The introduction of color is one of the ways in which contemporary art
can move beyond Cubism. Olitski, for instance, uses color to establish
space and has dissolved the edges and the pieces.
Darby Bannard believes that the natural medium for Cubism was sculpture
rather than painting. The first sculptures made by the Cubist painters
were closed forms, in the tradition of carved, block-like images. Apart
from Picasso and Gonzalez in the late 1920s, no sculpture which was
really Cubist in essence appeared until David Smith's pieces in the
1950s. These were the first fully open forms, filled with the space
into which they extended.
Open abstraction with simplified parts was a gift from painting to sculpture, its natural medium. Open sculpture which is pieced, rather than carved and modeled, popped up out of Cubism around 1912 as the "guitar" wall reliefs of Picasso. ... Both came about as a kind of play and may have been dismissed as such.
At any rate, the authority of the monolith endured, and Cubist sculpture followed the lead of the glyptic 1909 Head at Picasso. Good as much of this sculpture was, it merely shifted the optically hewn surfaces of Cubist painting into three dimensions. Real openness - extension, space between - with all its implications, languished, in painting as well as sculpture. ... In the '30s and '40s literal openness found its way into sculpture, but the referential overlay of Surrealism and the clean-cut, trued-up "purity" of Constructivism retarded the uncompromised fresh start that openness implied and offered.215
The spatial implications of Cubism led to a different type of sculpture than that which had gone before. ... Sculpture is surrounded by space, not by edges, so sculpture elements must come to terms only with themselves. Also, Cubist elements are easy to construct three-dimensionally; they are hard and simple, and tend to be monochromatic, like sculpture materials. Cubism offered abstract art to sculpture, not to painting. ...
But for some strange reason no sculptor really took the premises of Cubism and made sculpture according to them until [David] Smith came along.216
In the following pages I will let Darby Bannard's perceptive evaluations of Smith and Caro speak for themselves. Simple observation will confirm that in his sculptures of the 1950s and early '60s Smith used pieces which closely resemble, intentionally, Cubist shapes and edges. The openness of Smith's sculpture is also obvious. I have a problem with the idea that "real openness - extension, space between" fulfills the promise of Cubism. The space which I see in a Cubist painting is ambiguous and, as Darby Bannard himself describes it, shallow. To me, the outstanding feature of the classic Cubist painting is the play with illusions of shallow space. I cannot see that the real wide openness of Smith's sculpture is "favored by the spirit of Cubism." I wonder whether this evaluation of Smith was due to two influences: (1) that Smith himself declared his sculptures, which are of excellent quality, to be Cubist inspired (and in referring to the forms rather than the space, they clearly are); and (2) that among the followers of Greenberg, to say that a thing was truly Cubist was the highest form of praise.
David Smith may have been the only sculptor to make Cubist art on the terms it demanded .... He chose Cubism because he knew what it offered, and, having chosen it, he made expansive art-making decisions, enlarging and perfecting the Cubist method. The Cubist style forged new formal elements for art-making by radically simplifying realistic elements into quasi-geometric shapes. These new shapes were "elemental" and therefore looked more like each other than the varying shapes, with varying identities, of real objects. The content and quality of a Cubist work depends on the relationship these shapes have with one another. ... Smith adhered to Cubist materials, adapted them for sculpture and "released" them by giving them a chance to work freely. ...
Smith had a head start denied to Pollock, because he was a sculptor, and his chosen style did not conflict with his art-making medium, as Pollock's did. Smith's art is natural, just as Pollock's is heroic.
The successful art-making conditions Smith set up for himself are rather more clear-cut than Pollock's, and can be listed with some definition:
First: SHAPE. Smith kept the form of the Cubist "piece" and adapted it for sculpture. ... Realist sculpture, usually of the human figure, could afford parts which were intricate, like a hand, because the realist sculptor's art depicts a highly evolved three-dimensional figure with its own consistencies of surface, and it is seen as a unit in spite of its tremendous visual complexity. ... If sculptural forms are not recognizable they must be simple, or they will not get in gear with each other. (I mean formally ....)
Second: SIZE. Cubist sculpture looks best in the size Smith used: "human" size, the size of the larger things around us, roughly 5 to 15 feet tall. ... We are much more particular about the properties of sculpture than we are about painting, because painting has an artificial feel, we know it is a picture, and pictures are used for representation, they are not real, whereas sculpture stands right in the three-dimensional environment amidst all the things we must think about and act on all the time.
Third: COMPLEXITY. This is a factor of total size and element size, of course. If the elements are too few, then that aspect of the sculpture which carries the quality will be cramped; if the elements are too many that same relational force will dissipate into the profusion of parts and pieces. The elements of Smith's sculptures are discrete, and numbered roughly between 3 and 20, usually; that is, just about enough to see all at once, to be able to distinguish one from another while keeping them together in one visual reference.
Fourth: SURFACE. Cubist sculpture asks to be monochromatic. ... sculpture planes are evident in space, and need no further identification, and they gain their own life by acting in the greater "reality" of three dimensions.217
... the parts of a Cubist sculpture have no reason to bear color, and when color is applied it usually looks artificial, like a wrapper - it has no organic relationship with the shape of the thing it is on, like natural things do. ... Also, color is a fragile component of surface, too delicate to work with the rough spatiality of Cubist sculpture. Incidentally, I think colored sculpture will be an important part of the future of art and will grow from the Cubist sculpture of the present, from Smith and Caro .... Color can be avoided, but surface cannot. ... Instead of leaving the metal alone [Smith] burnished it to a high polish and left the path of the burnishing tool on the surface. ... By avoiding interesting "art" surface, but at the same time giving the surface a character which seems absolutely random and yet absolutely at home. Smith got himself a finish which leads right into the work.
Fifth: OPENNESS. Most Cubist sculpture is weak because it foUows Cubist painting. ... The spirit of Cubism favors openness - not just apertures, but real openness as far as the elements will stretch. ... Since the quality of the Cubist work is carried by the relationship between simple, rather clearly defined units it follows that there will be more complexity-per-unit if they are physically separated because the amount of surface exposed determines the complexity of relationship possible with any particular number of components. The strength of Cubism's demand for openness is amazing. Smith understood this, and opened up all the way. ... his choice to leave big space between simple elements was probably the most important to his art. ... Smith got himself such a position of strength, at least during the last ten years of his life, that his work was really play, of the most energetic and serious sort.218
Like Smith, Caro became a tenuous bridge, a single wire carrying the charge of high sculptural art. Now, finally, inheriting from Caro, evolving with and against his example, we have a fine lot of welded steel sculptors .... It took fifty years for open pieced abstract sculpture to come into its own; it may take another fifty for us to see how rich and variable it then became. ... Once in hand, Caro set about, in full reflection and ease, to assemble sculpture in which figuration - still the soul of the art - is sublimated and transformed, so that instead of seeing a figure we feel what a figure feels. And we feel it magically, for it springs from plain non-figurative physical fact.
... It is as if sensation itself had been taken apart and rearranged right along with the pieced metal from which it arises. Although any sculpture is an arrangement of fora, Caro'a is less formal than affectional. Maybe that's why it fends off analysis ....
[Caro's art] is so palpably an art of editing, of adding and taking away, of adjusting and refining, Caro has the eye of a great editor, one which will not only save a passable piece from disaster but also keep a great one in bounds while simultaneously diverting us with the evidence of the discipline the editing sets against his invention.
... [I have made] a lot of the figuration I see running through [Caro's] work. ... Caro sees a rose bloom where I see the old gray mare. It doesn't matter. These things are not visual facts, they are symptoms at life. There are no abstract figures here, no ingratiating concessions to "meaning" and "content." The sculpture is just too rich not to be suggestive, and too strong to be bothered. ...
Though it is possible for the practiced eye to quickly see how good this work is, it encourages contemplation. In fact, it insists on it. These pieces make you adjust to their pace and presence, and they yield up slowly. It is interesting that for at least half a generation our best art has grown more relaxed, confident, and contemplative even as the worst becomes more frantically obvious.219
Bannard's description of what it was like to be an artist in the decade
in which he was starting out is today a valuable historical document.
It records a time which seems quaint and remote, and vastly different
from our art world. In material terms the differences were enormous.
In New York City, instead of today's hundreds of thousands of artists,
the advanced artists generally knew each other at least by name.
The avant-garde barely existed outside New York. By the time the
average middle-class family had paid its monthly bill, including the
payments on the house, the car, the television and the refrigerator,
there was no income left over with which to buy art. Collecting
avant-garde art was still an upper class luxury. But Darby Bannard's
descriptions go more to the heart of what it felt like to try to make
a living as an avant-garde artist.
We assumed if you are good, you sweat it out. Becoming a star, the necessity at becoming a star, was not at the core of our ambition. Success was suspect. We asked: if he's good, why is he making it? Today the question is: if he's good, how come he's not making it? Now that commerce has thoroughly suffused the art business "making it" is ever so much closer to the ego of a young artist, and if you are not up there by the time you are thirty you measure yourself a failure, as if the market is the measure. We just got irritated. It was their fault, not ours. Maybe we were whistling in the dark, but it kept us to the business at hand, which was shoot for the best and the market be damned. It was, I think, a higher ambition, and no less intense.... We saw what the market liked, but if it did not measure up artistically - and most of it didn't - we said to hell with it.220
The advocacy of Art News, which was the principle journal for advanced art, only fueled our doubts. (Again, how different from today!)221
[In the 1950s] the art business was stodgy, a giant wheel that turned slowly and worked imperfectly. But it worked.222
when we talk about the art of the 1950s we mean Abstract Expressionism.
Darby Bannard gives us a salutary reminder that this view is totally
different from the view at that time.
If we take a course on the art of the 1950s we are told about the art of the Abstract Expressionists, of Pollock, de Kooning and Hofmann. Is that "American Art of the '50s?" Of course not. It is the residue of the '50s. It is what we have chosen to retain. ... To say in 1948 that Pollock and the now-celebrated Abstract Expressionists were the "artists of the time" would (and did) provoke derision. Now to say otherwise would provoke derision.223
At the time of the Abstract Expressionists, other types of abstraction were in vogue.
My first experience with pre-valued content was back in the '50s .... There were dozens of artists making paintings which were functionally abstract, usually Cubist, but with the abstraction hedged, or tempered, with subject matter and naturalistic reference. Though not expressed quite so crudely, the perception was that such painting offered "more" than realism or abstraction alone - "two for one," "the best of both," and the like. Thus Pollock could be compared unfavorably to Ben Shahn, who was "just as good an abstractionist" but had something "more" than "just decoration."224
in the end the Abstract Expressionists carried the day, possibly, in
my opinion, due not only to the quality of their art but also to the
support of the art critics (because their art was then very difficult
for even educated viewers to understand). They also found a degree
of political support which was then unusual for avant-garde art.
In the era of anti-Communism the Abstract Expressionists became heroic
individuals asserting their individuality and independence, thereby
symbolizing America's vitality, virility and spontaneity. They
were able to achieve this status only because social and political criticism
had no place in their work or even, for most of them, in their lives.
an avant-garde artist, Abstract Expressionism was the milieu in which
Darby Bannard grew up, and Clement Greenberg was its high priest, describing
features which the viewer could see and value, and their derivation
(from Cubism). Greenberg pronounced who was good and bad; some
laughed, but everyone listened. Even advanced thinkers who had
acquired a taste for Cubism were bewildered by Abstract Expressionism.
The advocacy of good critics, such as Greenberg (who was probably the
best)225 was necessary to convince collectors that this
movement was indeed worth learning to appreciate. Darby Bannard
joined the ranks of those critics himself in the 1960s, much influenced
by what he had learned from Clement Greenberg.
first item in the credo of these critics was that Abstract Expressionism
was descended from Cubism.
Cubism is a part of some of the best art of our time. It was there, like Everest, waiting to be used. And used it was.
Abstract Expressionism, for example, grew from the cursive and energetic Cubism of which Picasso's drawings for Guernica are samples.226
... most painters did not know how to carry on what Picasso and Braque started.
... I think it is safe to say no painter after 1920 had the visual inventiveness to cope with the problems and promise of Cubism until Abstract Expressionism.227
Pollock's art brought a species of Cubism to its conclusion and Closed off that avenue of art-making. It had the relation to early Cubism that the top of the mountain has to the base. After Pollock, ambitious painting turned to large-piece "thin-plane" Cubism, which is still evolving.228
raises the question whether history will see the development of art
in the twentieth century only as the development of variations of Cubism.
It is easy to demonstrate the depth of the Abstract Expressionists'
debt to Cubism by quoting them. However, most of them had also
spent time, sometimes several years, experimenting with American forms
of Surrealism, and several of them named Kandinsky as one of their influences.
These influences are generally ignored or considered inferior.
It seems that the "surface" painters - Newman, Still and Rothko - were more in need of Surreal strangeness and "other worldly" reference than painters like de Kooning, Hofmann and Pollock, who played with Surrealism but stayed with Cubism. The emotional stance of Surrealism, its underlying pervasive feeling and the sense of something there, "behind" mere appearance, was an up-to-date substitute for plain subject matter, and clearly more antithetical to the Cubist attitude of digging in and building, of the direct shaping with tactile stuff, than to the soft, all-inclusive dissolving ambiance of late Impressionism. These three artists, who shared a personal distaste for Cubism, leaned on Surrealism as they worked out non-Cubist styles with some kinship to late Impressionism - styles which could stand up to the seriousness ot Cubism as Surrealism never could. This process can be traced most easily in Rothko's development....229
of the Abstract Expressionists' most important contributions to the
development of Cubism was scale, but with scale they had to choose between
losing the painter's touch or finding new ways to retain it.
Abstract Expressionism simply added scale, and, less important, color; it expanded the size of the Cubist painting, and developed a method of painting consistent with this expanded size. ... Abstract Expressionism found that one could still keep the painting alive, retaining the touch and vibrancy of small-scale Cubism, by using a large brush, lots of paint and broad stroking.230
Large-piece Cubist painting might be made not by painting the pieces by hand, but by making them some other way. As far as I know there is only one way to paint planes on a large canvas and retain drawing, or "touch," and that is to lay a canvas down and pour the paint. This is what Morris Louis did. However, as Louis's paintings show, this method leads right out of Cubism, again for relatively mechanical reasons ....231
the opinion of Darby Bannard and many others, the most successful style
developed by the Abstract Expressionists was all-over painting, which
is associated particularly with Pollock. "All-over painting needs
units which are relatively small and uniform; otherwise there are big
pieces and small pieces and another kind of painting with other terms
of structure."232 It is instructive to see
how Pollock's all-over painting handled the three problems of abstract
painting examined earlier in this paper.
Isolation. Another result of Pollock's method was the exposure of bare canvas as a neutral ground supporting the network of paint. Bare canvas is not like a painted background, because it asserts itself as different from the paint sitting on it; .... The use of bare canvas as a backdrop sets up the paint as the active party of the pair, and the unpainted canvas becomes a void, across which the painted units can act on each other however the painter wants them to, unchecked by anything between. For ambitious painting, this was an important innovation.233
Edges. Pollock's style got around the old Cubist bugaboo of aligning the elements of the painting with the edges. ... A short edge on a large field seems random relative to the field and its edges; a large piece must come to terms with the edges because of its obvious visual relationship to them .... Furthermore, Pollock's technique of throwing skeins and blots of paint made picture parts which gave up the character most picture parts had; they have no real kinship to the "man-made," artificial, rectangular, delimited canvas.234
Pollock could treat the framing edge with some disregard, because his "thrown" paint had no visual kinship to that edge and therefore had no visual "reason" to come to terms with it, and because the transparency of the image turned the canvas into a backdrop, denying participation in the painted image of any feature of the canvas. Even when Pollock's paint quite obviously pulls back all around from the edge it has the quality of a simple formal accommodation with no formal complications - like a base fit to a sculpture. ... A drawn or "flung" line of paint goes off the edge by its own evident "speed," and can carry its enclosed areas, or planes, with it. But a worked-over area butts up to an edge cautiously: It must, because working-out is slow, and heedful of all around it, especially an edge. Small pieces are particular edge victims. The smaller the piece the more imposing the stretch of edge it faces. Therefore the size of the canvas makes a difference.235
Color. All-over Cubist-Abstract-Expressionist painting, like small-scale classic Cubism, favors relative uniformity of hue because color variety would overload a surface operating almost exclusively in terms of a complex system of spatial variation.236
Affective color is not necessary for painting. Cubism shows us that. But the resistance to affective color of the expanded Cubist style of the leading Abstract Expressionists seemed symptomatic of its weakness, and seemed to us, in the 50s, to argue that the future was inviting us to leave Cubism behind.237
Bannard is a recognized authority on Hans Hofmann and was a guest
curator for an exhibition of his work
at the Hirshhorn Museum in 1976. He has lectured several times
about Hofmann's work. He has a very high opinion of Hofmann's
work and considers Hofmann to be an underrated artist. As has
already been shown, he holds Pollock in high regard for the inventiveness
with which he overcame the problems of abstraction. De Kooning does
not rank as high as the former two, and Bannard is particularly critical
of the disciples of de Kooning. He has a high regard for the way Still
made small brush strokes work on non-Cubist paintings which may point
the way beyond Cubism. Among the artists who are not so well remembered
today, he rates Robert Goodnough, James Brooks and Ron Davies highly.
following quotations are not complete evaluations of the artists concerned
but are mostly comments extracted from reviews. In some cases
the comments are meant to apply only to the works in the exhibition
being reviewed. These quotations are sometimes included as much for
their value as comments on painting as for their application to the
artist concerned. I will allow the quotations to speak for themselves.
It is probably clear by now that when Darby Bannard attributes an intention
by an artist to hold on to Cubism, I would probably not agree with that
as a statement of the artist's motivation.
In 1935, at the age of 55, an age when most artists have exhausted their inspiration, Hans Hofmann began his career as a painter.238
Hofmann began with a gift which cannot be conferred, taught or inherited: experience, the accumulated wisdom of decades of making and teaching art. ... He began as a master.
There is something peculiar and exaggerated in the very modernness of Hofmann's late-blooming, in our time of mature conception, of working out past mere talent.239
[In the '30s Hofmann] had not yet brought himself to a fully painterly treatment of any but very small size. The narrow stroke used - the width of the ordinary artist's brush - could not stuff the larger surface, and began to repeat as it sketched out the depicted objects, going off into fussiness and excess. ... And the character of this failure, flailing the painting with bits and pieces of unneeded detail, will plague Hofmann's art just as the bold painterliness of the best landscapes will sustain it.240
[Hofmann's paintings of the 1940s] have a blunt and artless look which still obscures their brilliance to the modern eye. We want art to look like we think it should; the fact that these paintings do not, after all these years, only testifies to Hofmann's outright freedom from "taste," his willingness to try anything, and, more important, to accept it.241
It can be argued that this apparent lack of discrimination led him, later in the 40's, to paint a lot of failed pictures, but it never let him make paintings which were merely tasty. It was worth the price. And I always hold back some judgment on the pictures which seem not to work. They tend to sneak up on me. And, again and again, I have seen a "mediocre" Hofmann dominate a group show.242
Even after the late 40's, when large size had become an explicit ingredient of advanced painting, he handled size with care, and never let a painting get out of hand and fail specifically from an overblown format as did so many of his colleagues. ... Modest size was a symptom of [his] caution.243
Hofmann identified paintings with bright color. He wanted bright color on his paintings, but he also wanted to use the relatively large-scale expressive-Cubist style which he understood to be the high art style of his time.244
Hans Hofmann was the only Abstract Expressionist to use color as a free, fully relational pictorial element, full blast, undimmed by the usual dull requirements of Cubist space.245
Through the 50's Hofmann's art solidified; the pictures get bigger and more consistently better, and in the late 50's more stylistically uniform. In 1958 the rectangles, which had been hovering about since 1955 and 1956, settle in and take hold.246
The rectangles seem to have been squeezed out of the densely packed Hofmann surface like squared-off bubbles rising to the top of a thick stew. When they came to that surface, to position themselves visually before the picture plane, the picture left off being visually flat and sliced into two distinct systems: the "background," usually smudged, variegated and complex, and the "foreground" of regular rectilinear forms. The back-and-forth positioning is not always readable; even in some of the later pictures in which the rectangles really "float" ... there is little illusion of depth to be estimated by the eye, as there is in realist painting. Hofmann, by the conserving force of his mastery, never took a technique any further than needed to fashion good art, and seems never to have been tempted to push it to its "logical" ends, for its own sake, as do the legions of conceptualists presently afflicting us. All there is, as it comes to the eye, is a sense of slight recession here and there, just enough, always just enough, to let the rectangles bind the picture. ... The large rectangles in Equipoise and the pictures like it need not get at each other through the dense mass of paint between them; instead, they relate across it, as if painted on a sheet of glass which could slide right off the painted surface, as if they had their own surface, visually integrated with the other but separated by a thin layer of air. Cohesion is thus induced which confers any number of pictorial benefits. ...
I must caution those who pay more heed to words than to the art that words must humbly serve that the rectangle system was not a formula for good painting. ... Many of the rectangle pictures do not conform to my description; they needn't to be good pictures. ... And there are many pictures which fit my description quite nicely but fail as pictures. I can't say why they fail, but I can see it and feel it, and recount some of their characteristics ....247
This is Hofmann's brilliant "final" solution to the problems of high-color [large-scale small-piece all-over expressive Cubism].
1. ... The illusion of behind-before is very strong and definite and permits a background color to "go beneath" a rectangle, extending its apparent size and allowing it an importance visually which it cannot have actually. Furthermore, the whole arena of activity is pulled together and rendered more intimate by the box-like illusion of space in depth.
2. The rectangles permit thorough working-out, which is a decided convenience for opaque-plane painting in color. ... But the floating rectangles created a new kind of open space that could be maintained through any working-out by turning the rest of the picture into background.
3. The body or "background" of the painting no longer must line up with the edges. The rectangles anchor the painting very strongly.
4. The pronounced and consistent difference of character and apparent location in depth between the floating rectangles and the background provides increased relational opportunity for color. ... Because the rectangles anchored the painting the background was completely free of any prior compositional obligations within its own two-dimensional surface. Any color had a "right" to butt up to any number of others just by cutting across them as a rectangle.
5. The rectangles free value from the service of space. ... The rectangles achieve a very strong illusion of depth by the device of totally frontal superimposition which uses all the simple elements of painting - one does not pin down the other. The freeing of value was the freeing of color. Hofmann was thus able to use color with the advantage of full choice because color was in no way obligated to take up any previously specified place or function in the painting.248
The last seven or eight years of his life, until his death early in 1966, might be called the "classic" period, when Hofmann finally brought everything together. I should emphasize that the paintings from this period are not better as such, than the earlier ones, although they are presently being appraised that way by the art world, with its usual herd instinct, but they may be more consistently better, and on a higher level of ambition. ... From 1957 on Hofmann will be at his best with the densely painted, tightly controlled picture, and when he betrays his hard-won style with too much linearity or openness, or eccentric composition, the paintings are usually less good or fail altogether.249
The fits and starts and restless roving kept him growing and leaning, always moving up, like an athlete training for the decathlon. He tended to paint in stylistic batches, groups of six or ten pictures, as if he were building a charge to be released into the one or two masterpieces of the group. And then in the last years of his life he could not only paint masterpieces but an astonishing high proportion of masterpieces.250
Hofmann was so inspired and so inventive, so impatient with small stuff and detail, and with the fussing and adjusting to bring the picture around to look like "art," as his colleagues did, that he left his potential public behind. Because he did not bother to fix his painting according to prior notions of how a painting should look they are unlikely to fit neatly into our patterns of liking .... His work is hard to see and hard to take. The art public has made Hofmann a "modern old master" because of his energy, presence, inspired teaching and huge output rather than because of the quality of his art. You've got to have a Hofmann or two in your well-rounded modern collection but you don't have to like them. I find few who really do. It will take time.251
For the next seven years, until his death in 1966, Hans Hofmann was one of the greatest producing artists in the world.252
He was a great genius; in fact, I think he was the world's greatest living painter during the first half of the 1960s.253
In his lifetime Hofmann never got his due from the art world and the marketplace.254
Bannard feels that there is an ineffable quality to Hofmann's paintings
which cannot be captured in words, which forces him to resort to a subjective
evaluation rather than his preferred objective description.
The variety of Hofmann's work frustrates an overall consideration of particulars, and, conversely, there seems to arise from the welter of styles a consistency of spirit (and here I am reporting on my experience with Hofmann's pictures, not on the pictures themselves) which is registered less in structure, from which we perceive style, than in color and surface. The character of a painting is determined by the artist's attitude toward his art-making, just as the nature of our lives is determined by our attitudes towards life.255
There is a spirit behind Hofmann's painting which has more to do with the character of his art than anything I can point to by way of mechanics. That spirit generated the quality of the pictures and provided their modernness. Perceiving it came slowly and with difficulty; setting it out verbally may be impossible.256
If what I have said seems to slight arrangement and composition I should hasten to affirm that this feeling can only be expressed if the composition is "right." It may come up off color and surface, just as a perfume rises from the skin, but color and surface must be supported by the disposition of the elements.257
Pollock took his training in Cubism and came to terms with it. Though his later art may not seem Cubist it is surely based in the Cubist method, just as the flower lives by the root.258
[Pollock] was compelled by nature to seek proper solutions to the problems which came in company with the huge Cubist paintings he wanted to paint.259
Pollock wanted to paint, or draw, very large pictures, pictures that were beyond the range of de Kooning's outstretched arms, but he did not want to give up Cubism. He did this by making the distance from "shoulder" to "finger" much longer, by getting away from the canvas, throwing, dripping and flinging the paint, laying it on a canvas far from his hand, like the spot of a flashlight on a wall. He kept the vital "touch" of Cubism on a scale larger than that which could be encompassed by the stroke of a hand-held brush, and the Cubist method stayed intact.260
Perhaps Pollock has been the only artist since Cubism to make wholly successful paintings in very large scale with full touch - with every painted part of the picture reflecting the action of the artist's hand - with the possible exception of Olitski, whom I have not evaluated in this regard anyway. This is not a judgment of quality. Touch is merely a condition of style necessary only within a particular style, such as Pollock's. It may be naturally related to the art of painting, but it is certainly not a precondition.261
To make very large paintings with small-piece Cubism, Pollock made a brilliant series of style-modifying decisions on the way to his large drip paintings of 1948-52. Though he held on to Cubism he threw out one of its favorite visual characteristics: opaque planes. As his style developed, Pollock began painting around the planes that had been part of most ambitious painting since Cézanne, and by doing so implied these planes by circumscribing them and leaving them transparent. Pollock simply avoided filling them in. He understood, as did no other Cubist painter, the real spirit of Cubism and the real contribution of Abstract Expressionism, and he took advantage of both.262
The elimination of the opacity of the Cubist plane ... in turn got rid of shading as a means of inducing depth illusion and freed line from delineation of a substantial surface. This was not a decision made literally and applied as style, but a method built slowly through painting only. ... The elimination of opaque plane surfaces catalyzed all the ingredients of Pollock's art so completely and inspired an art of such wholeness and efficiency that it is difficult to isolate the factors of organization. For example, Pollock's method of dripping and tossing liquid paint, which allowed him to retain touch and expand stroke in very large scale, clearly comes in concert with transparency because it is useless for filling in and perfect for forming a quick, long line. Furthermore, the problem of isolation, so persistent for the large Cubist painting of small opaque parts, disappears as opacity disappears. Pollock's open transparency let him paint heedless of density, which all Cubists before him were obliged to handle most carefully, adjusting piece number and piece size, because the opaque planes covered and cut off each other. ... The small original Cubist picture set up edge-reflecting armatures to contain the flood of paint. The Pollock, too large to form regular lines and keep full touch, amalgamates armature and paint and transmutes them into a tangle of painted line which sits on the rectangular support the way a sculpture sits on its base, and pays it no more regard.263
Since it was possible to "see through" the planes, the depth problem which plagued all very large Abstract Expressionist painting dissolved ....264
By [making the planes transparent], within the Cubist style, he increased visible surface in terms of edge and depth, gave his pictorial elements a tremendous relational capacity, and held on to Cubism.265
In his great paintings of the late-Forties Pollock retained Cubist planarity and the Cubist insistence on centripetal integration of forms, but he threw out the opacity of the plane and the Cubist manner of balancing, placing, truing and fairing and plotted variations of density.266
Pollock did not do much with color because his aims in art excluded color just as Cubism did, although not in the same way. His paintings were made up of lines.267
Willem de Kooning.
He is very much an "old master." His work is full of the feel of "real art," of "art that looks like art." This is because his art picked up and carried on Picasso's Cubism and it is because de Kooning is by nature an old-fashioned figure-ground draftsman, more so than any important artist since Manet.268
long criticism of de Kooning's painting Excavation is included
as an appendix to this paper to illustrate Darby Bannard's objective
method of art criticism. He opines that Excavation
was a failed attempt to create a masterpiece.
I feel that after Excavation the woman image was, for de Kooning, a symbol of defeat in the face of the real tough problems of Excavation. It was a desperate retrenchment, a pulling-back, an escape to safer ground.269
The defeat Woman I represents aggravated his ambition. Having backed off from the real issues de Kooning gave his paintings dramatic effects. Thus the ghastly face and deformed figure, the flayed, scraped, disturbed paint, the untended, lumpish "so-what" design, the paint gone to the edges to imitate "all-overness," the hoked-up background. He abdicated from high art-making and took up convincing an audience. And we begin, at this time, to pick up the great herding and bleating art public, who like above all the effects of newness without the rough substance of good art - old stuff with a new face.270
[De Kooning's mannerisms, his] big, slashing flayed stroke, tactile mashing and streaking of paint, drips and spatters, deformity and queer attitudes of figures, especially woman ... were applied by ambition for extra-art purposes. My guess is that this ambition, informed by a finely tuned and very bright artistic awareness, forced de Kooning to put his real but relatively modest talents as a draftsman and sensual colorist into the arena of "high art."271
Clyfford Still. Darby Bannard says that his description
of Still's style as one of "compression" appealed particularly
to Clement Greenberg.
Touch has been as necessary for Clyfford Still as it was for Pollock; unlike Pollock and Newman he has not succeeded in very large scale. This is partly because his touch never expanded but was adapted ... and partly because his technique of applying paint led him to a manner of layout in very large size which "contradicted" the other elements of his style.
The character of Still's art springs from his small-scale, Impressionist-type method of laying on paint; he has stuck to this method with great resolve, and his genius has been to take full advantage of its effects. ... It is not easy to be certain whether Still's avowed loathing for Cubism is responsible for the non-Cubist character of his painting, but it is clear that the small-stroking and insistent filling-in on a large surface precluded successful Cubist treatment of that surface. Still's stroke - paint-laden, random, rough-edged, uneven - is completely unsuitable for the fashioning of a Cubist edge, and the small, filled Cubist piece the stroke might form would run the risks of isolation and locked-up surface. Just as Pollock held on to Cubism and altered his stroke, so Still rejected Cubism and kept his touch and stroke. Given the small stroke and the large canvas the other factors of Still's style were forced to conform. ...
Still had to evolve a style which would make successful art and leave these things undisturbed. This style had to face the threat of visual flatness, the isolation of picture units and the resulting quality of decorativeness, which destroys coherence. Still coped with all this with a brilliantly integrated set of techniques. Unlike the units of Cubist painting, which are relatively equivalent in piece-size, Still's units vary extremely in size, so that a maximum of contact can be maintained by surrounding. Furthermore, the edges which make this contact are ragged and meandering, and push into each other like roots after water, which gives them great "combining power." Separated units are often identified by color similarity, so that they look as if each is part of another, mostly covered, continuous sheet of color. Sometimes the painting is modulated more by surface texture and hue difference than by value difference, or by value difference more than by hue difference, so that the surface, though large and visually variegated, is quite homogenous in terms of at least one component of color. The small stroke, so deadly to the large Cubist picture, actually intensifies relationship in the Still painting; it covers the surface with a relatively uniform texture, and enhances combination by the greatly increased edge-length of the fringy shapes it produces so naturally. ... Unlike Cubism, Still's painting regards the edge as a nuisance and accommodates it barely but adequately .... ... By capitulating to surface, which most artists have worked against by forcing illusionist depth on it, Still's art may be the most natural of the century ....272
The ragged edge, which Still has always retained, evolved to enhance combination. When these edges are pulled apart they are torn from their function, like an uprooted tree, and they dangle, a pictorially useless applied effect. Still's edge got its character through contact. The actual process of painting, as his style evolved, kept one color area shoving and probing the one adjacent; the paint combined in minute ways, pushing back and forth, over and under. ... When the edge is pulled out and exposed to the air it plays itself out into nothing.273
I was entranced by the simple logic of Still's method, how fully the method conformed to the medium, the paint meandering around the flat surface, pushing and creeping along, covering, poking, braking, closing, intermingling. It was so direct and natural. It looked like composition simply took care of itself, because differentiated areas seemed to evolve as a by-product of the movement of paint. ... This was all wrong, of course, as I found when I tried it. Organizing a picture is never automatic. ... Still himself was consciously and actively worried about composition and placement .... It is to Still's credit that his paintings looked that way. It testifies to the high artifice of his style. And even now I feel that his method, if not his art, points to the future.274
When Still went to very large size, particularly very large horizontals, he made scale changes without adequate compensating changes in his style, and carried a style suited for medium-large scale unaltered to very large scale. He did not adapt the size and the energy of direction of his painted surfaces. ... Furthermore touch, the unvarying constant of Still's art, is deprived of its effective strength in very large scale not only because the touch on edge has lost its function ... but also because its size remained more or less the same as the scale of the painting itself expanded, so that the effect of the stroke, particularly for hazy, same-hue variety within a single area, is much less visible.275
The real impact on Louis, what he really took in, was Pollock's continuous pressure across the picture plane, and the consequent realization that "composing " - the most cherished and conservative factor of the Cubist style - was expendable.
[Influenced by Frankenthaler,] although it wouldn't come out on his paintings for another year, Louis intuitively saw that relative uniformity of value (light-dark difference) across a canvas surface could effect pictorial unity despite a lack of full visual interconnection of pictorial parts.
So there were the "veils": Pollock's continuous pressure plus Frankenthaler's continuous value. At least, there it is in hindsight; doing it was something else .... Pure, strong, fully saturated and varied hue was kept from the "veils " because running different (complimentary or near-complimentary) colors together grays them; running similar colors together allows greater saturation but limits hue variety; running different colors down different parts of the canvas reduces the power of the all-over image.276
[Morris Louis'] best paintings were made after he committed himself to flowing, spreading unbrushed liquid pigment .... Louis seemed to know exactly what he wanted and set about working out how to get it, like an inventor with a clear goal. ... The "Florals" were Louis' attempt to separate pure colors out from the flowing intermixture of the "Veil" image. ... But when most of the colors show bright and pure, any mixed area ... becomes a different type of color surface with a distinctly different character, emphasizing that area of the painting at the expense of the pure color the picture comprehends. The "Florals" were the working out of this visual enigma.277
The obstacle to relating pure hue had always been pictorial coherence. When colors are combined pure hue is lost; when colors are separated, coherence is lost. Suddenly, it seems, Louis saw, by intuitive inspiration, that pictorial coherence could be established, and strongly established, by reversing the centripetal bias natural to image-making and apparently necessary to painting for hundreds of years, by rejecting interconnection, by dispersing rather than converging pictorial elements, by grasping the terrific binding power of the rectangle itself, by giving the whole job over to the edge. By setting banked streamers of pure hue down opposite edges of a large canvas, and by keeping the center blank, Louis forced the canvas itself to hold the picture together. Separation of pictorial elements became a virtue instead of a liability. The overlapping of color areas, so ruinous to pure hue, was left behind, and the banked streams of color were set free to flow and spread - relaxed, random, slightly meandering, splendidly casual, charged with the seeming ease of genius.278
The "unfurleds" are revolutionary, but unlike the pictorial discoveries of Cubism, what Louis laid down for us has been taken up slowly, in the main by one artist, Jules Olitski, who has been filling and enriching what Louis invented and refined.279
Though visible touch was very much part of his developing style, Newman was the artist of Pollock's generation who most reduced it in his maturity. ...
Having come to a style of strict regularity and diminished touch, Newman was not hampered by the move to very large size, because the elements of his style could be enlarged or reduced mechanically. For Newman's art the change in scale was more a change in effect than process. It was the difference, in Greenberg's often quoted words, that "more blue is simply bluer than less blue." By bringing full touch to large scale, Pollock seems to have gained an advantage (for the process of painting, not for final quality) denied Newman. Pollock's style was more muscular and adaptable ....
But in Newman's best paintings the surface is held up as nothing more than it is and what it can most readily hold, and the stripes which "zip up" the colored expanse are there in its service, not to play games with the edge, squeeze off a centralized subject or merely create incident. Eventually Newman lost this concept, which is so basic to his art, and in his paintings of the '60s the stripe takes on the importance of a subject and the surface becomes background, or extra space, and that is why these pictures are no more than they can be described to be, and fail as art. ... The fugitive character of the Newman stripe is quite the opposite of Cubism's edge-dominated interior line, and gives away its different purpose. It is there to resonate the surface, like a pebble thrown on calm water ....
It may be true that the course of high art since Cubism, the continuing readaptation of present styles to the "fresh earth" turned up by the best previous art, has been working out of the expressive usefulness of the plain, flat, painted surface, which, since the exhaustion of depicted deep space, has slowly become the vehicle of abstract art. We see Newman's best paintings as extremely taut, sensitive surfaces, usually unmodified by the touch which is so often the agent of feeling. Because these paintings were not expressive through touch or complex relationships, the burden of expression was thrown on surface; the surface thus needed no more than color and large size to assert itself.280
I suspected Kline's inability to use color, a suspicion I felt was proved out when he tried to use it, in the late 50s. Kline's bichromal scheme was a counterpart to de Kooning's woman image. Both were attempts to impose unity on a large scale format imposed by ambition rather than artistic necessity. ... De Kooning and Kline, and most of the other Abstract Expressionist painters, tried painting very large pictures with techniques which had evolved for easel painting.281
Kline's retention of the brush for large-scale painting forced him to build his large black shapes with relatively small strokes. As long as the simplified color scheme concealed the multiplicity of strokes Kline was safe, up to a point. But when color came in, the colored sections chopped up the black-on-white skeleton, threatening fragmentation and collapse.282
Frankenthaler's Mountains and the Sea is almost the converse of the typical late-forties Pollock. The composition is classically gathered, centered and arranged, the painted areas relatively extensive and opaque, and, most important, the colors, including the raw, unpainted canvas, are pale, delicate, "washed-out."
Frankenthaler's stained light colors, though quite the opposite of Still's dark crusty fields, were just as much an adaption to the new problems coming up in abstract painting, and had a direct and lasting effect on advanced artists, such as Noland and Louis.283
By working with stained paint Frankenthaler gave up opacity, and by giving up opacity she gave up the means to cover and recover and correct as she went along, because, as anyone who has worked with watercolors knows, piling transparent washes on each other makes a mess.284
Goodnough ... looked too plain Cubist, too easy, too run-of-the-mill, too "dismissable." It is humbling to look back and see how good he was and how far off we were about the very character of his art. And it is upsetting to see the abject neglect accorded Goodnough today. He remains one of the best painters we have with us.285
Brooks is a marvelously skillful painter who always seemed to paint with ease. I never saw a Brooks painting which didn't look that way. Maybe that's the problem, for I've also never seen a Brooks painting that really pulls up tight and takes hold. They seemed then, and seem now, fine painting unburdened by inspiration.286
Mitchell's continuing success ... has always just baffled me. I felt then that her painting embodied that frantic incoherence I saw in de Kooning with none of de Kooning's wonderful cursive draftsmanship. She is still in the swim of things ... in the Whitney shows and the like. Her painting has not changed much in the intervening years, and neither has my opinion of it.287
I didn't see how good Gottlieb was until several years later, after I had evolved a symmetrical style of my own. I'm still finding out how good he is. Like Hofmann, he keeps beating the competition.288
Abstract Expressionism, the painters who considered themselves to be
avant-garde were split into two streams. Pop art with its
offspring essentially produced kitsch.289
The other stream, called by Greenberg "Post-Painterly Abstraction,"
took painting beyond Abstract Expressionism. Darby Bannard
was part of this other movement and it gave him great optimism for the
future of American painting:
I think we are just getting started, that in the sixties we have taken the first moves of the first great burst of real abstract painting. ... It will be as bright as it is secure, a natural art embracing all the natural materials of painting, an American analog to the beautiful painting of the French Impressionists a hundred years behind us.290
identified the paintings of the '60s which he felt were on the right
track as those which brought color back into painting; in fact, he called
this group the "color" painters, although the name did not
In the late '50s and early '60s there were a number of artists who felt that Abstract Expressionism was a dead end. They saw the style weaken as it passed from the hands of the originators, and they were oppressed by the flood of second rate Abstract Expressionism surrounding them. So from their own paintings they chased away as many of the mannerisms of Abstract Expressionism as they could understand. ... These were the "hard-edge" artists; many of them are the Op, Minimal and Color artists of today.291
The most striking characteristic of the best paintings of the sixties ... is the extreme spatial manipulation of the shape of the painting or of the elements of the picture surface to give color a visually plausible place on the two-dimensional abstract picture plane. Furthermore, with the exception of some painters who persist in previous styles, I am of the opinion that all the best painting of the sixties has been made by artists who have done this.292
Art-making today is admittedly specialized and intellectual; painting styles evolve almost exclusively from other painting styles. Some artists have adapted to this situation, and take vigorous advantage of it. They are those upon whom painting as a high art depends. I call them "color" painters .... Stylistically they are a disparate group. They do share a heightened interest in color. But what really characterizes them is their willingness to face the problems of abstract art without the props of a borrowed style.293
1970 he could not know that, within the contemporary art world, Pop,
Op and Minimalism would completely dominate the movements derived from
the Post-Painterly Abstractionists. The latter were sometimes
called, derogatively, "Formalists," a term which was never
well defined in art but which was taken to mean those artists who saw
themselves in a tradition which ran through Cubism and Abstract Expressionism
and who intended to continue that tradition. Darby Bannard
uses "Formalism" as a label for his aesthetic theories which
have been described above, meaning that the value of art can be found
only in its visual form, its visible physical attributes.
A work of art may have other values in addition, but only its form gives
it aesthetic value, and this value can be detected only by the entirely
pragmatic test of looking at the art and experiencing it.
Formalism is more a way of looking at art than making it. It is a way of being kind to art, if you will, a way of fully ingesting it, of giving it the benefit of the doubt, of letting it have its way. Formalism won't let art be explained; talked about, yes, described, yes, but not explained. Formalism won't let you say why the art is good. It won't let you dodge the experience of art with easy verbal handles. It insists on a direct experience of art, and it insists that aesthetic experience is primary, nonverbal, and the source of all qualitative judgement, and that intuitive qualitative judgement is a necessary prelude to art talk.294
term "Formalism" was (like "Cubism") coined derogatively
by its critics.
"Formalism," in current critical literature, first came up as a pejorative, or as Rosalind Krauss said to me, accusatory, term, not clearly understood in itself, as a word, but useful as an emotive term within the compass of art-world doings, particularly art-world politics. ... "Formalist art," [Sidney Tillim] said, "is anything Clement Greenberg likes."
He wasn't far wrong. But if this is the case, then it should be stated as such, and made explicit as a matter of the ongoing art-world tug-of-war.295
of the most common criticisms aimed at Formalism was that it dehumanized
art, but Darby Bannard contends that such critics do not understand
what makes art human.
Formalism is supposed to be against ["human content"]. It isn't. Formalism says that great art is jam-packed with "human content." But it also says that it isn't that easy to get at. It says that great art doesn't represent life, it sublimates it, and that art which doesn't is either obvious or trivial or both. ... Great art is sufficient within itself. It doesn't care about you and your needs and demands. It won't take pains for you. It says that all your whining about human content is probably only a reflection of your inability or unwillingness to do a little work to find it, or a perverse insistence that art do things it isn't fitted for and can't do.296
problem with the popular art movements which succeeded Abstract Expressionism
is simply that they lack formal quality.
In my experience, from what I have seen of the art of the last ten years, the styles of Pop and "hard core" Minimal have produced nothing of sufficient quality to pass the test of time.297
I was utterly uninterested in later Pop, '60s Pop, and it wasn't long before I saw how weak Rauschenberg was whenever he got anywhere near "real painting." Pleasant, yes; likeable and obvious, as popular art usually is, but soft, flaccid.298
Bannard is particularly scathing in his criticism of "new materials"
introduced into art during that period without any intention to improve
the formal quality of art. The adoption of new materials
and the abandonment of traditional materials can be justified only by
an improvement, or at least a search for an improvement, in the visual
quality of the art. This was not a result, or even an intention,
of the movements being discussed.
Painting has been practiced as medium on a rectangular surface for hundreds of years. Sculpture has been (usually) articulation of the human figure, until Cubism opened it up, but always the formulation of connected shapes in space. These have been the "givens" that artists have worked with and against. Now there is no intrinsic reason - none that I can come up with anyway - why it must stay that way. But if the formal givens are to be changed or abandoned in the name of art, the succeeding forms have the obligation to produce art of equal quality: if they do not, then the changes cannot be justified. So far, in my opinion, "anti-formalist" art has produced nothing of high quality and very little of any interest at all, except as a phenomenon. Let me emphasize so far: if something appears which looks good to me I'll not hesitate to say so. But my guess - not my bias, but my guess - is that it won't happen. I say this because I see certain mechanisms at work in "anti-formalist" art that I feel are artistically self-limiting ....299
As I see it, "anti-formalist" art either adopts new materials, relegating or excusing them explicitly in terms of "ideas," or takes the pose of rejecting materials, in each case in the name of "innovation."300
It has been my experience that most "new material" or "anti-formalist" artists - Pop, Minimal, Conceptual, or whatever, are lazy, desperate and afraid. They want to make it as artists, but they don't want to put on the pressure and serve their apprenticeship with themselves. So they turn from making a thing to convincing an audience, from construction to theater. The audience for art is always much larger than the audience for good art, and the best way to get to them is to give them what they want. This has always been true, perhaps now more than ever. The current vogue in so-called advanced art is obvious, aggressive, pseudo-difficulty, pseudo-innovation, pseudo-revolution. So the "new-material" artist reaches out for a ready-made, already complex unit of construction, already laden with cultural meaning. This unit hampers thorough working-out. It is already too much its own thing. It's hard to handle, hard to fit in, too unyielding to accommodate fresh ideas that spring from the brain. That's why so much "anti-formalist" work is so dumb and simple, so raw and unpressured by the human temperament, such dull, unfinished structure. That's why it never amounts to much as art.301
art was, at first, "an accommodation, or an adaptation, rather
than an open revolt."
This style based itself on the styles of Larry Rivers, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, none of whom rejected the whole vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism the way the various hard-edge painters did. ... a "pure" Pop evolved, which is all illustration, wherein the rendering of the work coincides with the artist's attitude toward the subject matter, and in the work of these artists there is little vestige of Abstract Expressionism. ... As the sophistication of the art-viewing public broadened, Pop was followed by Op, and now, Minimal Art.302
Each of these styles [Pop art, Op art, and Minimalism] begins with a ready-made idea which functions as a big unit, thus reducing to a minimum the relational potential of various parts of the work.303
advent of Pop art was a major new development in the art world because
"gallery painting and Pop thinking are antithetical, and ...
their union on canvas is an unnatural one."304
Pop was a revolution not in style but in the market, and its acceptance
was market driven.
Pop art multiplied rapidly in the early '60s. I was amazed at its wide acceptance because Rauschenberg and Johns were the acknowledged proprietors of this style, and it seemed to me that the newcomers were simply imitators. I did not reckon on the intense need for a jazzy successor to Abstract Expressionism.305
By now it is a critical cliche to say that Pop art brought the soup can up to art, but it just isn't true. Pop art has attempted to bring art down to the soup can.306
art, on the other hand, was a traditional art form but its intention
and its effect was to give painting a superficial glitter, to jazz it
up and give it meretricious appeal.
Unlike Pop, Op is primarily a gallery art; you might even call it an intimate art, because its effects are apparent despite changes of scale. Like Pop, Op is one expression of the attempt to impose excitement on what appears to be a dull medium.307
art reduces the complexity of art to the point at which it is no longer
even interesting per se. The end is the stimulation
of the imagination of the viewer, not the appreciation of the work itself.
Minimal art is the fruition of an attitude toward art-making which began five or six years ago as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism. It is characterized by extreme and deliberate simplicity. Minimal art attracts sculptors because the attitude it embodies reduces the enormous complexity of choice facing the artist working in a three-dimensional medium today, in an art environment with practically no preconceptions or assumptions about what sculpture should be.308
As with Pop and Op, the "meaning" of a Minimal work exists outside of the work itself. It is a part of the nature of these works to act as triggers for thought and emotion pre-existing in the viewer and conditioned by the viewer's knowledge of the style in its several forms, as opposed to the more traditional concept of a work of art as a source of beauty, noble thought, or whatever. It may be fair to say that these styles have been nourished by the ubiquitous question: "but what does it mean?" These styles are made to be talked about. That is one good reason for their popularity.309
1970s was the decade in which the term "Post-modernism" gained
currency in the visual arts, although its relevance was still widely
debated in the 1980s. If Post-modernism is to be defined,
it is necessary first to know what Modernism is, and Modernism itself
has no accepted definition. The term is used to cover such
a diversity of art styles that it is almost meaningless in traditional
art historical terms. Most writers define it by referring
to a time period: "Modern art is art since ____" (pick a date;
1859, the 1870s and 1900 are all popular). If the word "modern"
is to retain its present meaning in the English language, "Modernism"
will undoubtedly be replaced by a more meaningful and widely accepted
taxonomic term or terms. Darby Bannard avoids this problem
by writing that "Modernism" does not describe art but an attitude
Modernism is an attitude, not a time. Western art has been "modernist" for hundreds of years, since the Renaissance, at least. Modernism is the attitude of the modern, any modern, of learning from any art of the past to bring what is new and fresh into present art. ...310
are two problems with this definition. One is that "Modern
art" conventionally refers only to the 20th. century (approximately)
so that this definition creates a new use of the word rather than defining
its existing use.311 This is a necessary feature
for Darby Bannard's definition because the attitude is not unique to
the 20th. century (and it is questionable that the attitude is unique
to the time since the Renaissance). The other problem is
that the method of art history is to categorize art according to its
perceivable characteristics which are classified as "styles."
Either art history has to change its method to classification according
to the attitude of the artists, or this definition is not useful to
if Darby Bannard's definition of Modernism as an art style is unsatisfactory,
it does provide a useful basis for describing some of the changes which
I'm not sure what Modernism is. I'm less sure what Postmodernism is. I'm not at all sure I want them precisely defined. ... If Modernism and Postmodernism are unitary enough to characterize, I would suggest that it will be useful to see them as working attitudes. Modernism uses self-criticism to aim at and maintain high standards. Postmodernism asserts that these things are unnecessary for art. In spirit, Modernism is aspiring, authoritarian, hierarchical, self-critical, exclusive, vertically structured, and aims for the best. Postmodernism is aimless, anarchic, amorphous, self-indulgent, inclusive, horizontally structured, and aims for the popular. Modernism is idealistic; Postmodernism is political. Each proceeds from and represents a side of human nature.312
is, as was shown above, market driven.
Postmodernism hands the market what it wants and needs. What a relief not to have to worry about what's good! With that out of the way the market can get down to the serious business of selling lots of very bad art for very high prices. ...
Postmodernism, or the working attitude which we call Postmodernism, is neither the first nor the last assault on the best in art. It is just the latest.313
almost goes without saying that Darby Bannard regards Post-modernism
as a decadent attitude, an abandonment of standards of quality.
As an artist he cannot be a disinterested observer, he must protest,
and he has.
[Of the 1960s, '70s and '80s,] a curator might say, "This has been a fertile time in the arts, a time when old rules were broken and horizons expanded, a `pluralist' time when artists have been encouraged to engage in any form of artistic experiment." A collector might say, "This is the new art, the `cutting edge', the art of the future." A critic might say, "This art profoundly reflects the turbulent spirit of our times." An academic might say, "There's so much going on and it's so interesting that no one style can prevail." Each has a point of view, a way of seeing, a "perspective."
As an artist ... I am not a dispassionate observer who can cast a generalizing eye. ... It is ... in the nature of what I do to be partisan and critical. Any serious artist must be, down deep.314
The current situation has arisen from the confluence of two factors. One is the enormous growth of the art market in the last thirty years. The other is the widespread recognition of the concept of artistic revolution. The market is the driving force; the concept is the rationalization for it.315
section of this paper examines the changes and growth in the art market,
or what Darby Bannard often calls the "art business."
(The art business was defined in a quote on page .) The
next section will examine the concept which enabled the art business
to accomplish these changes.
the time of Pop art, which in America had its beginnings in the second
half of the 1950s, the relationship between the art world and American
society changed completely. The change was not due to the
nature of Pop art; rather, Pop art was a manifestation of the change.
The causes of the change lay partly in the increased affluence of the
population, which gave the middle classes more discretionary income;
partly in the upper middle class' new self-image; and partly in a changed
attitude towards marketing by art dealers. Darby Bannard
refers to the new relationship as "Big Culture."
About 25 years ago [i.e., about 1964,] a confluence of perceptions helped give rise to a new general attitude about art which allied with our post-war prosperity to bring about a new entity with new characteristics. I call it Big Culture.
One perception was that culture is prestige. Another was that visual art is the best way to get culture fast. If you don't have culture and you want it, the quickest way to get it is to buy it. Music, literature and theater don't give you much prestige for your money because reading and going to concerts and plays isn't very visible, and books and records sit on the shelf out of sight. Art, on the other hand, is there for all to see, all the time. It is quick, easy and obvious. Listen to the experts, go to shows and auctions, read magazines and catalogs and get out your checkbook. In no time at all you can be a "major player" amidst a blazing display worth millions, courted by museums, caressed by dealers, admired and envied by friends and associates.316
for the first time, could become widely-known celebrities.
The main cause of this change was that Pop art introduced a new type
of art collector, described by Darby Bannard as:
... newly rich, uncouth, ravenous for status and personal publicity, caring little for history and less for artistic excellence; people whose vulgarity is so ingrained and intransigent that it cannot be modified but only made more expensive; who justify themselves by pointing to a hyperactive market made up of others just like them, jerking on the same baited line, taking comfort from the not-in-the-know guy from out of town who walks through Soho and has the absolute non-cool to get offended, which means that the art must be good 'cuz it's so far out, a perversion, or a parody, if you will, of the old story of middle-class rejection of great art.317
new collectors generated a demand for contemporary "high"
art which far exceeded the supply of good avant-garde painting.
"It may be an historic fact that there is never much good new art;
it may be an historic fact that there are few people who can tell the
difference."318 Therefore, the art business
created art to meet the demand. It did this by convincing
itself that "bad and mediocre art which is present in such abundance,
really is good art, worthy to be bought, sold, shown and written
The best way to promote bad art is to rationalize bad taste, to accommodate taste that is raw, vulgar, and undeveloped. This is done, in part, by shifting attention away from aesthetic evaluation and toward the acceptance of readily understood style and content which has been established as desirable. Instead of judging the worth of a work we are led to match its parts against approved forms, thereby reducing the function of taste from evaluation to identification. This process is part of the history of art. It is called fashion.320
once again there was a return to the emphasis on "content"
in the more restricted meaning of literal content.
"Content" was pretty scarce for a while, in New York, at least. But it has always been out there in the provinces. ... Sometime, late in the '70s, all this "content," all this universally shared "personal imagery," gathered itself up, like the Visigoths, and came to Rome.
The Big City was ready. Ready for "new" art which had been playing the road all those fruitless years. Ready for angst, "emotion," contrived tastelessness, and adolescent philosophizing. Ready for value-laden, heartlessly obvious "content," full of human and moral "values," the 1980s equivalent of the Cupids and Psyches of a hundred years ago. Ready because this art was ready-made for the kind of collector un-earthed by Pop Art.321
The use of the word ["content"] as a cover for conferring value on a value-free element of painting is one of the symptoms of the illiteracy and bad faith of the art business ....322
art business does not want to hear about aesthetic standards.
[The art world] listens to the indiscriminate critic, the one who accepts what has come up through commerce and plays with it and talks around it - content, iconography, social relevance, personal symbolism, and all that - avoiding value judgement until the art is cleared through the system.323
standards of quality in art are ignored "because the art business
is mainlining on the dizzy excess of avant-gardist novelty."
The art world has become "an intricate and elephantine sub-world,
operating within its own self-generated ecosystem, too headstrong and
unreflective to entertain any limiting principle of discrimination."
This situation creates a poor outlook for the best recent art which
"may be in the background for good now. The art business
may be too cumbersome and too fixed in its premises to allow the wheel
prospect is that "art" will become fragmented.
Good art and popular art will both continue to be made, each with its
own separate market. What happens in the art world beyond
the creation of high quality art is of no interest to Darby Bannard
because, in the long run, it is of no consequence.
There will be serious art, there will be boutique art, and there will be plenty in between, and each will shake out and go its own way with its own audience. The art business looks and acts more and more like the music business in this respect. ... art is, in itself, utterly sufficient and utterly removed from the frantic business that feeds on it.325
What happens to art after it is made is different from how it is made and the ultimate human value it has. In the everyday business of the art-world art objects are only pawns. ... But my interest is what the art is, not what gets done with it. In the long run, for humanity at large, that is what counts.326
art business' abandonment of standards produced, in the '60s and '70s,
an unfortunate reaction among certain artists who produced art which
could not be marketed, as though rejection of the market were, in itself,
a way to ensure quality. Artists' self-reliance had previously
"fostered the unfortunate dogma of the artist-as-exile: if you're
honest you're poor, if you are rich and famous you've sold out."
This same attitude became "celebrated by art purposely designed
not to enter the `system,' as if aping the outworn neuroses of the art
world will yield the depth of past art."327
has been seen, the art business had to expand its supply of marketable
commodities by lowering the standards by which art was judged to be
good enough to be marketed. Those standards could not just
be lowered arbitrarily; the reduction had to be rationalized.
As the market grows there is proportionally less good art and it becomes harder to convince the art public that the art on hand amounts to much. Therefore the market welcomes any attack on high standards which can be sufficiently rationalized. The current rationalization appropriates and cynically abuses the now popular misconception that artistic revolution violently rejects all previous art and the values which accompanied it ....328
or innovation, became the new standard by which art could be judged
good. The fact that the Modern art which had been good had
also been innovative made this concept easy to sell.
The history of modern art, for about the last hundred years, shows that art which has lasted came in company with formal innovation, that at the root of quality was newness. ... Contemporary inspiration is conception, invention. This spirit, with the historical "guarantee" that quality comes with newness, plus the ubiquitous yearning for the shortcut, equals avant-gardism: deliberate newness for its own sake.
Ironically, avant-gardism is thoroughly academic, like all other easy answers in art. The credo is negative: turn away from "out-moded" forms, not only from the traditional forms and materials of art-making but also from the assumption that art has human value, and that some art has more than other art.329
solution to the supply problem, then, is to reverse the statement that
"good art is innovative" and make it: "innovative art
is good art."
The belief that the best new art is shocking, disturbing, and outrageous has been twisted into the converse: that shocking, disturbing, and outrageous new art is the best art ....330
Big Culture's big problem was the modernist axiom and historical fact that there are only a few artists of genius every generation, each with a few years at the peak. The solution was ingenious, if illogical. It was based on another perception, the perception that the clearest attribute of new modernist painting was startling innovation which affronts middlebrow taste. So why not encourage and accept anything which affronts middlebrow taste? ... calculated invention is free to generate many styles of art, each taking its own path, each, in turn, fostering more styles sufficiently distinct to pass the test of novelty and sufficiently obvious for the fast take. Past art is out by definition, and craft, to the immense relief of every inept painter, can be dismissed as an outmoded restraint on inspiration.
... Personal taste is swamped, and skepticism, the natural ally of individualism, is belittled by the powerful fashions created by the experts who step in to monitor the riot of art and make lists of what we should like, thus bending aesthetic choice to political choice. One of the ironies of this "pluralism" is the rigidity of these lists at any particular time. Every museum group show of new art seems to have the same artists, and one collection in Beverly Hills look just like another.331
these conditions, art has to be offensive in order to be good.
Art cannot be good by pleasing; it has to be rejected to be validated.
Bad art is not on the defensive any more. It dares you to criticize because it needs it. Only through censure can it be validated as truly far-out, if, indeed, anyone can be found who is not afraid to criticize. ... This may be nonsense, but it certainly is inspired marketing. ... There was always that nagging problem with good art: there never was enough of it. But anyone can make this stuff.332
this way, the supply problem is solved instantly. A bad
artist can make marketable art, and there is no shortage of bad artists.
Because this stuff is so easy to paint, especially in an atmosphere of contempt for craft, it is possible to manufacture prodigious quantities of technically regressive, ferociously academic paintings, carefully made "bad" to capitalize on their painful inadequacies, full of the kind of wacky "content" that has been thoroughly market-tested, "unique visions" so numbingly similar that a show imported from Australia easily could have been yanked right up out of Soho.333
is logical to question why the existing institutions of the art world,
other than dealers, did not object to this debasement of standards.
The answer is that the critics had been wrong so many times during the
period of Modernism, about Impressionism, about the Fauves, about Cubism,
and so on, that they were fearful of being wrong again.
[Critics and museum directors] live with the specter of the critic who denounced new art which proved to be important, and these are the key words of the sixties, the all-purpose catch phrase of the eyeless art public: new and important. ... History has told us that good art looks new, except for a family resemblance to the art it "out-dates," and that it influences artists. This gives rise to trends and full-fledged art-making styles. ... It is still true that good art is new and important. What is unique to the sixties is that bad art is now new and important. ... This has produced something else peculiar to the sixties: the co-existence of many very different-looking styles of art-making, each claiming to be as much "high art" as the others, each with its defenders and detractors. It was not like that in the fifties. There were a few individualists then as now, but Abstract Expressionism was a mammoth tidal wave unlike anything we have today. These recent co-existing styles are symptomatic of the demand for newness and importance; to be new is to be different and to be important is to be generative - therefore, many styles going along parallel lines in time. The fear of being "wrong" fosters acceptance of bad art as long as the art public is not sure it is actually bad.334
have created an "avant-garde establishment" which "always
goes for the wrong art and it always will. It is the same
now as it was 100 years ago. Only the art has
changed."335 The critics and museums
have acquired the habit of suppressing their taste. Art
is justified not by being liked, not from the experience it gives to
the viewer, but on intellectual grounds. If it is new and
shocking, and if some theory can be offered to support it, any product
may be accepted as art, even as "good" art, even if its visual
presentation is repulsive, banal or non-existent. Formalism
is totally unacceptable because it countermands the theory which underpins
To the antiaesthete, and to those of bad faith, to the art careerists, art sellers, and art promoters, to the ideologue, middlebrow, and ambitious academic, Formalism is dangerously antitheoretical, antiverbal, and antiuseful. That's why they hate it and fear it. That's why they damn it in the only terms they understand: theory, ideology, and politics.336
justifications can work only in the art world; outside the art world
the public is apt to look at these commodities and say "That is
awful." Perhaps the person who has uneducated taste
but is willing to exercise it is today more discriminating than the
exhibition curator trying to keep up with the latest vogue.
Darby Bannard asks: "Have we created a situation in which, for
the first time in the modern era, the `man on the street' is more likely
to be right in his judgment than the expert?"337
find Darby Bannard's descriptions and explanations of the developments
since Abstract Expressionism to be quite acceptable. His
verdict concerning the current suppression of taste and standards in
the art world corresponds to my own feeling, and, like him, I believe
that this too will pass (but maybe not in my lifetime).
My only objection to the way his thesis is stated is simply that it
is expressed journalistically rather than academically.
He has a very lively journalistic style. I would recommend
the 1982 article "The Emperor's Old Clothes" to anyone who
wishes to sample it. This leads him to describe and treat
the art business as though it were a semi-organized entity, as though
the lowering of standards and the adoption of the supporting concept
of avant-gardism were done consciously, following a deliberate course.
is probable that art dealers do exist who knowingly promoted bad art
because they could sell it. But it is most likely that artists
whose immature art suddenly started to sell at gratifyingly high prices
simply decided that therefore it must be good; they did not intend to
make bad art, they simply allowed the market rather than their own taste
to tell them what was good. And I feel that that is fundamentally
what happened to the hundreds of thousands of people who constitute
the art world; they did not intentionally abandon their standards, they
simply decided that so many other people cannot be wrong (the basis
on which most people accept a religion). The contemporary
art market is more plausibly an example of mass delusion than a product
of cunning and greed, although our society's worship of money enters
into the situation by providing a criterion to validate the delusion.
1982 Darby Bannard wrote the following statement concerning contemporary
art which is effectively a summary and compilation of some of the ideas
which have been set forth in this paper concerning aesthetics and the
history of Modern art.
I'd like to offer my list of the Ten Verities of Recent Art History. Some may be obvious, but they bear repeating; others may be arguable, but they need saying:
1. Our society values art very highly.
2. Few of the many works of art existing are valued very highly.
3. The art business is a system of continuing valuation.
4. Within the art business art will be treated as a commodity, and the business itself will be a relatively typical, loosely organized social and political system which can be assessed and described in terms of power and hierarchy, with winners and losers, leaders and followers, and all the usual baggage.
5. The principle of commercial success, which in recent years has tended to coincide with critical success, is natural selection. We live with a popular but inaccurate image of the "big talent" who sweeps in and knocks the art public off its feet. A better analogy would be all the artists as a huge nest of baby birds, heads back, mouths agape. The few who get fed will prosper. The mama-bird is the collector, the worm is money, and the active principle is selection. Taste, as it is expressed publicly, is a function of what collectors do with their money. All the rest - all the dealers, curators, magazines, "tastemakers," "talent brokers," "powerful critics" - is either secondary or imaginary. I know this won't sit well, but it's true.
6. For new art the correlation between good and successful is arbitrary, random, and unpredictable.
7. Just as there are very few good new artists and good new works of art at any one time, so there are few very good seers of that art. ... Making and seeing art is like anything else: you don't get any good at it without ability and hard work, and you don't stay good unless you keep at it. Art is for the privileged few, as the anti-elitists maintain, but those few earn their privilege and deny it to no one. The charge of "elitism," in any of its chameleon forms, usually exposes lazy reluctance to work at getting what art has to offer.
8. When taste is separated from personal preference, taste is in trouble. Taste in art is like conscience in every day life; without it you're lost. It is far better to be "wrong" than to yield real preference to authority. I can't tell you to like Pollock. You can't "decide" to like Pollock. You can't get any art until you receive, through feeling, what's there. ... Exercise your taste, work on your taste, educate your taste, change your taste, but never deny your taste. That, more than "bad" taste, is the current malaise of the art business. ...
9. Artistic excellence is apparent in an atmosphere that welcomes it and obscure in an atmosphere that doesn't.
10. The history of taste over the last 150 years is a history of increasing resistance by the art public to excellence in new art.338
times Darby Bannard seems pessimistic concerning the present condition
of art. On page he was quoted as saying that art has
become a game of value.
I don't think there is any great painting being done [in 1989] by anyone under 40. There is good painting and there is bad painting; great painting has skipped a generation. If it were there I would see it. It would hit me like lightning.339
did name some of the artists who were making good art:
... the best artists alive today are the classical modernist abstractionists: Motherwell, Olitski, Noland, Frankenthaler, Poons and a half dozen others. I know this list is no more acceptable today than a list of Pollock and the rest would have been 40 years ago. I really don't care. They are my peers and my competition. They are the artists I measure myself by, the artists who have given me the most through their art. As far as I'm concerned that's what counts.340
best solution for young contemporary artists is to reach back into the
past for their paradigms.
My students, who are part of the future, are bewildered by so much mediocre art in so many high places. The best of them either turn to realism, which comes with a rich and supportive tradition, or reach back 30 or 40 years to the Abstract Expressionists, much as Manet reached back to Goya and Velasquez.341
it should be noted that Darby Bannard is not opposed to pluralism, just
as he is not opposed to any particular style or the use of any particular
material. Nothing rules out the possibility of good art,
just as nothing guarantees it.
Painters should paint, sculptors sculpt, conceptualists conceptualize, earth artists pile their dirt. There's no real issue, none. In the long run, as always, no matter what you are doing or how you are doing it, there is only good art and bad art.342
discussing the modern art world, Darby Bannard had much to say about
dealers, collectors and the public, very little of which is complimentary.
There are three other institutions of the art world, the educational
establishments, art critics and historians, and the museums, on which
he comments. Of these institutions, Darby Bannard has little
to say about the educational establishments and the art historians,
apart from a scathing comment that "most art schools are either
frozen academies or chaotic playgrounds."343
He does not, however, disparage artists as teachers.
It has been my experience that artists do have something special to give by teaching and by talking about art. This is more true of successful artists. They are not more articulate than others, but they have forced their feelings into materials, put their work out against the work of their colleagues, and can refer back to what they have learned. Not every artist will be a good teacher or lecturer, of course, but the chances are good. And the successful artist will have the initial respect of students and audiences.344
disagree only with the assessment that "the chances are good"
that a good artist will be a good teacher. In my experience,
most artists tend (unlike Darby Bannard) to be non-verbal people, especially
if they have devoted their time primarily to making art in their studio.
They have precious information to impart, the results of valuable experience,
but they have difficulty in conveying it verbally. I believe
that the odds on a good artist (or, probably, a good composer) being
a good teacher are lower than in most other occupations.
Bannard's sparse comments on art schools contrast with his extensive
writing about art criticism and art museums.
literature it is fairly common for authors with a philosophical bent,
such as E.M. Forster and T.S. Eliot, to prescribe the proper function
and method of a critic. It is much rarer for an artist to
do so. Darby Bannard believes that artists are generally
not good critics because "artists, for whatever reason, are usually
terrible writers."345 Writing as both
an artist and an art critic, Darby Bannard expounds a logical and consistent
thesis on the criticism of art.
experience of art is something which cannot be conveyed by words.
If words could convey the same experience as standing in front of the
work of art, the visual work of art would be superfluous.
Since the experience cannot be conveyed by words, the art critic should
avoid any attempt to do so; he cannot succeed. The experience
may, however, be described.
Very good art comes across through experience and feeling, and spreads within us as a fine refreshing pleasure. This pleasure can be referred to and described, but its equivalent cannot be given in words, and its source will not admit description: thus the frustration of the art writer. We can't transmit the experience any more than a recipe can satisfy hunger.346
It seems futile to talk about what good art is if the experience of art, which incorporates its goodness, is necessarily wordless.347
The quality of good art will not give up to analysis, no matter how extensive and accurate, not because art is too complex to yield to words but because art and literal description work in different directions. Words account characteristics; art submits experience.348
only way that the art critic can detect quality in a work of art is
through his experience of art. "How does one know what
is good of recent art? ... The only `sure thing' is a good
eye."349 The art critic should report
on this experience, but without trying to convey it.
Though we can, and should, and do report on this experience, we cannot transfer it in words, any more than we can satisfy hunger with a restaurant review.350
critic should avoid also the trap of attributing the quality in a work
of art to specific features of the work. If that could be
done, the critic would have discovered a formula for good art and anyone
could make good art by following the formula; history has shown us that
that is a fallacy.
Having sensed art, it is tempting to ascribe it to some feature of the work which lends itself to talk. But then the art gets lost. ... Good art will not give up to words; its quality is fugitive and veiled. ... All I can do, or anyone can do, is describe the path it makes.351
We cannot justify the quality of art in words, or specify criteria for that quality, however covert that justification may be. But we can assume the quality of the art ... and go on to describe the mechanics of style, how it "works."352
are usually bad critics of art because they look for its literal meaning
rather than what gives it value as art.
[Writers] adopt an attitude of patronizing kinship, look at subject matter and other evident parts of a work, relate it to "real life" and find "symbolic meaning" and think that's all there is to it. I see it all the time. ... If writers would paint for a year or two before they took up art writing, their criticism would improve a thousand percent.353
Darby Bannard sarcastically observes that "the few critics who can or will write readable English can't tell a good painting from an armadillo."354
proper focus of art criticism is objective observation of the characteristics
of a work of art, how they are combined and what visual effect they
The assumption of quality is subjective, but the description of a work, of its features and the forces which formed it, should be equally objective. Art critics so often mix up description and experience. Their function should be to set down facts about works of art, not to transmit what they feel, or offer a verbal substitute for art quality. "Meaning" in art writing is justified only as it pertains to a describable effect.355
It is easier to point out what is wrong with a painting than what is right. Mechanical faults are not too difficult to find if you go at a picture objectively. Wrong things lend themselves to talk; what's right, on the other hand, just seems right. A painting is like a living organism, or is built like one. It doesn't pay off to criticize anything which "comes to life"; it gets into "magnitudes of quality," for which there are seldom criteria. ... [Minor] art has definite internal "contradictions" as does anything incomplete and faulted. These inconsistencies can be brought out in words, not in terms of any clear final purpose but as they seem to enervate a work. That's the best we can do.356
ever-present trap for the art critic is the use of a formula by which
he believes quality can be detected. This is very apparent
in the jurying of art shows where the juror may show a preference for
figurative content, for primitive images, or for pure abstraction, in
the belief that the good art of the moment must have this ingredient.
Most art writers do not have a good eye, as any history of art criticism will reveal, and they cast about for the very clues to art quality they would be the first to admit do not exist.357
a critic may decide that paintings made in a certain style are good
art or bad art. No style absolutely guarantees or prohibits
quality in a work of art; each work must be judged on its own merits.
For instance, few of the Parisian artists of 1910 to 1914 who experimented
with Cubism were able to make great paintings, although Braque and Picasso
consistently did so. However, certain styles have tended
to help artists to make good art or to hinder them from making it, so
that Darby Bannard writes, without contradicting himself, that "quality
is often associated with a style."358
It is not possible to rightly condemn a style of art-making, just as it is not possible to rightly condemn any material for art, because it cannot be shown that a good work of art will not come up in that style. Conversely, there is no style which guarantees good art, though there have been some like Cubism and Impressionism and perhaps Fauvism, which at the temporal center of their effective lifetimes have allowed rather mediocre artists to paint very good paintings. But it is possible to look back on a style and say that not much has come out of it.359
Darby Bannard is opposed to the type of writing which academicizes art to the point of being incomprehensible even to an experienced viewer. I take it that he is referring to a certain type of theoretical writing which uses obscure terms; for example, certain articles in Artforum International.
We are forever ... hiding in words as a refuge from feeling and understanding, which seems to be a specialty of art critics. Art is part of us. We mistreat art, and ourselves, when we make it distant, intimidating, and sacrosanct, when we entangle it in verbal brambles and hammer it down with mind-numbing theory.360
an example of Darby Bannard's own critical writing, to show what he
means by objective description and that it can be enlightening even
to a person who has studied the painting being reviewed, I have included
his description of Willem de Kooning's Excavation as an appendix
to this paper.
the end, the judgment of history will over-ride the words of contemporary
critics. Most critics are aware of this and try to anticipate
what that judgment will be.
Give or take a few lapses, "history" is the most convincing critic, and most art writers try to stand by her side.361
Critics on artists. On page (X) Darby Bannard was
quoted as saying that it is more appropriate to write about great paintings
than about great artists because an artist is great only when he is
making a great painting. Therefore, in reviewing an exhibition
a critic would do best to confine himself to observations concerning
the works. Each work should be seen individually and not
lost in an attempt to appraise the whole; "we must keep in mind
that the paintings are one thing and the exhibit is another."362
About de Kooning's retrospective in 1969 he wrote:
To be useful as criticism, any discussion of the retrospective must take one work at a time, and leave the collective aspects out of it. Despite these disclaimers it is correct to generalize about an artist's work on the basis of a retrospective if the generalization is descriptive.363
trap for the critic who writes about an artist is to impute motives
to the artist. He is then trying to state the artist's intentions
without being able to put himself inside the artist's head.
The only evidence we have for what happened at the time of creation
is the art work itself. We can comment on what we see in
the work, but we cannot derive from the work what went on in the artist's
It is a good rule of thumb for art writers to keep away from generalizing about artists' motives, because by doing so we move away from the evidence and come up with propositions which are not demonstrable.364
the fact that he sees this trap with objective clarity, Darby Bannard
is prone to fall into it. Need I point out that this is
exactly what he did when writing about the Impressionists, (see page
) Cézanne (see page ) and others? The paintings are not
evidence of motives. And in the following example he deliberately
ignores his own precept.
I don't like to write about an artist's motivation and intent. There is the risk of guessing wrong, and being unfair. Besides, the proper subject for art writing is art, not artists. But de Kooning's attitudes come through so strong, and seem to affect his art so obviously, that I must give in now and then and note what I think was going on with de Kooning as well as with his paintings.365
am probably more inclined to believe in the validity of Darby Bannard's
advice to stay away from writing about motives than he is himself.
In fact I believe that the attribution of motives has led many historians,
including art historians, into writing fiction.
museums have a responsibility beyond that of collecting and showing
the best art. They are also the repositories of the artifacts
of our past and collect things of purely historical value.
A well preserved but badly made duecento Sienese painting would
still be worthy of acquisition because of its historical significance.
Museums, and the collections which preceded them, preserved objects which had outlasted or had been taken out of the environment in which they had a place. ...
The notion of quality, therefore, is sometimes non-aesthetic. An ancient sculpture can have "importance" that is more exemplary than artistic, more to do with qualities than with quality.367
Bannard is not interested as much in the museums' role of preserving
historical artifacts as in their important role of showing the best
art. On one hand he expresses criticism of the way in which
our society turns great works of art into quasi-religious objects.
We make much of art, but in the wrong way. We make it too important, an object of reverence rather than of simple feeling. We have sanctified it, ritualized it, buried it in huge mausoleums, torn it away from life.368
On the other hand, Darby Bannard believes
that museums have an important function in showing the best in contemporary
art. In this role the museum must be discriminating, but
their integrity is threatened by commercial values not unlike the threat
which art has faced in Modern times. "[Avant-gardism]
has allied with a spurious democratism which condemns value distinction.
This puts the art museum on the defensive, because its very task is
the public's interest in museums grew, the museums learned to feed on
this interest. "About 30 years ago [i.e. 1960] museums
started getting into show biz under the guise of bringing art to a bigger
audience."370 Popularity threatens to replace
discrimination as a motivating factor in collecting and especially in
exhibiting. This is a danger which the museums must resist
if they are to preserve their integrity. Museums should
be ivory towers "as long as the door is open."371
Public interest and interest in the public take an ever increasing share of the art museums' time. Ironically, museums are threatened as much as helped by their new popularity. ...
Museums must defend what they are, not try to be what they are not. The museum is like the artist in some ways: isolated by devotion to high standards, dependent on its own conscience, suspicious of intrusion from the outside, and awkward in its own defense. ... The purpose of the art museum is to bring the best art to the public in the most efficient manner - and by that I do not necessarily mean the most economical. Everything must be measured against this principle.372
area in which the lack of discrimination is particularly obvious is
the showing of ephemeral art such as installations which use gimmicks,
performances and body art. The problem with much of it,
perhaps all of it, is simply that it is not good art. It
is questionable whether some of this "art" should not more
appropriately be shown in a performance place, a theater, rather than
a museum, except that most of it would probably not be good enough to
be shown in a theater.
Artists now want to use the museum as a studio, a stage. They make art that moves, makes noise, can be played with, entered, or walked on, that uses video and film, that contains themselves and "breaks down the barriers" between the work and the observer. Questions of value (is it any good?) are shunted aside; distinctions are made in terms of innovation and availability, and are expressed in clichés.373
Then, as always, there is the question of quality. All current rhetoric notwithstanding, quality, the "goodness of good art," in Clement Greenberg's phrase, is the sole quarry of the museum. It has been my experience that informational and participatory art simply is not very good, and therefore not useful to the museum.374
The Museum as a Business. Darby Bannard is ambivalent
as to whether museum directors and trustees should take a business-like
attitude towards their responsibilities. On the one hand,
a museum is a business and to be successful must be run like a successful
The art museum is the public agent for the arts, not an "artistic" organism. Those responsible for museums must be good organizers, tactful politicians, and shrewd fund raisers. They could learn from businessmen, lessons taken from the remorseless marketplace, where bad management is repaid by insolvency.375
the other hand, commenting on a report of the appointment of a new director
of the Guggenheim in 1988, he wants museums protected from the "empire
builders" with "high tech skills, entrepreneurial know-how
and global ambitions."376 Darby Bannard's
criticism of museums' attempts to increase revenues by popularizing
themselves has already been noted.
there is a conflict which Darby Bannard has not resolved between the
museum's responsibility to act like a business and the standard proclaimed
above that the museum should be "isolated by devotion to high standards
... bring the best art to the public in the most efficient manner ...
not necessarily mean the most economical." The marketplace
may demand that the museum seek popularity. When high aesthetic
requirements and financial requirements conflict, if the high aesthetic
standards prevail the museum may go out of business. In
contemporary America everything, including lofty ideals, must bend to
Museums and recent art
Museums and recent art . Museums have not been successful,
in Darby Bannard's opinion, in the acquisition of Modern art, particularly
contemporary art. They have bought too little and too cautiously
because they do not know how to buy it.
Galleries usually show recent art; museums have bought too cautiously; and most of the work of a previous generation is in estates, private collections, or the storage rooms of large galleries. Great recent artists are known to thousands of people through one or two pictures perpetually reproduced. We are driven back to books and magazines, to the "museum without walls." We are grateful for this resource, but it is not the real thing.377
Museums know that in the great body of new art are some works which are good enough to merit their attention, but they have no guidelines, no way to separate the good from the bad.378
step which might help to cure this problem is to institute a formal
training program to educate the taste of the curators.
The ability to pick the best new art can become a recognized specialty to be nourished, like any other talent. Museum schools, for example, can have intense courses of comparative study of quality to train museum professionals. The course would be purely aesthetic and would assume thorough grounding in art history.379
inability to discern quality in contemporary art is a failure not only
at the curatorial level but also at the level of the persons responsible
for hiring the curators. A good eye can be too discriminating
for the comfort of the directors, particularly today when pluralism,
or "multi-culturalism," is considered to be a great virtue.
There is no easy way to do well the buying and showing new art. In art-making, in museum work, in any human activity, success comes through competence. There is no substitute for quality in art and there is no substitute for a good curator and director. ...
It has been my experience that failure at the curatorial level goes back to the director and board. They look for the wrong characteristics in a curator of contemporary art. There is a fear of extremes, even the extreme of quality. ... Trustees are successful, conservative persons of high standing in their community. They do not like controversy.380
trustees may be aggressive risk-takers in their own business but lack
self-assurance in judgments of art which are open to public scrutiny.
They prefer to be safe and to try to please everybody.
Bannard considers that any museum which has as an objective the exhibition
of contemporary art could, and should, undertake survey shows.
Such shows require relatively little curatorial expertise and would
provide a needed showplace for the art of the moment and they would
help to overcome the problem that "apparently only a few of [today's]
artists have any hope of regular exhibition."381
The essence of such shows is that the museum does not try to exercise
taste and openly disclaims any intention to do so.
Any museum or art center which shows contemporary art should have periodic surveys of recent painting to inform the community what is being taken seriously by the art world. Such a survey does not presume to be only the best art of our time; instead, it offers a representation of accepted new art and asks you to look and make up your own mind.382
There is a way to accommodate avant-gardism, and other "isms," without compromising the integrity of the museum. Because of the many types of art now being made, the museum can have a continuing series of small shows which would purposely reflect current trends. ... Taste and judgment would be put aside in favor of simple reporting, and that would be made plain. ... Or the shows could be homogeneous, putting different kinds of new art together, perhaps on a rotating basis, or putting new art up against older art.383
the same article there is a statement which appears to conflict with
the Darby Bannard's position concerning the survey shows of recent art.
The context of the quotation is an argument that participatory activity
between the artist and the museum is inappropriate.
Museums are not here to participate in artistic innovation but to select and present the finest fruits of that innovation. ... The museum and the living artist, so poignantly interdependent, must keep a wary distance. This means strain and altercation, but that is the natural order of things, a check and balance.384
the museum is to show "the finest fruits" of artistic innovation,
it must exercise a degree of curatorial judgment which is disclaimed
in the survey show. Any show requires curatorial judgment
because the amount of art available for exhibition greatly exceeds the
amount which can be shown. I conclude that what Darby Bannard
means is that the curator (juror) should not exclude any style or type
of art but should include examples of each, selecting what he or she
deems to be the best samples. In practice this combination
of discrimination and non-discrimination could be hard to achieve.
Bannard is definitely opposed to the idea that a museum should engage
in artistic activity in cooperation with an artist.
Social change and changes in art since the late 1960s have given rise to the idea that the artist should engage directly in museum activity. ... This is liberal and sounds good .... But a little thought brings up other viewpoints. For example, that an artist's participation in the museum would be a self-serving conflict of interest, like hiring a drug manufacturer to work for the food and drug administration.
Our principle of standards and efficiency says that the artist, as such, has little to offer the museum by working within the museum organization.385
summarize, what Darby Bannard is asking of museums is a function which
they were not called upon to serve before the Modern era in art.
In the centuries since the art market in the West became laicized, contemporary
works of art, with the exception of pieces commissioned for public places,
have been collected by individuals and private institutions.
There were very few museums and they normally entered the market only
after history had performed its culling task. The museum
has not been required to discern value, it has acquired accepted value.
As Darby Bannard has pointed out, a museum has considerations other
than the purely aesthetic. Prior to the European Academy
shows, most non-religious art could have been seen only in private collections;
contemporary art had never been seen in museums.
present situation is certainly different. Where art used
to be made by a handful of artists in major cities it is now made by
hundreds of thousands of artists in each major Western country.
Where art used to be sought by a total of only a few thousand wealthy
connoisseurs, it is today sought by millions with surplus discretionary
income. The size of the art world and the monetary considerations
involved have changed dramatically in the past forty years.
This widespread interest in making and viewing art has led to demands
by some people that the museums should provide a facility for showing
result of this great expansion of the art world has been a rapid escalation
in the prices of the relatively small amount of art which has passed
the historical test of quality. Even in contemporary art,
museums must now pay millions of dollars for paintings which curators
could have bought for nominal sums earlier in their own lifetimes.
If the curators had possessed the discernment and the freedom of action
which Darby Bannard suggests, they could have saved their institutions
millions of dollars by buying when the price was still low.
This has bred the idea that museums should acquire contemporary works,
even knowing that many of them will turn out not to have lasting value,
because the few winners may more than pay for the losers.
Personally I question (indecisively) whether the collection of contemporary art is a proper activity for museums in our culture. Many museums can, and should, put on periodic overtly non-judgmental surveys such as the Whitney annual or, locally, the Hortt. Other museums, such as the Metropolitan, should remain completely aloof from the fray. But, as the Whitney demonstrates, it is so unlikely that curators would be able to fly in the face of fashion and exercise good taste, that the museums which bought art would simply be authenticating the current fashion. The commercial galleries and alternative art spaces should probably remain the primary exhibition spaces for contemporary art. In the long run, the only way by which good art can rise to the top is by educating the taste of the public. We may require a new Renaissance to accomplish that.
some inconsistencies emerge in writings made over a period of 27 years.
What is surprising is that they are so few. Darby Bannard
started with the firm idea that value in visual art can be detected
only through the experience of looking at art. This is true
not only for the viewer of the finished product but also for the artist
making art. Anyone can become a judge of art by judging
only its formal qualities, by refining his taste through spending a
great amount of time studying art, and by relying solely on his taste
when forming his judgment. The judgment which he forms will
have nothing to do with commercial value and may be completely unfashionable,
but his reward will be in the pleasure which he will derive from looking
at art. The conveyance of that pleasure is the only function
of art; qua art, it has no moral, social or other non-aesthetic
function. Although such functions may be added to a work
of art, as has been done in the past, they neither augment nor detract
from its aesthetic value but they may work to obscure it.
This philosophy, which he refers to as "Formalism," has underlain
and given a cohesion to all of Darby Bannard's writings over the years.
is unpopular today, especially among groups with a social agenda who
would like to use art as a means of propaganda. Typical
of such "causes" at the moment are feminism, multi-culturalism
and other movements loosely intended to extend human rights.
Art can be used as propaganda but, with a few exceptions, it becomes
second-rate art and unconvincing propaganda. In general,
art and music are inferior to film, theater and the written word as
a propaganda medium for such causes.
is unpopular also in the appraisal of non-objective art.
Today such art is generally measured against criteria developed by some
theory concerning the physical characteristics of which art should possess;
whether it is pleasing to look at becomes irrelevant. Eventually,
when the theory is consigned to the trash can of history, the art will
join it. Only formal qualities can give art value which
will last as long as the human brain is structured as it is now, and
those who make and judge art by its formal qualities will find history
on their side, although, like many artists in the past, they may not
live to know it.
Bannard's writings are interesting as a voice in the wilderness, as
a consistent statement of Formalist principles at a time when the art
world has lost all direction, but they make no original contribution
to aesthetic theory. His writing becomes most valuable and
original when he starts to apply those ideas and his experience as an
artist to the art of his time and to the procedures by which art is
made. He brings a highly developed taste to art criticism,
and where my own judgment differs from his I am willing to concede that
when I will have studied art to the same extent as he has, my judgment
may be the same as his. His analysis of the problems of
abstract painting are, as far as I know, original and extremely helpful
to an inexperienced artist starting to make art. The range
of options available to a painter facing a blank canvas is so wide as
to inhibit action. It is easy to become sidetracked by considerations
of content. Darby Bannard's advice can focus the artist's
attention on the major choices which he must make concerning form.
His descriptions of how previous movements have chosen, and with what
results, is illuminating. If there is a shortcoming in his
analysis of the problems of design it may be his de-emphasis of the
factor traditionally known as "composition." His
stress on the nature of edges, and his attitude to depicted depth as
one means to relate the parts of a picture, are valuable insights.
advice to art critics is interesting because it is backed up by excellent
examples. Whether it is possible to be as non-judgmental
concerning artists as Darby Bannard advises is another matter.
His own examples make it clear that criticism cannot be limited to a
description and objective analysis of the physical characteristics
of works of art. I agree wholeheartedly that motives should
not be attributed to an artist on the sole basis of his work, but I
consider an important function of criticism to be the placement of an
art work in the historical continuum of art and in its contemporary
setting. Darby Bannard, like Greenberg, does this to some
extent but does not include it in his admonishments to critics.
Darby Bannard feels, and has been told by other critics, that he has
made a valuable contribution to the debate over critical theory by insisting
that it is possible and desirable to write objectively about art, as
shown by his own critical writings.
least cohesive collection of Darby Bannard's ideas which I have isolated
in this paper are those concerning art museums. He works
towards a clear idea of what function a museum should perform in the
acquisition and exhibition of contemporary art, but his ideas have not
been reconciled with the practical realities of running a museum and
keeping it solvent. A museum depends on the contributions
of people whose ideas concerning the function of art are very different
from his own. He is aware of the gap, he simply has not
closed it. Perhaps it would be difficult to do so without
becoming involved in the day to day operation of a museum in order to
experience the constrictions of reality (perhaps not dissimilar to those
of running an art department).
I hope that Darby Bannard will write a book concerning the development of abstract art, the issues faced by the movements, how those issues were handled and with what results. A compendium of his articles would not really fill this need because it would leave gaps to be filled and more relationships to be observed. Such a book would be a unique contribution to the literature of art and invaluable to the new would-be abstract artists of today.
[Following is a description of Willem de Kooning's painting Excavation which is excerpted from Darby Bannard's review of a retrospective of de Kooning's paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in 1969. This description has been selected because I am impressed by it and because reproductions of the painting are widely available in books on Modern art. This description illustrates Darby Bannard's approach to criticism, although it is more exhaustive than is typical.]
Elegy may be modest, but it's perfect. Art quality seems not to be specifiable; it must be sensed first and dug up later, and words will never surround it. But it is possible to point up elements which fight each other, which undermine and weaken a painting. This internal discord is like contradiction in language. Excavation is full of such "contradictions." It may be a better painting than most but objectively it is seriously flawed. De Kooning could handle Elegy; when he took on Excavation he was out of his depth. Excavation is about 6 1/2 by 8 feet. I think it is the largest painting in the show. It may be the largest de Kooning ever painted. It is made up of regularly repeated relatively small pieces of similar size. The style could be called large-scale small-piece all-over expressive Cubism .... In an article in the April, 1968 Artforum I contended that the inherent conditions of large-scale small-piece all-over expressive Cubism compel the solution that Pollock got to at about the same time that Excavation was painted. A short synopsis of the reasoning which led to that conclusion follows. Since Cubist painting is done in terms of space differences, the quality of a Cubist picture is supported by the relationship of the "pieces" in the painting. Large-scale small-piece all-over expressive Cubism painting, such as Excavation and Pollock's painting of the late '40s and early '50s, has the problem of a curtailed relationship because the dynamics of the style force these small parts to be physically remote on the same plane. Therefore they cannot interact visually and the "efficiency" of the Cubist painting is impaired. Pollock solved the problem by throwing out opaque planes and by keeping the delineated Cubist piece. Thus the planes and the lines around them are visually available continuously through the transparency and implied depth, and the over-and-under connections make for a very tight picture surface. This is not "why Pollock's paintings are great paintings," but whatever art they have is certainly supported by the results of this brilliant pictorial problem-solving. Excavation, on the other hand, is the same kind of painting left wanting.
In Cubist painting color and line serve spatial differentiation. Both are used to pin down area: color to identify and line to delineate. The Abstract Expressionist version of Cubism gave color and line greater expressive or affective opportunity. Line is at its best in Pollock's painting; color is presently very much "alive" for ambitious painters. The areas of Excavation are marked off by black lines. Black and the other very dark colors are used only as line, or line with implied shadow to simulate lifting or overlay of an edge. These lines have variation, but not the affective variation of the white lines of the white on black paintings of the late '40s, such as Night Square, 1949. The lines of Excavation are not free to work calligraphically because they are surrounded by paint at the same level of apparent depth. This paint cuts over their edges and slows them down, and pushes them into the service of area. On the face of it there is nothing wrong with this. But from the evidence of Pollock's art of the same time we must conclude that large-scale small-piece all-over expressive Cubism, by the "logic" of its terms, demands expressive line. This may not be true necessarily but until another artist shows us something else it's all we've got.
Variations of hue in Excavation, except for the dominant pale grayish yellow and the black, are spotty and seem random and have the effect of decorativeness or "spice." Color does not bloom easily in this painting style. ... Considerable color variation, even in the Pollock-type painting, would tend to form conglomerations of color - the color would gather in large areas and small areas, especially in terms of value, which the eye sees most directly, and again a different kind of painting would emerge, with terms of structure which might exclude the means at hand. That's why Pollock at his best used only a few colors of low saturation and discrete value. If, on the other hand the color hangs onto the piece, and varies piece-by-piece, we again have an isolated piece, remote from others. Also, this technique would make a painting full of the pressure of color variation rather than space variation, which turns away from Cubism, or has in some of the best of recent painting.
A large Cubist format favors extreme openness - real blank space, like the blank canvas in a Pollock or the big holes in some of David Smith's late sculpture, because the separation of pieces exposes their relatable parts. The "giveaways" of Excavation are the fairly broad areas between things, like the one to the left, just above center, which cries out to be left blank. De Kooning's very painterly and traditional technique of working and reworking the paint surface kept undisturbed open space off his all-over painting simply because it was all-over painting it had to be painted all over. Reworking means shifting in space and so everything gets covered.
conflict between de Kooning's working method and the all-over approach
shows most plainly at the edges of Excavation. ...
Excavation ... is all paint, right to the edge.
Therefore the edge becomes part of the painting and the other parts
of the painting must come to terms with that edge. De Kooning
handled edges successfully in his white-on-black paintings a few years
previous - the image just ran off the edge, in an offhand way, as did
most of Pollock's. Excavation could have been worked
out that way if de Kooning had modified some of the features of the
painting by altering his working method. I think the problem
here was a psychological one. De Kooning is at heart an
old-school draftsman. Excavation seems to have been
meant as a masterpiece, or at least an important "summing
up." But rather than push through to grasp the new
principles that came in company with the all-over technique de Kooning
fell back on what he knew: drawing and figure-ground.
His reaction to the huge canvas and the foreign terms of art-making
was quite human - he got "conservative." Instead
of adjusting to new conditions he fought back with what he was sure
of. It's a classic drama. The black and white
paintings, like Night Square, were very fine paintings, but to
de Kooning they had to be minor; they were too small and too much like
drawing to be major art, and they were without color. For
de Kooning they were just not enough like painting. Excavation
is a large painting of relatively small highly charged Cubist parts
which had been worked out the way de Kooning thought a "masterpiece"
had to be worked out: painting, repainting, covering, scraping, careful
adjusting and fixing, highlighting and damping - the way a portrait
might be painted. This makes trouble at the edges.
... Though Excavation is a very large painting the
size of its parts is not much larger than those of the smaller paintings,
like Night Square. So there are more "units
per square foot" in Excavation. These units
are at the mercy of the edges because they are more available to be
shifted to conform; they have less inertia, less resistance.
All around the edges of Excavation the pieces stiffen, shrink
and polarize; they bat against and slide along the edge like summertime
flies, or fish in a tank. The unfortunate effect is that
the edges fade, and the center, with its full, free-swinging,
heedless-of-edge forms, bulges out, reinforcing the already centrifugal
setup of the whole picture. This in turn provides the painting
with an all-over concentric symmetry which becomes the dominant design;
all surface inflection appears to support this design as decoration,
which is by nature either random or mechanical. And so the
visual effects of deliberate placement - the heart of Cubist art-making
- are enervated, and the picture sags back, done in. Attic,
a similar painting, has similar problems, but it is uncomplicated by
color and comes off better. ... I feel that
after Excavation the woman image was, for de Kooning, a symbol
of defeat in the face of the real tough problems of Excavation.
It was a desperate retrenchment, a pulling-back, an escape to safer
1. "What It's Like to be an Artist," 1992.
2. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, pp. 13-15.
3. "On Criteria," 1984, p. 128.
4. Arthur Danto, "The Artistic Enfranchisement of Real Objects: The Artworld," an article in Journal of Philosophy (1964), pp. 571-84, reprinted in George Dickie, R.J. Sclafani and Ronald Roblin, Aesthetics: A Critical Anthology, 2nd. ed.. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989) p. 177.
5. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 83.
6. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 4.
7. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 163.
8. "Goodness in Art," 1990, p. 1.
9. "Craft and Art Envy," 1986, p. 28.
10. "Goodness in Art," 1990, pp. 1-2.
11. "Goodness in Art," 1990, pp. 3-4.
12. "On Criteria," 1984, p. 128.
13. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 164.
14. "Goodness in Art," 1990, p. 4.
15. Immanuel Kant. The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment trans. James Creed Meredith. London: OUP, 1928, reprinted 1969, p. 59, lines 17-8.
16. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 41, footnote to the heading of the first moment. But in judging the beauty of a church building we cannot ignore the fact that it was designed as a church; the judgment of taste of the same building may be different if it were intended to be a house. Clearly such a judgment is "no longer a free and pure judgment of taste." By contrast, Kant gives examples of "free" beauties: "Flowers are free beauties of nature. ... Many birds ... and a number of crustacea, are self-subsisting beauties which ... please freely and on their own account. ... We may also rank in the same class all music that is not set to words. In the estimate of a free beauty (according to mere form) we have the pure judgment of taste." (Kant, trans. Meredith, pp. 72-3.)
17. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 71, lines 14-23.
18. "Goodness in Art," 1990, p. 1.
19. "Aesthetic" means, by derivation, "felt by the senses."
20. "On Criteria," 1984, p. 128.
21. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 49.
22. "Craft and Art Envy," 1986, p. 29.
23. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, pp. 163-164.
24. "Goodness in Art," 1990, p. 3.
25. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 165.
26. "Craft and Art Envy," 1986, p. 28.
27. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 153, lines 23-4.
28. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 84, lines 22-3.
29. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 56, lines 7-13.
30. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 41-2.
31. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 137, lines 29-31.
32. Paul Crowther. The Kantian Sublime: from Morality to Art. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989, p. 75
33. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 139, lines 1-5.
34. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 23.
35. Clement Greenberg, "Can Taste be Objective?" Art News 72 (Feb. 1973), p. 22.
36. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 164.
37. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 67, lines 11-17.
38. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 65, lines 3-5.
39. "Anthony Caro's New Sculpture," 1984, p. 130.
40. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 174, lines 25-7.
41. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 179.
42. Kant, trans. Meredith, pp. 223-4.
43. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 157, lines 23-6. This sentiment was prevalent in literate society in the eighteenth century.
44. Kant, trans. Meredith, p. 162, lines 24-5.
45. Kant, trans. Meredith, 157, lines 9-13.
46. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 23.
47. "On Criteria," 1984, p. 128.
48. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 83. Hamada is a Japanese potter.
49. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 19.
50. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 66.
51. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, pp. 164-165.
52. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 8.
53. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
54. "What It's Like to be an Artist," 1992.
55. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
56. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 8.
57. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
58. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
59. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
60. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 49.
61. "Anthony Caro's New Sculpture," 1984, p. 128.
62. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 42.
63. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 66.
64. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 41. This reflects Clement Greenberg's statement "High art resumes everything that precedes it, otherwise it is less than high." ("The Necessity of the Old Masters," Partisan Review July, 1948, Collected Essays and Criticism Vol. II p. 251.)
65. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 4.
66. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 9.
67. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 173.
68. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 15.
69. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 10.
70. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
71. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 21.
72. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
73. "Anthony Caro's New Sculpture," 1984, p. 128.
74. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 64.
75. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
76. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
77. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 18.
78. 150 years ago the Pre-Raphaelites thought this of the High Renaissance.
79. "On Postmodernism," 1984, p. 69. In fact, Jean Metzinger saw Cubism in a similar light in 1911 when he wrote that Cubism "excludes school tricks, facile graces and the stylizations so much in favor nowadays." (Quoted in Edward Fry, Cubism. London: Thames & Hudson, 1966, p. 67.)
80. Clement Greenberg, "Modernist painting," Art and Literature 4 (Spring 1965) pp. 193-201. Reprinted in The New Art, ed. Gregory Battcock (New York, 1966), pp. 66-77; quote is from p. 68.
81. Clement Greenberg, "Modern and Post-Modern," Dobell Memorial Lecture, Sydney, Australia, October 31, 1979. Reprinted in Arts Magazine 54 (February 1980) pp. 64-6. Quote is from p. 66.
82. Greenberg, "Modern and Post-Modern," pp. 65-6.
83. "On Postmodernism," 1984, p. 69
84. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 60-61.
85. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 11.
86. "Anthony Caro's New Sculpture," 1984, p. 128.
87. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 44.
88. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
89. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, pp. 58-59.
90. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 61.
91. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 59.
92. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 58.
93. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, pp. 22-23.
94. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 58.
95. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 58-59.
96. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 46.
97. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 23.
98. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 59.
99. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 40.
100. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 64.
101. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 59.
102. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 61.
103. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 61.
104. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
105. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 22.
106. "On Content," 1985, p. 84.
107. "On Content," 1985, p. 85.
108. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, pp. 41-43.
109. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 41.
110. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 23.
111. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
112. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, pp. 23-24.
113. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 60. Also:
"The illusion of deep space requires shading, modelling, and the like, and would have countered the fresh and surging power of `materialist' abstraction." "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 5.
114. Clement Greenberg, "Modernist Painting," p. 69. An assumption underlying Greenberg's thesis is that art can be firmly categorized into two-dimensional painting and three dimensional sculpture. This assumption has been challenged in recent decades by art which partakes of both and can be firmly classified as neither.
115. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 23.
116. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 19.
117. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 60.
118. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 5.
119. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 61.
120. Bannard writes that the word "painterly" "indicates the degree to which the paint on the picture looks like paint as such. A painting is less painterly according to how much the qualities of paint are subordinated to something else, such as depiction, or uniform coloring of surface. Thus Ingres and Mondrian are `unpainterly;' Monet and Clyfford Still are `painterly.'" ("Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 11, footnote).
121. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 14.
122. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
123. See "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 45.
124. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art," 1969, p. 49.
125. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 45.
126. See "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 45.
127. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 45.
128. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 25.
129. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 15.
130. Elaine de Kooning, Art News LIV (April, 1955), p. 29.
131. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
132. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 66.
133. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 64.
134. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 65.
135. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 64.
136. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 45.
137. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
138. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
139. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
140. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 40.
141. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 41.
142. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
143. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 19.
144. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 45.
145. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 81.
146. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 4 (revised 1993).
147. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, pp. 81-82.
148. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 82.
149. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 9.
150. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 82.
151. Constable and the Pre-Raphaelites were both exhibited in Paris and Constable won a gold medal at the Paris Salon of 1824.
152. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 9.
153. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 59.
154. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 4.
155. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 59.
156. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 22.
157. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 23.
158. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
159. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 59.
160. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
161. Clement Greenberg, The Nation, 12 Dec., 1942, reprinted in Collected Essays and Criticism Vol. I p. 130.
162. Edward Fry, Cubism. London: Thames & Hudson, 1966, p. 14.
163. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 23.
164. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 4.
165. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 23.
166. "Anthony Caro's New Sculpture," 1984, p. 128.
167. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 41.
168. Donald B. Kuspit, Clement Greenberg, Art Critic. Madison: Univ. of Wisc. Press, 1979, p. 31.
169. Clement Greenberg, "The Role of Nature in Modern Painting," Partisan Review 16 (Jan. 1949), reprinted in Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. I, p. 271.
170. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
171. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 11.
172. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 23.
173. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 4.
174. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 60.
175. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 15.
176. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 24.
177. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
178. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 60.
179. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith, 1968, p.28
180. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 23 (revised 1993).
181. Op. cit., p. 22.
182. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
183. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 62.
184. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
185. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
186. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
187. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
188. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 23-4.
189. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
190. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 24.
191. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 62.
192. A complete analysis of Guernica is included in "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, pp. 61-63.
193. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 62.
194. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 25.
195. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 62.
196. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
197. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 30. This is an application of the principle expressed in the quotation over footnote 56.
198. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 38.
199. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 29.
200. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 61.
201. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newan and Still," 1971, p. 61-62.
202. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 41.
203. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modem Art" - 1969, p. 46.
204. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler in 1920, quoted in Fry, op. cit., p. 157.
205. "The Structure of Color," 1971, p. 12.
206. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 38.
207. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 65.
208. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 65.
209. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 46
210. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, pp. 40-41.
211. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 30.
212. "The Structure of Color," 1971, p. 12.
213. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 15.
214. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 41.
215. "Anthony Caro's New Sculpture," 1984, p. 128.
216. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
217. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
218. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 32.
219. "Anthony Caro's New Sculpture," 1984, pp. 128-130.
220. "Painting of the SO's: Another Look," 1983, pp. 7-8.
221. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 13.
222. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 9.
223. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 8.
224. "On Content," 1985, pp. 84-85.
225. The other major critic of the time, Harold Rosenberg, was also a strong advocate of Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists.
226. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 23.
227. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 24.
228. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
229. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newan and Still," 1971, p. 63.
230. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 25.
231. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
232. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p6 46.
233. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
234. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
235. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 46.
236. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, pp. 15-17 (revised 1993).
237. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look." 1983, p. 11.
238. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 9.
239. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 10.
240. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 15.
241. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 17.
242. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 17.
243. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 14.
244. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 39.
245. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 38.
246. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 14.
247. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, pp. 19-20.
248. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 41.
249. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 18.
250. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 12.
251. "Hofmann's Rectangles," 1969, p. 41.
252. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 11.
253. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
254. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 18.
255. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 24.
256. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 22.
257. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 25.
258. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 63.
259. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
260. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 28.
261. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 63-64.
262. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
263. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 63.
264. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
265. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 27.
266. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 6.
267. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 43.
268. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 43.
269. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 47.
270. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 47.
271. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 44.
272. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 64-65.
273. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 65.
274. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 17.
275. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 66.
276. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 6.
277. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 19.
278. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 6. The paintings described in this passage were called the "unfurleds."
279. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 7.
280. "Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock, Newman and Still," 1971, p. 64.
281. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 9.
282. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 11.
283. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 17.
284. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 19.
285. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 13.
286. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 13.
287. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 13.
288. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 15.
289. Clement Greenberg wrote an extensive definition of kitsch which, "using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates ... insensibility. ... Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas." ("Avant-Garde and Kitsch," Partisan Review, Fall 1939, reprinted in Collected Essays and Criticism Vol. I pp. 11-12.)
290. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 45.
291. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 30.
292. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
293. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
294. "The Unconditional Aesthete," 1987, p. 61.
295. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 8.
296. "The Unconditional Aesthete," 1987, p. 61.
297. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
298. "Painting of the 50's: Another Look," 1983, p. 21.
299. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 7.
300. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 8.
301. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 8.
302. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 30.
303. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 35.
304. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 32.
305. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 32.
306. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
307. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
308. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
309. "Present-Day Art and Ready-Made Styles," 1966, p. 33.
310. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 9.
311. "Modern" is used to refer to broader periods in other academic disciplines. Historians date "the opening of the Modern chapter of history around the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries." (Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, revised and abridged by the author and Jane Caplan. New York: Barre Pub. Co. (copyright OUP), 1972, p. 401.) The fall of Constantinople (1453) in frequently taken as the starting point of Modern history. Philosophers generally date the beginning of Modern philosophy around the end of the eighteenth century when Kant's works were being published. "Modern society" generally refers to the Western society which emerged during the processes of industrialization and democratization which occurred during the nineteenth century in most Western countries. However, in all the arts "modern" conventionally refers to a period beginning no earlier than the mid-19th, century.
312. "On Postmodernism," 1984, p. 69
313. "On Postmodernism," 1984, p. 69
314. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 8.
315. "On Postmodernism," 1984, p. 69
316. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, pp. 9-10.
317. "On Content," 1985, pp. 84-85.
318. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 83.
319. "On Content," 1985, p. 84.
320. "On Content," 1985, p. 84.
321. "On Content," 1985, pp. 84-85.
322. "On Content," 1985, p. 84.
323. "The Unconditional Aesthete," 1987, p. 61.
324. Quotes in this paragraph are from "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 83.
325. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 83.
326. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 8.
327. Quotes in this paragraph are from "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 165.
328. "On Postmodernism," 1984, p. 69
329. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, pp. 168-169.
330. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 82.
331. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 10.
332. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 82.
333. "On Content," 1985, p. 85.
334. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
335. New York Times, October 14, 1990.
336. "The Unconditional Aesthete," 1987, p. 61.
337. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 81.
338. "The Emperor's Old Clothes," 1982, p. 81.
339. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 11.
340. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 8.
341. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 11.
342. "Art Quality and the Formalist Controversy," 1974, p. 9.
343. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 180.
344. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 180.
345. "The Unconditional Aesthete," 1987, p. 59.
346. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 21.
347. "On Criteria," 1984, p. 128.
348. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 20.
349. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
350. "On Criteria," 1984, p. 128.
351. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 32.
352. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 21.
353. "The Unconditional Aesthete," 1987, p. 59.
354. "The Unconditional Aesthete," 1987, p. 60.
355. "Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and David Smith," 1968, p. 32.
356. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 48-49.
357. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
358. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art," 1969, p. 42.
359. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
360. "On Criteria," 1984, p. 128.
361. "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties," 1970, p. 40.
362. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 43.
363. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 43.
364. "Hans Hofmann," 1976, p. 24.
365. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art" - 1969, p. 47.
366. Bannard's writing about museums is contained largely in his article "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974.
367. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, pp. 166-167.
368. "Craft and Art Envy," 1986, p. 28.
369. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 169.
370. New York Times, July 29, 1990.
371. New York Times, July 29, 1990.
372. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, pp. 165-166.
373. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 181.
374. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 182.
375. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 179.
376. New York Times, June 19, 1988.
377. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 174.
378. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, pp. 166-167.
379. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 172.
380. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 171.
381. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 175.
382. "Thirty Years of American Art: An Artist's Perspective," 1989, p. 8.
383. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 169.
384. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 183.
385. "The Art Museum and the Living Artist," 1974, p. 178.
"Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art"
- 1969, p. 44-47.
Selected Published Statements and Writings (through 1993)
"Color, Paint, and Present-Day
Painting." Artforum, Vol. 4, (April 1966) pp.
"New Talent: USA."
Art in America, Vol. 54, (July-August 1966) p. 48
"Present-Day Art and Ready-Made
Styles." Artforum, Vol. 5, (December 1966) pp.
"Sensibility of the Sixties."
Art in America, Vol. 55, (January-February 1967) pp. 54-55
Letter to the Editor, Artforum,
Vol. 6, (February, 1968) p. 4
"Cubism, Abstract Expressionism
and David Smith." Artforum, Vol. 6, (April,
1968) pp. 22-32
Letter to the Editor, Artforum,
Vol. 7, (November, 1968) p. 4
"Willem de Kooning's Retrospective
at the Museum of Modern Art." Artforum, Vol.
7, (April, 1969) pp. 42-49.
Book Review: "Beyond Modern
Sculpture'" by Jack Burnham. Artforum, Vol.
7, (May 1969) pp. 70-71
Letter to the Editor, Artforum,
Vol. 7, (Summer, 1969) p. 4
Artforum, Vol. 7, (Summer, 1969) pp. 38-41
"Notes on American Painting
of the Sixties." Artforum, Vol. 8, (January,
1970) pp. 40-45
"Color Painting and the Map
Problem." Artforum, Vol. 8, (March, 1970) pp.
"Notes on an Auction."
Artforum, Vol. 9, (September, 1970) pp. 62-64
"The Artist and Politics."
Artforum, Vol. 9, (September, 1970) p. 36
"Walter Darby Bannard."
Art Now: New York, Vol. 2, #7, (1970) p. 1
"The Structure of Color."
Whitney Museum of American Art, p. 12
Book Review: "Morris Louis,"
by Michael Fried. Print Collector's Newsletter, Vol.
II, #3, (July-August, 1971) p. 58
"Touch and Scale: Cubism, Pollock,
Newman and Still." Artforum, Vol. 10, (June
1971) p. 58
"Noland's New Paintings."
Artforum, Vol. 10, (November, 1971)
"Caro's New Sculpture."
Artforum, Vol. 10, (June, 1972)
Book Review: Barnett Newman,
by Thomas B. Hess. Print Collector's Newsletter,
Vol. 3, #3, (July-August, 1972) p. 63
"The War Against the Good in
Art." New York Times, August 6, 1972, section
2, p. 17
"Quality, Style and Olitski."
Artforum, Vol. 11, #2, (October, 1972) pp. 64-67
"Barnett Newman: A Reply."
Print Collector's Newsletter, Vol. III, #5, (November-December,
1972) p. 112
"Painting by Walter Darby Bannard
in California Collections." Catalog Statement:
Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Harbor, California, December
Catalog Statement: New Jersey State Council on the Arts, February, 1973
Letter to the Editor, Artforum,
Vol. XI, #6, (February, 1973) p. 9
"He Comes to Praise the Met."
New York Times, June 2, 1973, Sect. 2, p. 24.
Letter to the Editor. New York Times, July 1, 1973, Sect. 2, p. 19
Juror's Statement for Catalog of
the Davidson National Print and Drawing Competition, March 1974; p.
"Morris Louis and the Restructured
Picture." Studio International, Vol. 188, #968,
"The Art Museum and the Living
Artist." Essay in the book On Understanding Art
Museums. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1975.
First printed for the forty-sixth American Assembly, October, 1974.
"Art Quality and the Formalist
Controversy." Quadrille, Bennington College;
Fall, 1974, pp. 4-7
"Activity of Criticism"
(interview). Studio Magazine, March-April, 1975,
Introduction to catalog for Nova
at Park Center Invitational Painting Show. Cleveland, Ohio; April 15
- May 5, 1975, p. 3.
Letter to the Editor.
Artforum, May, 1976, pp. 8-9
Catalog text for Hirshorn Museum exhibition travelling to Museum of
Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, October 1976.
"The Late Cézanne: A Symposium."
Art in America, March-April, 1978, p. 83.
"New Jersey Masters, 1980."
Catalog statement: Gill/St. Bernard's School, April 1980
Letter to the Editor.
Houston City Magazine, May 6, 198O.
"Art and Nonsense: A Non-Creative
Look at the Creative Process." Perspectives on Creativity
and the Unconscious, D. W. Fritz, ed.. Miami University,
Letter to the Editor. New York Times, November 30, 198O, p. 170.
Twenty-Fifth Reunion Book, Class of 1956. Princeton
University, June 1981, pp. 24-32.
"Michael Steiner's New Sculpture." Catalog essay. Houston: Meredith
Long & Co., October 198l. Reprinted in Cover
#6, (Winter, 1981-82).
"The Emperor's Old Clothes."
Arts, September, 1982, pp. 81-83.
"Scrimshaw from the Barbara
Johnson Collection." Art at Auction, Sotheby
Publications, 1982, pp. 382-385 (4 color and 1 b&w illustration).
"Biennial Exhibition of Piedmont
Painting and Sculpture." Catalog statement: Charlotte,
North Carolina: Mint Museum, January, 1983.
"Painting of the 50's: Another
Look." Catalog essay for the exhibition at Duke University
Museum of Art, October 3 - November 27, 1983, pp. 7-23.
"Carol Sutton's New Paintings."
Catalog essay for the exhibition at Gallery One, Toronto, Canada, November
19 - December 8, 1983.
"Structures - Thirteen New
Jersey Artists." Catalog statement: Montclair Art Museum,
Montclair, New Jersey, January 22 - March 25, 1984, p. 5.
Arts, February 1984, p. 69, (originally a paper entitled "Excellence
vs. Postexcellence" given at the MLA Convention, December, 1983).
Arts, April 1984, p. 128 (originally a paper read at NYU, February
Letter published in William Safire I Stand Corrected: More On Language.
New York: Time Books, 1984, p. 390.
"Anthony Caro's New Sculpture."
Arts, Summer 1984, pp. 128-130.
Arts, September 1984, p. 128.
Juror's Catalog Statement for the 30th Annual Juried Art Show, Durham Art Guild, Durham, North Carolina, November-December, 1984.
Arts, March 1985, pp. 84-85.
Arts, September 1985, pp. 132-133.
"Monet's `The Seine at Bougival.'"
Update, Edmonton Art Gallery, Vol. 6, #5, (September-October, 1985)
pp. 17- 18.
"Painting: The State of the
Art." The Centennial Review, Michigan State
University, Vol. XXIX, #4, (Fall, 1985) pp. 449-456.
"Prints From Glass."
Catalog Statement (edited) for an exhibition at Western Carolina University,
Cullowee, North Carolina.
"On Pluralism." Arts,
Summer, 1986, pp. 84-85.
"Craft and Art Envy."
New Work, #27, (Autumn 1986) pp. 28-33.
"The Art Glut."
Arts, December l986, pp. 22-23.
"The Unconditional Aesthete."
Arts, September 1987, pp. 59-61.
Catalog Statement for the Inaugural
Exhibition of the Permanent Collection of Rider College, October, 1987.
"In Search of Quiet Time for
Art Lovers." Letter in New York Sunday Times,
Arts & Leisure, Section 2, June 19, 1988, p. 15.
"How Guernica Fails: Applied
Cubism - 1968" and "How Guernica Fails: Touch and Scale -
1971." Essays in Oppler, Ellen C., Picasso's Guernica.
New York: W.W.Norton, 1988, pp. 299-305 (and other notes).
"American Art: An Artist's
Perspective." Catalog essay: Exhibition Made in
America. Virginia Beach Arts Center, Virginia Beach,
Virginia, April, 1989.
"The Mystery of Scrimshaw."
Catalog essay for an Exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum, Chadd's
Ford, Pennsylvania, May 1989.
"Artstravaganza." Juror's Statement: exhibit of the Association of Visual Artist's, Chattanooga, Tennessee, May, 1989 (see also interview in Chattanooga News, April 9, 1989).
"Walter Darby Bannard: The
Barcelona Run Series." Catalog statement: Exhibition
at Rider College, Lawrenceville, NJ, October 20 - November 20, 1989.
"Goodness in Art."
Unpublished paper given at a seminar at the University of Michigan,
Chairman's Statement, University
of Miami Student Exhibition catalog, Lowe Art Museum, April 5 - May
"Time to go Back to the Ivory
Tower." Letter in New York Times, Arts &
Leisure section, July 29, 1990.
"Miserable Level of Discourse."
Letter in New York Times, Arts & Leisure section, August
Juror's Statement: Bakehouse Art Complex, Miami, Florida, September
"Monster of Irony."
New York Times, Arts & Leisure section, October 14, 1990.
"Clash of Cultures."
New York Times, Arts & Leisure, November 4, 1990.
"Some Comments on the Paintings
- by the Artist." Catalog essay for the Exhibition
Walter Darby Bannard - Paintings from the '70s and '80s, at Miami-Dade
Community College, South Campus Art Gallery, Miami, Florida, November
19 - December 21, 1990.
New York Times, Arts and Leisure section, June 2, 1991.
"Misunderstood All Around."
New York Times, Arts and Leisure section, July 21, 1991.
"What It's like to be an Artist."
Miami Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Winter 1992), p. 32.
"The Unvarnished Truth about
Art and Money." USA Today, July, 1992.
"Chihuly: Form and Fire." Catalog essay for the Lowe Art Museum exhibition, travelling to 6 museums, January 28, 1993.