Portraits & Passages

Chapter 19

Flashing John Currin Flash Art 1995 copy 75


Spread "Art In America", March 1982, Six Characters In Search, 1965

All contemporaries do not inhabit the same time. The past is always changing, but few realize it.    – H. Dune

 The Advertisement Page as Alternative Exhibition Space

“Salad Days – Editing The ‘80s”  “Artforum” April 2003  [A Selective History]
Ingrid Sischy

When Ingrid Sischy speaks of having “wanted to recognize that things had opened” in 1981 by “the breakthroughs [coming] out of searches for alternatives to  galleries”, does she really expect anyone to imagine that openness was anything but a limited turn of the valve of opportunity. In her reminiscence of taking over the  reigns of “Artforum” I can’t help but be struck by the irony operative in that word “opened”.

It seems that vision scanning the vast stretches of the art world had very selective lenses. Blinders might be the better word to describe how everybody missed my  own program that could be stated using Sischy’s words “creating special projects” on the advertisement pages in “Art in America” and “Flash Art” in the early 1980’s.  Nor had anybody noticed the irony of the photo essays in black and white of me in “The New Criterion”. However, I do remember that “Artforum” followed my  example of multiple pages of ads that were set in a unified format as if they were one large exhibition. Even Andy Warhol borrowed the concept of stretching and  repeating a brand name across the bottom of a spread to create the appearance of a frieze for Halston.



"The New Criterion", January 1983 issue

Along with Sischy, I too saw that a “page can be as important a space as a canvas or a wall in a museum or gallery”, that the magazine page is an “alternative space”  of far reaching influence. Even better one didn’t need to ask anyone’s permission.

But what was liberating for a recognized entity like “Artforum” was not to be tolerated of an unknown, unaffiliated artist. The form that that censorship took was  completely politically correct, effortless, and very effective: everybody simply ignored my pages. 

Maybe Ingrid Sischy “believed that a magazine not only could describe what was going on but could be a vehicle for new art”, but obviously she nor anyone at  “Artforum” noticed that on my fourteen pages in those five issues of “Art in America” was new art and were suggesting a progressively eclectic retrospective of  figurative painting stretching in several directions at once. And that at a time when one was required to stay within one genre and one style, my contribution to  opening the attitude towards artists taking multiple roads simultaneously was never cited.

Even Barbara Rose and Giancarlo Politi, each independently wondered what it might be like for a contemporary artist to look tradition in the eye and stand toe to  toe with the great masters and shoot it out. That was when I was taking pages out in “Flash Art”, but Politi never bothered about me.

Three Spreads from "The New Criterion", March 1984 issue






new criterion feb 83 45% 


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