The Outlaw Artist
But aside from the larger issues presented, there was, once again, very little allowance for my participation in a magazine that I was for a whole time cycle a major contributor. After all I had presented twenty-one images on the pages of “Artforum” in the preceding seven years. The very last group of pages addressed a post 9/11 world.
Starting with “Ship of Fools” in December 2001, and then continuing with “Babel, A Tale of Mice and Men” in March, “Narcissus” in April, “Expulsion from the Garden” in May. finishing with “We Are All Somnambulists” for the summer issue, that coincided with Linda Nochlin’s disputed review, I had used traditional allegorical paintings to present my view of the contemporary socio-political condition of our nation. I was not running away from the task at hand as I had included a commentary with the December image of “Ship of Fools” that spoke of the similarities of the present political situation with the Vietnam era that ended with:
It was a time when dossiers were made on anyone who openly had concerns about our foreign policy.
Prior to that in “Artforum”, “Bomb”. “Modern Painters”, “World Art”, and “Flash Art” I had taken pages out that directly or tangentially referred to the Holocaust. In other words, I was, if you will, piloting the flagship of traditional iconography into the waters of ironic iconoclasm and an art world sleepwalking as if we weren’t already in a nightmare. If anybody merited time with an ideological opponent of the status of Linda Nochlin it was I.
That May in Chicago, prior to the release of the summer issue, I had asked Knight Landesman point blank at breakfast that I needed to be cited, that without some form of acknowledgement I would neither be able to teach or sell my paintings.
As always, Knight responded obliquely: “‘Artforum’ is a writer-generated magazine.” Then I said: “Yes, but the artists they write about are the artists they know. They only know who they already know.” And in his deadpan delivery Knight concurred, and we let it go. He had tossed a suggestion out in the air, but I had no writer who could do the job for me.
When he published my first letter I was very grateful to him, but it was a very modest affair. I was discreet in the size and the scope of the letter. If my admonition had been received more thoughtfully, I would have been satisfied. That would have been the end of it.
But when Knight refused the second letter, he not only left the account unsettled, he denied me that fuller acknowledgment. I, none-the-less, did not completely resign myself to his interdiction and asked that the editors read it, as I wished to be on record that I was not acquiescing to Linda Nochlin’s defense, and that I considered her writing to be journalism not criticism.
When I received “Artforum”’s managing editor Jennifer Liese’s gracious response acknowledging that my arguments were “apt”, I knew it was Knight’s call absolutely. Contrary to the impression that Knight tries to convey that he refrains from direct involvement in editorial matters, he does call the shots when he chooses.
As a publisher, Knight has always been very good to me about placing my pages in the middle of the magazine and beside a page that would be complementary. Never has he expressed concern or reservations about the image’s content. But we also knew that we would not always agree. If we were to have issues, we agreed to disagree. Here was one of those times.
I understand that Knight has to do what he has to do. And he understands that I have to do what I have to do. As I said to Knight: “I will have this on record.” All things are settled in time.