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CURSE WORKS 1972-73

By BORIS LURIE (1975)

Published in: Lurie, Boris; Krim, Seymour: NO!art, Cologne 1988

Being quite aware. Nothing is less acceptable, less cool than artist himself writing introduction explaining. Intruding holy preserve of critics! Artist expected preferred incommunicative. A creature incapable of articulation. Investors dealers collectors prefer it. Artist grunts only in reply to questions asked. That's cool. Grunting inaudibly excellent promotional tactic. Mystification best marketing tool. Artists then grunt, critics then incoherent, business then very good. That's precisely why this explicit introduction.
Job of artist not just creation of free counter-complaisance works. He must if he can, define defend propagate. In any way possible. Counter-complaisance work plus communication. Only valid reason for his artist-existence.
June 1964: With Shit-Show at Gertrude Stein Gallery. End of NO!artists as collective group. Artmarket put down, boycott of NO!art, bears expected fruits. Boris Lurie's father dies. Then Sam Goodman dies. Stanley Fisher involved in counter-culture esoterics. Only four years later though in 1968. Cultural confrontation-protest world-wide. Breaks out nine years after NO!Artists started giving battle. With public showings of NO!art, 1960 "Les Lions" "Adieu Amerique" shows.
In ten years or so: Whole generation NY art market-line following slave artists purged. Eliminated. Forced into retirement. Regular culture-business procedure. But NO!art survives. Without artmarket!
Camel's back broken with "Female libertinism'! Splitting now male from female. Cover for artmarket left out females trying to crash art-establishment. Some sincere actions-demonstrations, picketing of art bus! ness, marred by publicity-seeking exhibitionism. TV cameras are irresistible to anarcho-Napoleonic personalities. Guerrilla Art Action Group.
Meantime: Art activity seems futile. Real art actions seems on the streets. In jungles. Or with Che Guevara. Is it really so? Did not this world-shaking socio-political confrontation arise at least partially out of prior seminal activity in arts? Some not-too-bright artists totally reject any object art. All art, they say, including revolutionary art becomes merchandise. They overlooked:
(a) personal psychic need of artist to express,
(b) need of collective artistic "racial" unconscious to ruminate, simmer, prepare, seminal activity, fructification,
(c) they also overlooked historical fact that real revolutionary art never enters market anyway. Except much later as a harmless memento.
In fact, one could postulate. That it be imperative for real art under today's conditions. Not to enter, not to be recognized by artmarket. Such is today's test.
Well-meaning people rejecting all object art. Believed solely in art demonstrations, theatre-happenings. Forgetting that those forms are quite as marketable as objects. Like counterculture attitudes from rock to fragrance, to sex liberation. So. Whether object or action. What counts is quality. Content. Gigantic or minuscule, object or concept, all that is unimportant.
Meanwhile contemporary critics Harold Rosenberg, John Berger, etc., following ideas laid out at earlier junction by Walter Benjamin, etc., publish long-overdue historical revaluation of aesthetic inherited from pioneering modernists. At the time said aesthetic perhaps had had positive value. Said aesthetic now is dead, but still a convenient tool. To fuckup young people's heads. To assure steady supply of decoration called art undisturbing to status quo. Meant exclusively for buying class. Techniques of artmarket organization manipulation factually analyzed in New York Magazine article. New York Cocktails of Art and Dollars books like Jean Gimpel's Centre I'Art et les Artistes. Satirist Tom Wolfe penetrates through artworld surface rips it up benevolently in stories such as Bob and Spike (Pumphouse Gang). About the Scull Pop-art investment gang. This I regret to say Jewish gang is asshole opposite of Warsaw Ghetto fighters. Asshole end of Masada past and present. Someone remind these cursed greedy art culture manipulators artist blood dealers of a young beatnik artist. Not so long ago. Named Adolf Hitler. Whose career might have been different. If ... another clique, at another time... He would not then have to sow all over the landscape of Europe. His real-life art-masterpieces.
1975: In U.S. except for so-called "Female" artists" activism. All open culture confrontation activities are now finished. Due to internal weakness. Demise of New Left. Due to infra-racial antagonism. Due to "female" liberationism. Due to Old and New Left anti-Semitism now conveniently called Anti-zionism-Anti-lsraelism. With end of Vietnam war middle-class kids can relax. Instant gratification marijuana revolution has no appeal any longer.

Merchandise surviving in the artmarket:
(a) decorative regressive Greenberg abstraction flat serial sculptural,
(b) various regurgitations of old Dada made marketable: "Conceptual art" in various media.Videotape, "event" i.e., happenings remained
(c) more interestingly "Earth art", excellent idea turning back on galleries museums, but ... minus worn out cliché formalisms ... without Dada-chic ...
(d) "Body examination, "mostly" pathetically boring. But with very valid exceptions.

All these surviving currents and revivals. With very few exceptions. Operate within art market framework. Geared to investors, the emotionally impoverished detached protected "culturat!". Instead of waking up these truly underprivileged. These art revival mini-movements only confirm their detachment snobbishness. By furnishing chic games mystifications. A few months of work in fields factories-as uncle Mao wisely preaches. Or service in the army. Would provide far more artistically and psychologically fruitful results.
So-called Pop-art. Archenemy of NO!art. By this time generally recognized as having been profoundly reactionary. To have served only. To side-track energies of cultural confrontation. Into celebration of the ugly environment. Or into campy snickering leading to passive acceptance.
Meantime 1974: Due to recession, recent stockmarket collapse, (presently seemingly corrected) first tentative signs appear. Considerable artmarket price drop precedes. Real possibility of artmarket price collapse. After which occurrence, strong possibility of aesthetic reassessment. Going back through various New York post-war fabrications. As far as Picasso. Possibly Cezanne. Long long overdue. Finally inevitable.
Meanwhile in Europe: Much less monopolized art-system there. U.S.: monopoly controlled by combine of investors trustees-museums galleries press, interlocking. Europe: art business as in U.S.: but museums are municipal, no trustee system. National and local competitiveness, left parties socially respectable and rich. Radical subject matter more readily accept-able by more erudite partially old-rich upper class. Confrontation art there given chance. At times culminates in art-political bullshit dada games as in Germany in some cases. Art confrontation content at times very questionable. New Left management of Paris Museum of Modern Art A.R.C. department ... gives shows to New York pop-artists ... as bonafide exemplars of revolutionary art! Later to regret it. Art market publicity subtly forcefully misleads misguides miseducates. Nevertheless, vital work publicly furthered Germany, Italy, France, done in Austria. Some artists in Europe developing sociological art: matter-of-fact analysis of society versus art. End New York Artmarket Domination.
1973-74: Boris Lurie showing Europe. Berlin at Rene Block "NO!art since 1959". Bochum, Germany at Inge Baecker, "Boris Lurie at Inge Baecker ("Altered Men" series mainly)". Milan, Italy at Giancarlo Bocchi with pinups imbedded in melted wax. Harold Rosenberg introduction to catalogue "Bull by the Horns". Berlin is particular experience. Twenty-eight years after his liberation from Buchenwald concentration camp near Berlin. Every still-bombed-out building reminiscent hiding places as escaped convict. NO!art back to its original source, minus the American experience. Holocaust: The Jew experience. Alive in partially destroyed divided Berlin. Fuehrerbunker now work of art: children playing on green covering it. Trip to Paris. Attempting meeting now confrontation philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre re NO!art book publication. Existentialist Father unreachable, his secretary promising. Famous Left publishing house lady announces our interview a big mistake: thought I was Latin-American. U.S.-New York given up by left circles as of no more interest. Rightly so perhaps? Sumptuous dinner at Renato Gutuso's.
Disgust amongst the serious. Not those of "Don't trust anyone over thirty" coinage. Profound disgust generated by futility of liberal pop civilization. Leads people disturbed to the core. To fanatically support. To take for "revolutionary" purely nationalistic "Third World" movements. To embrace actively or passively terrorism. Fanatically masochistically "worshipping" oppressed minorities here. Forgetting very often they themselves are minorities. Or Jews by accident not burned in crematoria (aren't all American Jews such accidents?). Themselves victims of racism in some form. Leftist whites now have to expose their own bodies to "revolutionary" minority violence. Racism now hitting all whites. Leftist in support of minority racism stance unthinkable unbearable to poor whites in mixed areas. While intellectuals, artists flee East Village. Knife in doorway more convincing than Marx, Marcuse theories. Marcuse's protégé Angela Davis back from Russia: "USSR government not anti-Semitic." Knife in dark doorway surest way to expedite rebel back into establishment. We are all in race war. Old black friend not same friend any longer. Times editorial lecturers on reasons of violence. Brushes off killing refugee candystore owner as non-sequiturs. The leftest are now amongst the richest. (Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic") In Ghettos whites have different feelings. Like minority feelings their feelings, too, aren't very pretty. Amidst—or is it the end of?—"revolutionary" violence: Nixon meets Mao shakes hands. (Ribbentrop-Molotov 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact?) Pulling rug out completely from under American Left. Vietnam etc. etc. more important to uncle than American cultural revolution! Two policemen ambushed-murdered Avenue B and Eleventh Street. Jubilation New Left press. But policemen in Ghettos are quite welcome again. Intellectuals a bit out of step with facts. Art Workers Coalition, attendance very much Jewish, now exhibits Al Fatah anti-Semitic, anti-Israel posters. When minority person as much as farts, New Leftists, liberationist ladies have orgasms. Particularly at the mention of superstar Eldridge Cleaver: Peace and Freedom Party Arts Club, Art Workers Coalition. Boris Lurie invited Paris New Left show organized by Confrontation artists: "Aspects of Racism". Sends two paintings entitled "Long Live Al Fatah -Death to the Kikes!" and "Antizionism Equals Racism". Not shown by collective of exhibiting artists after taking vote. Same confrontational artists yell deplore establishment censorship. Their own censorship OK against confrontation unapproved by them. The line is very fine. Jew is bad, Arabs angels. Israel the devil. Which helps Europeans conveniently to jettison accumulated thoroughly deserved collective guilt. Not just Germans but French, Italians as well, but not Dutch. How comfortable finally giving up tricky manoeuvre of shifting guilt onto Germans only; the Arabs have finally freed Europeans of all remaining guilt! About 15 years after Yevtushenko's "Bab! Yar". About 30 years after the fascist slaughters. In Russia massgraves still unmarked. Garbage dumps. Or parks: Old Jewish Cemetery at Riga ghetto. Mighty Soviet pathological. Fears remaining bones. Even names of mass-grave sites. As focus. Communist Party relentlessly fighting the dead amongst them Boris Lurie's mother sister grandmother lover boyhood friends. Black leader Carmichael says Hitler greatest. During visit to New York of course.
Two roads open to vanquished armies of the Sixties. Headlong rush into suicidal senseless desperate violence. Or joining liberal establishment now very much in power. Temporarily so? Indications are the move right is still to come: all the way. Meanwhile: Mao etc. again shake hands Nixon etc. Ford shakes hands Brezhnev -that's normal. Castro now Soviet Satellite about to shake hands everybody. Mao-11.S. back Bangladesh slaughter. Dr. Kissinger, Nobel prize recipient for selling out his Vietnamese pals not parading his yellow escapee Star of David. As he cuts up Israel. Allende bravely collapses. Milan, Piazza del Duomo: huge demonstration Old Left and New Left. New Left demonstrators all students intellectuals shouting slogan: Viet Cong—AI Fatah! Cringe, my Italian friends!
Headlong rush into passivity. Back to isolation of Fifties. In culture, truth of this period expressed through pornography. Hard-core. Ugly. Dirty. Disgusting. Dissatisfaction plus despair plus violence, pushed down eroticized. Sado-masochism in the open its practice alleviating defeat, guilts.
But for a Jew awakened by Black racism Left anti-Semitism. Appears a second vision a second road. Having gotten his head knocked in hard enough. He learns recognizing in child-warriors of Israel. Violent reincarnation of six million doomed to docility reborn.
Meanwhile New York: Birth of Soho becoming downtown branch of uptown art market. Masquerading as reincarnation of Tenth Street Co-op area. Super lofts at super prices for young artists honing new "avant-gardes". Free labour pool recruitment by art manufacturers. At any wage or at no wage. No unions here. Young geniuses working any, all styles requested. To get in at any price. Besides function free labour pool. Soho is a successful real estate operation. Up-grading of depressed area. By temporarily inviting artist in. Then: out.
Meanwhile: in universities-art schools. Teaching impressionable minds. To equate lowest artmart fabrications with art history greats. Mis-education of young. Loads up future years with multiplying heaps of garbage production. Museums: now booming cafeterias dating premises. Occasionally throwing fat morsels to art dealers. Van Gogh-Rousseau in pix-for-pix trade against Diebenkorn-Smith. The Attorney General frowns several times.
Artists are beasts whose nature is communication. Long silence makesthem sick-impotent. Communicating within New York shark-market artistically suicidal. What happened to last year's Pop-art geniuses? They still kicking? They still coming out with new accomplishments? How can they if their genius-life-span programmed-determined to last no more than five years at utmost. Whole system quite correctly not taken seriously any longer. Art system only dollar system. Nothing wrong with dollars. Dollars alone unfortunately don't make art. Art really exists, no kidding. Despite misapplied Duchamp's ideas. Despite artmarket. Despite educators and speculators. Where should an artist communicate in New York? Soho equals support of hoax. Exhibiting there marginal entertainment ultimately benefiting giving legitimacy art-combine. In Ghetto-slums with the "people"? Practically impossible racial hatred rip-offs drug-madness. In rural communes sinking into peasantry? The colleges??
Meanwhile: New York art monopoly finished. Its great opportunity mucked-up. Great works great artists now can equally come out of Oshkosh, Paris, New York, Timbuktu or Beer-Sheba.
What is job of counter-complaisance artist? Engels, Bunuel says, heisan artist only if he disturbs upsets the status-quo. Mayakowsky says "Art is not a mirror to reflect the world in but a hammer with which to shape it." Whichever definition you prefer. Art-establishment channels are not appropriate media for communication. They do not function. Valid stuff accidentally falling into the meat grinder only serves obfuscation of this basic truth. Acts as Judas-goat. Or as tranquilizer. Selected valid stuff putting stamp of approval on heap of crap being marketed. Francis Bacon for instance makes it safe for crap, serves as justification not to market more radical art. So it is best to function on one's own. Creating a base sharpening weapons. Sniping from protected cover. When opportunity arises. Building fortified positions. Running away. When position is untenable. Under our conditions here, only such is the artist's way to exist. Unless one's ambition is akin to Matisse's. So then he becomes. Under today's conditions again. A decorator
Programmatic exposé of reasons. Propaganda, timing, choice of space, choice of theme, exhibition brochure. Are as integral as the exhibited works themselves to NO!art. Giving a NO!art manifestation now is no different. But infinitely more complicated than in the Sixties. What started as emotional intellectuals, outburst. Need to liberate oneself personally through action. Developed later in a group-sense no matter how ill-functioning. Into organized collective action. Taking place as it happened contemporaneously within a mounting histor no wage. No unions here. Young geniuses working any, all styles requested. To get in at any price. Besides function free labor pool. Soho is a successful real estate operation. Up-grading of depressed area. By temporarily inviting artist in. Then: out.
Meanwhile: in universities-art schools. Teaching impressionable minds. To equate lowest art-mart fabrications with art-history greats. Mis-education of young. Loads up future years with multiplying heaps of garbage production. Museums: now booming cafeterias dating premises. Occasionally throwing fat morsels to art dealers. Van Gough-Rousseau in pix-for-pix trade against Diebenkorn-Smith. The Attorney General frowns several times.
Artists are beasts whose nature is communication. Long silence makes them sick-impotent. Communicating within New York shark-market artistically suicidal. What happened to last year's Pop-art geniuses? They still kicking? They still coming out with new accomplishments? How can they if their genius-life-span programmed-determined to last no more than five years at utmost. Whole system quite correctly not taken seriously any longer. Art-system only dollar system. Nothing wrong with dollars. Dollars alone unfortunately don't make art. Art really exists, no kidding. Despite misapplied Duchamp's ideas. Despite artmarket. Despite educators and speculators. Where should an artist communicate in New York? Soho equals support of hoax. Exhibiting there marginal entertainment ultimately benefiting giving legitimacy art-combine. In Ghetto-slums with the "people"? Practically impossible racial hatred rip-offs drug-madness. In rural communes sinking into peasantry? The colleges??
Meanwhile: New York art monopoly finished. Its great opportunity mucked-up. Great works great artists now can equally come out of Oshkosh, Paris, New York, Timbuktu or Beer-Sheba.
What is job of counter-complaisance artist? Engels, Bunuel says, heisan artist only if he disturbs upsets the status-quo. Mayakowsky says "Art is not a mirror to reflect the world in but a hammer with which to shape it." Whichever definition you prefer. Artestabl ishment channels are not appropriate media for communication. They do not function. Valid stuff accidentally falling into the meat grinder only serves obfuscation of this basic truth. Acts as judasgoat. Or as tranquilizer. Selected valid stuff putting stamp of approval on heap of crap being marketed. Francis Bacon for instance makes it safe for crap, serves as justification not to market more radical art. So it is best to function on one's own. Creating a base sharpening weapons. Sniping from protected cover. When opportunity arises. Building fortified positions. Running away. When position is untenable. Under our conditions here, only such is the artist's way to exist. Unless one's ambition is akin to Matisse's. So then he becomes. Under today's conditions again. A decorator.
Programmatic exposé of reasons. Propaganda, timing, choice of space, choice of theme, exhibition brochure. Are as integral as the exhibited works themselves to NOlArt. Giving a NOSArt manifestation now is no different. But infinitely more complicated than in the Sixties. What started as emotional intellectuals, outburst. Need to liberate oneself personally through action. Developed later in a group-sense no matter how ill-functioning. Into organized collective action. Taking place as it happened contemporaneously within a mounting historical surge. Within an age group that made thinking secondary feeling primary. But had to gradually. By force of circumstances. To be thought out. On a conscious intellectual level. It happened in New York, in an America, that was. The hub of the action. So that everything undertaken here. Became doubly important. Everywhere.
Today history waves have receded. New York is just New York. No collective action. This manifestation by a member of a different age group. What you should see. Is not just work reflecting turbulent years for all. Not just single-minded stubborn action. You should see this introduction as well. The physical exhibition space as well conquered in capitalist competition fought over with dollars ulcers and lawsuits. And still street-art follows Boris Lurie here to the swanky Sixties, from his Sixth Street and Avenue B studio. Soon as his name goes up at entrance or mailbox. It's being carefully cancelled out with ball-point and covered with swastikas. June 1975, New York: Full U-turn back to attitude prevailing in days of pioneering modern art. Back to exclusive, elitist, aristocratic, cultural-intellectual grouping. Full turn back at this point is only means to move forward. Showing now in "exclusive" section. Radar scanning for truly aristocratic exclusive intellectual. Moneyed or not moneyed. No youth culture, please! Any age. Old age, hurrah! Small receptive group. An audience that always historically appeared out of thin air. In times of culture action. Or else: back to the real desert where it all began. To Beer-Sheba! ? To recommence the road old Abraham travelled.

About BORIS LURIE: Born in 1924, in Leningrad, Russia. Together with his parents he moved to Riga in 1925/26. Captured by the Germans 1941 and suffered in the ghettos and concentration-camps of Riga, Salapils, Stutthof and Buchenwald-Magdeburg in Germany. Emigration to USA in 1946. Lived in Paris from 1954 to 1955. Founded with Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher the NO!art movement in 1959 in co-operation with the March gallery in the Tenth Street in New York, later so called March Group. He works always in continuing the NO!art movement.—Died 2008 in New York.  |  linkMORE

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