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YES & NO THOUGHTS
TO THE ISSUES OF THE PAST
By LIL PICARD (1970)
Published in: Lurie, Boris; Krim, Seymour: NO!art, Cologne 1988
Thinking about DOOM!art, SHIT!art, NO!art and some other things which happened in the late fifties and beginning sixties on Tenth Street in the March Gallery and at the Gertrude Stein Gallery, my feelings and emotions are ambivalent. I have "YES" and "NO" thoughts about this particular art and many other ugly smelly things. Questioning myself after so many years about this particular specific time and the happenings on Tenth Street and later uptown at Gertrude Stein, I will use the form of self interrogation.
NO, LIL: Don't tell me today that "NO!art" is better than "Flower Art" or "Nude Art", or whatever art might be called, Erotic or Non-erotic art, Pop, Minimal or Conceptual, and more relevant to the issues of our time, and could save the world from sick democracy and global destruction.
NO, LIL: I know you want to revive Infories of the historical past, "Tenth Street", the DOOM!Show, the NO!art show, the first Girlie-pictures exhibited in the March Gallery, the fragmented collages by Boris Lurie and the dirty dusty gruesome sculptures by Sam Goodman. In 1959 you fought with your friendly enemies in the art world who didn't like the SHIT!art, DOOM!art, NO!art at all! That was the time when Martha Jackson had invited the pre-pop artists for a show called "New Media-New Forms", which was advertised as a new art expression.
NO, LIL: You seem to have forgotten that at the time of blooming Tenth Street art events the shows of stark realism at the March Gallery impressed you very much! I remember very well that you wrote an article for Germany and that you thought and wrote that this particular art form used by Lurie and Goodman reminded you of the John Heartfield and George Grosz political manifestations of art in Germany after the first World War.
YES, LIL: Somehow today this kind of political-realistic-(I hate the word, but I must say it-propaganda art) -has relevance, and it might be that when the art history of the fifties and sixties will be written and evaluated in the relation to political and historical events, this specific political protest art, post World War II protest art, could be the most significant expression of our so-called sick times.
NO, LIL: I think you lie to yourself, you are trying to convince yourself that Boris Lurie and Sam Goodman, judged historically today, are a post World War II edition of an European, especially German, art trend of post World War I. I don't think one can judge the March Tenth Street art that way. I think, retrospectively judged the ideas of these artists were a rebellion, but not so much an "artistic" rebellion as a personal and political one. Because at that time Tenth Street started to get very sick, boring, and showed all the signs of an artistic malnutrition. Artists got tired of not selling and tried to become successes in the uptown galleries. They got tired of the dirty, junky, typical Tenth Street "Schmear", they cleaned up their work and entered Madison Avenue and 57th Street.
YES, LIL: I remember that, and I remember also that on the other hand, with your European experiences you liked in some nostalgic rebellious way the dirty, girlie-collages by Boris (I can't help to compare them to George Grosz) and the even messier sculptures by Sam, especially the one of atomized soldiers fighting on a chessboard of war. From this type of art emanated some of the strength of Berlin's art in the twenties. The old "Sturm-Gallery" spirit: Otto Dix, German Expressionism, Bert Brecht, political cabaret, Kurt Schwitters, collages, collages, collages, Americanised, bigger but not much better. Somehow it seemed to you, if you are honest, like the pre-Hitler political cabarets and like the montages used as scenic designs as cabaret backgrounds, so popular in these days and all inspired by Hannah Hoech, John Heartfield and Kurt Schwitters. The Goodman-Lurie horror and doom shows forty years later in New York seemed to me at that time, and I mean 1959-1960-1962 a reflection of post Second World War despair.
NO, LIL: At that time you were very much intrigued by the young New York artists like Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Oldenburg, who had added something beyond the Schwitters-Heartfield-Hoech syndrome. In a time when Abstract Expressionism started to become academic those three pre-Pop artists excited you and influenced you in your own work.
YES, LIL: Now you lie again, you mix it all up. You thought the March Gallery dirty as it was, with the stone stairway going down to the basement and the bums lying around, the whole Tenth Street Slum art district very New York and very uncomfortable!
YES, LIL: Dirt is uncomfortable in life and in art and that's the reason you liked, if you are honest enough to admit it, clean Campbell soup cans, clean Marilyn Monroes, clean Brillo boxes, that Mr. Clean Warhol, when he appeared on the dirty Doom-No & Protest-Sky.
YES, LIL: I know you tried to convince yourself all the time that the cleaned-up "protest" is the better one than the rough and dirty form, because you want to escape the reality of dirty walls, dirty studio floors, dirty hallways, cockroaches, Bowery bums, the bloody mess of humans lying like shit on city streets and at the entrances of artists 'studios and the horrible images of war massacres and war-dead that bombard your visual senses in color every day on T.V., from color pages in magazines, and in movies.
NO, LIL: You must stop your self-argumentation. It seems that under the impact of our present human situation in the year 1969-1970, you are becoming a schizo. You act schizoid trying to defend one art form against another and in reality you are looking for nothing else than a new true form of visualisation in art, relevant to the revolutionary situation of the world. You are torn between a purely "aesthetic" approach and a "literary" one. You can't make a decision. It's a kind of love-hate involvement. A Ying-Yang good-evil, hell and heaven struggle. ...
YES, LIL: I definitely come to a statement. "The March Gallery-form-of-Art of the beginning of the sixties could be seen as the precursor of the Underground Movement. ...".
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About LIL PICARD: Known also as the "MUSE OF THE AMERICAN AVANT-GARDE" and the "GRANDMOTHER OF THE HIPPIES," Picard, a native of Germany, traveled in the Berlin dada circles before escaping the national socialist government with her husband and immigrating to the United States in 1936. In the late 1950s and '60s, she was a member of the NO!art collective, as well as a friend and collaborator to many artists associated with North American Pop Art. Died 1994 in New York. ►more