ESTERA MILMAN: Response to Clayton Patterson
and to David H. Katz,
Part 2 (2005)
Clayton, Never say never. What was Boris so upset about? Please give my best to Dietmar and tell him that he certainly has my permission to include my last communication (as well as the one that follows) on the site.—Estera
Since I wrote the more informal inhouse response for myself, and a few other people on Clayton's listserve (in response to what I understood to be Clayton's request that we all initiate/participate in a dialogue), I thought the least I could do is write something for Boris. The letter I just sent off the the editor of the Villager follows. Since Boris doesn't use email, I'll send the full complement of this last cluster of back and forth emails along to him via land mail. Knowing him as I do, I'm pretty sure he will enjoy knowing that both Clayton and I are, each in our own way, up to our old tricks.
Response to David H. Katz, “Boris Lurie: Uneasy Visions, uncomfortable truths”
I was pleased to learn that The Villager had published an article comInforating Boris Lurie’s inclusion in the ongoing group show at the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum and wanted to commend David H. Katz for his contribution. Conversely, I wanted to offer the following two cautionary observations. Although Katz’s well intentioned narrative suggests otherwise, Lurie and his co-conspirators in the NO!art collective were very real players in the cultural politics of the early 1960s New York artworld and, throughout the so called “decade of dissent” and well into the 1970s, received very visible notice by cultural critics, scholars and artwriters including William C. Seitz (the Museum of Modern Art), Tom Hess of Art News, Lucy Lippard (in her pre-politicized avatar), Dore Ashton, Harold Rosenberg, and Gregory Battcock, among a host of others. Furthermore, at the outset, NO! and North American Pop were parallel phenomena; it was not until Pop became the artworld’s self proclaimed anointed (and strategically depoliticized) successor to Abstract Expressionism that NO! assumed an oppositional (that is not to say “reactionary”) stance. If, as Katz has (perhaps inadvertently) done, you cut the historical legs out from under something, you marginalize it. There is a second issue addressed in Katz’s narrative that I believe is also deserving of explication; one that can perhaps be best articulated by referencing what Ami Eden (Senior Editor of The Forward) recently called “Playing the Holocaust Card” (see The New York Times, Op-Ed, January 29, 2005). Those of Lurie’s confrontational and unnerving works that refer to his adolescent experience in the concentration camps have little in common with the traditional iconography of victimization we have come to associate with visual representations of of that phenomenal range of suffering we have labeled the Holocaust. Some four decades after their realization they come closer, than do any other images of their genre that I am aware of, to serving as visual precursors to a new (and also highly contested) literature currently being authored by contemporary cultural historians who have begun to critique the institutionalization / depoliticization of Holocaust Infory in the United States.
Mail on March 4th, 2005
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About ESTERA MILMAN: Founding Director, Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts (ATCA), 1982 through 2004. Composed of artifacts, performance relics and archival material of the post-World War II avant-garde, ATCA attained an international reputation as both a groundbreaking repository for contemporary artworks and a research program. Funded, in part, by a series of grants from Federal and State agencies, the project successfully generated a host of acclaimed topical workshops, exhibitions, publications and interdisciplinary symposia. Charter Member Conceptual and Intermedia Arts Online (CIAO) and Project Leader, CIAO Fund-raising Subcommittee, 1997-2000. Participants in the CIAO consortium included Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts/The University of Iowa, Berkeley Art Museum/The University of California, The Hood Museum of Art/Dartmouth College, the Getty Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, Franklin Furnace (New York), the National Gallery of Canada, the Tate Gallery (London), and the Walker Art Center. She curated in 2000/1 the first North American retrospective of early works by the NO!art cooperative of artists active in New York since the early 60s at Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art in Evanston. ►more