TO BORIS LURIE, 1977 | NO BLOOD ... PLEASE ... | In 1976 when the Nationalgalerie Museum of West Berlin hung a huge exhibition entitled "ART FROM 1945 UNTIL TODAY - art from the USA in European collections", no representation of Sam Goodman nor Boris Lurie could be found in it. If a counter question were to be posed, most naturally we would arrive at the same answer in reverse: for there is no work by Vostell in any American museum,- such is the state of affairs in 1977. When in 1963 I exhibited for the first time in New York at the Smolin Gallery, as a contemplating pair together Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol arrived - just one day before the exhibition's opening, with an AAHHH ... Warhol expressed his great astonishment and wonder about that which he saw of me. But the critics in town lamented:" ... Well, photos should be used in their pure form as found objects, just as Warhol does - with no personal comment ... something like when Duchamp had been leaving his Objets Trouves clean... but not at all like you or Lurie are doing it - which is to comment upon the photos or additionally to load them up with criteria" .. .At the very same time I made the acquaintance of Boris Lurie - a little later through him I met Sam Goodman. It had been all too natural that this meeting materialised - we had been working on the same theme and in the same mode of expression. Naturally therefore no contact was maintained with the Pop-Stars.
And today, 15 years later it is obvious why. Warhol today works over his photo-exercising his personal intercessions upon them as do legions. Nonetheless his following has become more muted even if more cautious in the assertion he is to have developed new methods of aesthetics. Jackson McLow related to me how Andy in the beginning of the Sixties ran around New York raking in everything-silently understandably-he knew of McLow's concept to beam a stationary movie camera all day long at a tree. Unfortunately Jackson did not carry out this FLUXUS piece. The cases are quite similar: NO!art and FLUXUS unappreciated in New York because of their intransigence. The question remains unanswered today in 1977, exactly as it had been unanswered in 1963: which is the real American art? Who are its true innovators? -- Since the New York art historians favour in such unmistakable fashion the affirmative artists in the USA (... and let's keep quiet about the European ones all together!) the aforementioned question must be posed emphatically again and again.
Is the dialectic in Lurie's works unpopularity "European"? Is the effect of what he does in New York such as if he advised the viewer "SCRAM TO THE SHRINK"! Well, and if so? And what if that is actually so? It is a mystery why in New York creative quality is not bestowed where Lurie and Goodman do represent the Infory of their civilisation and in a novel manner; when they direct scenarios like the big Coffin-Environment in Greenwich Village - Sam's "American Way of Death" - at such time when there were no Kienholz-rooms in existence. Cool and fascinating that show, about 10 luxury-coffins with all the hype of the "American Way of Life" not in the least vulgar, a strong testimonial within its individualistic representation yet far removed from the optimism of the gay Pop-character's productions whose work is devoid of the tragic component of life.
John Cage wisely proclaimed in a lecture in the beginning of the Seventies: ... "Politics cannot be gotten to by logic and by reason ... as artists we should offer our governments more NONSENSE so they wake up". That is exactly what Boris Lurie does. He no more represents in his paintings what he Iikes. Unlike Warhol with his Campbell - cans which decidedly please its creator - and why shouldn't they please him?? But Boris' conscience and own empirical experience dominate his creative personality: he does not merely observe, but he accuses with his visual works. Hitler's destruction works. But he criticises as well any other work denying, limiting rights of humans ... and that - exactly that is just too much for the art-scene TOO MUCH BLOOD ON THE PICTURES. But why? My question directed to the art-party guests still stands. Art it so happens to be is not cozy-sentimental titillation: learn from Goya, learn from Leonardo! Of course New York is unimpressed: living commences there but with today.
Should fear and silence of the critical avant-garde in the USA continue much longer, then Europe will be granted time to go on from theoretical discussion to a strong production, yes I mean to the construction of a strong art - our only possible response. Time is running short anyway, the New York Museum of Modern Art must return the GUERNICA painting to Spain. It belongs to the European artists who continue working in its direction. If the Museum of Modern Art ignores NO!art it has not earned Guernica. Picasso I believe agrees with me. He once said in an aphorism: "No hay que tomar la pintura como un arte, sino como una regla de vida!" (... Regard painting as a rule of life rather than as an art.)
Dein Wolf Vostell
Published in: Lurie, Boris; Krim, Seymour: NO!art, Cologne 1988
Spanien, im Mai 1995
TO BORIS LURIE, 1995 | Dear Boris! Shalom. Welcome to Berlin! How are you? Just now, on the way from Chinchon to Oropesa de Toledo, I bought a box of Coiba Siglo IV (Cuba cigars since 1492), because smoking is not yet forbidden in Spain. Most of the beautiful women on this road have smiling faces, and it's 36 degrees with clear light. We are 503 years after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and it is the way here that no one deals with it anymore, unlike the people concerned, however. In the intellectual circles, somehow everyone wants to be descended from the Sephardies, which is also true for certain villages where Jews stayed. Remember the royal decree, 1492 in the year of the discovery of America, either emigrate, convert or death penalty.
How that will look in Germany 503 years after the Holocaust, I don't know either. In any case, 50 years later, Germany is still a tricky terrain as far as tolerance is concerned. The racist madness jumps over to Aesthetic Intolerance (Sculpture Boulevard Berlin 1987), which is due to the fact that large groups of the population reject the idea of modernism and avant-garde in the art of the XX century (even before 1933). Fax, video and CD-Rom, of course, they love. I have a suspicion that many citizens would like to use the term "degenerate art" again for what they don't like; wouldn't this quote decoupage them in their views. Unfortunately, I also had to go through the hostile experience and hearing in New York in 1963, which was directed towards you and NO!art (against Fluxus as well). Of course, the criticism was always for Pop Art and against everything that disturbed the "American way of life". Dear Boris, how could it be otherwise? There was also the ignorance of European critical art and its influence in New York. You know, it went so far that Rauschenberg couldn't even remember DADA. To deny the actual sources in art is impossible in Europe, and that's why the situation is different from New York, where the art market hypnotizes itself into believing that the American avant-gardes came into being without Europe.
The problem here is, although the critical artists are not loved, they are respected as long as they do not claim to be stronger and more relevant in their effect than the formal settings, such as those of Malevich, Mondrian or Yves Klein. In more German terms, all painters with "evil", enlightened and dialectical imagery, even seen internationally, will always have a very hard time in Germany. Who should collect all this? The psychological appearance of the collectors here is the same as in New York. Why should they hang their beautiful houses full of enlightenment, concepts, memorials and reminders of the disastrous history in the XX century?
The aesthetic quality is not even judged, the politicized image theme always serves as an excuse not to see further or to think more complex. That's why you have a hard time in the U.S. and will have a hard time in Berlin, except for one ray of hope, which is always there. I wish you an appropriate place in the new collection "Contemporary Art Against Forgetting" at the Jewish Museum, Berlin. There your achievement, your outcry, your rebellion as painting, would have an extraordinary meaning!
In the meantime I look again at the Spanish sand, which immediately reminds of art. Think of El Greco, Velazquez, Goya and "Guernica" by Picasso. Well, in Berlin I would immediately think of Grünewald, Bosch or Heartfield when stepping into a puddle of water. Salud, Mazeltov and abrazos para ti Boris.
Your Wolf Vostell
Malpartida/Spain, May 1995