My statement at the Alliance Panel  at the National Academy Museum, NYC,  in conjunction with the exhibition “See It Loud” on  December 11, 2013

On the panel: Philip Pearlstein, Marjorie Portnow, Sam Thurston, Judd Tully. Robert Godfry, modorator.

Note: We called it the Alliance because we were given space each week in a room in the Educationl Alliance 197 East Broadway NYC.


   I helped start the Bowery Gallery and served as its treasurer and helped organize the Alliance, moderating the first meeting, and participating in the first organizational meetings and was on a few panels. I was not so involved in Artist's Choice but my wife Marjorie Kramer was. She helped start it so I got to see its creation and do a few errands.

  A lot of people remember the arguments at the Alliance. Here is what I think about the Alliance arguments. In 1969, at Alfred Leslie's loft, which was the second meeting of the group that was soon to call itself The Alliance, Paul Georges set a mood by by saying something that he had clearly prepared beforehand, and in a statement that was taken as an attack, he said that all the artists in the room were cripples who were painting fragments of paintings, not complete paintings at all and they did not need to be doing fragments.  Now there were a lot of artists in the room who did not like the words 'cripple' and 'fragment' applied to them or their work and many hooted in displeasure. It seemed a blanket attack on still life painters, landscape painters and the depiction of studio nudes.  I focus on his statement because it illustrates a couple of important attitudes of that time. Most obviously it was very critical - both self-critical (I think Georges used the words 'we are all cripples') and also highly critical of the group. But secondly, it is also very optimistic because Georges is also saying that he is seeing a new horizon, the  goal  of a new completeness for the diverse representational painters who in those years were  coming in contact with each other. Only one year earlier Georges had done a 10 foot by 20 foot painting  titled "The Return of the Muse" which depicted his nude elder daughter as the returned muse in New York City and with a row of more that thirty artists  and others in the line beside her, with most of them facing outward, towards the viewer, a position which read as their seeing the muse. The painting  said 'look at all these artists who can now see the muse! This is a new thing!. '  I think this Return of the Muse painting can stand for a general optimism held by many.  Now Georges also left a lot of muse see-ers out. Many of whom were in the audience that night at Al Leslie's. All the more reason for hoots. (By the way The "Return of the Muse" makes the idea of Georges' "Mugging of the Muse" in the show here, which was done six years later, more readable.)  Georges' optimism was shared by many of the artists in the room that night, whether included in the Return of the Muse painting or not.
  In the late 1960's there were more than half a dozen separate representational style groupings coming into being. These representational styles were moving away from generalized modernist abstraction. They were uninterested in Pop Art, Social Realism or American Modernism. They did not develop together as a group or school and so did not share a common artistic point of view.They were all going in different directions, all optimistic and charged up and ready to say that their way was best. They did not think all artistic directions were equally valid. So how could they not disagree? Also note that at the old 8th Street Club which was just coming to an end at the time the Alliance was starting heated arguments had long been common. Many of the older Alliance goers were old Club members. Also, in mid century political arguing was common  (mostly between different positions on the left) and that attitude  made it more common for artists to argue I think. But mostly we felt painting and its direction was important - thats why we were arguing.

What is needed is to understand the substance of the arguments - what artistic positions were the different painters defending. But that's outside my five minute intro.


On the different points of view of directly experienced and narrative

I think a lot of people laughed when in the '70's when Sidney Tillim said at the Alliance that there was a Hegelian necessity that representational art would turn to narrative or History painting in the grand manner, but it had some truth; It was an impulse that kept showing up - started in the late '60's with Al Leslie's Killing of Frank O'Hara and also with Milet Andrejevic and of course Tillim himself.  The meaningful narrative idea reached Lennart Anderson, Georges, Gabriel Lalderman and others soon after.

The coming together and the argument did a lot for us. This opposition of the narrative, constructed image (the history painting direction) with the directly experienced, from-life mode was the problem we had to confront. Many of us continued to develop throughout our careers by exploring the possibilities of narration while keeping the link with the real perceived world;  Laderman for instance started painting still lives and landscapes that had no figures in them and were done directly from the motif and then introduced  posed figures expressing narrative in the '80's which were a little academic and static then in his late realized narratives where he used models but could distort them and give them motion. He is someone who used the Alliance dialogue to his benefit. He started with a directly experienced representation of the world and expanded and developed using Leslie's and Tillim's ideas of narrative and Georges' ideas of movement and painting mechanics.

And Georges disparaged still lives and later still lives became a great subject for him - a direction opposite  than Laderman’s; one going from directly experienced to narrative the other going from narrative to directly experienced.
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Compare  Club to Alliance

Club: members only with monthly dues.   Alliance: room donated by a non profit cultural institution

Club: non members may only enter as guest    Alliance: anyone can enter by paying nominal fee

Club: Policy of no students or architects     Alliance: stated purpose to be for representational artists but no one barred

Club: Wide spectrum of styles (with ab. ex. largest contingent)    Alliance: Representational painters and sculptors mostly

Club: More of a cohesive club with varied functions ( dances, drinking parties and non art lectures)   Alliance: less social programs; everyone went to a bar after.