James Turrell, “Dividing the Light,” 2007

1.  History of Art History at the Claremont Colleges and the Invention of the Joint Program, Compiled by Judson Emerick for the Art History Joint Program’s Self Study of 2009-10 and revised November 2011.

2.  An Appendix to the It Happened at Pomona, 1969-73 catalogue: Something else was happening in the Pomona Art Department during that time.  Gerald M. Ackerman reviews the administrative problems of his chairmanship during that famous and glorified period of the Gladys C. Montgomery Art Gallery, 2014

 

1. History of Art History at the Claremont Colleges and the Invention of the Joint Program

Compiled by Judson Emerick for the Art History Joint Program’s Self Study of 2009-10 and revised November 2011.

Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps Colleges now cooperate to provide a coherent art history curriculum at the five Claremont Colleges which comprise Pomona College founded in 1887; Scripps founded in 1926; the Claremont Men’s College in 1946 [name changed to Claremont McKenna College in 1981]; Harvey-Mudd College founded in 1955; and Pitzer College founded in 1963. What “the intercollegiate joint program in art history” (sometimes identified as a “cooperative field group” or “intercollegiate field group”) does is (1) provide students from Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps Colleges the privilege of treating all art history courses in Claremont as equivalent to courses at their “home” college (and not as cross-registrations) and (2) give all students at the 5Cs access to an art history program with the depth, breadth, and internal coherence of a large art history department in a major American university.

Early Moments

Art history has been taught in Claremont from an early moment—at least from the time that Hannah Tempest Jenkins (1905-1926) arrived on campus. A student of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, she helped organize, first, the School of Art and Design at Pomona College (from 1905 onward) and then the Department of Art (formally established in 1914 when Rembrandt Hall at Pomona College was opened).[1] In these early years at Pomona College, art history was taught mainly to support instruction in the practice of art, a pattern that continued under Jenkins’ successor, Thomas M. Beggs (1926-1948), who had a B.F.A. in painting from Yale University and had studied at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Beggs taught studio art but also an introductory course in art history. Pomona’sArtDepartment during these years farmed out, so to speak, instruction art history—with Beggs as chair arranging for the College’s professors of Classics (notably Homer E. Robbins) and of German (especially Carl Baumann) to teach the subject. The first fully-trained art historian to teach in Claremont was the European (Catalan) medievalist, Jose Pijoan (1924-1930), who was not hired as a professor of art history, but of “Hispanic civilization.” Pijoan taught for six years at Pomona, then left in the year (1930) that he brought

 

Orozco to campus to paint the Prometheus in the Frary Hall refectory.

Despite Pomona College’s head start (with Jenkins and Pijoan), art history as a subject for undergraduate instruction in Claremont first burgeoned at the newly founded Scripps College in the 1930s. Here, due to the collaboration of two charismatic professors among ScrippsCollege’s founding faculty, namely, the philosopher Hartley Burr Alexander (1927-1939) and the painter Millard Sheets (1932-1955), it became integral to the innovative and distinctive Humanities Program that Hartley Burr Alexander invented and vigorously promoted. At Scripps College art history was taught across-the-curriculum within the Humanities Program by all instructors concerned, and with frequent lectures by Millard Sheets and the practicing artists and architects that Sheets gathered for Scripps’ studio art program. Scripps College fast overshadowed Pomona College’s Department of Art in the 1930s and 40s by focusing a distinctive regional, southern Californian art movement in which the making of art and the history of art were utterly integrated. [2] The art history Scripps College thus promoted had a special “applied” character: ancillary to the needs of contemporary artists, Professors Alexander and Sheets insisted that it (art history) led to, and culminated in the products of its modern practitioners who were artists first and foremost.

If World War II curtailed activity in the arts in Claremont, they (the arts) rebounded in the later 1940s. That was when it became clear that art history at Pomona and Scripps would proceed in very different directions.[3] While Scripps College’s art program continued under the vigorous leadership of an artist, Millard Sheets—he would stay until 1955—Pomona’s Art Department had no equivalent figure and was actually run by Pomona’s president, E. Wilson Lyon (1941-1969). As Scripps College was hiring David W. Scott (1946-1963), the painter who had a B.A. degree in English from Harvard University and a M.F.A. from the Claremont Graduate School, Lyon at Pomona College hired an actual art historian, a specialist in Asian art, Kenneth E. Foster (1946-1951), who had a Ph.D. from the brand new Institute of Fine Arts at New York University (founded by Erwin Panofsky et alia some ten years previously). Foster taught solely art history at Pomona’sArtDepartment; Scott taught both studio art and art history at Scripps.

David Scott, a gifted administrator and polymath, eventually earned a Ph.D. in art history at U.C.,Berkeley in 1960. When he left Scripps shortly thereafter, in 1963, for his next (and illustrious) career in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery, the College tried to replace him with someone of similar promise—namely with Alan Blizzard (1963-present) who had an M.F.A. in painting and a PhD. in art history from the University of Iowa. Blizzard continued as Sheets had all the studio artists do—to teach practice of art of course, but also to give lectures on art to students in the Humanities Program. Only in 1966 did Scripps break the mold that Sheets had established and hire a specialist in art history, Arthur D. Stevens (1966-1999). Stevens completed a Ph.D. in art history (in modern art) at the University of Indiana in 1971. He was to become a major figure on the campuses in art history. Nevertheless, in 1969, Scripps might again hire a studio artist and an art historian quite in the Sheetian tradition (!), that is, the print maker Samella S. Lewis (1969-1984). Lewis did not, it seems, actually teach practice of art, but focused on art history and courses on African, African-American, and Asian art. She held a doctorate in art history from Ohio State University(1951).

Meanwhile at Pomona College, President Lyon sought to establish a far more conventional program in art history in theArtDepartment. Kenneth Foster, already mentioned, was a promising start, but he apparently resigned or did not succeed in having his contract renewed, and was gone at the end of 1951. Since Thomas Beggs had resigned in 1948 (to take a position at the Smithsonian Institution as Director of the National Collection of Fine Art), art history at Pomona was all but rudderless. It was true that Lyon’s new classicist, Harry J. Carroll, Jr. (1949-1983), was teaching regular courses on ancient Greek and Roman art in theArtDepartment. But Lyon still wanted instruction in medieval and modern art history in the Art Department proper. In 1950, as a stop-gap, he obtained the part-time services of a German expatriate scholar, Alois J. Schardt, who had been, briefly, the director of the National Gallery inBerlin(in 1933). Forced out by the Nazis, forbidden to teach, Schardt had fled to theU.S.A.in 1940, where eventually he became a visiting professor at Pomona College and taught for four years (1950-54). Then over the next twenty years,Lyon identified and hired a series of able, young, art historians. But none stayed for long, and Pomona’s Art Department continued to drift, or it did so at least as far as art history was concerned. Here is the list of the major people Lyon brought to Claremont between 1950 and 1970:

Seymour Slive (1951-1954) who resigned for a position at Harvard University after three years

Peter H. Selz (1955-1959) who left to become curator of painting at the Museum of Modern Art,New York, after four years

Theresa Z. Fulton (1954-1961), an important figure in art history at Pomona College, but now quite unsung, shadowy, and undocumented—

Bates Lowry (1959-1964) who left for a professorship at Brown University after five years

Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. (1964-1970) who became curator of American painting at the National Gallery, Washington D.C. after six years

Peter S. Walch (1966-1968) who left after two years for Vassar College

Lyon’s final hire, a newly minted Ph.D. from Yale University, David Merrill (1969-1973), did not stay beyond his first contract.

Interestingly, for a brief period between 1956 and 1961, the Claremont Graduate School, founded in the early 1920s (just prior to the founding of Scripps College) had a “head of art studies,” a specialist in Asian art (the Indian subcontinent) in Joseph LeRoy Davidson, a 1951 Yale Ph.D. in art history. His courses were available under cross-registration rules to Claremont undergraduates. But again, this gifted and able art historian left after only a short while. Davidson took a professorship at U.C.L.A. where he ended as chair of the Art Department between 1969 and 1972.[4]

Key for art history in Claremont from the late 1940s onward had been the courses taught by the Pomona College classicist, Harry Carroll, in ancient Greek and Roman art and archaeology. In 1964 the newly founded Pitzer College hired a classicist, Stephen L. Glass, who immediately took over the teaching of these courses. Pomona’s Art Department continued to use them, and felt entitled too, as from an early moment, from about 1950 onward, they had been part of the Claremont Colleges’ first intercollegiate joint program, namely the Pomona-Scripps Joint Classics Program. Credit for the invention of the program goes to Harry Carroll at Pomona(1949-83) and Robert B. Palmer at Scripps (1949-77). Now with the arrival of Glass, that program extended to Pitzer College. The art historians in Claremont eyed this program with interest. But it would take another ten years for the very similar joint art history program to come into being.

As E. Wilson Lyon before him, Pomona College’s President David Alexander (1969-1991) continued to search for teachers of art history to anchor that subject area in hisArtDepartment. In 1969-1970 and 1972-1974, David Alexander arranged to have the senior scholar, the medievalist Teresa G. Frisch, supplement offerings by the inexperienced Merrill (Frisch had performed as a dean at Wellesley College in the 1960s). Then, in an attempt to stabilize the program in art history on a permanent basis, Alexander hired Gerald Ackerman (1970-1989), a Princeton Ph.D. and a scholar in mid-career who had taught successfully at Bryn Mawr College and Stanford University. This hire marked an important turning point for art history inClaremont. The era that Millard Sheets established now began to wane as the Claremont Colleges undertook step-by-step to set up art history in their various curricula as it had been generally during the twentieth century in major universities across the continent.

Arthur Stevens took the first step in the late 1960s when all fiveClaremontColleges, the founding memberPomona, plus all the newer, decided that a normal student course load would be four courses per semester, not five, and that professors would teach five courses per year, not six. That meant that the Scripps College Humanities Program would have to diminish in size if students were to accommodate their majors plus a general education. Suddenly Scripps College majors in art history could no longer count on that program for a comprehensive introduction to their subject. Would they go instead to the introductory courses at Pomona’s Art Department? This presented the novel situation of a Scripps College major having to rely on off-campus course offerings. Stevens thus attempted, and much in the way of the joint Classics program, to have all teachers of art history in Claremont cooperate to offer an introductory art history course sequence. Stevens could obtain the help of the new professor of art at Pitzer College, Carl Hertel (1966-1994); Hertel taught art history very much in the way Millard Sheets had pioneered in Claremont. But Pomona College, now represented in art history by David Merrill, would not cooperate! Merrill, for better or ill, jealously guarded his independence and autonomy as a teacher in the introductory courses.

From the Founding of the Joint Art History Program in 1972-73 to 1999

Students from the Claremont Colleges majoring in art history thus muddled through, patching together the courses they needed taught at Scripps and Pomona through cross-registration. But by 1972 the situation became untenable. Pomona College did not renew Merrill’s contract (and he left at the end of the 1972-73). During that same year, Gerald Ackerman at Pomona and Arthur Stevens at Scripps together founded the joint Pomona-Scripps art history program. This is proven by the catalogs of both colleges: for the first time, in 1973-74, both list all courses in art history at both institutions as “home college” offerings.[5] Key here is the commitment both Pomona and Scripps make in 1972-73 to a single art history program, that is, to one that combines the offerings on both campuses synergistically as if they had come from a single entity or department. For better or worse, this signaled the end of the experiment begun by Hartley Burr Alexander and Millard Sheets atScrippsCollege. Art history inClaremont was not to be ancillary to contemporary art production, but an integral and autonomous academic enterprise by itself. Still, however, the Alexander-Sheets experiment did not come to any abrupt halt here, but continued in the course offerings at Pitzer College, first under Carl Hertel, already mentioned, and then after Hertel retired (in 1994) under Michael Woodcock, Hertel’s student (Woodcock retired in 2005).

The Joint Scripps-Pomona Art History Program has continued from 1973 until the present quite intact even though Scripps produces on average many more majors than Pomona. Faculty from both colleges have nevertheless cooperated across the board—in the planning of course offerings and course times, in the mentoring of students and especially their senior theses, and on search committees for new faculty. Gerald Ackerman together with Harry Carroll, and President David Alexander hired Judson Emerick (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1975) to teach classic, medieval, and Renaissance art in 1973,[6] but faculty and administrators from both colleges, Scripps and Pomona, have cooperated ever since in the hiring of new faculty in art history.

This cooperation was promoted from the start by an extraordinary event. In the mid 1970s Viola Horton made a large bequest to “the Claremont College.”[7] Horton had had a grandson at Claremont Men’s College, and at his suggestion, changed her will to leave a large sum to “the Claremont College,” a mistake that her attorneys did not recognize. In the event the gift went to “the Claremont Colleges,” the closest legal entity with that name. After much intercollegiate negotiation, the deans at the 5Cs used the money to create three joint Viola Horton professorships, and designated one for the joint Pomona-Scripps art history program and the Claremont Graduate University’s program in studio art. The latter needed someone to teach twentieth-century art to conform to the new College Art Association guidelines for the M.F.A. degree. Thus all faculty in art history cooperated to hireGeorge Gorse in 1980, a specialist in Renaissance art with a Ph.D. from Brown University. As a joint Scripps-Pomona College appointment, he would go to tenure at Pomona College, but also provide one course each year in the Scripps Humanities Program. Arthur Stevens at Scripps College thus undertook to provide a course in twentieth-century art at the graduate school. The head of Scripps College’s Lang Art Gallery, David Rubin, also taught one course in modern art at the graduate school.

Not long thereafter, in the mid 1980s, faculty in the joint art history program joined to search for, and hire two further art historians. To replace Samella Lewis, who had retired in 1984, Scripps College brought Bruce Coatsto campuses, Claremont’s second fully-trained specialist in Asian art8] with a Ph.D. from Harvard University. At Pomona College, the joint program’s faculty searched for and recommended that Frances Pohl with a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. be hired to teach twentieth-century European and American art. For several years she also taught a course in Art Since 1945 for the CGU MFA program (Arthur Stevens taught a course in early twentieth-century art).

Beginning in 1974, Scripps and Pomona College also cooperated in the setting up of art exhibition spaces and the hiring of gallery administrators, each of whom offered courses in the joint art history program. Pomona College’s Rembrandt Hall, opened in 1914, had a large room that was often used as a gallery. But only in 1936 did the College add a dedicated new gallery space at the west of the building. In 1958, that extension was demolished, and replaced by the (nearly freestanding) Montgomery Art Center. It is still in use today, having been remodeled and enlarged in 1977 and again in 2006. At Scripps College, Millard Sheets arranged for the construction of an art center with a large gallery, the Lang Art Gallery, between 1937 and 1939. It remained until 1993 when Scripps built the present Williamson Gallery.

For decades previous to 1974, the galleries at both Scripps and Pomona College were run mainly by professors (by both art historians and studio artists). But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, at the Montgomery Gallery, that pattern changed as Pomona College’s President David Alexander (1969-91), hoping to invigorate the art scene on campuses, hired a series of professional gallery directors. The first two, Hal Glicksman (1969-70) and Helene Winer (1970-72) galvanized the Colleges and southern California generally by opening the Montgomery Gallery to startlingly new areas of art production—notably to site-specific pieces (Glicksman) and “performance-” and “body-art” (Winer). The latter, curating shows at the cutting edge of contemporary art, could and did exceed campus and communal expectations and, it is rumored, hastened Winer’s departure in spring 1972.[9] For some years thereafter Pomona College went back to its former ways where the gallery was run more casually by instructors from the Department of Art.

But as art history came into its own at the Colleges as a distinct subject area for instruction (as discussed above), the Colleges sought to reestablish their galleries. Just as Scripps and Pomona Colleges had done with their joint art history program, in 1974, they joined forces to exhibit art: The Galleries of the Claremont Colleges was born (1974-1993). That was when David Steadman, a specialist in Baroque art (Ph.D., Princeton University) came to the campuses as director of the Montgomery Gallery, and Melinda Lorenz became assistant director at Lang (1974-77). The program lasted nearly twenty years in this shape. When Steadman left in 1979, Marjorie Harth took over as director (1980-2004) then Kathleen Howe (2004 to the present). Harth, a specialist in French 19th-century art, took a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Howe, a specialist in the history of photography, did her Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. AtLangArtGallery, David S. Rubin became assistant director between 1977 and 1982, then Mary MacNaughton took over in 1983 (to the present). All of the directors offered a course per year in the joint art history program.

In 1993 the Galleries of the Claremont Colleges dissolved with Scripps and Pomona going their separate ways. Scripps rededicated the Lang Art Gallery site as a commons and built a new gallery in 1993-4 named after its benefactor, Ruth Chandler Williamson. The gallery at Pomona became once again an autonomous entity at PomonaCollege, and then in 2001, the Pomona College Museum of Art. The directors of both institutions continued and continue to participate in the joint art history program inClaremont.

Another name change occurred in 1993, when the Pomona College Department of Art became the Department of Art and Art History, the better to reflect the double aspect of its affairs. That same yearPhyllis Jackson had arrived at Pomona College as a Mellon Fellow with a Ph.D. in Art History from Northwestern University to teach African and African-American art, and was subsequently appointed as an assistant professor, tenure track.

The Joint Program, 1999 to the Present

In 2000 Juliet Koss was hired at Scripps College to replace Arthur Stevens, who had retired at the end of 1999. Koss, who holds a Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Art and Architecture from the Department of Architecture at MIT, teaches nineteenth- through twenty-first-century European and U.S. art, architecture, and visual cultures. At this time, the art historians at Scripps still offered their courses within the Scripps Art Department, which subsequently changed its name to the Department of Art and Art History and, in the fall of 2005, amicably split into two separate departments, with the Department of Art History maintaining its ties to the Joint Program in Art History at Pomona and Scripps Colleges.

In 2003, Jennifer Friedlander joined the Pomona faculty as the Edgar E. and Elizabeth S. Pankey Professor of Media Studies and Assistant Professor of Art History, having completed her PhD in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. Her hire was prompted by the rapid growth in student interest in media studies at Pomona and at the Claremont Colleges in general. When the Media Studies Program was given a new FTE, its coordinating committee decided, with the approval of the relevant departments, to search within two fields: art history and sociology (because Media Studies was a program and not a department, its faculty had to be hired into an existing department). Frances Pohl, as coordinator of Media Studies at the time, chaired the search committee. That the Department of Art and Art History sought to add Friedlander as a member attests to a shift within the field of art history as a whole toward an interdisciplinary, if not visual studies, model. Phyllis Jackson had already introduced courses on the art of Africa and the African diaspora that included film and video history and theory. Friedlander’s focus on psychoanalytic theory in her discussion of both contemporary art and mass media further broadened the exposure or students in art history to methods of visual analysis. Friedlander’s move to join the newly-formed Media Studies Department in the fall of 2008 did not cut off this development in art history: a student may enroll in Friedlander’s course, “Theories of the Visual,” for credit toward his/her major in art history.

More recently Pitzer College has promoted interdisciplinary approaches to art history in Claremont. In 2005, a new position in art history was approved there for the Art Field Group, which invited the faculty of the Pomona/Scripps joint art history program to help in the search for candidates (George Gorse was a member of the search committee). Pitzer hired Bill Anthes, who has a Ph.D. in American Studies, with a focus in art history, from the University of Minnesota, and a track record of publications on the art of indigenous peoples in North America. With Anthes’ arrival in 2006, Pitzer College became an official member of the joint program in art history. In order to facilitate communication among both faculty and students, the position of coordinator was instituted at Scripps, for one year, in fall 2009, currently held by Juliet Koss.

And finally, in 2010, Michelle Berenger arrived at Pitzer College to teach in the joint Claremont classics program, and graciously agreed to have her courses also count for credit in the joint art history program. She would replace a legendary founding professor of Pitzer College, Steve Glass, in that position. Glass, who began at Pitzer College in 1964, retired in June 2011 just a few days short of his 76th birthday. He was one of Pitzer College’s founding professors and a participant in the joint art history program right from its start (in 1973 he permitted his course on Greek art and archaeology to count for art history credit). Glass was a 1957 Pomona College graduate with a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Three years before departing from Pomona College in 2004, Marjorie Harth succeeded in acquiring museum status for the Montgomery Gallery of Art. From 2001 onward, Pomona has been home to the Pomona College Museum of Art, which, since 2004 has been led by Kathleen Howe. This name change was merely one manifestation of the more ambitious exhibition and acquisition program undertaken by Harth and continued by Howe. At the same time, Mary MacNaughton at Scripps was taking full advantage of the new Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, mounting the nationally-recognized ceramics annuals and exhibitions from Scripps’s permanent collections, and bringing more traveling shows to the Claremont Colleges. With the hire of Ciara Ennis in 2007 as a full-time Director/Curator of the Nichols Gallery and the Lenzner Family Art Center, Pitzer College has also been able to offer a full and exciting roster of exhibitions, primarily of contemporary art.

 

 


Notes

[1] E. Wilson Lyon, The History of Pomona College 1887-1969 (Claremont: Pomona College, 1977), 100-101, 136-137, 213, 242-6. E. Wilson Lyon (1941-1969) was the sixth president of the College.

[2]Mary MacNaughton, “Art at Scripps: The Early Years,” exhibition catalog (Claremont, 1987), introductory essay.

[3] Oral history interview with Roland Reiss conducted by Paul Karlstrom, August 22, 1997; September 9, 1997; and June 11, 1999 in Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (q.v. online).

[4] The Claremont Graduate University, founded in 1925, offered a Masters degree in the Fine Arts at an early moment starting in the 1930s. But this small program had no professors of its own. Davidson, for example, did not teach studio art (he seems likely to have been engaged in the graduate school’s other humanities programs). For instructors in art the graduate school initially depended entirely upon studio artists at Scripps and Pomona Colleges who taught graduate students as an overload and without any remuneration (or release time at their home institutions). Here again the “genius of Claremont,” as he was widely known, Millard Sheets, had a huge impact. But everything changed radically when the Claremont Graduate School (as it was then called) committed in earnest to its M.F.A. program and hired a professor of studio art, Roland Reiss, in 1971. Claremont’s instructors in studio art at Pomona, Scripps and Pitzer Colleges still teach courses at the graduate school, but that program is now a stand-alone autonomous operation with its own dedicated faculty. See the interview with Roland Reiss (as in n. 3).

[5] Pomona College catalogs are available at the Claremont Colleges’ Honnold-Mudd Library, in Special Collections; the Scripps College Bulletins are saved at Denison Library.

[6] Emerick goes on phased retirement, teaching half-time, in 2012-13, and retires at the end of 2015.

[7] For what follows see especially Arthur Stevens, “A Very Unofficial & Private Communique concerning Scripps College,” memo sent in September 1999 toBruce Coats andMary MacNaughton, then edited and sent January 8th, 2010, toJudson Emerick.

[8] After Kenneth E. Foster at the Claremont Graduate School who taught between 1946 and 1951, already mentioned.

[9] For full particulars see, “It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973,” exhibition, The Pomona College Museum of Art, Part 1, Hal Glicksman at Pomona, August 30 – November 6, 2011; Part 2, Helene Winer at Pomona, December 3, 2011 – February 19, 2012 (q.v. on-line).

 

2. An Appendix to the It Happened at Pomona, 1969-73 catalogue:

Something else was happening in the Pomona Art Department during that time.

Gerald M. Ackerman reviews the administrative problems of his chairmanship during that famous and glorified period of the Gladys C. Montgomery Art Gallery

The first time I heard of the ambitious art exhibition, It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles, 1969-1973, was at a Pomona College alumni meeting addressed by two members of the museum staff. The exhibition was to occupy the Pomona College Museum of Art galleries for a whole academic year (from August 2011 to May 2012). Three separate but chronologically related shows would cover the exhibitions of the Gladys Montgomery Art Gallery, as the museum was then called, from 1969 to 1973. As they talked I gradually realized that the year-long series of exhibitions covered the first four years of my time at the college, during the latter-half of which I was Chairman of the Art Department, and I sensed a subtext: “Everything was fine until Ackerman became chairman.”

Years later, when the catalogue It Happened at Pomona [henceforth referred to as IHAP] was published, and I read through it, I saw that “Ackerman mucked everything up” was not just a subtext, but a leitmotif and a disingenuous one to boot. This forced me to think back. Old memories awoke, which were aided by the interviews with artists and other material in the catalogue.

The interviewees spoke from memory too. Their memories and mine often differed, and to write my memoir of the time, I either had to assimilate their ideas, find documentation of an alternative version of the past, or ignore them. As it was, I mixed all three sources for this memoir, suffering the fact that some mistakes would enter my text.

How I came to Pomona College

At a College Art Association Meeting in Philadelphia during the late 1960s, I bumped into Charles Merrill. We had both been graduate students at different northern East Coast universities at the same time and I knew and respected his work. Merrill was then chairman of the Pomona College Art Department. He told me there was a position open there and I told him I was interested. When he returned to Claremont, he gave my name to the newly appointed Pomona College president, David Alexander (1932–2010). It took a while before I was informed by Alexander’s secretary that he was coming to Stanford, where I was teaching, to look me over. There must have been other candidates, or there was something about me that was troublesome, or perhaps Alexander himself was off to an onerous start as president. In any event, the hiring proceedings were slow. Alexander evidently approved of me, for I was invited to Claremont in February to be interviewed by various committees. I was hired, rather ignobly, without academic advancement and a minimal salary increase.

In the late fall of 1969, my partner and I drove down to Claremont. I’ll never forget the wrench in my stomach as we drove over Kellogg Hill and we saw below us the disconcerting ocean of dark-brownish air which lay in the Pomona Valley, very much like a bucket of dirty car-wash water. After a moment of silence, Leonard said, in gentle commiseration, “Don’t get depressed, Jerry.”

As my first semester in the Pomona College Art Department opened, I began to sense–with each month that passed–irregularities in the activities of a very strange department. I kept my silence but watched. It was difficult learning the ropes when there weren’t any in sight. I also saw that the studio instructors often didn’t always teach the subject that the course title predicted, and that the art historical courses were unkempt.

I become chairman of an unorganized department of four divisions.

In the spring of 1971, Merrill came up for contract renewal; he didn’t get it. So, tortuously and for lack of a better alternative, I was made chairman of an art department with four different parts: the administrative area, the studio art section, the art history section, and the art gallery. Being chairman gave me access to the departmental files, that is, to the budget accounts. I spent a weekend reading the confused and spotty documentation of the financial history of the department for several years back. The trouble was, there was no planned departmental budget. Once a year the school assigned an ample, single sum to the department from which the payments for purchases and services were extracted by individual members of the department.

The departmental office had a very competent secretary who more or less kept things functioning; she saw that the professors and the office never ran out of supplies, and that expenses unknown to the professors got paid regularly. There was a fine slide librarian who kept the collection in order and up-to-date, sometimes with the help of paid students and volunteer workers.   Both of the administrators were wives or ex-wives of faculty members, intelligent, learned, and experienced in college ways, and very loyal to the school and the department. They were diligent and kept their respective sections in order. They were the memory and mainstay of the department. Nevertheless, they were miserably paid.

The art history professors were a disparate group of teachers who with great self-assurance wandered off in all directions. There were three full time instructors: myself; Charles Merrill; and Theresa Frisch (1900-85), a distinguished scholar of late medieval art, full-time, but on temporary contracts, who had been evidently coaxed from retirement to help Pomona out.  When I arrived Frisch was in the second year of a two-year appointment, after which she disappeared for a year, and later reappeared for another two years, all this tended to by the college administration.

The Montgomery Art Gallery had Helene Winer as the complete staff. She was energetic and obviously an experienced professional. She had in her mind a good list of interesting young artists in the Los Angeles area, and used this knowledge as a source for her exhibitions. Long in advance she picked out the artist or theme for each exhibition, and at the proper time, contacted and engaged the artists, selected the exhibition pieces so that they would have some coherence on display, got the works to the gallery, and hung them up in a good, clean display that was always interesting and provocative. She produced a small catalogue for each exhibition, arranged a gala opening, and when the show was over, dismounted the exhibition and got the works back to their homes. All this was done with dispatch and skill.

The evening openings of the Art Gallery exhibitions were grand. A bus full of friends of the artist, other artists, and sympathizers arrived from town. I thought at first that the transportation was paid for by the artists’ dealers, but I learned none of them had dealers. More likely Winer paid for the transportation from her budget. The city folk filled the gallery with talk and movement sporting interesting and sometimes elegant if unusual costumes. They drank the cheap wine, ate the required cheese and crackers, and minced on the large Chino strawberries. When the band played, they danced together.  At a certain time they all got on the bus, and rode away. That was, in effect, the end of the exhibition. Very few people visited during the rest of its run. The exhibitions were of limited interest, even to habitual gallery-goers; Winer focused her attention on avant-garde circles in “downtown” Los Angeles.

Helen Winer, along with her main role as gallery director, was appointed an assistant professor of art history; she gave two courses a year, one a lecture course on modern art, the other a seminar on contemporary art. Professor Harry Carroll of the classics department generously gave a lecture course or two on ancient art each year. One art history course was required in the Master of Fine Arts program at the Claremont Graduate University, and his classes were always packed with graduate students. All in all, the instructors were a disparate group. All but two could be called part-time appointees, which meant that their individual presence in the department was weak; they didn’t form friendships or regularly attend departmental meetings. I was the only one with a continual, predictable presence in the department and the school. The result was a haphazard collection of courses each semester, for all five instructors taught their specialties and there had been no effort to join them in a meaningful program for art history majors.

The studio section had two full- time instructors: Guy Williams (1932-2004), an excellent painter with a subtle but splendid command of color; and David Gray (1927-2001) a fine abstract sculptor, but two serious studio accidents left him unable to practice as a sculptor, although he continued to teach. His presence in the department just faded away; I hardly knew him, although he was on the staff until 1973.

There were also several part-time instructors in the studio section, including Lewis Baltz (1945-), a photographer who was just on the verge of a successful career; Norman Hines (1939-), who was a practicing ceramist and a Pomona College physical education instructor; and James Turrell (1943-), a Pomona College graduate and member of the emerging light and space movement in Los Angeles.

I can’t remember when Norm Hines gave his first regular ceramic class in the department, but when he did, I was glad to know he would really give an organized beginners’ course. The other studio instructors were contemptuous of his appointment. According to Peter Shelton in his interview with Rochelle LeGrand Sawyer, when Shelton was a student,

“Norm came in and started teaching pottery, and all these football players and non    majors started throwing pots. This happened without the approval of the art faculty, no offense to Norm but it caused a division which created immense weirdness in the department: the crafty, non-artists against the rest of us” (IHAP, p. 295).

This was an ironically naïve reaction. This was the very period when ceramics rose out of humble handicraft status into full acceptance as a fine art. Furthermore, this change was evidenced by the presence of Paul Soldner (1921-2011), a world-class ceramist, just up the street at Scripps College and by the equally famous California ceramist, Peter Voulkos (1924-2002 ) at the University of California, Davis. Their reputations were not made by spinning vases and teapots, but by producing works that were technically fine, formally and intellectually ambitious, and resplendently beautiful. (By the way, this last adjective was anathema to hip artists and critics, and callaphobia [fear of beauty] is still of moment in many contemporary art circles.)

The studio artists all agreed to let their students have complete freedom, but not every student, particularly those who wanted to draw from nature. For instance, in three different semesters concurrent with my time in the department, the drawing instructor had his drawing class: (1) keep a dream diary which they must have discussed in class; (2) had his students attach strings to the twigs and branches of trees and then tie the other ends to nails in the lawn below making three-dimensional patterns; and (3) had each student build a camera oscura, a traditional perspective and drawing device. Because of the lenses and wood required, this last project was very expensive; it was also so laborious that very few students finished it. Now these activities are not opaque, and one can see them as problems related to drawing for advanced and already well-trained draftsmen. Nonetheless it was hard to accept Turrell’s basic dictum that photography had completely replaced the study of the traditionally basic skills taught in undergraduate drawing courses, such as perspective, chiaroscuro, proportion, the human body, all of which developed the coordination of eye, brain, and hand and that still seemed useful to any young fine art student.

After my discoveries about the budget and the curriculum, I interviewed the studio artists separately, a not very pleasant experience. Each artist was enraged that I asked questions about the purchase orders or proposed a departmental program of classes with true catalogue titles and descriptions. When I suggested to one he might buy books for the main library, he retorted with vehemence, “I’m not some god-damned librarian!”

These attitudes were not strange; they were typical of the nationwide hippie subculture then at its height, and most teaching institutions suffered from a more enlightened version of hippie notions of no respect for tradition or authority, no interference in the student’s mentality by rules or even faculty advice, etc. As an example, students did not need to study how to plan a painting, or how to apply paint correctly; they could just sit down to a plain canvas and start off, as in a New Yorker cartoon. The electronic composer Richard Maxfield (1927-1969) refrained from visiting classes when he was a visiting professor of composition at UC San Francisco so as not to disturb their creativity or development, individuality, or originality, and so forth.

My efforts to convince the studio artists to change were a failure. The French philosopher Montaigne had warned me that in accepting an office, I also accepted the obligations to do things that were necessary to the office, but contrary to my developed personality, and not to be surprised when the results were “officious” or inept.

 My Contretemps with Helene Winer

Winer and I had many disputes, never, I think, about aesthetic matters or her exhibitions. Some of her shows were seriously reviewed in the LA Times, and others not received well. Others were a mystery to me as well as to the general art-loving public, but I, as her chairman, defended her professional performance and skilful management. Once even in a long memo I praised her to President Alexander; this memo was brought back to my mind when I saw it reprinted in the IHAP catalogue (pg 23). Our main problems were financial. I continually asked for itemized advance budgets for each show she planned. I never got one. No one at Pomona had ever asked her for a budget for an individual show before. She did not then realize that I was balancing the budget for four budget entities, and that once I knew how much the artists would ask for–and they spent very little–I could probably assign her more in the next budget, if she asked me to.

Winer and I had running disputes not only over administrative irregularities and the budget, but also about the format size of the catalogues for the exhibitions. She liked a pocket size booklet, and I was aware that tiny books got lost easily on the shelves of both public and private libraries. I wanted something more substantial that would be a lasting record for the gallery and for the artist. I never protested anything about the exhibitions themselves. I respected her professional knowledge and ability and recognized the limits of my knowledge of contemporary avant-garde art. Nonetheless, I had already developed, somewhat parallel to her artists, a coterie of local, young realist painters, who were much interested in what I knew about the academic masters of the nineteenth century such as Gérome and Bouguereau and other great nineteenth century and contemporary artists whom they didn’t know about. At the same time they taught me much about studio practice and the decisions they had to make. I also encouraged them to meet and work together, which they did, in drawing sessions, where they all chipped in to pay a good model, and to have conversations afterwards. They blossomed in monthly meetings at John Swihart’s residence in Santa Monica, where between pot-luck snacks and great conversation, a local realist would talk about his works. The camaraderie of the various meetings had good results. The southern California area was filled with working realists. There is a great picture industry here, not just movie animation, but comic book and magazine illustration, bureaus of digital picture makers, story boards for movie design, as well as designers of sets and costumes. The local realists no longer felt isolated, nor were they depressed.   And of course, they learned a lot from each other in solving common problems. Because they sat down monthly and politely listened to varied artists explaining their projected images, they learned to accept different personal styles. This happened alongside the modernism that Winer was publicizing.

I respected and defended Winer’s professionalism and ability at length. I, myself was a professional art historian and I knew that art history is, more or less, the history of fads and fashions, intellectually and stylistically, sometimes dignified with the term “historical styles.” For me the awareness of the lively changes of styles taught me to not get lost in transitory contemporary artistic character. I also knew that new avant-garde movements had reoccurred constantly, since the mid-nineteenth century. Their attraction to the young was based upon inherent rebelliousness coupled with a love for the new. And I recognized that during the then flourishing hippie period, anti-establishment theories had permeated academia. They had to be given their day, for a new fashion would soon displace each in turn. (Shakespeare notes that “All forwards do contend” [Sonnet no. 60]. )

The most amusing scandal of Winer’s exhibitions was a series of three evening “happenings” at the art gallery. Happenings were performances by an “artist” of some unspoken concept. This is not a silly idea; over the centuries the question has often been discussed among artists and philosophers whether the initial “idea” for a work of art was of higher status than the enmattered execution; this thought has obvious Platonic rumblings underneath it. The once influential, but now almost forgotten, Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce (1866–1952) argued in his Aesthetics, 1902 (a book still being read when I was in high school) that the unfinished Tenth Symphony of Beethoven, known from a few sketches, was greater than his finished Ninth because the Tenth remained a pure idea in the composer’s head, whereas the Ninth had been betrayed into the defective material world.

The three Pomona happenings were performed in March of 1973 in the smaller of the two exhibition rooms of the Art Gallery. The first performer, in my memory, was Wolfgang Stoerchle (1944-1976). Oddly enough, several published descriptions of the event differ greatly from one another. I remember best the central portion, probably because it caused such a ruckus.

The gallery had been divided into the event zone and a narrow spectator zone by a rope. Stoerchle, a personable, mature man in a sweat suit, walked into the large performance area. He threw a narrow length of carpet out on the floor, straightened it out, and opened a bottle of beer and placed it on one end of the carpet. Then he undressed completely, uncovering without ostentation a vigorous and pleasant body without any threatening qualities. He stepped on to one end of the rug, his back to the audience, and picked up the bottle of beer, and slowly drank it. He then stayed in one place and waited until he had to pee, and then, he peed onto the patch of carpet on the floor in front of him. The concept was evidently the following of the path of the unseen liquid through his body. No movement was exclusive of this concept; certainly no movement was erotic. The audience was patient; it waited and watched with no audible reaction. No one stomped out. No one laughed. As far as I can remember only one other faculty member was there, the classicist Professor Harry Carroll. And no newspaper critic was there. The event however did get mentioned later in an article in the LATimes on “happenings.” It simply described the event as a performance by a nude male who urinated before a crowd. The phone in the president’s office started ringing; friends of the department, supporters of the museum were calling. These were people outraged by the single most likely third-hand description in the Times. They made one phone call after the other to exercise their self-righteousness and indignation.   The president forwarded many of the callers to me. He seemed to handle trustees and major donors himself. I explained to one indignant person after the other the grand status of the nude in art, its expressive quality, and the way students became used to nudity through the study of Greek and Renaissance art and through mixed life drawing classes, a tradition of centuries. And I explained that no one walked with disgust out of the happening, nor did anyone seem erotically excited; the audience was patient and respectful.  Despite the fuss, at the next happening, which also included nudity, no official observers were there to check out an event which the possibly indignant would know of only by hearsay.

It is often stated in the IHAP catalogue that Winer was fired because of the nude Stoerchle happening. She was not fired, she resigned, and when she did it was some nine months later (the happenings took place in March and Winer resigned on 1 November, 1972). According to Winer’, in her interview with Rebecca McGrew in the IHAP catalogue:

“After Ackerman threatened to stop the printing of Al’s (Ruppersberg) catalogue, thinking that the exhibition would go on without it, I said I would resign and the exhibition would not proceed if the catalogue was not printed. After a few hours, I realized that they would have to fire me, and I withdrew my resignation, but not the threat to cancel the show. Ackerman was furious: I was fully prepared to depart, but I would not resign. I got a lawyer…[who met] with Alexander.  Forcing the firing and a settlement of my contract gave me some satisfaction in an otherwise really unfortunate situation” (IHAP, p. 175.)

The Ruppersberg catalogue was printed. If there was any dispute, it was about the measurements of the pages. Winer’s actions and intentions are confusing, as is her report of the conversation. Her strangest remark was that I got furious. I seldom do; indeed, in the department I had the reputation of never losing my temper.

The Ruppersberg show opened on October 31, 1972 and closed on November 22, with the catalogue. On the morning after the opening, I found Winer’s Pomona key ring on my desk. I took that as her resignation, and phoned the Deans’ office. True to her professional behavior, she returned to Pomona to dismantle the Ruppersberg exhibition, and then disappeared.

Elsewhere in her interview, she muses that the Stoerchle happening was not the reason for her being fired. “I was rather fairly oblivious to institutional concerns, I didn’t consider that the college would be concerned about what I did. Their interest was so low. I was never called upon to explain, defend or accept any criticism ”

The Gallery Director was an administrative post, “at the pleasure of the president,” who started looking seriously for a new gallery director. Before one was hired, I spent the next year improvising exhibitions, accepting the help of anyone who had an idea, all the while teaching many courses and rebuilding the teaching staff both in the studio section and the art history section. Some exhibitions were good, others mediocre. I was helped by my partner Leonard Simon who, as registrar at the Leland Stanford Jr. Art Museum, had designed and mounted many an exhibition. Some people were angered at the change in tone and quality of the exhibitions, others, I assume, were relieved.

Much later, at the end of the academic year in June 1973, a full semester after Winer had left Pomona College, the artists resigned en masse, “in sympathy with Helene Winer.” Turrell relates how they resigned as a group:

“Yes, as a group. And we had our resignation letters in an envelope, and at some point, I put the envelope down on David Alexander’s desk. And this made poor Guy Williams nervous. Guy really needed this job. And then Guy moved around me and was getting closer to picking it up.  I realized that Guy was moving over so he could actually take back the envelope. Just before he was able to do that, David took the envelope and put it in his drawer and closed it.” (IHAP, p305)

The beginning of the rebuilding of the Studio and Art History staffs.

I wanted four full-time, tenure track instructors in both the studio and art history departments, probably the number that had been maintained before the disintegration of the departmental program in the last, say, ten years. Only with permanent appointments could we form a departmental program for the general needs of the students and for majors.

Norman Hines and I started the rebuilding of the studio department. We didn’t form a two-person cabal, nor did we make an open plan for what we wanted to do. Since we both knew what needed to be done, spontaneous cooperation was easy.   First, Hines started a second, “advanced” ceramic course. so another ceramist had to be hired. Then to meet the demand, the number of ceramic courses was doubled. Next he added a beginning sculpture course, then an advanced sculpture course, which meant we needed another artist. After a few semesters we had a five-person full-time studio faculty teaching drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and photography.

The enrollment in the introductory art history survey gradually increased to one hundred, the number of seats in the large lecture hall of the department. I had been teaching the course elsewhere for twelve years already; I loved it and put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into it, knowing that for many of the students, this would be their only art history course. As a student in Munich, I had picked up the German conceit that facts were less important than method and theory, and that , as a well-trained art historian, I could teach any course in any field. This notion, I found out, was not true.

To give the art history section a good and needy framework, I taught three classes each semester, notwithstanding that as chairman, I was obliged to teach only one. I replaced expertise with enthusiasm; I had travelled so much while I was a student in Munich during the generous two month vacations in the Fall and Spring, and it was all serious art-historical travel–all museums and monuments– so I had first-hand acquaintance with major, and many minor, art historical monuments. I can remember stopping for swimming only once in all my frequent trips to Italy. I shamelessly taught a series of courses in medieval art; then with more authority, I gave Renaissance and Baroque art courses, easier subjects for me. This was to get the courses in the catalogue. Nineteenth century art was my actual field, albeit with a special, personal interest in Academic painting, not popular enough to present as a course or even given much notice in the introductory survey. I spread out my interest in nineteenth century art, and up into the early twentieth century, gradually filling out a major curriculum in the catalogue, proper for preparing students for graduate school. Probably more because of new College Art Association rules for hiring rather than because of my trustworthiness, I was in full charge of the process in the search for a medievalist. Following the rules that were to eliminate administrative or telephone appointments, I sent out announcements with lists of qualifications. From the applicants I chose enough to fill two full-days of one-hour interviews at the College Art Association meeting. I picked out three good candidates to be invited to Pomona College to be reviewed and interviewed by the administration and faculty committee, and Judson Emerick was selected as a full-time, tenure track appointment. He is just now retiring (2014-15).

In the late 1970s a large bequest for the teaching of art was left to a legally inexact “Claremont College,” and a legal battle started between the colleges and the graduate school, all fighting for a piece of the pie and each arguing that they represented “Claremont College,” although no such legal entity existed. Even so, it was fairly clear what the simple intention of the donor was: her grandson had attended Claremont McKenna College. Finally, the agreement was reached that two of the colleges could make a joint appointment paid for by the fund. I made a good and direct case that Scripps and Pomona art departments had an obvious need for and could profitably share a Renaissance scholar. (This was demonstrated by the enrollment in the Renaissance courses I had been teaching.) We were granted our request. Following the College Art Association’s procedures, George Gorse became our shared Renaissance professor with his home office at Pomona. Later, when Steadman was appointed by the president as the museum director, he taught the Baroque courses. Almost everyone in the Pomona Art Department was expected to be able to teach the periods before and after the period of their specialties.  We suddenly had a surplus of class possibilities, allowing every faculty member to give a seminar and later to absorb the changes in ideas about what new courses should contain, this despite the traditional nature of the reconstruction of the art history faculty. I was proud of the job I had done.

David Steadman, the new Gallery Director, was a shared appointment with Pomona College and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. He was a good man, with ambitions perhaps too big–that is, he wanted to be the director of a major museum. He did make the Pomona Art Gallery over, putting on scholarly shows that were a mixture of beauty and stuffiness, with impressive catalogues. Certainly he found it difficult to fit in at the Simon Museum with the magnificent narcissistic personality of Norton Simon, who made all the decisions, ignoring and frequently firing his curator staff. And Steadman had little to do with the reformation of the Studio and Art History Department, busy enough as he was with being Gallery director at Pomona. Any discussions of Pomona departmental politics or problems he had with me were while he was backing out the door, or, in a corridor. He finally left to mount higher on the ladder to larger organizations; it was not so much disaffection with Pomona, but the realization that his appointment with the Norton Simon museum was not exercising his skills or interest.

An Interesting, Happy Conclusion:

Tensions between artists and art historians are a perennial problem in every school where the two are joined in one ill-fitting program. Artists and scholars think differently, and each group thinks it knows the secrets of art. They have been joined together by historic accidents; in any college one or the other of the two professions was started first, and thinking that the artists needed to know more about art history, or that the historians needed to know about painting techniques, someone was hired for the need who became a seed for a new department. The two sides grew apace, and soon they were two inimical factions joined at the spine, as at Pomona. After decades of struggling with this discomfiting mixture, Pomona College recently decided to separate the sections into two separate departments each with its own budget and building. This will go into effect in July 2014.   Both sides are happy about the separation.

I remained chairman for ten years. I resigned when I saw that I had reached the limit of my inventiveness and effectiveness, and that I could not protect members of my staff against the personal prejudices of the administrators. When the studio faculty complained that no one at the college took them seriously and that everyone thought their courses were too easy, I suggested that they revise their grading rules, and for the second time (I had said the same thing when I was initially hired) they rejected the idea. I also found that I could not get a raise for an underpaid but efficient and intelligent slide librarian.   Time to quit.