Kenneth Stubbs
(American artist, 1907-1967)

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Biennial Exhibit 'Failure'
Washington Star, March 26, 1955, p. A4

That the Biennial Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art is a failure should be apparent to practically everyone. The failure has absolutely nothing to do with how modern or how conservative the paintings happen to be. Certainly most of them are worthy of being included in any present-day exhibition. No doubt this is a livelier show than would have been the case if most of the 64 paintings had been conservative. And yet, even if this is a good show, it is definitely not a good biennial.

For many years the Corcoran Biennial has held its place high among the most important American exhibitions. It has always attempted to present a cross-section of the best work of all types done by the artists of many types who paint in this country. Past juries, always composed of artists, have managed to hang biennials that brought honor to the Corcoran and American art, and some degree of satisfaction to the public and to the accepted and rejected artists.

The sad fact is that the present biennial cannot possibly be considered representative of American art today. It is limited to this year's particular style of acceptability in much the same way the Paris salons present this year's style in fashion. That it presents a rather distressingly flat-chested appearance only emphasizes the fact that other artists of ability still work wonders with a more traditional development, and even an occasional bustle! However, there is no chance in this show for comparisons.

When the jurors assure us that paintings in styles other than the chosen few were too poor to be included, we cannot doubt their sincerity, but we can question their judgment rather severely. It is feared they are victims of the trend that represents good taste as limited to the style of today. Perhaps only the 64 chosen works were in the accepted style as well as good enough to hang, but it is hard to believe all the other 2,037 entries were lacking in the acceptable qualities of achievement that can make a biennial.

It is imperative that the next biennial return to the artist-jury method of selection if the Corcoran wishes to have the co-operation of the artists, who after all must submit their work if there is to be a biennial.

Kenneth Stubbs

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Jury Is Responsible for Corcoran Show's Faults
Washington Daily News, April 1, 1955, p. 52

Most of the barbs aimed at this year's Biennial Exhibition at The Corcoran Gallery of Art are from people who object to the modern paintings shown. Such criticisms miss the point.

For styles to change in art is natural and healthy. Artists will bring about such changes regardless of criticism. The fact that the Biennial presents modern work is good. However, a national show should not be limited to an up-to-date style. It should present good work in all styles.

The trouble with this Biennial goes back to the selection of the jury, which was composed entirely of museum directors. Apparently they felt the need to prove they are up-to-date.

Paintings for the Biennial should be chosen by a jury composed of several practicing artists, who are able to see quality even in styles other than their own.

Kenneth Stubbs

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Corcoran's Jury
Washington Post, April 2, 1955, p. 20

To have an important National Art Exhibition selected by a jury of museum directors is to invite the catastrophe that befell the art world in the form of this year's Biennial at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. That only 64 paintings were chosen, while 2037 were rejected, is unfortunate. That the 64 represent such a narrow vision of what is being done in America is a catastrophe.

Unfortunately this Biennial is not an isolated example of the Corcoran's exhibition troubles. There have been other memorable examples in recent years. The basic trouble lies in the method used for choosing juries. For several years the Corcoran has been searching for ways and means of keeping abreast of changing taste and styles in art. In doing so it has done much to enhance its position and reputation as a great gallery.

However, in its many experiments with juries it has encountered more than its share of failures.

Apparently it is more necessary for museum directors to keep abreast of the latest acceptable trend in art than it is to concern themselves with what is good in all trends. Such nonpracticing members of the art community may serve a useful purpose in special types of exhibitions, but they should never judge a major exhibition.

It must be remembered that advances and changes that occur in art come from artists. It is equally certain that most of the successful advances or changes in exhibitions will come from them. And so, they should select the exhibitions. However, they should work in groups, for a one-man jury, even of a competent artist, is a questionable thing. In rare cases it may be the best method, but it is a gamble, and should not be tried for an important exhibition.

A jury composed of several artists will be faced with the usual problems of differences of opinion and with compromise. Still it will function in a way to allow checks and balances to influence choices.

It is vital that the next Biennial be chosen by a well-balanced artist jury.

Kenneth Stubbs