11 MARCH 1972, Page 23


Pique week

Evan Anthony

Alas, there are some jokes classified as avant-garde art up with which I will not put. Without embarking on an exhaustive list, I can note that four of them have lately been displayed at the Tate, and one more is on view in Shaftesbury Avenue — on a billboard. Of course, if the Tate's accompanying manifesto strikes a chord of agreement, you may well revel in these pseudo-intellectual exercises: "It is for this reason that the seven exhibitions [there are three more to come] can be presented here in the Tate Gallery. That is to say, however unlike conventional works of art some of the pieces may be to some of our visitors, there is no objective dividing line in history which cuts them off from what almost everybody now accepts as art." (Well, it does say almost).

There are mirror arrangements worthy of any fun house, and a 'drawing machine' like a holy scroll that winds paper and leaves room to write the numbers 1 to 1,000,000 (fancy that!). As for the very sincere Joseph Beuys who, two days running (at the Tate and the Whitechapel), found himself surrounded by acolytes giving him feed lines (" What Joseph means is . . . isn't that so, Joseph ? "), I share his hope that artists will be free, and that a true democracy will one day find air, but having said that, what else is new ? Perhaps something provocative or original emerged during the six-hour talkathon, but being no masochist, I tore myself away after only one hour. I read one of the occasion that actually described the boredom as fascinating.

I'm afraid that the law of diminishing returns is greatly in evidence in the art world where everything and anything is expected to go. To invoke the Dadaists, Duchamp, and even (when hard-pressed) the Impressionists, is not really sufficient to secure our submission, in watching a screen on which no apparent action takes place, or reading convoluted prose, gaga eyed, wondering what the hell is supposed to be going on, just in case something is.

Who, besides its originator, Daniel Duren, cares that Shaftesbury Avenue now sports a purple-and-white-striped billboard? And if you think the 'commercial galleries ' offer an alternative society, you are bound to be disappointed should you look where I've looked. To go from the absurd to the abysmal isn't much comfort, and there isn't much point in running down Violet Tengberg at the Drian Galleries. I arrived too late to buy The Struggle of Mankind for the tidy sum of £1,000, but there were (and I should think still are) enough other works of equal ineptitude. It's the kind of painting you see in plays that use artists as figures of fun.

And Pedro Pacheco's works at the Spanish Club, Cavendish Square, being sold by attractive PR girls, are of the finger-painting school of art, with that special paintedon-scraped-off look. "He tries," they say, "to grasp a secret from creation." "In my work,' he says, "I do not intend to reveal the model or the objects, for in doing so much of the mystery would be lost. That would prevent you from imagining or creating by yourselves." Thanks all the same, Pedro.