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No Phil, no forum.

If John Irwin, the absolute founder of Artforum (he dreamed of a sort of Hugh Hefner fantasy applied to an art world he perceived both insightfully and imperfectly), set the physical style of the magazine (Its unusual squarish format and a lush and colored layout), and John Coplans was the driving engine from the inception, by the fifth issue Phill Leider was the magazine's mind, conscience, and soul. The equation is simple: no Phil Leider, no Artforum--at least of any substance.

Coplans' willful energy at the beginning of Artforum was enormous, at times near sociopathic. His greatest contribution was discovering Phil Leider. The story was that while visiting the John Bolles Gallery in San Francisco in the fall of '62, looking for something to review, Coplans heard fantastically rapid typing from the gallery office. Since Artforum was at the time little more than table, chair, typewriter, a couple of packing crates, plus a part-time Irwin and Coplans he looked in, thinking he might capture a needed secretary. To his shock it was an intense, intelligent man, Leider, on the business end of the typewriter. Quickly realizing he had more to gain than just a secretary, Coplans somehow persuaded Leiders to join the enterprise.

Leider had come to San Francisco from New York with no particular professional focus. He was quick to convey a fierce devotion to his wife and young children; he was expllcit about wanting to get away from the "dangerous" streets of New York.

This attitude, a little curious to me at the time, nonetheless jibed with the social concern and idealism Leider was always quick to express. For example, he proposed the notion that Artforum should be totally free of commercial vested interest: no advertising. Coplans and Irwin of course viewed this as quite mad and gently if persuasively dissuaded Leider: no advertising, no magazine

From time to time I was drawn behind the scenes to help find desperately needed financing. Coplans vigorously advocated that I finds a backer from among the (then) few movie-industry tycoons who collected modern art in Southern California. This was possible to do. Leider fiercely, as always, fought the idea of the magazine falling into "the clutches of Hollywood types," and he prevailed. After Irwin's money ran out the magazine somehow survived on loans and gifts (at the time these were known as "investment") on the part of genteel San Francisco patrons--until Nick Wilder delivered Charles Cowles.

Leider was an amazing fast study. It seemed he could catch up virtually overnight with any art issue new to him (and most of them were new). For Leider the time was always now. Deadlines were instantaneous--support the writer and get the article right by almost any means necessary. In all of this his attack parsed with that of Coplans.

The eclectic range of the art initially embraced by Leider was singular: from Bruce Conner (whom Leider called "the Dachau playboy") to Frank Stella (Leider had a greatest empathy, and a mind to engage Michael Fried) to Robert Smithson (so beautifully addressed in one of the last articles Leider wrote from Artforum, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation"). I can think of no editor of Artforum who has had a more passionate concern for the belief in the power of the world than Phil Leider. He set standards to live up to.

He was a Great Editor

Phil Leider's tenure at Artforum corresponded with as period of transition and upheaval in the art world. The '60s were the decade that marked the beginning of the end of Moderinsm. Even though Clement Greenberg was still making predictions and pronouncements in catalogues, his influence and relevance were finished. He lost his critical credibility for good what it was rumored that he wanted to spruce up some of David Smith's sculptures, after Smith's death, by painting them. It was also obvious by that time that Caro's and Olitski's sculptures and the Color Field painters were not going to carry the day. Artforum moved from L.A. to New York in 1967, and Leider immediately began to publish the first writings of Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, and Sol LeWitt. In issue after issue he followed the emerging work of a new generation: Carl Andre, Don Judd, Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman, Micheal Heizer, Yvonne Rainer, Keith Sonnier, Richard Tuttle Andy Wasrhol, Frank Stella, Chuck Close, Claes Oldenburg, Alan Saret, and Joseph Kosuth among others. More than any other voice or venue, Artforum substantiated the break in American culture in the late '60s. And it was largely thanks to Phil Leider.
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Title Annotation:Philip Leider, former editor of Artforum
Author:Hopps, Walter
Publication:Artforum International
Article Type:Biography
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Melanie Counsell.
Next Article:John Coplans.

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