Three letters – the first 27.5 x 18.5cm, 2pp: a lengthy letter hand typed by Burns on airmail format paper on May 31 1975 replying to an original letter by Rushton to Burns. The content of this letter is very significant – Burn claims that The Fox should be a “short-term strategy” and “should dissolve in it’s own limitations/self criticism in 4, 5 or 6 issues” and that this is Mel Ramsden’s view also. After more detailed discussion of a possible future direction for the magazine, Burn addresses Kosuth’s attack on Terry Atkinson in The Fox and claims that Kosuth had stopped him being on the Editorial Board of The Fox to avoid Burn’s protestations about such “self-promotion”. The letter then talks about an Australian exhibition with Terry Smith and local political resistance to such a show by Conservative Australian politicians as well as problems with some of the anti-museum content of the show causing one museum director to try to cancel the engagement. The end of the letter discusses the long-distance format of the exhibition with text being telexed from the USA to Australia by Burn and the artist (Smith) in the Museum using them and “recontextualising them in as broad and problematic a sense as he can” to create the show. Signed in black ink “Ian” at the end of the letter. A mailed copy which minor edge damage stamped and franked and with return address stamp. Several hand annotations to the typescript in Burn’s handwriting.
The second letter (28 x 22cm, 2pp) is undated but likely to be July 1975. The paper is a vintage xerox copy of a letter sent by Burn to Harold Hurrell on July 3 1975 as complaint and enquiry as to “What on earth is going on over there?” and continuing “We just got the new Art-Language and I’ve just sent off to Michael (Baldwin) a nasty letter. A lot of the stuff is puerile, there’s no other word for it. What’s with the insulting remarks about me on the last page…. is it assumed that any readers cannot make up their own minds, they have to be told Michael is right and either I’m wrong or just stupid? And Sandra’s (probably Sandra Harrison) insulting remarks about Mel, appended to one of her articles… after she had edited out what Mel had told her was wrong, she then makes a public statement saying she rejects Mel’s notion of ‘wrongness’. How fucking smart!”
The letter continues with discussion about the terrible relationship between Art + Language UK and Art + Language US and references Stezaker and Sanger’s attack on The Fox group in Studio International. Burns then asks Hurrell “doesn’t anyone check up on what Michael does? Is he always simply allowed to gratify his large ego at everyone’s expense? Does everyone agree with everything he does? Are people afraid to disagree with him in case they become the ‘victims’ (sic) of his vitriol? Doesn’t anyone realize how silly so much of it is?”
After this attack Burns discusses how A+L UK looks from the trans-Atlantic point of view. A final paragraph points to other published examples of attacks on A+L US contributors and claims most of the attacks mis-represent what was originally said in the offending articles.
ON THE REVERSE is a hand-written letter in black ink to Rushton explaining the background to the xerox letter and noting “we are somewhat disturbed at the silliness of A-L 3 #2 and claiming “more than half the issue is just w****** , getting people’s rocks off over “those of us who have been corrupted by N.Y. But does;t anyone see they are homeless articles, products of country-cottage-“radicalism” with no relations to actual conditions etc…” The whole signed “Best wishes Ian”
The third letter to Rushton (27.5 x 18.5cm) addresses the preparation for the The Fox # 2 and claiming the content is better than issue 1. After some personal details about inviting Rushton to visit the USA, Burns notes “I wasn’t talking (in my last letter) about “withdrawing” – more that Mel and I have been doing a lot of re-thinking of our relation to ‘A+L’ (what ever that is at this stage). It wasn’t what we had hoped it could be. I’ve written a review of A+L vol 3 no 2 for this issue of The Fox which should make a few people ecstatic… even though it is pretty temperate.” The letter finally discusses a Rushton continuation to The Fox. Signed in black ink “Ian” at the end of the letter. A mailed copy which minor edge damage stamped and franked and with hand-written return New York City address.
All in all three important letters and one xerox on the reverse of one which shine considerable light on the break-down between the A+L UK and US groups which led in 1975 – 1977 to the effective disbandment of Art + Language as a coherent international collective body and the eventual replacement of it by a duo of artists under the Art & Language title (admittedly both being active members prior to that date) who considerably changed the direction, content and intent of the original grouping. Unique and fascination original documentation of an important moment in conceptual art history.
Price is for all three letters together as group