Leonardo Thinks


Historical Article by Frank Malina

When Leonardo was launched in 1968, the viability of an international professional journal for those working in the visual fine arts was uncertain, primarily as regards obtaining a sufficient number of manuscripts from artists on their work. The cooperation of at least a small percentage of the large number of practicing artists was essential. Since this has been achieved, it suggests that something has happened in the profession to overcome one of the causes of the failure of similar ventures in the past.

The ‘something’, I believe, is the gradual impact of science and of advanced technology on many artists during this century. This belief is supported by the fact that the majority of more than 300 texts by artists from 29 countries published up to the end of 1977 were concerned with nontraditional subject matter, concepts of visual presentation or materials and techniques. Posterity will evaluate the artworks when reliable criteria for such evaluation are available. Developments in the fundamental understanding of human neurophysiology, cybernetics systems and communication of information give hope, as pointed out in general articles published in the Journal, that such criteria will eventually be found.

Stringent editorial guidelines have been adopted that are deemed appropriate for a journal devoted to analytical and descriptive texts. Many artists have thanked George A. Agoston, Assistant Editor, and me for our efforts to help them present discussions of their work in a clear, calm and concise manner. There were a few who regarded their manuscripts as works of verbal art, and they were advised to submit their texts to another type of art periodical.

A romantic, antirational climate still widely prevails among the practitioners and teachers of the visual fine arts, the causes of which are complex but include conditions underlying artistic recognition and pecuniary reward, tendencies to regard art as a non-intellectual activity and reactions to the small role of the fine arts in the daily lives of most people and in the programs of governments. Perhaps the fact that Leonardo has survived during a decade when several art magazines stopped publications (in spite of their trying to appeal to the general public and accepting commercial gallery advertising and subsidies) indicates that there is a growing need for professional journals by and for visual artists whose contents are useful also to teachers, researchers and scholars.

One of the main objectives of Leonardo is to provide artists with an interdisciplinary source of information by means of general articles, special regular sections and book reviews. Subjects covered include general philosophy, the various disciplines of the natural and social sciences, mathematics, technology, history of art, aesthetics and education. This objective requires the cooperation of many individuals in the spirit of the free exchange of ideas, which underlies research and education. Such cooperation is also forthcoming from those qualified to review critically manuscripts that are submitted for publication.

The first book of selections from the Journal, Kinetic Art: Theory and Practice, published by Dover Publications, New York, has sold more than 7500 copies. The second book, Visual Art, Mathematics and Computers, will be published by Pergamon Press, Oxford, in the spring of 1978. Enough material has appeared in Leonardo for books on Creativity in the Visual Arts, Science and Technology and on Visual Art and the Psychology of Perception.

Material was published in the Journal either in English or in French for the first three years, but then the practice was discontinued as impractical and uneconomical. Since artists generally know only their mother tongue, Leonardo reaches but few artists in non-English speaking countries. Manuscripts may still be submitted in English or in French.

In spite of severe inflation and reduced library budgets during this period in many countries, the present subscription list has almost eliminated the subsidization of the production cost of the Journal by the Publisher, Robert Maxwell, and by the Founder-Editor. The subscription rate for private individuals has been kept low. This has seemed appropriate to us, since so few artists are able to earn their livelihood from the sale of their artworks.

I wish to express my appreciation to the members of the editorial groups who have helped to develop the Journal in a variety of ways. The Co-Editors, especially, have given of their time to encourage artists to submit manuscripts on their work and to develop editorial policies. Besides the present Co- Editors, John H. Holloway (U.K.), Jacques Mandelbrojt (France), Robert O. Preusser (U.S.A.) and Kirill Sokolov (U.S.S.R.), important contri-butions were made by the following Co-Editors: L. Alcopley (U.S.A.) (1968-1973), Anthony Hill (U.K.) (1968), Piotr Kowalski (France) (1968), Leonardo: The First Decade Xavier de la Salle (France) (1968-1972), Peter Lloyd Jones (U.K.) (1969-1971) and Charles Mattox (U.S.A.) (1969-1975).

To convert manuscripts into printed form for wide distribution requires the help of those skilled in the production and marketing of periodicals, and this has been provided by Pergamon Press. On behalf of the members of the editorial groups of Leonardo, I thank Gilbert F. Richards, Managing Director of Pergamon, and his staff, especially Mary Cook and R. W. A. Gilmore, who have supervised the production of the Journal, the high quality of which has been praised by many readers.

Leonardo has been for me a highly stimulating experience. It has forced me to take account of the present rudimentary understanding of the fundamental aspects of the visual fine arts as regards the aesthetic characteristics of the final works offered by artists, the way the works are conceived and the reactions of those who contemplate them. The limitations imposed on the rational discourse of art by the ambiguities of natural language and by the exaggerated claims often resorted to in the world of art to increase the appreciation and sale of artworks present difficulties that are especially challenging for a professional journal.

The editors invite artists and those concerned with contemporary artworks and their possible role in a world confronted with problems of unprecedented magnitude to take advantage of the international platform offered to them by Leonardo.

ISSN No: 1071-4391
Author: Frank J. Malina, Editor
Originally published in: Leonardo, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Winter, 1978), pp. 1-2
Print: ISSN 0024-094X, Online: ISSN 1530-9282, DOI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1573495.
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