Art Library Exhibit: “S.M.S. (Shit Must Stop) – 1968”

The Vassar College Art Library Presents: S.M.S. (Shit Must Stop) – 1968.”

At the height of the global political and social upheavals of the 1960’s, the American surrealist painter and art dealer William Copley published an unusual periodical entitled S.M.S., which informally stood for “Shit Must Stop.”  Inspired by Dada and the anti-commercial, merged-media ethos of the Fluxus movement, the publication consisted of a series of six 7 x 11-inch cardboard portfolios published bimonthly between February and December of 1968.  Each portfolio contained seven to fourteen multiples by different artists, and included works of widely divergent materials and techniques, from constructions and printed matter to photographs, prints, drawings, and sound recordings.

Includes multiples by Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray, Christo, Roy Lichtenstein, Merit Oppenheim, John Cage, Richard Artschwager, Walter De Maria, Ray Johnson, Richard Hamilton, Dieter Rot, Yoko Ono, and many others.

On view for the remainder of Fall Semester 2020, in the Art Library Main Reading Room.

Materials courtesy Archives and Special Collections, Vassar College Libraries.


S.M.S Issue Number 6 1968.  Limited Edition Multimedia Art Magazine.  11 x 7 inches (Closed)


 Roy Lichtenstein, “Folded Hat” 1968. Ink on folded Mylar. 7 1/4 x 14 inches
Yoko Ono, “Mend Piece for John” 1968. Cardboard, paper, plastic bag, ribbon, glue and broken tea cup.


Mimmo Rotella, “6 Prison Poems 1964-1968. Ink on Various Papers. 9 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches (variable).
“These Poems were written Clandestinely in the prison of “Regina Coeli” in Rome, during the detention of five months of the artist Rotella for posession of marijuana in 1964″.


Eyes that see, persons with knowledge, they must be allowed to construct the new world. — Le Corbusier, When the Cathedrals Were White.1

This exhibition celebrates a series of color photographs of the Vassar College Art Library, arguably the first modern interior in the United States on an academic campus, restored in 2007- 2008 by a New York based firm known for its conscientious restoration of important historic landmarks, Platt, Byard, Dovell, White. Andrew Tallon, who taught the History of Art at Vassar College from 2007 until his untimely death in 2018, took the photographs in the summer of 2016 to illustrate a monograph on John McAndrew, the scholar-architect responsible for the library’s original 1937 design. This monograph took shape around a scholarly study of McAndrew’s modernism written by the architectural historian Mardges Bacon.2

Preservation and its historical objective is a project of the future as well as the past. The restorers of John McAndrew’s Art Library understood this implicitly. One of the two architects on the project, the late Paul Spencer Byard, stated this principle as follows:

There is in a sense no such thing as “preservation”…. Every act of preservation is inescapably an act of renewal by the light of a later time. 3

Even what we know as the modern demands this historical treatment. It cannot not be envisioned without it. Every new work involves temporal exchange, because, as Byard points out:

Each new work of art is supported and enriched by its sources and its cultural and physical contexts. . . . In each creative act the old and the new are inextricably entwined and inescapably beholden to each other. 4

In a word, the new depends on the old for its existence, even as the old requires the new for its apprehension. Acts of historical enquiry and historic preservation are therefore not mere acts of nostalgia; they derive their energy from our urgency to creatively envision solutions to the confrontations of the present and future in juxtaposition to what has gone before. The instrument of the photograph, so relentless in showing us a present that slips into the past as soon as the shutter is snapped, thus shows us in the same moment the past as it enters and builds itself into the present.

Andrew Tallon’s deep familiarity with Gothic architecture made him cognizant of the dialectic of old and new even in the practices of medieval builders. During his initial visit to Vassar he lectured on successive medieval renovations to particular buttresses of Notre Dame of Paris, each buttress building on observations about the strengths and weaknesses of the earlier designs.

Superb historian and photographer that he was, it comes as nosurprise to us that Andrew Tallon’s photography of a quintessentially modernist architectural space envisions this space as both an artifact of a bygone era of design (“modernism”) and a creative field that holds the promise of a future with endless potential. No less “historic” than the Gothic structures Tallon was so skilled at documenting, these photographs of John McAndrew’s own vision of the space of the future, a space whose restoration was based on both photographic records and scientific research, illuminate the pure form within which the future of art and architectural history at Vassar unfolds. For McAndrew, the modernist revolution was in color. An essential design element that Tallon’s photographs hone in on are the color schemes, which McAndrew modeled on Le Corbusier’s purist color palette and his own insight that color could be deployed in the design of a study space in order to offset illustrative materials as well as maximize illumination. 5 The colors were thus meant to subdivide these materials and give the eye one wall at a time to consume so that, in the words of a contemporary member of the art department, the color effect would thus reduce “the inevitable fatigue of the very powers of attention we try to evoke.” 6

While preservation is not a matter of fixing past forms in amber, a certain attentive regard for these forms which comes through study and understanding will lead to a willingness to spend time with and engage them. Imagination cannot exist without memory any more than memory can exist without imagination. So it is no coincidence that so many of the individuals who have created and recreated the beautiful and functional learning space documented in Andrew’s photographs should be known for their work in historic preservation. This includes John McAndrew himself, who late in his career helped to found the Save Venice organization after the 1966 flood. Paul S. Byard and Charles A. Platt have worked as architects on projects to preserve major New York monuments including Carnegie Hall, the Cooper Union Foundation Building, the New York Historical Society, and the Park Avenue Armory. They have also directed or served on the boards of the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Municipal Art Society, and Paul Byard’s legal background was instrumental in the Supreme Court case that saved Grand Central Terminal. As educators, both men helped to formulate, and taught in, the the historic preservation studio architecture program at Columbia University. Andrew Tallon was a founder of the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris, an organization established to collect funds for the maintenance and restoration of the great cathedral that was a chief object of his research. In recent months that research has become an international media story as it becomes apparent that it will be critical to the effort to restore the cathedral after the catastrophic fire of April 15.


Architectural historians in Vassar’s Art Department have been scholars rooted in medieval and Renaissance studies who taught and wrote about contemporary design. In addition to his work as an architect, McAndrew, an expert in Venetian architecture, made an immense contribution in a series of exhibitions he organized as curator of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art. These exhibitions shaped public opinion during the critical period when European modernism was being introduced to North America. His successors over the following 80 years at Vassar College, Richard Krautheimer, John Coolidge, Wolfgang Lotz, Richard Pommer, and Nicholas Adams, were historical specialists as well as participants, through teaching and scholarship, in the architecture of their own times: past and present infused one another in their work.

Le Corbusier’s “persons with knowledge” who have “eyes that see,” to whom the future should be entrusted, are endowed with the ability to construct a new world out of the old. Like John McAndrew, an educator who used his architectural talent to create a new kind of learning space for students, Andrew Tallon was known at Vassar from the day he arrived as an innovator in methodologies for visualizing and communicating architectural forms and ideas, particularly with digital media. Arriving in the Art Department just as digital images were taking the place of 35mm slides, Tallon was instrumental in the Department’s acquisition of state-of-the-art digital projection equipment for its classrooms that made the use of digital images for teaching truly viable, and he led a fundamental change in the way visual information is communicated in teaching. His groundbreaking exhibition at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in 2012, Space, Time, and Narrative: Mapping Gothic France, presented the museum-going public with a demonstration of the potential of new media to alter space, and succeeded at something all architectural exhibits strive for but rarely achieve, a sensory experience in a museum setting of the physical spaces these exhibits purport to represent. Employing phased, overlapping digital images and high-resolution projectors, the exhibition truly transformed the space of the museum into something other than what we knew it as, and evoked in a stunning way a visual and visceral sense of the dramatic light-and-color-filled Gothic interiors with which Andrew was so familiar. Andrew’s Tallon’s vision was informed by deep historical understanding, drew on his creative talents as an experimenter with new media, and was employed self-reflexively to create new spaces for teaching and learning. In these photographs he draws our attention to table tops, natural light, color, and stairways that form the passages of the process of study. The photographs appear as material emblems of this process, of the virtuous circle of recollection and experiment, of the conversation that takes place between the document and the work of art, that is recreated by the seeing eyes of all the scholars and artists, past and future, who pass through our portals who are our, and his, enduring legacy.

—Thomas Hill, April 2019



1. (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947), 5.

2. Bacon, Mardges. John McAndrew’s Modernist Vision: From the Vassar College Art Library to the Museum of Modern Art in New York  (Princeton Architectural Press, 2018).

3. Byard, Paul Spencer, The Architecture of Additions (New York:
Norton, 1998), 182.

4. Byard, 17.

5. Bacon, 55-102.

6. Agnes Claflin, “The Art Department in New Quarters,” Vassar Alumnae Magazine, Vol. 23, no. 6 (July 1, 1938) reproduced in Bacon, 10.







Valentine’s Day and the Ancient Greek novel

Deb Bucher, Head of Collection Development and Research Services

On Valentine’s Day our thoughts turn to romance. And if you love books, you might start thinking about the great romance novels you’ve read, or are embarrassed to admit you’ve read. Think what you will about that genre, it’s been around for almost two thousand years! Around the 2nd century CE several Greek long-form stories appeared that had similar themes: boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get separated by events and bad people, they have unpleasant experiences, fate brings them back together, and they live happily ever after. Translators, artists, composers, play-writes, and illustrators have all contributed to the longevity of not just this literary form, but the ancient Greek stories themselves.

One example is the story of Daphnis and Chloe, attributed to someone named Longus, who may have lived around the year 200 CE (the jury’s still out whether or not there was someone named Longus or whether that name is just a bad reading of a manuscript!). In brief, Daphnis and Chloe grow up together on Lesbos, both adopted by shepherds. As children they don’t realize what they feel for each other is love; but as youth, they become separated, and then finally find each other again and live happily ever after. The loss of childhood innocence, the influence of nature and the merits of country living are themes that appear in the story. While the manuscript evidence for Daphnis and Chloe is slim (only two complete manuscripts survive!), scholars believe that the long-form genre was immensely popular in antiquity because so many different examples have survived, sometime only in papyrus fragments. But their last influence is also attested by a copious amount of translations from the Renaissance onward, and recent scholarship on the genre. Daphnis and Chloe was first translated into French in the sixteenth century by Jacques Amyot. His translation became a classic in its own right. You can see a beautiful 1780 edition of it at HathiTrust. The Archives and Special Collections here at Vassar also holds a copy of this edition.

A later 1890 edition of Amyot’s translation, amended by Paul Louis Courier from a more complete manuscript he discovered in 1801 at the Laurentian Library in Florence, is this beautiful edition housed at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France. It has artwork by Louis-Joseph-Raphaël Collin, a French painter who lived from 1850 – 1916. He was influenced by Japanese painting, which you can see in this edition. Vassar’s copy is actually an unattributed English translation published ca. 1896 also in Paris by the Société des Beaux Arts. In addition to the detailed color plates, the English edition also has historiated initials at the beginning of each chapter. The book is a wonderful example of a French livre de luxe; such books, made for collectors, were popular at this time. Mixed reviews followed it’s publication. A review in the Academy (January 16, 1897, p.73) suggests that the book “will be found alluring by a certain class of people” and that the English translation is “without charm.” In contrast, the review in the Publishers’ Circular (January 23, 1897, p.111) commends the edition as “princely.”

Our copy has special significance for us because it was a gift from Rebecca Lawrence Lowrie, class of 1913. She had no.4 of the “Edition artistique,” which was limited to seventy-five copies for England and America. It came to Vassar as part of a gift of over 3,000 items, most of which are now housed in Special Collections.