Excerpt from Progressions of a Not-Photographer: Lewis Baltz, 1969-1973 by Rochelle Legrandsawyer
Claremont Graduate School (CGS) was not an obvious choice for the young artist Lewis Baltz, as there was no program in photography there or at any of the five undergraduate colleges in the Claremont College consortium at that time. After an informational meeting with Guy Williams and Mowry Baden in the summer of 1969, Baltz was admitted to CGS, but not before defending his case against a good dose of skepticism surrounding a photographer’s place in the program. Baltz recalls, “I wanted to do graduate work. I wanted to do more, meet more interesting people in the art world…and I absolutely did not want to go to a school that had photography, because I didn’t like photography very much….I think mostly what they needed to be convinced [of was] that I didn’t need any physical equipment, I didn’t need any technical advice. Which I didn’t. But I needed aesthetic advice. I needed people to read things with and discuss them with.”Aesthetic advice and an intellectual community is precisely what Baltz found in the Claremont art faculty. A relationship that began with some hesitance from both parties soon developed into a healthy exchange of artistic and professional support.
Three men were especially influential in Baltz’s development during his time in Claremont: Guy Williams, Mowry Baden, and Hal Glicksman. Guy Williams, Baltz’s academic advisor, met weekly with Baltz to discuss the development of his work. Meanwhile, Mowry Baden offered Baltz a consistently unique intellectual perspective. Baltz remembers Baden as someone he could “reliably count on for an original point of view. Mowry would bring a slant to something that nobody else had.” Learning from Williams’s and Baden’s intensely analytical process, Baltz further developed the ethos of intellectual inquiry that underlies his incisive photographic style. Of Baltz’s three key mentors, Glicksman would have the largest direct impact on Baltz’s burgeoning career. Glicksman—then director of the Pomona College Museum of Art—immediately recognized not only Baltz’s extraordinary technical skill in producing photographs but the unusually critical approach with which Baltz supported his work.
After his initial interactions with Baltz in his history of nineteenth century art course in the fall of 1969, Glicksman quickly made Baltz his teaching assistant, asking him to introduce a section on photography into the course. Baltz accepted, but requested an official position with the college. Glicksman followed through, not only securing Baltz a teaching position at Pomona in the spring of 1970, but also inviting him to show his photographs in the Pomona College Museum of Art. Baltz’s show (May 25–June 1, 1970) was the final exhibition of Glicksman’s tenure at pomona, and Baltz’s first solo exhibition. The two continued their relationship long after Glicksman left Pomona for the Corcoran Gallery. indeed, it was Glicksman who would act, according to Baltz, as “prime Mover in a process of steps leading from Claremont to the [Museum of] Modern [art].”