Tuesday, April 2, 2013


  I don't know who said this, but it rings true. From very early in my career I've used relationship in my work. A piece I did in 1978- MISSIONARY (the extended family as sculpture) set the tone. I tried to simultaneously establish a relationship with a 12 year old boy and keep said relationship at bay, contextualizing it as art. It worked to a degree, leading to a short showing of the relics at SFMOMA. (One of my two museum shows). When the boy, one Darrell Monroe, unexpectedly disappeared with his family, the piece ended. Aside from the obvious pitfalls of taking a young boy (heretofore a stranger to me) fishing and horseback riding, as a 25 year old single young man living in SF, the piece went well. I kept my distance enough to not feel too bad when he vanished. On the contrary I felt relief. The real bond was never established.  
  As time went on I forged relationships with many people- artists, non-artists, and many others involved in the various professions associated with being an artist. If I had it to do over again, I'd have kept a little distance. Case in point is critic and all around expert on everything Chuck McC. I met Chuckles the first day I came to NYC in 1983. I had gone across East Ninth St., where my soon to open gallery was located, to borrow something from the guy who ran the gallery ART CITY. Sitting in a chair in the tiny space was this red haired kid with a Flock of Seagulls haircut, smiling and smoking a cigarette. We were introduced and I liked the kid. I gathered he was some sort of office boy for the local paper THE EAST VILLAGE EYE.
    Over the next couple of weeks I saw this kid everywhere. And before you knew it, we were friends. In those days I was very serious about running a gallery and selling work. Even though I had bracketed the gallery as sculpture, it would be an even better sculpture if it made a buck. To this end I tried to kiss anyone's ass that would get me some attention. Remembering THE EV EYE, I determined the guy to impress was their house critic Carlo McCormick. So I penned a really nice, professional letter of introduction for my stable of artists. This being before ATMs, let alone the internet, I dropped it in the mail, awaiting a reply.
   Then one day, hanging in the gallery, smoking pot and watching cartoons with Tony Oursler and Brian Routh, in came Chuckles with a big grin on his face. Tony and Brian both perked up and greeted him. "Hi Carlo." they chimed. Not paying too much attention I also greeted him and passed him the weed. It was here he pulled from his coat an envelope with familiar script. Only then did I realize that the red haired kid "Chuckles" was in fact the critic of note Carlo McCormick. He slyly put the envelope back in his pocket and never said another word about it.

Fast forward 30 years. Chuck and I are still best of friends. We spend holiday dinners together. I made his family's country house, situated a mile from Shewho's WSSP, into one of my "projects" called WSSP II and his son Tristan and wife Tessa are just as close. I consider them all family. This said, I recommend never, I repeat NEVER getting close to a critic if you want any serious grease. The day before Easter I gave Chuck the tour of three months of hard work on new art. In a glazed over haze he walked quickly through the porch and church, barely acknowledging the work before him. Then he rolled a cigarette, announced that it was time to go and left like he'd just been to the proctologist. On the way out the door Tessa looked at me with sorrowful understanding. She knew my pain. Only she gets it worse than I do. The only thing more problematic than being friends with a critic is marrying one.

In all honesty CM is one of the few who have written consistently on my work since the 80's. Since he religiously refuses to read my blog I don't have to worry about him getting offended. Critics are way easier to find than friends, so I guess I'll give him a bye. I wonder where that letter is?  


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