Thursday, August 4, 2016


The west side of Manhattan
became my home. It was 
pretty easy. It was also, at 
that time, one of the 
dag-nastiest sections to 
find one's self in. Now, 
mind you, I didn't 'live' 
there. I managed to stay 
in a few other places; 
but that was, for all other
intents and purposes, 
where I dwelt. There was
a time (and I've written
of this too) when there was
an inner contest in me for
whether the east-side, (fish)
or the west-side, (meat), 
would win out. There was
a decent enough little art 
district going on by 
Coenties Slip that I 
could have favored. The
funny thing about the art 
world right then was how
it was disjointed, or 
becoming disjointed. 
The New York 
Studio School, at, w8th
represented only the, 
for the most part, already
'traditionalized' painting 
school of older-line NY
Abstract Expressionists,
all already having achieved
certain status and individual
fame, among themselves 
and in the greater world. 
People like Philip Guston, 
Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, 
and Wilhem DeKooning, 
just naming a few. They'd 
already gone big-time, hit
the mark, and had been 
taken up with all that came 
with it. Tenth Street galleries, 
Tanager Gallery, etc. It was
like The Armory Show 
every week. Down at 
Coenties, an entire other
group of (younger) artists 
were underway  -  within 
the same 'art tradition'
and knowledge, except 
they were growing 
something entirely
different, and had their 
own crowd and showings. 
And network. Working in
the great loft spaces of what
once had been sail-makers 
and maritime constructs, (all
gone now, wiped out), they
reveled in the grand, old
spaces of the old rope lofts
and riggers, and came up 
with work prefiguring 
what became Pop Art, 
Minimalism  -  people
such as Ellsworth Kelly, 
Jasper Johns, Robert 
Rauschenberg, Agnes 
Martin, Robert Indiana.
More to list, but I won't.
These were exciting times, 
and lots of things were 
happening, seemed 
happening, everywhere  
-  even 'Happenings', by
which name oddball, staged
effects and events went on.
The schools of the various
art movements co-existed,
stayed apart, or not, and 
were able to conjoin with 
other as needed, but every 
spur went its own way  -  
was a kind of precious 
moment, those years, 
right up through abut '68,
with so much excitement 
and ferment everywhere. 
Art. Music. The two together 
and the two apart. It was 
almost as if, for the moment 
of a few years, even
writing took a back seat.
The writers of that period
themselves had hit a slump.
I went to Coenties, but I could
never warm up  -  they were
too modern, too aware and 
fancied up, sort of, anyway.
Their ways were precise and 
cold, clinical and concise.
All  that Agnes Martin stuff,
nice, but harsh to me. Same
with Ellsworth Kelly. You
can go up to DIA Beacon 
now and see all that stuff 
on display. I never got their 
language. It never got 
through to me or my
own thinking. I needed 
the old. The last thing I'd 
ever want was their 
lightness and happiness  
-  that was how I felt 
about it all anyway. Like 
liking a smudge more
than a ruled line. They 
were cool, but I needed 
darkness and heat; I 
needed that churning
existential angst of the 
1940's, and it was all 
still there in these
older guys  -  male and 
female  -  artists I 
ended up loving. That
was New York City to 
me, as I sought it and 
found it. The rest was a
more-modern fluff I was 
just never interested in.
I needed a Joseph Cornell,
an Albert Pinkham Ryder, 
to their Red Grooms and 
Blinky Palermo.

No comments: