Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jill Krementz visits Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Catalogue for the show with essays by Douglas Crase and Jenni Quilter. On the cover is a collaboration between Larry Rivers and Frank O'Hara called Portrait and Poem Painting, 1961.
Celebrating Sixty Years
Painters & Poets
Tibor de Nagy Gallery
724 Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Street
January 15th-March 5th, 2011

In 1948, Tibor de Nagy and John Myers started a marionette company and among the puppet makers were many of the New York School artists and poets. The marionette company was a flop but the stable of artists would go on to become part of the gallery which opened in 1950 and which is now celebrating its 60th anniversary. The gallery is now run by Eric Brown and Andrew Arnot, who have curated this excellent exhibition.

De Nagy published books by many poets including John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, and Frank O'Hara and he also showed the work of many artists such as Fairfield Porter, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Grace Hartigan, and Red Grooms. They were all friends, and many were lovers. In the years to come the gallery would embrace the works of poets Ron Padgett and Ted Berrigan along with artists Joe Brainard, George Schneeman, Larry Rivers, and Rudy Burckhardt.

This show has been hailed, for good reason, by Holland Cotter in The New York Times, Lance Esplund in The Wall Street Journal and Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker. Mr. Schjeldahl, in fact, is one of the poets who was very much part of this scene in the early days so it was fun to read his take in the January 31st issue of the magazine for which he now covers art on a regular basis.

Anyone with a literary sensibility will want to see this show. As Eric Brown writes in the catalogue's preface:

“The poets made the art world their home, and it informed their work; the painters found in the poets a generous and devoted audience. The gallery was their salon and their laboratory, a place to grow and experiment, an opportunity for them to reach a wider world. And they did.”
Wall text at entrance to exhibition.
Andrew Arnot and Eric Brown, the present co-owners of Tibor de Nagy. On the wall behind them is a projection of one of two filmed video farces by Rudy Burckhardt.
Andrea Wells, Assistant Director of the Gallery.
Lucas, a Shih Tzu, who has made himself at home in the gallery for four years ... "since he was a puppy," according to Eric Brown, his owner. He keeps his eye (when it's not covered with hair) on everything that is going on.
Lucas roams freely from one gallery to the next.
A photograph by Hans Namuth of John Myers and Tibor de Nagy (1950). This photo was taken in the gallery at its inaugural show in the original 53rd Street location.
Fairfield Porter's portrait of
Tibor de Nagy, 1958

Tibor de Nagy (1908-1993), an émigré banker from Hungary, arrived in New York at the same time that a group of young artists made their way to the city and needed a place to show their work.
Roland F. Pease (b. 1931) was a good friend of Tibor de Nagy and very instrumental in the early years of the gallery.

This portrait was painted in 1958 by Fairfield Porter.
Tibor Nagy Marionette Company poster, 1949.

The Tibor de Nagy Gallery originated in 1949 in the unlikely form of the Tibor Nagy Marionette Company. The puppet company set a path for the start of the gallery that was to come as a result of strong support from members of the First Generation Abstract Expressionists, including Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Kurt Seligmann, all of whom contributed handmade puppets. The celebrated composer Ned Rorem, among others, provided a musical score.
A 1949 photograph on display of Tibor de Nagy with one of his marionettes. Among the collaborators and puppet makers were Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Ned Rorem, and Virgil Thomson.
Composers Ned Rorem and Virgil Thomson at the American Academy of Arts & Letters on May 16, 1984. Rorem and Thomson were among the early collaborators of the Tibor Nagy Marionette Company,
A wider view of ephemera from early years of Tibor. On the very far right you can see an announcement with the name George Hartigan. That was back when women were afraid their work would not be taken seriously if their gender was known. The artist later used her correct name, Grace Hartigan. Hartigan (March 28, 1922 - November 15, 2008) was an American Abstract Expressionist painter of the New York School in the 1950s.
Frank Clines from The New York Times was at the exhibition. Clines was a reporter for 40 years covering city, national, and foreign news under the byline of Francis X. Clines. When I asked him if he had a special connection with any of the artists/poets included in this show he told me that he had covered Frank O'Hara's funeral in 1966 out in the Springs. O'Hara was killed when he was only 40 in a bizarre accident on Fire Island when he was run over by a dune buggy.

Mr. Clines is still with the Times and is now a member of the paper's editorial board.
There are several vitrines crammed with books, drawings, and letters representing collaborations and exchanges among the many poets, writers, and artists of this period.
Bean Spasms by Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett with cover illustrations and drawings by Joe Brainard, published in 1964.
Pyrography: Poem and Portrait of John Ashbery II, a 1977 Larry Rivers portrait of the poet John Ashbery.
I photographed Larry Rivers in May 23, 1979 when he was inducted into The Academy of Arts and Letters. He is standing in front of his painting of John Ashbery, which was on display.
Art critic and chronicler, Larry Qualls.

"What is so interesting about this show, which is one of the most provocative I have seen in years, is that it documents the cross-fertilization among the arts in the 50s and 60s that really has no parallel today--poetry, painting and sculpture, and performance. So much of what was vital among the young artists, poets, composers, and performers coalesced around Tibor."
Fairfield Porter's portrait of
Kenneth Koch Reading, 1968
Photograph of Kenneth Koch by Jill Krementz; December 17th, 1967. Mr. Koch is sitting beneath the Fairfield Porter portrait of himself which hung on the wall of his apartment. Kenneth Koch by Jill Krementz; 1967. Koch is sitting on the window sill of his apartment and I am standing on the sidewalk outside.
Joe Brainard
Untitled (Seal), c. 1964
Illustration for John Ashbery's The Vermont Notebook
Joe Brainard
Untitled (Coffee Cup), c. 1964
Illustration for John Ashbery's The Vermont Notebook
Rachel Salzberg and her daughter, Alieza Salzberg. Alieza is a graduate student in Israel. Her mother is the Assistant Dean of Westchester Community College in Valhalla where she also teaches creative writing. They were at the exhibit having read Holland Cotter's review in The New York Times, and because they were particularly interested in the writers.
Joe Brainard and Frank O'Hara
Untitled (Cherries), 1964
Ink and collage on paper
Larry Rivers
A plaster bust of Frank O'Hara © 1958
Jane Freilicher
The Painting Table
A 1954 still life by the artist
I photographed John Ashbery in his apartment on January 8, 1975 sitting under Jane Freilicher's The Painting Table, which he owns and which he loaned to Tibor for this show.
Several scenes from a not-to-be missed video by Rudy Burckhardt made in 1950, starring Jane Freilicher and Larry Rivers.
Photograph of Jane Freilicher and Larry Rivers by Jill Krementz, September 11, 1993. I took this picture at a Paris Review fundraiser celebrating George Plimpton, which was held out in the Hamptons. Jane Freilicher
Early New York Evening, 1954
Lizzie Hazan, daughter of Jane Freilicher in the gallery standing beside the vitrine holding four drawings given to her mother on the occasion of a baby shower when Freilicher was pregnant with Lizzie.

"I wasn't even born when these were done, but there weren't a lot of babies in my Mom's group of friends so my impending birth was a novelty."

Lizzie Hazan is now 46 with children of her own. An abstract painter, she shows at Janet Kurnatowki Gallery.
These four collaged illustrations were done for Jane by Kenward Elmslie and Joe Brainard who were real life partners until Joe Brainard's death.
Lizzie Hazan in front of a 1953 portrait of her mother Jane Freilicher by Nell Blaine. Ms. Freilicher is sitting in her 21st Street apartment.

At this moment in time Jane Freilicher is in that same apartment where she continues to paint and where she is preparing for an upcoming show of her recent work opening March 10th and running through April 16th at Tibor. The gallery has also produced two prints of her work, which will be on sale.
Larry Rivers
Last Civil War Veteran, 1961
Larry Rivers
John Ashbery (Seated), 1962
Another version of John Ashbery seated by Jill Krementz on February 8, 1975.
Fairfield Porter's portrait of
James Schuyler, 1955
Portrait of James Schuyler by Jill Krementz in 1972 in his Manhattan apartment at 230 East 35th Street.
Fairfield Porter
Jimmy and John, 1957-58

Painted in the winter of 1957-58 when John Ashbery was doing graduate work at NYU and rooming with James Schuyler on East 49th Street. The two writers were at work on their collaborative novel, A Nest of Ninnies. Porter painted the canvas in the upstairs studio of his barn in Southampton. The same sofa appears in his portrait of Ron Padgett.
Helen Frankenthaler was among the first artists whose work was exhibited at Tibor. This is the announcement for her show.
A photograph of Helen Frankenthaler installing her show.
Helen Frankenthaler photographed by Jill Krementz at the American Academy of Arts & Letters in 1975. Ms. Frankenthaler has a show on now through March 11th at The Knoedler Gallery.
Letter from Frank O'Hara to Larry Rivers.
Another vitrine with books on display.
Larry Rivers and Kenneth Koch
In Bed
1982, Mixed media
This large work fills and entire wall and measures 48 by 84 inches
Details from In Bed.
Mica Ertegun and Linda Wachner. David Gillsion, a painter and photographer. "I teach three-dimensional imaging. I knew Rudy Burckhardt and used to go to his studio when it was above the Palladium on 14th Street. It's now owned by NYU."
Joe Brainard and Ted Berrigan
American Flag ©1962
Collection of Ron and Patricia Padgett
Grace Hartigan and Frank O'Hara
Oranges No 5 & No 11, 1952
Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara, Stones, 1959, suite of thirteen lithographs.
John Ashbery, Alex Katz, Roy Leaf, Mimi Gross, John Myers, and Donald Droll in the second video on display by Rudy Burckhardt, which is called Money, 1968. This one runs for 40 minutes and also features Burckhardt's lover, dance critic Edwin Denby.
Mimi Gross, who is featured in the film, is a New York City artist who works in many mediums. She has grown up in the art world as she is the daughter of Chaim Gross. She was once married to the artist Red Grooms whose triptych is in the exhibition.
Left: That's Mimi Gross typing in film. Above: Mimi Gross, February 2011.
Mimi Gross received an award for her art on May 20, 1981 from The American Academy of Arts & Letters. She is shown here standing in front of Eight American Servicemen Die in Iranian Desert; 1980; stoneware ceramic with majolica glaze. Photograph by Jill Krementz.
Red Grooms and Anne Waldman
Triptych: Madonna & Poets, 1995
The three-panel painting depicts Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and Jack Kerouac, with their poetry.
Red Grooms in his studio on Walker Street in lower Manhattan; photographed by Jill Krementz on March 17th, 1981.
Portrait of Ron Padgett by Fairfield Porter.
I photographed Ron Padgett and his son, Wayne, in 1967 at one of George Plimpton's Paris Review parties held in Plimpton's 72nd street duplex overlooking the east river.

Wayne is now 44 and has two children, a 5-year-old son and an 8-month-old daughter.
Ron Padgett photographed by Jill Krementz
in his apartment on East 13th Street
on February 13, 2011
Padgett and his wife had house-sat for the Porters during the fall of 1969 and the artist later asked Ron to pose for him.

Padgett recalled posing for Fairfield Porter out in Southampton: "The first session was about three hours, the second, and final, sitting lasted two hours. I was just struck by how amazing it was that he was painting my portrait which he later gave to me."

Fairfield Porter's widow, Anne Porter, is still alive and is 100 years old.
Padgett's bookcase. He is one of the three co-executors of Kenneth Koch's literary estate, along with Jordan Davis and Koch's widow, Karen.
Ron Padgett's desk top on February 13, 2011. Padgett is working on a book to be called Self Portrait: The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard to be published by Library of America in 2012.
A collection of Ron Padgett's books, the most recent of which is How Long. Mr. Padgett took the photograph on the cover: "I wanted to take a picture of the floor in Kenward Elmslie's kitchen. It's an old fashioned way of painting." Ron Padgett and his wife Patricia spend five months of the year in a house that they own in Calais, Vermont and where Mr. Elmslie is their neighbor. Elmslie is a well-known poet, novelist, and librettist who was Joe Brainard's partner up until Brainard's death in 1994.
My photograph of Ron Padgett's sneakers on his hardwood floor echoing his photograph on the cover of his most recent collection.
Ron Padgett in his apartment. On the wall is a painting by his friend, Joe Brainard. If you look at the display case at Tibor you will see a book of poems by Padgett with a daffodil on the cover, which is a painting by Brainard.

And with this the circle closes. For me it has been a great experience covering this exhibition and then ending my photojournal by re-connecting with Ron Padgett whom I had not seen since that evening in 1967 when I photographed him in George Plimpton's apartment.

In How Long (Coffee House Press, 2011), Ron Padgett writes:

There is a lot more room left in me
though everyone I've ever known who's died is there
My mother my father say hello
to Ted and Joe and laugh with them
though Joe knows they are crying too
and that Ted is crying
and it sounds like laughter
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.