so many paintings, so little time

Glass Case

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Crazy in love

Gotta get Ira Glass for my portrait show. His amazing radio program, This American Life, portrays real life characters with snippets of sound. My portraits rely on what the subjects say and how they say it, no image of them. Perfect fit.

I send him an email asking if he’s game. One of my oldest friends, Joel Kostman, read several of the locksmith stories from his book, Keys to the City, on This American Life. I have a connection.

I suggest in the email that we meet up at the Met and wander around, find a painting or two he’d like to talk about and that I can repaint for his portrait. Ira emails back, says yes. Amazingly, he indicates the exact painting he wants to use: Jennifer Bartlett’s 1984 canvas, 5AM from her series titled 24 Hours. In it, there’s a couple kissing while dancing, against an orderly grid of a space. I call the Met.

The painting’s in storage. Can we arrange a viewing, I plead, no more than an hour? I need to videotape Ira Glass–you know, This American Life?–talking about it. Difficult, they respond, security issues. What are they, crazy??? How can they say No to this? I ask to come in and see the painting, first, to figure out my line of questioning, but then to see if there’s any wiggle room.

It’s Friday, and I’m in a fluorescent lit space with painting racks, empty frames, a Picasso here, a Picasso there. Several art handlers are milling about with a sweet young woman from Modern Art who’s arranged the visit. The Bartlett has been pulled out. After a few moments, the Collection Manager arrives. I explain my project while she listens sympathetically. She says, Have a look at the painting, I’ll be back. After speaking with the head of security, she returns to inform me they’ll never let me videotape in a storage room. I’m dying. What to do? “You know what a difference it makes to look at the actual work rather than a repro,” I whine. She’s softening. Perhaps we can arrange to wheel it out on a dolly in the adjacent gallery on Monday, she offers, when the museum is closed but handlers are here. I’m thinking, Ira’s on a tight production deadline, tied up every weekday. This won’t work.

El Quijote Bar and Restaurant, Chelsea Hotel, NYC

I print up a repro from the internet. It’s Sunday and now or never. I meet Ira at the bar at El Quijote in the Chelsea Hotel. He helpfully grabs a pile of cocktail napkins to prop up the lens on my videocam, which I’ve pointed at him from the bar, and then adds his wallet for extra height. Ira worries aloud about the muzak in the background (“from a radio point of view this couldn’t be a worse environment”), but I love it. His music producer could easily have picked the song: “You must remember this….” As Time Goes By, from Casablanca. Handing him the repro, I ask, When did you first see the painting? Ira begins. For twenty five minutes without pause, he parses his attraction to a painting as though he had thought about nothing else in the 9 years since he first saw it. Where the hell does he get this insight to an art form about which, by his own admission, he knows next to nothing?

I tell him that when I asked the Met to let him have the Bartlett painting for helping me with my project, they refused, but they might just agree to letting me cut it in two so he can take home half. “Just tell me which half you want and why,” I ask him. “Where did you get this question???” he cries, “this is CRAZY! The painting’s already in me! I don’t want the responsibility!” I say, What would a destroyed Jennifer Bartlett be worth? Don’t worry.

Two hours later I jump on the E train back to my studio in Jackson Heights with pure Glass on a DV casette.

Next stop, Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights

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  1. I can’t tell you how much I love this blog. Tonight I get the pleasure or your words and insights into your work plus the memories of going to El Quijote with my buddy Joe Wolin.Nothing we discussed would have inspired anyone’s work but we surely enjoyed it!

  2. Thanks, Chad. Great to hear… I’m sending along a virtual mojito. Enjoy!

  3. Wait, so where’s the painting??? Need to see. What a story! love it.

  4. I am now addicted to your quest. Can’t wait for the next installment.
    I must admit I googled Jennifer Bartlett trying to find an image of her (1984) canvas 5AM. But all I could finally come with was an image of her (1994) Air 24 Hours 5AM, 5PM, 6PM. Are you cleverly masking the identify of the canvas? Or should I keep on expanding my search?

  5. that’s a good point. I don’t know if I would like the responsibility of an artwork like that in my residence. half or whole.

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