Friday, March 23, 2007

R.U.O.K.?

You may think this is a picture of a blank canvas, but actually this piece is called “blank on canvas”. Or maybe this one is called “it’s fun reading titles”. Unless this one is “I double-dare you to buy this.” In December of 2002, a moronic narcissist of an artist had a show at our gallery. And a lot of the titles, although you couldn’t tell from the picture (they were all simply gesso on canvas), were ridiculously inappropriate and offensive.

I cleaned out my files and came across my file on “The Jass”. I won’t use his real name, but he preferred to be called “The Jass” anyway. Or, he would answer to “thejass.com”. I hated this guy, but the whole experience was priceless, so this file is definitely a keeper.

Back in the day, we didn’t have a competitive application process to exhibit at the Rio Gallery. Lila was in charge of the gallery and this guy’s college professor asked Lila to give him a show. So he brought down some pretty pictures of landscapes and Lila said “why not.”

But his show at our gallery was months away, which gave him plenty of time to slop some gesso on some canvases, but mostly it gave him time to create his personal image. This guy thought he was a rock star. He was a Meier and Frank cashier by day, but when he went “out” at night his hair was streaked red and purple, his sunglasses came on and his entourage strutted behind.

I didn’t buy it for a second. But we were contracted to give him a show. Sometime during the year, the Rio Gallery was handed over to me as my responsibility. I didn’t know anything about this guy’s artwork, all I knew was that his show was called I.M.O.K.R.U.O.K. When I asked Lila what his work was like, she said he showed her pictures of flowers and trees. But the more I talked to this guy and the more he told me about how big this show was going to be, the more suspicious I became.

Long story short, he brought his work to the gallery ten minutes before we closed, the night before the opening. Seventeen blank canvases. He said he’d bring me the titles the next day. I was beside myself.

The next day he brought me his list of titles. I asked, “Which titles go to which piece?” and he told me it’s my job as the curator to assign the titles to each piece. I wanted to punch him in the face. “I am not the curator of this show,” I told him. That’s the last thing I wanted people to think, that I had any more association with this show than the fact that it’s hanging in the gallery I work at. What made him think the concept of a blank canvas was his idea? It had been done. YEARS and YEARS ago. Once the concept is broken, you can’t do it again. The novelty is gone, the intrigue is lost.

All I wanted to do was throw him and his canvases out the door, but unfortunately we had a show to hang, and the board of directors advised us to make the best of what we had, and there’s nothing we could have done. Yeah, we were duped, but we’ll take precautions to never let it happen again.

There’s so much more to this story: the advertising I had to do for this guy, his joke of an artist statement, how we had to scramble to take the show down for a day and hang another one in it’s place so it would be appropriate for the governor and legislators to attend our director’s retirement party there, etc. But the best part of the story was a few weeks after it was hung.

One of my co-workers came up to me when I got into work and said, “Did you see what happened out in the gallery?” I walked out there with him and he showed me three pieces that had been stabbed by a pocketknife.

My first instinct was that “the Jass” did it himself or had one of his toadies do it. And I still stick to that theory of mine. C’mon, who really cares enough to do something like that? No one. This artist wanted a controversy. He told me he wanted news media at his opening and he wanted write-ups in the paper. He wanted an enraged public. But guess what? No one cared. I think that disappointed him so he was going to stir up some more trouble to see if the papers would write about it now that he was a victim of vandalism. Too bad he damaged his own “artwork” for nothing. The only thing that came out of this was an angry postcard mailed to the gallery, which I think he wrote himself – he used the same Andy Warhol stamp he used to mail out the exhibit announcements.

This card kills me every time I read it. I blocked out some bad words for your protection. But my favorite part is how he calls himself “The Jasshole.”


So when nothing came out of this, he sent us an invoice itemizing his damages. The invoice totaled about $1300, including transportation costs, overhead, and his “time”.

In conclusion, we gave him $200, he moved to New York to be even less visible and we haven’t heard from or about him since. And with the assistance of an attorney, I created a new exhibition contract, twice as complicated, with all sorts of regulations and disclaimers.

4 comments:

Ilene said...

Ah, Laura. You failed to mention that he did name a work of art after you. In fact, I have a picture of us three in front of that stunner. Ah, at least your job isn't always dull, huh?

charlottalove said...

Laura, I love reading your blog. And for some reason I never knew (while I lived in Utah) that you worked for an art gallery. I just knew "the girl's" apt always looked fabulous. Anyway, you write very well and I enjoy the stories. Shout out from Georgia!

Saule Cogneur said...

Ha ha ha, I somehow forgot the guy sent you guys a post card. People are so weird; at least they make for good stories.

abel said...

"Artists" suck.