Sometimes I think art historians don’t do art history very well. In 1961, Roy was a family man, raising two little boys. He wasn’t making paintings (copying magazine, newspaper and comic clippings) to emphasize orifices and blow up dolls. The following excerpt is taken from Hall of Mirrors by Graham Bader, assistant professor at Rice University. Great writer, but what a bunch of kinky balderdash!
Professor Bader does not have a degree in Subjective Interpretations of Someone Else’s Art, and yet society supplies him an office with a desk and streams of students who pay with their time and money to one day take their seat beside him. Imagine if Howard Zinn, American history historian, wrote that Robert Kennedy used to dress up as a duck and make love to chicken wire. He had no proof—no recorded interview, not even personal anecdote from enemy Brezhnev’s autobiography. Would MIT Press publish wild speculation? Would Rice University tenure such nonsense?
Here is my subjective interpretation, knowing what I know about the world of 1961. Roy was a year and a half out of Oswego. He was a teacher in New jersey, and his youngest boy a wannabe Mouseketeer. Mouths were not sexual orifices to Roy. Not openly anyway. Not yet. There is no pre-pop evidence that he was a sexual-thinking person. He took his “Girl With Ball” to the Leo Castelli Gallery, and it was the first painting the latter purchased. Maybe Leo thought she had a sexy mouth hole. Roy just copied his girl straight from a Poconos Advertisement in the New York Times. He made the mouth look like the ball, maybe.
Anyway, read for yourself. Good writing can be convincing. Bad writing too. I just wish professor Bader wasn’t awarded a hundred grand a year to help push the hordes of living artists further into obscurity holes. We have a lot to say about our work. Maybe professor Bader can shift gears in career to spearhead a pedagogic movement in art history a lá Studs Terkel. Teach the young to interview the prolific, professional, living painters. The ones to load their borrowed cars up with work and schlepp their creations all over hell, usually for payment of non-recognition with a pittance for a tip. Once the word is out that there are multitudes ready to tell a story about their lives as artists, total subjectivity (lies) will not dominate the mostly irrelevant, though highly profitable world of contemporary art “scholarship”. Always a win for high end galleries, museums, millionaire speculators, and just a few living artists who “get made” in their time. I bet there are many of us unknowns painting erotic blow up doll holes onto the faces of beach bathers. Some can even do it without a newspaper clipping for help.
Do you know of any not dead, but alive? Send out a grad assistant to dig.