Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 3

     During these early years my work was shown in a variety of solo and group exhibitions including:

1956 Junior League of San Antonio Gallery, San Antonio, TX (Bright Shawl)
1957 Men of Art Guild, San Antonio, TX
1957 Spring, Mary Nye Gallery, Dallas, TX
1957 Fall, Mary Nye Gallery, Dallas, TX
1957 Southwestern Art Invitational Exhibition Dallas Museum of Fine Art (circulated nationally by American Federation of Art)
1958 Fall, Mary Nye Gallery, Dallas, TX
1959 Dallas Museum for the Contemporary Arts (Made in Texas by Texans)
1959 Ringling National Exhibition, Sarasota, FL
1959 Art USA Invitational, New York, NY (Coliseum)
1959 St. Johns College, Houston, TX
1959 Nancy Negley Gallery, Austin, TX 
1961 Exhibition of Texas Artists, Newport, R.I.
1962 Exhibition of Young Americans, Boston, MA, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
1962 157th Exhibition Annual of Painting and Sculpture the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

     Because of my success as a painter I began to attract more serious students, some of them full time.  One was James Havard.  He went on to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was a pioneer of abstract illusionism and became world famous; financial success followed.  His work is owned by, among other museums, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY,  Metropolitan Museum of New York, NY, National Collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, Sweden, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. PA, Oklahoma Art Center (renamed Oklahoma Museum), Oklahoma City, OK, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA.
     James Havard is now the subject of a recently published book.  Since Havard’s first solo exhibition at Atelier Chapman Kelley (ACK) in 1965, he has had 65 more exhibitions as of 2006.

    Another is Tom Palmore who is considered to be one of America’s best painters.  In 1965, after not finding the real art world as a student at three universities, he asked around to find the “best painter” to study with and since my name was dominant, he dropped out of University of North Texas and came to study at ACK full time.  Palmore went on to be a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  He earned early and rapid, almost unprecedented, success.  His work was included in the Venice Biennale and around the world, literally.  Palmore's work is in many collections, the list is long, including: The Whitney Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum, Brooklyn Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Everson Museum of Art, Smithsonian Museum, Denver Museum, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Tom’s new book, “Earthlings—the Paintings of Tom Palmore” is fascinating.  A short passage has much appreciated kind words for yours truly and a painting “Chapman at the Beach,” is a riot.  Palmore is a most unique and original artist.

     Noel Mahaffey is universally considered among my acquaintances to be the most talented student in the Dallas Museum of Fine Art High School Scholarship Class, ever.  He was in the class when I began teaching it in 1959.  Mahaffey went on to study at the PAFA where he must have loafed.  He returned to Dallas, with his “tail between his legs,” to the remarkable study group that we had then—where he was challenged as never before and responded brilliantly to an assignment with a painting.  That work won the top purchase prize in the Eight States Exhibit at the Oklahoma Museum in 1966.  I had won the same prize in 1965.  Another former student, Don Bradley, won it in 1963. Mahaffey's work was in Sidney Janis' “Sharp-focus Realism” show and in many of the exhibitions and collections of the sharp- focus or photorealist exhibitions.  Noel probably has, having been an original first generation member of a major movement, the most secure position historically than any Texan since Robert Rauschenberg.  Unfortunately Noel died young while painting more work for his New York art dealer the famed Ivan Karp. 

     Robert “Bob” Yarber, also hailed from DMFA’s High School Scholarship Class.  He went on to earn a full scholarship to the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, more commonly known simply as Cooper  Union.  He earned a BFA in 1971 and gained his MFA at Louisiana State University in 1973.  Yarber achieved recognition in the Venice Biennale in 1984 and the Whitney Biennial in 1985.  Charles Hagen wrote that Yarber, "is best known for a series paintings of flying and falling figures seen above cityscapes viewed at night."  The main idea of Yarber’s works revolve around "combining antiquity with modernism." Yarber is a distinguished professor of art at Pennsylvania State University. 

     Willie Wayne Young was also one of the best talents in my 1959 DMFA High School Scholarship Class.  He studied and exhibited at ACK where he was also an expert frame maker.  In 1993 he had his fist New York solo show at Ricco Maresca Gallery.  In 1994 his work was shown at the Moore College of Art and Design’s Goldie-Paley Gallery in Philadelphia, PA.  His work was in the 2002 "Obsession" exhibit at the prestigious Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago and "Draw" in 2006 at the Mason Murer Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. Young's work was in the important "A World of Their Own" at the Newark Museum and selected by Marsha Tucker for an exhibition, "A Labor of Love," at her New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, NY.  In 2009 Young had a one man exhibit "The Visionary Art of Willie Wayne Young" at Dallas' African American Museum and in 2010 featured at the Farmers Branch Manske Gallery.  There is a film of a panel discussion of his exhibition at Dallas' African American Museum on YouTube, created by Rebecca Stringer.

     Another two of my former students chose wisely to support their painting by becoming art conservators and each became world famous; they are Roy Perkinson and Ross Merrill.

    Roy Perkinson dropped out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study at ACK full time, 1960 - 1961.  He then returned to MIT where he majored in physics and philosophy.  He then worked in MIT's instrumentation lab on missile guidance systems.

     However, he continued to study painting and conservation and became very famous because his scientific training was timely in the advancing field of paper conservation.  Most of his career was at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with three years at the museums of San Francisco.  Roy is now retired.  He paints and exhibits with distinction in the Boston area. 

     Ross Merrill studied at ACK.  After leaving ACK  he studied at the PAFA.  He worked as conservator at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Merrill received a masters degree in conservation at Oberlin University and worked at the Cleveland Art Museum. He finished his career after many years as chief conservator at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. However, Merrill never stopped painting and even conducted plein aire workshops.

     Alton Bowman was a student at Gainsville, spent a period of time at ACK, then studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  He returned to Dallas to become a master craftsman restorer, a conservator of furniture.  Alton is a lecturer and the go-to man about anything having to do with furniture. Bowman uses furniture as his medium in works of fine art.

     Three former students, Carol Barth, Duke Horn and Ann C. Weary are having exhibits in Dallas, TX this fall.

     I am, of course, very grateful that I have had the opportunity to have participated early in so many talented and dedicated lives.  I know of former students from San Francisco, CA to Boston MA to Tuscon AZ and I would like to hear from others.

    As far as I know, none of these former students, in spite of their stellar recognition elsewhere and the fact that three were products of DMFA's High School Scholarship Class, has ever been exhibited or collected by the DMA.  We now have a hereditary blacklist.  What are people so afraid of? Do they fear the truth?  Ars longa vita brevis.

     On December 27, 1960 I had my first visit from someone who started acquiring artwork "from scratch" and who was to become an important collector---James H. Clark.  He was very interested in serious collecting.  Until then Clark had only purchased a few Japanese prints.  In particular he wanted to find a first rate "school of art" that was undervalued as an investment.  I had recently had a very successful solo show at Meredith Long's Houston gallery and Long wanted to team up with me; he had some "goodies" to offer.  At the time American Impressionist paintings were available with a better selection than their French counterparts and at about 10% of the price.  I offered to show him two first-rate works by leading American impressionist painter Childe Hassam and for comparison, one Claude Monet work valued at $65,000.

    Clark purchased Hassam's "Pear Plum Blossoms" for $8,000 and "Cliff at Appledore" at $7,500 along with my "Saddle Dune" and several Hobson Pittman pastels and watercolors.

     His wife Lillian Clark was so horrified at his $15,500 purchase that she begged me to, "give Jim a breather and offer no more for a while."  Clark was an inveterate researcher and we had many many conversations.  He soon became a board member of the Dallas Museum of Fine Art.

     The two paintings Clark bought would be shipped to Dallas via Houston.  Before they arrived, I asked my friend and banker Robert H. Stewart III what he knew of Clark.  He replied that Clark had been brought to Dallas, after being in the U.S. Navy, by Clint Murchison Sr. to research and advise his sons who were diversifying their holdings; they needed guidance on which companies to buy.

    Along the line Clark had misappropriated some funds and was severely dressed down by Clint Murchison Sr. The episode was verified to me by my art student Virginia, Clint Sr.'s wife.  After a period of time Clark recovered from the Murchison Sr. reprimand and decided to become an art collector. 

     He had made some forays into a couple of galleries, ones that I would not have recommended to anyone.  Clark purchased several French paintings, again, ones which I would not have recommended.  He was soon convinced of his missteps.  The problem of unburdening himself of the artwork was solved by Wildenstein Gallery's (established 1875) New York manager, Louis Goldenberg.  There were ways for reputable dealers to dispense with embarrassing mistakes and this was done with the expectation that Clark would buy better French paintings.  All were sold except for two that were allegedly created by 18th century Frenchman Henri Fantin-Latour.  Clark could not afford the quality paintings he was expected to buy.  More to come later about the "Fantin-Latour" artwork shenanigans and the Dallas Museum of Fine Art's involvement.

    Clark was a serious collector at a crossroad. He had many many questions for me.  Since I had haunted the Philadelphia Museum of Art where two of the greatest 20th century artists' works--sculptor Constantine Brancusi and  painter Piet Mondrian--were well represented, I was very familiar with them. (New York City and Washington, D.C. were close enough that Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art students like myself made day trips to avail ourselves of their great museums.)  In fact, Mondrian's pier and ocean series of 1914 and 1915 have strongly influenced my work; my effort to combine overtly figurative and nonfigurative elements on the same canvas is like mixing fire and water.

     The good news was that New York's Sidney Janis Gallery, widely considered to be an art "beacon," seemed to have the whole estates of Brancusi and Mondrian.  Regarding these two artists and their tremendous influence on all subsequent 20th century design of all kinds, I felt their prices were undervalued. The price range suited Clark's pocketbook.

    Clark began buying early Mondrians for under $10,000.  Without Mondrian's more mature plastiques of the 1920s, I kept insisting to Clark that his previous purchases would have little meaning as a collection.  The break came when Clark purchased one of Mondrian's transitional paintings of trees. My case was assured when I received a phone call I will never forget. Clark asked me to guess what he had just purchased--"Place de la Concorde" a great and well known Mondrian plastique painting. 

    Clark also purchased a $55,000 Brancusi egg whose sculpture works related so much to Mondrian's paintings.  I was a bit disappointed because it wasn't my favorite egg.  I had recommended to Clark that he acquire a $60,000 Brancusi fish.

     The DMFA eventually had an exhibition of work by Mondrian.  DMFA museum director Jerry Bywaters used to kid me by asking how I had managed to persuade Clark to buy all of the Mondrians even before Clark knew of Mondrian's nationality.

     The DMFA asked me to guide a tour of the Mondrian show and while doing so a woman asked me what made this Mondrian any better than her linoleum kitchen floor.  I told her that Mondrian did it first and better; that her linoleum floor looked as it did because Mondrian had had the greatest influence on all 20th century design.

    According to some of my dealer friends from out of town they had to see Clark on each trip to know what he was buying or selling--questionable behavior from an ethical viewpoint for Clark who at the time was a DMFA officer. Clark did come to ACK to consider a Ben Kamihira "Wedding Dress" for the museum and also viewed a "floating" Alberto Collie sculpture.  The museum bought both for their permanent collection.  Unfortunately for the museum-goer, the Collie work is broken and in museum storage and the Kamihira work was sold without explanation.  The museum made unreasonable decisions about these two works considering the artists' recognition beyond Texas.  Was there any reason for these actions or inactions other than they were both bought through a local artist-owned gallery, ACK?  The Dallas Museum of Fine Art has desperately hidden the successes of local artists and dealers.  Are these the decisions made by small thinking snobs?  It further reminds me of the blacklisting of artists and others.

     One unfortunate missed meeting with Clark may have been both costly as well as embarrassing to a very decent and generous Dallas gentleman--Al Meadows.  I had my share of offers from travelling dealers of questionable character and art goods.

     One evening I found myself in a motel room with two men and a number of allegedly 20th century master's works on paper.  I was first struck by the uniform whiteness of the paper.  Whiter than that which I had drawn on the night before.  Then, as the experienced framer that I was, I noticed that all of the frames were carved and gold leafed but of ready made stock.  The papers of authentication were new and executed by one person.  Hoping to cause those salesmen to bypass Dallas and not prey on other collectors I made an appointment to bring DMFA president Jim Clark and that between us we could convince them that Dallas was not a happy hunting ground for artworks which were "not right."  Unfortunately Clark had to break the appointment.

     I warned my own regular collectors about the salesmen.  Although I knew Algur "Al" H. Meadows well enough to ask him to take Hobson Pittman and prominent collectors Olga and Joseph Hirshhorn through his collection, he wasn't a client of mine and so I did not alert him.  I do not know if Meadows dealt with the salesmen.  I certainly hope not.  Dallas owes a great deal to Al Meadows.

    In 1970, after Ohio's Kent State shootings, my wife Joan and I were Sunday brunch guests of Al Meadows.  We talked with movie actor Dennis Hopper and "The Mama's and the Papa's" 1960s singer Michelle Phillips.  We discussed plans for creating a Free University in Lee Park.  All of them were very enthusiastic about the idea.  Our plan was to propose ongoing summer classes taught by leaders in various fields but who were not necessarily professional teachers.  Dallas city officials had to be on board; they gave us the green light to do it. 

     Actress, comedienne and singer Kaye Ballard collected my work even before my New York show.  She was a regular guest on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.  When I was in New York City she would invite me to sit with her in the show's Green Room.  She invited me to a bunch of other parties.

    In a years later discussion with Carson he asked Ballard how show biz stars, who were not quite superstars, survived the lean years.  Here reply was that she would begrudgingly sell some of her treasured Chapman Kelley and Robert Vickery artworks.  In 1977 I didn't own any of the sand dune paintings I had created.  So generous was Ballard, she kindly sold one to me.   She has since collected more of my work.  Ballard is a great, talented and a big-hearted lady.

     During a recent interview at the New Orleans Museum of Art, our new museum director Maxwell Anderson told an interesting story.  While he was the museum director at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario, the museum, as in most around the world, proudly exhibited artwork of their indigenous talent. That museum policy is practiced virtually everywhere except in the U.S.  We all hope he will bring the Dallas Museum of Art into the light. 

    The New Orleans Museum of Art has, I have heard, a whole roomful of Robert Gordy's works.  We at ACK were the first to exhibit Gordy's works outside of New Orleans.  Gordy has had great success beyond New Orleans.  I own one of his most important pieces.  I am pleased to share in his success.

Next installment:

First New York show and preparations
Life Magazine article "Sold Out Art"
Two major prizes in New York
Joe Hirshhorn
Ben Kamihira
John Cunningham
Working with Wildenstein Gallery
Preparing for second New York show in Provincetown, Massachusetts
Alberto Collie
McDermott Collection
Francois Gilot
Dr. Jonas Salk

All of the above is copyrighted material, all rights reserved.  Permission for use will be considered upon written request.  Blog comments are encouraged, the use of actual full names is strongly recommended, as are affiliations with organizations.

No comments:

Post a Comment