NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 28

n Bill Hutson 10th Avenue Sundown #3, 1982 Acrylic on canvas ARTISTS AN D I N FLU ENC ES From that moment on I became more involved in the art world, particularly with regard to African American artists. Joan took us to the studios of Al Loving, George Mingo, and Ed Clark. I also met Herb through her, and he invited me to come by his studio. I don’t know if you remember this or not, but the first time I came to the Chelsea Hotel, I was interested in a print. I think it was called Together with Friends. And Herb was sitting there talking and explaining — I got such a vibe from him. I was like, “Wow!” MAR And he always gave you a baby brother discount. R MO Right, the baby brother discount! The bbd. He opened the whole art world up for me. MAR So he taught you art history? R MO In the café, the experiential way! It was wonderful. We would get together at least once a week and go to the café down on Ninth Avenue, the Chelsea Square Restaurant on West 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue. He would tell me about his experiences in Paris, the people he met and those he wanted to introduce me to — which he eventually did. It was a wonderful experience. He was filling me with knowledge. Herb had that warmth about him, which allowed you to relax and take in more information. Herb introduced me to Ed Clark, George N’Namdi, Rick Mayhew — a lot of artists. Artist Al Loving Al was brilliant. I always loved to hear him talk about art because, although he spoke in very technical terms, I always understood what he was talking about. I consider him another mentor, even if I wasn’t as close to Al as I was to Herb. I didn’t see Al that much, but I visited him when he and his wife bought a place in Upstate New York. The thing I liked about him was sometimes he would say, “Hey I want you to come by and see this piece [or this body of work] I’ve done,” I want to know what you think about it.” And I’m like, wait a minute, this great artist is asking me what I think? Wanted to know my opinion? But that’s how he was; he was very collaborative. And I learned about Al’s experiences when he first came to New York — how these artists including himself, William T. Williams, Howardena Pindell, and Bill Hutson, were radicalizing materials. They took notice of each other, and when they finally met they formed an informal group to talk about their works. Such a great guy. I was so sad when Al died. Artist Ed Clark Another mentor is Ed Clark. For some reason he took to me. Ed doesn’t take to everyone, as you know. I think he just loved my curiosity and he could sense my genuine interest, not only in what he was doing, but in art. He taught me, showing me art history books. When I traveled he would say, “Oh, you have to visit this museum and see this specific piece.” I remember one time going to Spain, and he said, “Oh! You’ve got to see the Guernica!” He told me where to go, pointing out other paintings in the Prado. So my education continued. MAR So you got your introduction to art history from artists … as opposed to art historians. RMO I did. MAR Because they made it so natural? RMO Right, very conversational. Artist Herbert Gentry RMO The first time I went to Paris, Herb told me, “You know, you have to go to Montparnasse and visit the various cafes there, le Select….” It’s funny. When I went to Paris I took the Metro to a stop in Montparnasse. And I went to a café to get something and when we were there I realized — this was the place that Herb was talking about! le Select! I was thrilled to be there. Gentry told me about the painter Larry Potter, as well as about how he met some of the great writers. He was a friend of Chester Himes. Gentry was such a great raconteur. He could tell stories over and over again, and I would be engaged every time. That’s the kind of guy he was. He taught me about art, he taught me about life, about Paris. He was a dear, dear friend. MAR It’s very interesting, when you think of the general American art world at that time, and that they didn’t “know” that there were Black artists, right? And that you found a community of strong, fascinating artists who were African American with whom you could engage. That’s quite something! o Ed Clark Bastille Series, 1991 Acrylic on canvas When I went to the auction, it was great, I ran into a woman I’d gone to high school with, Marsha Sims, who was an attorney. I asked her: “Are you going to buy anything?” She said, “I don’t know what I’m buying! I don’t know what I’m looking at.” I suggested, “Why don’t you buy what you like? And she replied, “Oh, but you know… I don’t know.” I didn’t buy anything that night either. I don’t know if Herb Gentry was there or not, but there were several artists there and Joan Allen introduced some of them to me. There was this one painting, a gouache called Our Web, and I was looking at it as I was talking to him. “I really like this piece better!” I told him. Of course, it cost more. I said to him, “Do you mind?” I think I came there to give him the money for the print, Together with Friends, but when I saw Our Web I knew that was what I wanted. “I really would like to get this one.” Herb and I worked it out, and from that moment on we became very good friends. He became a mentor and a confidante, as well. I was only out in San Francisco for about two and a half years. The company I was working for transferred me back to New York to start a branch of the largest Black-owned architectural engineering firm in the country. It was very entrepreneurial; I started the office from scratch. It was a great professional experience for me. In 1989 I met an interesting group of people, who helped me in my business with their contacts. One of the people I met was Cynthia Boyce, who introduced me to Joan Allen, telling me, “You have to go to this auction, because you’re going to like the art.” The beneficiary of the auction was an old Black institution off Madison Avenue.