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K E I T H MAYE R S O N


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KEITH MAYERSON, IN NEW YORK CITY, 1997


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KEITH

MAYERSON HEROES

TO ANDREW NEGRETE MADRID

GALLERY ALAIN NOIRHOMME RUE

DE

LA REGENCE, 17 REGENTSCHAPSSTRAAT BRUSSELS


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HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR PORTRAIT, 1984


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A STUDIO

VISIT WITH

KEITH MAYERSON AND ROSS BLECKNER IN

NEW YORK CITY

K: I think its good to have it informal, rather than formal… R: So, everything that I’m looking at, in this room, essentially is part of the work for your show… K: Um-hmm.. Pretty much… This one isn’t, this one on the chair… R: So we have Jimi Hendrix… K: Right… That’s Judy Garland… R: …I didn’t know that. I should have known by the hairdo… K: (laughs) Well part of me wanted to start painting these Judy Garland paintings because, you know, it was one of those things where a lot of older gay men love Judy when a lot of younger gay men, or younger people in general, are terrified of her or don’t know who she is or something… It’s like when a reporter does a story about a cult and then becomes a member… I sort of became a member in just finding what it was about Judy Garland that used to appeal to everybody. By painting her it was terrifying… R: What do you mean? K: Well, she had such a sordid life… She was such an empowered person, and really incredibly talented… You see any movie of her, she completely just glows right off the screen, and she’s fantastic. You know, she would make comeback after comeback after comeback…

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KEITH MAYRERSON, PAINTING IN A BARN, DENVER, COLORADO, 1990


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R: You know what my response to that would be? K: What? R: So??? K: Well, um, she was a genius, and I think for that for me, postmodernism is about… R: That’s more about what I want to know... That’s what I’m curious about, because let’s just say you are using these people metaphorically… K: Right… R: But I don’t really care about any of these people. So then what would you say to me? K: Well, everything is allegorical. I am using these people as vehicles to talk about different ideas that I have. The theme of the show is called “Heroes”, and so for me Judy Garland is sort of a hero… What I was going to say about Post-Modernism, I think if I could put it into a nutshell, it’s about agency being reified into Capital, kind of like… R: Wait, wait… That’s very fancy art terms…. Now back up and say that sentence again… K: It’s about… R: agency… K: being reified… R: being reified… K: into capital… R: Capital meaning… K: Yeah, money… It’s like agency, our spirit, our soul, our position as individuals reified, like flour into pizza dough, being folded into Capital… I feel we live in a Corporate Commodity Culture now where a lot of our ideas are decided and contained by committee. Somebody like Judy Garland or Elvis, who is almost like the brother of Judy Garland, in a way, were these people had incredible talent, were incredibly skilled… R: Are you bringing in certain nostalgia for what people used to be? K: Well, kind of, but….

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R: That people aren’t like that anymore? K: No, I’m talking about the past in order to hopefully forge a place for the future…I always think that (I teach a lot and I love it ) and I feel it’s the job of an artist in a way to be a teacher, and I feel like these people were these living entities that were true geniuses that were able to be within the popular culture, and that, you know, there was a reason for them being there… You know Joseph Campbell? R: Yes. K: His idea of an artist was that artist was supposed to tell stories for a culture to understand itself in order to progress… I feel that these people were like that. They were artists who were really trying to do something, but to do it within a popular vein, in order to reach the most amount of people: to move them, to have them experience something, to maybe have them think about their life a little better, to think about the world in which we live. And yet, the tragedy… So much about being a hero is about the giving over of oneself, in a way… I don’t think you have to suffer to be a good artist, I don’t think that, but… R: I’m curious why you use these heroes that get subsumed by popular culture and self-destruct… K: Well honestly, I was trying to do people who didn’t… I’m hopefully varying it (with paintings of Sir Lawrence Olivier, Audrey Hepburn, Errol Flynn, and so on)…. That’s the scary thing, is when I’m… You know, Judy Garland was so hard, because she had such a turgid life. And I really feel it was because she was fighting for her role and her agency as a woman… R: Let me ask you something, why don’t you do Joseph Campbell? K: I’d like to, I should… R: I mean, why is it that you are confirming pre-anointed heroes? As opposed to looking around for more unlikely heroes? I could name a lot of people who could easily be in any one of these paintings… K: Oh sure, I mean… Part of it I think is that we learn things from stories and hopefully... I’m a huge Fassbinder fan, and at the end of one of his stories, everybody always dies or comes to a horrible end. But then hopefully from the ruin of that, you can learn about, just like any ruin, the culture in which that ruin began and try not to do the same thing. And then also, I’m consciously thinking about Warhol and people like that. I feel like painting Elvis is a weird, you know… Warhol did Elvis too, and in some ways, I feel like Warhol really loved the figures that he was painting. I think Warhol’s story was that he was this poor pockmarked kid from Pittsburgh who loved Marilyn Monroe and wanted to be like Marilyn Monroe… and by the painting of her, maybe he became like that. R: I’ll agree with the first part. K: What I think about Elvis and what he did, or Jackie O., he would repeat them endlessly, and I felt like he participated in not what he was critiquing, but maybe embellishing… If, if… You know, sorry to quote so much, but you know that Walter Benjamin thing, in Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, when the actors are constantly under the camera’s gaze they lose something of their agency as they’re put into these films, and so on… It becomes more about the director than they as people. And by constantly replicating Jackie O., Warhol, over and over again is sort of doing what capital did to these people already. Right?

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If Warhol is constantly repeating Elvis over and over again, or taking Jackie out of her context of JFK’s real funeral, and just making it a chic image—you know, of course I love him and I think he’s great, but I think at the same time its not about who Jackie was as a person, or who Elvis was as a talent, it becomes about… R: I don’t think so either, I think its very personal for him. I actually think he did it to, in a sense, to demystify a lot of the celebrity that he was afraid of. He even said the more you look at something, the more it loses its meaning. K: Right, right… R: So, the idea of repetition for him was really a way of making something that he had always perceived to be way outside of himself, something he could never be, humble. K: I could see that. R: And approachable. K: I could see that. But what happens is the risk of that redundancy that we lose who they are as people or we forget their history. Elvis is a fat joke now in a way, and Judy Garland is… R: Are you talking about Warhol? K: I’m talking about Elvis as a person, and how Warhol… I don’t think for Warhol it was about “Elvis the Incredible Talent We Loved,” it was about our reception of Warhol, and also what you’re saying too, to make it more humble by reducing it. What I think for me is important, is to bring back who they were as people, and like any portraitist, try to essentialize what it was about them that made them so great. R: You’re a portraitist? K: Well, for this show, maybe a little bit. I’ve done other kinds of work, but I don’t want to limit myself, or put a ceiling above what I do… R: One of the things…just so you know, I love your work. You’re one of my favorite painters… K: Oh, thanks Ross.. R: I always saw your work as being very broad, and very expansive. I always loved the different directions and the connections between the directions… K: Right… R: So that, you would kind of pick up… There was a kind of a story inside the paintings… K: That’s true…

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R: …that took a little while to connect… Now, I think you settled more on the iconography of Pop Culture. K: A little bit… R: I’m curious about that. K: Okay. Well, in previous shows that I’ve done, they’ve always been about stories, and often times I would write out a story that would be either in the front or the back burner while making the images. Like in a stain-glass window or a comic, I was always interested in how the pictures connected in-between the two of them to create the content, and also how each one in and of itself told a story. I’m a big believer in comics, I teach comics at the School of Visual Arts, and one thing… R: What do you mean, you’re a big believer? K: Well, the power of word/image combinations, and different images in succession to create content and meaning. R: That’s film. K: Well, but isolated and alone… A big text for me—I’m sorry for quoting to you so much, but I’m teaching mode, I just came from my class at NYU— was Roland Barthes' The Third Meaning. He isolates Eisenstein film stills, and he talks about how in each film still, there is different ways of reading it. The first meaning, the literal frame of what’s happening; the second meaning, the symbolic frame intended by the artist; but the third meaning, is what the audience brings to that work… R: Sure, of course… K: Where the viewer is connecting the dots… R: That’s a good definition of Post-Modernism. K: Yeah, there’s not one point of view, there’s all kinds of points of view, not one has any hierarchy but it’s about how all those views relate… R: I can understand… Are you telling me your paintings have to do with being Post-modern? K: I think so… For me… R: I don’t think that… K: For me, the idea of a post-post modernism, whatever that is, or how to forge a path for the future, is to be able to make work that hopefully is smart, that has a point, that is about something, that has content outside of itself, while at the same time, having its own aesthetic and formal power to transcend received ways of looking at things or language…

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R: I agree with that, but do you think that if you were more random in your choices, that your work wouldn’t be about something? K: Maybe. Hopefully there is content in each of these paintings inherent in the subject matter that I chose, and by how I painted it. As a body of work, hopefully the ultimate content is the closure the viewer makes between all the paintings. I’m seeking to create an ideology of what it is to be a true hero in a time where a “false” notion of heroism is being used to support things that I find to be corrupt and vile… I find that, being inspired by things such as avant-garde theater and comics, that I am intrigued by how seemingly disparate images and ideas combine to create meaning… R: Did you go to the Whitney Program? K: No. I went to Brown University as an undergrad, and studied Semiotics and Studio Art, and I did a lot of theater in addition to painting. I was the cartoonist for the campus, I always did the daily cartoon… R: You did the daily cartoon in the newspaper? K: Sure. I was the cartoon guy, but I also did studio art and I did theater. And then I went to grad school. I came to New York… R: Now you teach at NYU? What do you teach? K: I teach Studio art: painting, drawing. But I also teach a senior seminar class, Integrated Liberal Arts, which is like what we’re talking about… I teach a sophomore class, which is about ideas of Postmodernism, and canonical texts. I get the kids to walk the walk and talk the talk of Post modernity… R: So do you have confidence in what you do? K: I try. I do my best. I believe. I keep doing it. I’ve been doing this for fourteen years. R: How old are you? K: I’ll be turning 40 the night of this opening! And I’ve been showing since I was 26. I went to grad school at UC Irvine, and my grad school thesis show was called “Pinocchio the Big Fag.” It was here, and it traveled around, and it was sort of my breakout show. R: What do you mean, traveled all around? K: Traveled around, and went to the Kiki Gallery in San Francisco, and was in a group show in LA. R: One painting, or a number of them? K: It was a sequence of a narrative, it was something like 55 drawings. R: How did that happen? I never really heard of thesis shows that kind of… move around!

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PAINTING IN OUR SUPER ILLEGAL SUBLET IN SOHO, 2005


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K: I had this epiphany on a treadmill to conjoin my playwriting and comic skills and, you know, making images to make this thing… It was good enough that one of the teachers recommended me to this guy Rick Jacobson, who was a really great guy in San Francisco who ran this cool gallery called Kiki. It was one of the first galleries in the SoMar district. And then Nayland Blake and his boyfriend saw it and they brought over Ann Philbin, from the Drawing Center, and so she wanted it for there. And then, I was living in LA and they showed it there. R: And it showed at the Drawing Center? K: Yeah, and it got a great review in the Times, it was in Artforum, where I got my “Openings Page.” And stuff like that. R: Fabulous! K: So, but, with every show I keep trying to challenge things and do different things. And so, in the next show I had seven different narratives in a whirlwind and people kind of liked it, but it took more closure, or understanding from the point of the viewer. And then I came to New York, I tried to get to some sort of primal immediacy that was behind all those ideas…The other shows were in different styles, and there were a lot of post-modern conceits…. I did this picture of Rimbaud the poet as this character Maldoror from the visionary vampire story from the 1800’s by the Comte de Lautremont, done in the style of Odilon Redon, signed by Verlaine. So I wanted to say something, but I felt like I had to go through all these filters in order to say it. At the time I was reading the biography by John Richardson of Picasso, and I was like, you know, Picasso was a genius, and got to wake up every day and he felt like painting a vase of flowers he got to paint a vase of flowers. If he felt like painting a portrait, he would paint a portrait. And the story was his life. He wasn’t doing the same thing, he wasn’t the “Scooby Doo” person who was doing “Scooby Doo” all the time. He was able to do everything. And I felt like “God, it would be great to do that!” I should be able to do what I want, and maybe the narrative is my life a little bit. R: To go back to the Pop culture and the Gay Icon thing… K: Yeah, I’m sorry… R: No, its great. I think the way you talk… I’ve seen a lot of how you talk runs through your work. And actually, I love the way your paintings are painted so, when I see sort of a rambling quality… K: (Laughs) R: That I actually like quite a lot. It’s very loose. And that’s coming out of the way you think and the way you put phrases together and the words. Your loose structure becomes a kind of character. K: I guess… R: Which is nice, it’s a way to keep things open. Now I’m still looking at the paintings. Now we can’t get into individual paintings. Like this painting, who is it of? K: That’s Elvis.

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R: That’s Elvis? K: It’s one of the earliest ones, yeah. R: Early and late Elvis? K: Both early. The earlier paintings of this body of this work are little bit more wild. We had a great friend of ours pass away in the fall. Our friend Alicia. She was Andrew’s best friend, my boyfriend, and she was his best friend growing up. And she got sick and, uh… R: How old was she? K: 38. And she went to the hospital, and they were like, “not only do you have pneumonia, but you have full-blown AIDS,” and she died within a week. And so it was this horrible tragedy, and it totally upset us. Isn’t that horrible? But she lived in Orange County; they just don’t have the information out there. People with AIDS are treated a little bit like lepers. And it’s horrible. She didn’t have good models. We tried to help her. R: She went from nothing, to full-blown AIDS and pneumonia. K: Something like that. We didn’t know… R: It sounds very… suspicious. K: Well, we didn’t know. She was always a high-strung character. And she was pretty wild. R: Maybe she was in denial. K: I think so. In Orange County, although there are a great many people there who are smart and care, a lot of them are sort of in a somnolesent sleep and it’s sad. It’s not about critical thinking. I think that’s why art is important; hopefully it induces people to think for themselves. I keep referring to Scott McCloud who talked about the power of the icon, and closure. Closure is about putting two different elements together to create content… R: You know, what you are talking about is very difficult to get into an interview. It’s a lot of information. I would like to know more about you, actually... K: Okay… all right. R: I think, that oddly enough, your painting is actually very simple. You’re thinking about it isn’t, I can see that. But the images and the directness of the way you paint had a kind of fluidity. A kind of simplicity to it. Something that almost bordered on joy. K: Oh, for sure.

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R: But anyway, to go back to the icon, the gay icon. That comes in your work a lot. That gay people are fascinated with these particular people, like Judy Garland. Or James Dean. Actually, my first question really was, “What if you don’t care about these people?” K: To answer your question by way of allegory, (all these things are allegorical), one way that I really understood portraiture was the movie Rembrandt, I don’t know if you ever have seen it… R: No… K: With Charles Laughton as Rembrandt. It was this great black and white movie, from I think 1936, or something like that, and it has all these guys with moustaches out to here, and they’re walking across these snowy-white landscapes with windmills, a beautiful movie. I’m paraphrasing a little here, but, after Rembrandt is exiled out to Rembrandt-land, because he was painting people too realistically, or he did the Night Watch, which challenges composition and so on, there’s this great scene in the movie where he hires a bum to paint him because he couldn’t afford real models. And the bum is dressed as Kind Sol, or King Solomon, and he turns to Rembrandt, or Charles Laughton dressed as Rembrandt, and he says “why are you painting me, I’m just a bum!” And Charles Laughton says, “you’re not a bum, you’re dressed as King Sol, and this is what it means to me…” And then he goes on this whole teary-eyed soliloquy of “Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity,“ all this stuff, that he says. And I realized, oh my gosh! Really good portraiture, or figurative painting, is like method acting in a way… That he set up an allegorical situation that meant something to him, and he thinks about it while he’s painting it. And even though we don’t really understand who those characters are or those people that he painted--we don’t know who they are--we still care about the figures in the work… R: You care about the figures in the painting, or the figures in the movie? K: Well, the synaeesthetic feeling that the real Rembrandt is bringing to the portrait in his painting. I think while he is painting the work, filtering through his mind what he is seeing, negotiating the abstract notions of positive and negative space, he is also thinking about his thoughts, and his conscious and unconscious is able “leak through” into the painting to give the work its alchemy... If oil paint was created originally to be able to make, say an apple, more realistic than any other medium, couldn’t it also make concrete thoughts, moods, and feelings? Couldn’t it make the unconscious perceivable and palatable in the plastic space of the painting? In a Rembrandt painting, you feel it. You feel the emotion. You feel the care. You feel the pathos. Maybe the ineffable thing that you can’t put into words. R: Let’s just take those four qualities. Is that something that you are trying to put into these paintings? K: I’m a big believer in the sublime. I think its possible to make a work that is much bigger than itself… R: You’re all over the place… K: Well, not really…it all fits together for me… I want to make a painting that you can look at… To me if I stand in front of Rembrandt or a Vermeer or an El Greco or a Velázquez, I don’t really care about who the people are in the paintings… R: That’s what I’m trying to get to here… K: When you find out more, it informs your ideas about the pictures, but ultimately its really about you having an experience in front of this thing and it

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IN THE STUDIO, 2006 - HEROES SHOW IN THE SPRING


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moves you, maybe, hopefully, in a way you can’t put into words. And maybe, if you’re lucky, it gives you an epiphany about life, or yourself, or your being within the world. I don’t know for my work if it achieves this, but this is something to aspire for… R: Absolutely… K: In the old masters... R: Actually, there are so much of a platitude in that, I actually kind of reject those ideas of what could be… K: Well, right, you can’t control the way a viewer will receive a work… R: It’s almost like when I read art criticism and I get a laugh when the critic says it “changes the way we see the world”. I’m like hysterical… I think it changes the way who sees the world? K: Right, sure. In my teaching, for me, it’s very political. Post-modernism is important as a movement because it made you step away from the work of art seeing how it operated in a larger system… It was all about looking as a language, and the received way of looking at things as constructed by ideology… R: Are you trying to tell me that’s the first time that that had happened? Are you trying to tell me that somebody like Barnett Newman didn’t step away, in your words, from a work of art, and see it in a larger context? K: Sure! No, no, no… I think that every artist is…. That the key is that you are always stepping back from the work of art, right? You’re stepping back from how we see things so you can see something that’s new! To hopefully, make changes, or to make progress, or to keep the discourse going, or to essentialize what is happening… It’s also “freedom”: the separation of the known signifier from the signified to achieve a new language of communication that can be more “direct”. For Barnett Newman, I think those things are visual haikus, where they’re extracting from the old masters the formation of the formal qualities to get to the right feeling. R: I like that, that’s a good observation… So anyway, so the point I was trying to make is… So, to quote you as defining post-modernism as if something that you were saying about it hadn’t happened… K: Modernism for me in a nutshell is that “It’s not the subject matter that’s important its what you bring to the subject matter that’s important”. When Van Gogh paints the flowers, its not about the flowers it is about how he paints the flowers… For Cezanne, obviously, it’s not about the landscape, it’s about what he perceives, or maps onto that landscape. For me, Post-modernism is stepping back from a work of art and seeing how it operates in a larger system. There’s not one truth, there’s a multiplicity of truths, and there are no hierarchy’s, everything is subjective… R: So what does it mean? K: Well, I think you can have your cake and eat it, too…. A lot of post-modernism broke down the aesthetic nature of things. Or took away beauty. They want to take all the seductive agents, especially with painting away so you can get to the “core,’” as a philosophical and political action.

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R: Who is “they”? K: The people of a generation of the eighties, and the seventies.. And also, post-modernism is a movement started largely by woman, and also, by, well… For me, post-modernism begins actually in the “Gay Room” I call it, at MOMA, with Rauschenberg, Johns and Twombly. It was Rauschenberg who erased the DeKooning. Johns took a readymade, and made it into a beautiful painting. Twombly was able to essentialize a DeKooning gesture. For me, those are abstract-expressionist paintings in drag. R: Is that what your paintings are? Are your paintings in drag? K: (laughs). Well, no.. For me these are very serious paintings. Where I’m really thinking about these people. R: Do you (and your boyfriend Andrew) commiserate on each other’s work? K: No, he remains silent while I make the thing, until its done. Then he might give me his two cents, or not… I love him, and trust his opinion so much, I don’t want him to influence me… R: How long have you been together? K: Fourteen years, so… R: Where is he now? K: He’s at the gym, to give us space. R: Have I ever met him? K: I think you’ve met him, yeah! He’s a tall, handsome, Latino guy… He’s very smart and sweet. He gives me my room, he knows that I have to be my own art director; he doesn’t want to art direct me… He hopes that my paintings are complicated and rich… R: Well, you don’t have to hope for it… They are… But there is a difference between complicated or complex and rich, and convoluted and unclear. K: Okay. R: That’s why I ask you, I’m curious to know… From my vantage point, you seem a little bogged down in art theory. And it kind of clouds the issue, because I see your work as being much more personal than rhetorical, and much more felt… Much more about how you feel the world, than how you think your way through it… Because we both all both do both of it. We all do both of those things… K: I feel like a lot of artists are kind of like this (covers his mouth with his hands as he’s trying to speak) or maybe they are motormouths, and then they finally go aaaagh (making a “throwing up” gesture) and they make this thing that has a life of its own…

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R: What? K: Ultimately it’s not about talking, it’s about going vooom! and making something that has a life of its own that speaks more directly… I’ll speak from my heart! In terms of what these images mean to me as gay icons… Bugs Bunny meant a lot to me growing up, he was a gay character, who had agency, who had a right of way… R: What about this painting? K: Well, that’s the last one I did… I love Warhol, and I love Fassbinder… But I hope to be able to conjoin… R: Fassbinder has the red shirt on… K: Yeah. R: And is that just two kind of sailor tough tricks of Fassbinder? The kind of guys that he liked? K: They’re on the set of Querelle, so I’m assuming he cast it… but that’s Brad Davis, who passed away from AIDS. He was one of the first victims… He was one of the big first actors… But you know, I love Fassbinder. He was one of my first heroes in college because he was so rich about his work… R: Mine as well… K: You could read a lot about that stuff, but you could also feel the emotions in those movies, and they worked as narratives… R: The energy and intensity… K: Querelle. It’s not a movie that it’s cool to like supposedly, in a lot of circles, but I loved it. It helped me to come out in college. I did some acting, and they gave me this role… I was portraying this hustler guy who was the boyfriend of this perfume magnet in Paris. And I would play this movie over and over again to get into that character. When I was doing the painting, I would play the movie over and over and over again to get underneath the painting. When I do Elvis, I play Elvis all the time, or watch Elvis movies. Or Judy Garland all the time when I paint Judy Garland. R:You mean you do that now… K: Yeah, sure… R: …when you’re painting? K: Oh, yeah… It would drive Andrew crazy a little bit because there would be Elvis on all the time in the house, and when I would take breaks I’m watching Elvis. I’m trying to get underneath what its all about. Same thing with Judy Garland. When I did that painting, I was getting a little loopy, because…

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R: How long did it take you to do that painting? K: When I wasn’t teaching, every night, and all weekend long for probably a couple of weeks. I would always be painting when I wasn’t teaching… R: So you come home and you paint every night? K: Oh, sure, oh sure. Until midnight or one, every night, or sometimes later. And on the weekends too... R: Really. K: Oh yeah. I mean I teach a lot but then if I’m not teaching I’d be painting or maintaining my relationship with Andrew! So, um, yeah… R: That’s nice… K: Yeah, it’s nice… It’s good to be teaching, and its good to be busy doing stuff that you love… (Andrew enters) R: This is Andrew?! K: I’m being a motormouth with Ross… R: How are you? A: Pretty good! (Saying hello to the house poodle) Hi Rosa! K: I’m being a motormouth, as usual… A: You are? K: Ross is like “Turn off the tape! It’s going to take hours to transcribe!!!! You are going to be sick of it!!! A: I know, it’s only supposed to be about 10 or 13 pages, and that’s not that long… R: I think he should be allowed to art direct, and edit too! K: In studio visits before, he used to be like (whispering, running his finger across his through) cut it!!! A: Stop… He needs to say what he needs to say…

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R: Well, he needs to condense what he needs to say… And make it a little more clear, if you ask me, but anyway… So this is in the show? K: Yeah, that’s “John Lennon, Imagine”... R: Who’s this?! K: That’s the young Gregory Peck… R: And that? K: That’s JFK… R: Audrey Hepburn… K: “My Fair Lady”… R: Nice… K: Thanks… R: I love the feathers. K: I loved doing them… R: And the white, kind of lacey dress… Is that painting in the show, too? K: Yeah, that’s Jackie O… R: I got that, that’s a good idea… K: I think there is hopefulness in painting, I think it’s a spiritual thing to do… Constantly searching to find for something… R: I like that. K: It’s a hopeful prospect. With every one, it’s like “I hope this is my masterpiece!” With everyone you do, you know, ultimately its like, you know, you know, I hope that this one is my masterpiece! I just think that making art in our world right now is a hopeful endeavor. You know, “what is painting or fine art’s place in our culture right now?”

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R: I don’t know. Tell me. What do you think? K: I used to think that in the culture wars that TV’s first, or music or movies would be in the front trenches, or something, and we would just be jousting way in the back or fencing… But more, I kind of think that we’re really at the ship’s helm, you know, like Leonardo di Caprio in Titanic! R: You do? K: Well, yeah, because I think that making art is about, you know, making art is about thinking aesthetically, and it’s about looking at our culture from our point of view, in order to give people pause to make them think for themselves. R: Do you think that people in Europe are as fascinated with America now? As they used to be? And the icons of American popular culture, which these are… K: Well, I don’t know… I feel that, you know, I’m a super lefty liberal, right? As a gay person and as an artist, I feel like “W” has taken us to horrible extremes… R: A very bad direction… K: A very bad direction… R: And it almost has a backlash to everything. If I was a European, looking at… Nobody cares about anything American… I mean, they’re over it... K: Well, hopefully I’m being generous enough that… Tin Tin is obviously a Belgium hero who was like the soul of Europe after WWII. And Audrey Hepburn was born in Brussels. And Rimbaud lived in Brussels with Verlaine… R: Did you do some of that research, or is that coincidental? K: Well, I’ve always wanted to do a painting of Tin Tin… R: I mean, the Brussels connection… K: I had this image of Audrey Hepburn, I was planning on doing it, and then when I was in Brussels I went by where Audrey Hepburn was born. I didn’t realize that she was born there, but that gave me the carte blanche to do it… I’ve always painted pictures of Rimbaud, and it was only after I painted it that Alain actually reminded me that he was there… R: Nice.. K: But I feel like, hopefully, if these are representations… If they are American, they represent a good America, the way it should be, by example of using these people of the past to forge our way into the future… R: Do you think all these Americans are the way America should be, the America that self-destructs? Or are killed?

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K: No, no, perhaps the portraits are allegorical for perhaps what has happened to America. But all of these people were lefty-liberal people, a lot of them were gay. But I’m hoping to rewind the time to when they were great. To think about, we don’t have to replicate the past, and if you could see what these people stood for, what they died for, maybe by example, you don’t have to die, or suffer or be killed for it… R: So this is what I’m going back to what I was saying before. So you don’t think that’s nostalgic? K: I think that they’re something about the elegiac that we can learn from. I don’t want to quote anymore…but you can learn about… R: Go ahead and quote… K: You know, Craig Owens talked about the allegory of the ruin. You know, how Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty stands in for something that was lost… R: How do you remember all of these quotes… K: Well, I teach them, I think them… My art is my life and my teaching is part of what I do, and I feel art is about teaching… R: You must have a good memory… K: I don’t know… R: I could say a quote a hundred and fifty times, and then three days later, not be able to remember it… It’s very irritating! K: Hopefully what I’m saying isn’t irritating in that it feels tired or old. I just think we can learn about the future by looking at the past, and seeing what was good and learning by it. R: Well…. K: As a gay man and as an artist I don’t want to kill myself like Montgomery Clift from drugs or drink, or drive too fast in my car. I don’t think you need to suffer to be an artist. R: Do you like those two guys in Brokeback Mountain? K: Yeah, I love that that movie exists. I think that it helps to open up a lot of windows especially now with gay marriage such an issue. But frankly it’s a little pathetic that he was worried about his boyfriend from so long ago… I would like to think as a culture gay people progressed to an extent that they don’t have to suffer, either… R: I think he should not have given a shit and moved to New York. K: That’s right. But I would like it to change everywhere. I’m hoping that with the Europeans looking at this stuff would be like “oh America has good things in it. There are good people there. They care about things that are important.”

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R: I think they know that. K: For me in painting these things, I just want to embrace what I find is really good and powerful in the hopes that these people serve as icons that I sutured into when I grew up to forge who I was as a person and what I wanted to be. That hopefully these people serve as examples, or as models of other people could be in the future. What it means to be a human being in our world. R: That’s perfect, and that’s the end. K: Okay!

KEITH MAYERSON, IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LIBRARY PLAY AS ELVIS, 1976.


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PLATES


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I. Judy With Bows On Oil on Linen, 177.8 x 177.8 cm. (70 x 70”)

2006


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II. Elvis the King Oil on Linen, 91.44 x 121.92 cm. (36 x 48�)

2006


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III. Good Rockin’ Tonight Oil on Linen, 116.84 x 162.56 cm. (46 x 64”)

2005


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IV. James Dean, Giant Oil on Linen, 127 x 177.8 cm. (50 x 70�)

2006


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V. Imagine John Oil on Linen, 127 x 177.8 cm. (50 x 70�)

2006


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VI. Young Gregory Peck Oil on Linen, 50.8 x 60.96 cm. (20 x 24�)

2005


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VII. Bed-in For Peace Oil on Linen, 132.08 x 101.6 cm. (52 x 40�)

2005


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VIII. My Fair Lady Oil on Linen, 91.44 x 127 cm. (36 x 50”)

2006


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IX. Jackie in Mourning Oil on Linen, 162.56 x 81.28 cm. (64 x 32�)

2005


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X. Lawrence Olivier—Henry V Oil on Linen, 81.28 x 101.6 cm. (32 x 40”)

2006


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XI. JFK/Stars and Stripes Forever Oil on Linen, 111.76 x 111.76 cm. (44 x 44�)

2006


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XII. Jimi Hendrix, Voodoo Chile Oil on Linen, 101.6 x 101.6 cm. (40 x 40�)

2005


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XIII. Tin Tin and Snowy Oil on Linen, 86.36 x 106.68 cm. (34 x 42�)

2005


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XIV. Captain Marvel Oil on Linen, 81.28 x 157.48 cm. (32 x 62�)

2005


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XV. Rimbaud Oil on Linen, 76.2 x 91.44 cm. (30 x 36�)

2006


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XVI. Monty Clift/Red River Oil on Linen, 91.44 x 101.6 cm. (36 x 40�)

2006


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XVII. Bugs Bunny Oil on Linen, 86.36 x 132.08 cm (34 x 52�)

2006


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XVIII. Errol Flynn as Robin Hood Oil on Linen, 81.28 x 111.76 cm. (32 x 44�)

2005


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XIX. Fassbinder and Warhol on the set of Querelle Oil on Linen, 132.08 x 91.44 cm. (52 x 36�)

2006


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BIOGRAPHY / EXHIBITIONS / BIBLIOGRAPHY


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KEITH MAYERSON EDUCATION: BFA, Brown University (Semiotics and Studio Art), 1984–88 MFA, University of California, Irvine, 1991–93

SOLO EXHIBITIONS: 2005 2004 2003 2000 1997 1995 1994 1993

Rebel Angels at the End of the World, Q.E.D., Los Angeles Hamlet 1999, Derek Eller Gallery, New York Hamlet 1999, Pt. 3, Derek Eller Gallery, New York Illuminations, The Fifth International, New York, Paintings and Drawings, Jay Gorney Modern Art, New York Monty’s Dream: The Sleeper in the Valley, Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles The Marriage of Heaven and Hell!, Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles Pinocchio the Big Fag, Kiki Gallery, San Francisco

GROUP EXHIBITIONS: 2006

2005

2004

2003

Redykeulous, Participant Inc., New York, NY Salon, Greene Naftali, New York, NY Inaugural Group Exhibition, Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY Honeymoon with Romeo, curated by Holly Coulis, Groeflin Maag Galerie, Basel The Most Splendid Apocalypse, curated by Jason Murison, P.P.O.W., New York This Hard, Gem-Like Flame, curated by Joseph R. Wolin, Angstrom Gallery, Dallas Under the Sun, Greener Pastures Contemporary Art, Toronto, Ontario Rimbaud, curated by Max Henry, I-20, New York, NY The Sublime Is (Still) Now, curated by Joseph R. Wolin, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York, NY Let the Bullshit Run a Marathon, curated by Nate Lowman, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York, NY K48, Deitch Projects, Williamsburg Brooklyn Hothouse; Contemporary Floras, curated by Mary Jo Vath, Gallery of Art & Science, New York You, curated by Lisa Kirk, Royal Modern, New York New New York Scene—K48 Teenage Rebel: The Bedroom Show, Gallerie du Jour at Agnes B., Paris FIAC art fair, curated by Scott Hug, Paris Magazin (K48: Do Not Provoke Us), Marres, Maastricht, The Netherlands Now Playing, D’Amelio Terras Gallery, New York Drawings, Derek Eller Gallery, New York

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2001 2000 1999 1998

1997 1996

1995

1994

1993

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Kool Kult, K48, Scope Art Fair, New York 25th Anniversary Selections Exhibition, The Drawing Center, New York Landscape, Derek Eller Gallery, New York Refiguring Painting, Los Angeles County Museum (Through 2005) Group Exhibition, American Fine Art at P.H.A.G., New York Recent Acquisitions, Los Angeles County Museum Fore and Aft, Acme., Los Angeles The Stroke, curated by Ross Bleckner, Exit Art, New York Young New York Painters, curated by Ross Bleckner, Baldwin Gallery, Aspen Inaugural Show, curated by Jennifer Bornstein and Chivas Clem, The Fifth International, New York swam down, away, curated by Tony Payne, Audiello Fine Art, Inc., New York Painting: Now and Forever, Pat Hearn Gallery and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York Codex USA: Works on Paper by American Artists, Entwistle Gallery, London I Love New York, Edinburgh International Art Festival, Edinburgh College, Scotland Bathroom, curated by Wayne Koestenbaum, Thomas Healy Gallery, New York View 3, curated by Klaus Kertess, Mary Boone Gallery, New York Francis Alys, Keith Mayerson, Franklin Preston, Hiroshi Sugito, Audiello Fine Art Inc., New York More, curated by Tony Payne, XL Gallery, New York Paintings and Sculpture, Luhring Augustine, New York Three Painters, curated by Jack Pierson, CAPC Musee d’art contemporain, Bordeaux, France The Name of the Place, curated by Laurie Simmons, Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York Young, Dumb, and Fun, curated by David Pagel, University of Las Vegas, Nevada The Incredible Power of Cheap Sentiment, curated by Bill Arning, White Columns, New York Annual Summer Watercolor Exhibition, curated by Tom Woodruff, P.P.O.W., New York Degenerative Art Show, The Lab, San Francisco The Moderns, curated by Tony Payne, Feature, Inc., New York Faggots, curated by Bill Arning, Rojes Foundation, University of Buenos Aires Stretch Out & Wait, Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles Stonewall 25, curated by Bill Arning, White Columns, New York Dave’s Not Here Show, Three Day Weekend, Los Angeles Red Rover, Three Day Weekend, Los Angeles Tiny Shoes, New Langton Arts, San Francisco Selections Spring ‘94, The Drawing Center, New York, NY (brochure) Playfield, curated by Randy Summers, Rio Hondo College, Wittier, CA Sick Joke, Kiki Gallery, San Francisco Steve Crique, Keith Mayerson, Tyler Stallings, Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles

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BIBLIOGRAPHY: 2005 2004

2003 2002

2000 1998

1997

Knight, Christopher, “Fresh, original voices in L.A.: A deceptive look at a mythic figures”, Los Angeles Times, October 28 Ammirati, Domenick, “Keith Mayerson,” Artforum, February. p. 175 Smith, Roberta, “Keith Mayerson,” The New York Times, December 24 Speers Mears, Emily, “Keith Mayerson,” Artforum.com, December 13 Smith, Roberta, “Rimbaud,” The New York Times, July 30, p. E35 Levin, Kim, “Rimbaud,” The Village Voice, July 28 Johnson, Ken, “The Sublime is (Still) Now,” The New York Times, June 11 Walker, Kelley, “Top Ten,” Artforum, April Cohen, Michael, “Keith Mayerson,” artUS, April–May Cotter, Holland, “Keith Mayerson,” The New York Times, December 12 Ammirati, Domenick, Critic’s Pick: You,” Arforum.com, October The Comics Journal 242, April, pp. 68–69 “Landscape,” Time Out New York 334, February 21 Sehorn, Jason, and Keith Mayerson, “Why I Didn’t Rush the End Zone,” Interview, February, p. 40 Mayerson, Keith, “Icons and Iconography in Technocratic Culture,” Xtra (Los Angeles) 3, pp. 23–29 Kannenberg, Jr., Gene, Read All (or Some) About It, X-Tra (Los Angeles) 3, no. 3, Spring Herbert, Martin, “Codex USA,” Time Out London, p. 51 Rimanelli, David, “Painting Now and Forever,” The New Yorker, June–July Duncan, Michael, “Keith Mayerson at Jay Gorney,” Art in America, June, p. 107 Johnson, Ken, “View Three,” The New York Times, May 1, p. E43 Drenner, Craig, “View Three,” NY Arts Magazine, May, p. 29 Mayerson, Keith, “Guest Room With a View,” Paper, May, p. 49 James, Merlin, “New York: Recent Painting,” Burlington Magazine, February, pp. 65–67 Still, Torri, “Filling the Canvas,” Brown Alumni Monthly, January/February, pp. 38–43 Schwendener, Martha, “Keith Mayerson,” Time Out New York, November 20–27, p. 47 (Self Portrait), The New Yorker, November 10, p. 28 Arning, Bill, “Keith Mayerson,” Bomb, November Juno, Andrea, ed., “Keith Mayerson,” Dangerous Drawings, New York: Juno Books Featured Artist, Honcho, November, pp. 66–67 Cotter, Holland, “The Name of the Place,” The New York Times, February 24 Tom, Karen, “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Cover 11, no. 5, p. 59 Hainley, Bruce, “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Index, May, p. 79 Marston, Jayson, “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Drummer 208, August, pp. 49–50 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Library Journal, April 1 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Attitude (London), March, p. 22 “Cult Fiction,” Gay Times (London), February, p. 69 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Bay Area Guardian, February

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1995

1994

1994 1993

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Knight, Christopher, “Review,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, p. F6 Pagel, David, “Keith Mayerson,” Art Issues, September/October, p. 40 “PW’s Best Books,” Publisher’s Weekly, November 4, p. 57 “Horror Hospital Unplugged,” Publisher’s Weekly, September 23, p. 71 Rimanelli, David, “The Young and the Feckless: Keith Mayerson’s Comic Rock Novel,” Out, October, p. 66 “A Brilliant Chick Parody,” Out, August Greene, David A., “Review,” Art & Text, January, p. 71 Mayerson, Keith, drawings, Framework 7, no. 3, pp. 23–26 Mayerson, Keith, drawings, Red Hot + Bothered: The Indie Rock Guide to Dating 1 (pp. 11, 21), and 2 (back cover) [magazine produced by the Red Hot Organization, included with album compilations] Michel, Deborah, “The Himbos are Coming! The Himbos are Coming!,” Buzz, April, p. 59 Relyea, Lane, “Openings: Keith Mayerson,” Artforum, April, p. 92 Helfland, Glen, “Sympathy For the Devil,” San Francisco Weekly 12, no. 6, April 6, p. 19 Duncan, Michael, “LA Rising,” Art in America, December, p. 72 Myers, Terry R., “On View: Los Angeles,” New Art Examiner, December, p. 36 Pagel, David, “Art Review: Convention Unites with Gay Fantasy,” Los Angeles Times, October 6, p. F4 Mayerson, Keith, “Family Value Cartoons,” Faultline, May, pp. 39–43 Saltz, Jerry, “L.A. Rising,” Art & Auction, April, p. 88 Atkins, Robert, “Queer For You,” The Village Voice, June 28 Bonnetti, David, “Gallery Watch: Give ‘Em that ‘Ol Tired Religion,” San Francisco Examiner, April 15, p. D10 Cotter, Holland, “The Joys of Childhood Reexamined,” The New York Times, March 25, p. C30 Bonnetti, David, “A Queer Way To Look At Pinocchio,” San Francisco Examiner, November, p. E10 Helfland, Glen, “Art,” San Francisco Weekly, November 17, 1993, p. 15 Provenzano, Jim, “Pinocchio Queerified,” Bay Area Reporter 23, November 18, sec. 2

ARTIST’S BOOKS: 1996 Horror Hospital Unplugged (with Dennis Cooper), New York: Juno Books/RESearch Publications 1993–94 A Patriarchy’s Nightmare 1993 Pinocchio the Big Fag K Trying Not to Be A Dick

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KEITH MAYERSON HEROES 18 May – 30 June 2006

Catalogue and exhibition

Gallery Alain Noirhomme Copyright © 2006

All photographs of the paintings by

Farzad Owrang and Elanor Rae Steil for Tom Powel Imaging, Inc Photo Credit

p. 4 Jack Pierson, 1997 p. 8 Lucien Samah, 1990 p. 14 Jason Schmidt, 2005 p. 18 Ross Bleckner, 2006 p. 26 Dr. Nanny, 1976 Printed by

Graphic Production Cassochrome Color Service Center Books and catalogues available through

Editions Alain Noirhomme Rue de la Régence, 17 Regentschapsstraat B-1000 Brussels Tel 32 2 512 50 10 Fax 32 2 512 11 15 e-mail: lotus@skynet.be www.alain-noirhomme.com

Profile for Keith  Mayerson

Heroes  

Keith Mayerson: Heroes

Heroes  

Keith Mayerson: Heroes

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