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“I was fascinated by a scene in the Laurel & Hardy movie “Hollywood party”, where a girl at the bar gets in a fit of rage because she isn’t allowed a drink. I looked her up in the credits and found out that her name was Lupe Vélez, a Hollywood actress that became famous because of the story surrounding her suicide in 1944, at age 36. During her movie career she became notorious because of her temper and stormy love affairs. She slashed her lover Gary Cooper with a knife, (ending the relation, Cooper reportedly had lost 45 pounds and was suffering from nervous exhaustion), did the same to her later husband Johnny ’Tarzan’ Weissmuller, and once to herself. When I learned about her basically kind, but probably bipolar personality, and about the extremely gifted actress and dancer she was, I decided to make some paintings about her demons and the slashing thereof. I later found out that Andy Warhol made a factory movie about her in 1965, featuring Edie Sedgwick in the titular role.” Patrick Verelst (Antwerp, 1948) is both an in- and outsider of the art world. In the past he has been working in the gallery circuit as assistant or gallery owner and today he remains active as a private art dealer. Only to an intimate circle he is also known as a painter. Patrick Verelst has always continued painting, but destroyed most of the works by force of habit. It was the correspondence between him and Jasper Johns that convinced him to keep some of his paintings, as the latter persuaded him not to destroy them anymore. For years his paintings have never seen an audience, but in memory of his friendship with Marc Poirier dit Caulier he has now decided to exhibit them, not as a starting point of a new artistic carreer, but to openly invite viewers to a lesser-known side of his practice.
PREVIOUS PAGES 4 Stills from “Hollywood Party”, 1934 LEFT Poster for “Lupe” by Andy Warhol, 1966
Untitled, 2015 160x135cm oil, acrylic and crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 73,5x60cm oil, crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 80x60cm oil, acrylic and crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 73x92cm oil, acrylic and crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 31,5x21,5cm oil, acrylic and collage on wood
Weissmuller, 2015 160x135cm oil, acrylic and crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 73x60cm oil, acrylic on canvas
Lupe, 2015 70x60cm oil, collage on canvas
Untitled, 2015 41x58cm oil, acrylic on wood
Untitled, 2015 46x60,5cm oil, acrylic, collage and crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 60x80cm oil, crayon, different techniques on canvas
Untitled, 2015 60x80cm oil, crayon, different techniques on wood
Plagiarism Fooled, 2015 50x60cm oil on canvas
Untitled, 2015 51x33,5cm oil, acrylic on wood
Child with Tourette, 2015 60,5x70,5cm oil, acrylic and crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 36x25cm acrylic and collage on wood
Untitled, 2015 160x135cm oil, acrylic and crayon on canvas
Untitled, 2015 53x40cm oil, acrylic and crayon on wood and canvas
Postcard for Marc, 1972 9x11,5cm postcard with cutout
A few of the paintings made between 1970 and now. Practically none still exists. These are scans of old documents, slides, polaroids. Some of them discovered recently.
Untitled, 1979 35x50cm enamel paint on wood
Untitled, 1980 90x120cm acrylic on canvas
Untitled, 1980 13x60cm watercolor on paper
Untitled, 1982 220x200cm oil, acrylic on wood
Twin towers, 1982 180x180cm oil, acrylic on wood
1984, 1982 220x210cm oil on wood
Coca Cola, 1983 65x70cm acrylic on wood
Untitled, 2000 220x190cm oil on canvas
Untitled, 1983 170x150cm oil on canvas
In the late seventies
I had already been spending about a month a year in NYC since
and early eighties you
my first visit in 1971. During that first visit, I spent a lot of time with
lived in New York. With a
pop artist Robert Indiana. I remember we went to the opening, in
background in minimal and conceptual art, what happened when
May, of Andy Warhol’s only play “Pork” at La Mama, a small theater in Lower Manhattan. It only lasted a few performances. To show that there was a lot of cross-fertilization between London and NY
you arrived in New York
in those days: when the play was performed in London a year later,
at that time? Did you find
it prompted David Bowie to become Ziggy Stardust. I also became
any similarities between
friends with Annina Nosei, who had started out as director of Ileana
Europe and NY? And what effect did it have on your work?
Sonnabend’s gallery in Paris and had been married to gallerist John Weber. The NY art scene was very conceptual-minimalist then and many of the artists, Sol Lewitt, Carl Andre, Robert Ryman, were very well received in Belgium, mainly through Wide White Space in Antwerp and MTL gallery in Brussels. At the first gallery Marc Poirier and myself opened in Antwerp in 1973 we had a very conceptual show by Bernar Venet: just a book on a stand with behind it on the wall a blow-up of the first-page index. I found a black and white Polaroid of the installation a few years ago and sent it to Bernar Venet. He replied, “Ah, ces temps héroïques”. They were.
In the early eighties, when I was living there, the NY art scene was much more on its own. I visited a lot of studios with Tony Shafrazi and with Annina, who would open her gallery some time later, and the overall mood was one of “anything goes”. The term “Bad Painting” was fashionable in conversations, as a positive perception. It was in the hall of Annina’s apartment that I saw Julian Schnabel’s first plate painting “Patients and doctors”; from my European background I could not place it, but it kept haunting me over the next days, which is good. If you like something new immediately, it means you have seen it before. It is wrong to think that there was a lot of European influence on the new generation of painters in NY. It was actually some time later when Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger started bringing catalogs of Baselitz, Kiefer and the like with him that they got more acquainted with what was happening in Europe. One day Annina and I went to visit the studio of a young artist, whose name I have forgotten, who made paintings upside down. So I said “Baselitz” and although she was European, and very well informed about contemporary art, she didn’t know the name. Around that time, a childhood friend who lived in Caracas had sent me a little catalog of a small group show there and I was interested in a work in it by an artist named Jeff Koons. I found out that Koons was living around the corner from where I lived and I started spending time with him, at his apartment and later in the evening in bars, where he would usually drink Scotch and me Dr Pepper. He was totally unknown at that time, lived and worked in a small apartment on a corner in the West Village, and was selling investments over the phone. I remember him explaining that he was not interested in small shop owners or businessmen, who would smell a scam immediately, but instead in doctors and professors,
who would smell a scam too, but would see it as a challenge. He also explained that he had a trick to clinch the deal, agreeing to an investment and signing the check being two different things. To neutralize last minute hesitations, he would start with “Peter, did the sun come up this morning? Will the sun come up tomorrow? Will the sun not come up tomorrow if you sign the check?”. Koons logic! His apartment was small but elegant. In the middle were a red chaise longue and next to it two vacuum cleaners, one on top of the other, in plexiglass boxes. He insisted on leaving the price tags on because he wanted them to look totally new. The work that I liked most was a toaster on a little shelf between two windows. He also pulled an earlier work out of a closet, which I remember as some plastic flowers planted in foam. He was very excited about new tiles he had ordered for his kitchen floor. But what truly impressed me was him saying, at a time when he was virtually unknown in the art circuit: “Oh, I will show the world how beautiful art can be”. I asked Annina to put him in a group show in her recently opened gallery, which she did, telling me afterwards, in her Italian accent “But Paatrick, hee’s a veery difficult man”. I still remember but could never retrace a photo that was published of the exhibition with her standing next to him, behind one of his works. To answer your question about similarities between NY and Europe at that time: I offered the work with the two vacuum cleaners to a prominent Belgian collector. He answered, “Ca ne m’intéresse pas. C’est de la merde”.
Coming back to
I wasn’t coming back; I was still living in NY, but I wanted to give
Europe in 1981, you then
an idea of what was happening there. I had become friends with
decided to show work by
Julian and visited his studio regularly. His first wife Jacqueline, to
Ronnie Cutrone, Keith Haring, Jonathan Lasker
whom he had just got married, was Belgian. As for Keith Haring, when I got to know him, he was restoring and repainting the walls
and Julian Schnabel.
between shows at Tony Shafrazi’s first gallery, which was actually
Why then? Was the
his apartment, on Lexington Avenue. I had seen those crazy white
art scene at the
on black drawings he posted in the subway, but hadn’t connected
time receptive to those artists?
them to him. I’m not sure if Tony had at that time seen the subway drawings. I had other options for shows in Antwerp. As I said, in NY the general mood in the art circuit was one of “anything goes”. I remember a transforming visit to appropriation artist Sherrie Levine in her very modest hotel room where, on the wall behind her bed, there was a Van Gogh drawing. Done by her. Robert Gober, who was working in a much similar location, had just finished the first work that put him on the map: an armchair with an embroidery full of little birds that he had made. We made fun of one of the birds that looked at us suspiciously. There was Christopher Wool who painted black and white texts on canvas and who had, I believe, his first show at the gallery of a Belgian friend, Nicole Klagsbrun. Meanwhile, Cindy Sherman, who had her first show at the recently started Metro Pictures Gallery, took intimate and charming small black and white photographs of herself in different roles. What I experienced most as Bad Painting were not Julian’s plate paintings but the work I saw at the studio of Jonathan Lasker, whom I included in the first group show. I loved his early small paintings that I could not connect to anything I had seen in Europe. The first Keith Haring painting I got hooked on was a canvas with a black Mickey Mouse against a background of vertical red stripes, which to me seemed like a comic strip figure superimposed on a Daniel Buren painting.
The response to the shows I organized in Belgium was not encouraging. I wanted to make a statement about the contrasting times by showing huge monochrome paintings by Olivier Mosset right after Julian’s equally huge canvasses and plate paintings, but nobody noticed. What I felt as the only Belgian equivalent of an “anything goes” spirit was a large work on paper by Walter Swennen that I had seen at the “Prix de la Jeune Peinture” show in Brussels. I showed Walter Swennen’s work a month later.
You talked recently
I wrote a text in NY in 1981 called: “From analog to digital, from
about absolute limits
relation to integration” which I published in a show I did at the ICC
having been reached in
in Antwerp in 1984. The term ‘digital’ had nothing to do with the
art and how to deal with
then upcoming revolution of digital communication technology. If
you watch the 1981 Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only” it becomes
Can you elaborate on this and how it has affected you?
clear that those modes of communication were still nowhere at the time. The term stood for what I experienced as a fragmentation. What I meant by “from analog to digital” was that modernism - and art in general, from the Renaissance onwards - was an analog development. To some degree, it was always one movement reacting to a previous one. A form of dialog, that Greek concept that resurfaced in the Renaissance, and as a Hegelian swing traveled through western civilization and defined it. I quote from the original text:“ Renaissance painting is innovating on the formal level because of its illusionist representation of substance and time, whereas the art of the Middle Ages dealt with a timeless, mystical reality”. The evolution of modern art from the mid-19th century on was a dismantling of representational painting where art, as happens at some point in any learning process, was to become its own subject. This dismantling was threefold: an evolution from the illusionist representation of a moment in time, to real time, a closing
in on the now, an evolution from the illusionist representation of form to real form, and an evolution from art as object to art as subject. An evolution, on one hand, set in motion by Cezanne, an analysis of form which through Cubism and Geometrical Abstraction culminated in the monochrome, where what started out as the analysis of form, became real form, the boundaries of the canvas. The evolution set in motion by Impressionism, which, through faster techniques and working in situ, was clearly a closing in on real time, the now, which through the Fauves and Lyrical Abstraction met its limit in Abstract Expressionism, in De Kooning, Action Painting and Pollock’s drippings, where the quick impressionist representation of the now becomes the real now, the immediate action. The general idea is that the upcoming of photography in the 19th century made representational painting redundant, but it also introduced, through its immediacy, a new awareness of time and reality. Thirdly, the process by which art became its own subject, as in Duchamp’s readymades, where any object became art by putting it in an art-context, and the subsequent object-subject rotation that ran through much of 20th-century art. What I consider to be a pivotal moment in art history is Rauschenberg’s erasing of a De Kooning drawing in 1953. As Rauschenberg clearly stated in an interview, erasing one of his own drawings would not have been art. He had to do it “on art”, therefore he used a De Kooning drawing. (De Kooning didn’t like the idea, but said he understood it and actively went along with it.) Rauschenberg realized that nothing could formally be added to the immediate action of an abstract drawing. Making art on art was unprecedented and means that something is over. Rauschenberg’s action appeared to me as a manifestation of a structural shift: by making art on art, by the superposition of two different logical categories, and this is very crucial: one fragments
(digitalizes) meaning. Later, Baselitz objectified the work of art by painting its representational content upside down: the relationship between subject and carrier became integrated. From the beginning, I was well aware of the improbability of these propositions in the face of the messy simultaneity of modernism but, in spite of rejecting them several times as simplifications over the past 30 years, they remained valid to me. Limits were undeniably reached with action painting, the monochrome, and readymade. Postmodernism, while in no way less interesting than modernism, is digital in the sense that there is no clear dialogue as was the case with geometrical versus expressionist, zero versus cobra, concept versus expression. In postmodernism, anything can be done independently of other routes of expression. The ideological evolution from representational painting to these extremes in the space of one century is unique in the history of humankind. I am afraid the uniqueness of this process might be reflected in the exploding prices of modern and 20th-century art might well be a sign of the uniqueness of this process. At the time of writing the text, I tried - perhaps somewhat too literally - to visualize the feeling of fragmentation in a work that had, at its center, a newspaper cutout showing the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I was focused on the towers because I was living in a penthouse in the West Village from where I looked straight at them. Two years later, I explored fragmentation more explicitly by cutting up one of the most iconic images of late twentieth century: the Coca-Cola sign. This is not the place to get into this, but later on I came to see the structural similarities between the switch from modernism to postmodernism, and that from modernity to post-modernity, from a bipolar to uni- or multi-polar, globalized world. Twenty years later, remembering
how the twin towers observed from my window at night seemed to be in permanent conversation by the blinking lights on top of them, I could not help seeing their destruction as the introduction of a new, fragmented world where problems and solutions are disconnected. The invasion of Germany at the end of World War II ended a problem. The invasion of Iraq only altered and aggravated the problem and caused a fragmentation that is still manifested today (by superposing two different logical types). Anthropologist Gregory Bateson seemed to have foreseen the problems with context and logical types and the subsequent inefficiency of symmetrical behavior in our globalized, interconnected world in his book “Steps to an ecology of mind”, which was first published in 1972: “…if we continue to operate in terms of a Cartesian dualism of mind versus matter, we shall probably also see the world in terms of God versus man; elite versus people; chosen race versus others; nation versus nation; and man versus environment. It is doubtful whether a species having both an advanced technology and this strange way of looking at its world can endure”.
How do you combine being an art dealer and a painter at the same time?
I try to paint only in the morning between 10 and 12 am, before I start my day. I am not the only dealer who paints. There’s E.L.T. Mesens, a lifelong friend of Rene Magritte, who successfully combined the two, and Konrad Fisher, who early on collaborated with fellow students Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter as Konrad Leug but stopped painting in 1968 when he decided he needed to give all his time to managing his gallery.
You talked about the ‘anything goes’ mood,
Not really, this show was purely thematic and only referred to the Lupe Vélez myth, to slashing and demons. All the works in
but your latest works have a
the show were made in the past five or six months. Before that,
for a year or so I was painting on old photographs, posters, and
Does this mark a new direction?
documents about TV shows and fashion magazines of the 1950s that I found on the internet and had printed out.
The last show you had
Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a relief, because to paint and get no feedback becomes a
was in 1984 and now you
weight on your shoulders. A continuous game of solitaire. I have
are presenting your work
tried several times to stop painting altogether, but there inevitably
again to a wider public. How does it feel and what does the future hold?
comes a moment that you come across an old painting and decide to just fill in a little blank or change a color and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re sold again. To have had this show might get me to be more patient and organized in the future and give the ground layer time to dry before considering what to do with it. I might want to show in NY again after 34 years.
Assistant Wide White Space Gallery, Antwerp Patrick Verelst - Marc Poirier dit Caulier Gallery with exhibitions of Tony Shafrazi, Bernd Lohaus, Philippe Van Snick, Keith Sonnier a.o. Assistant John Weber Gallery, New York Patrick Verelst Gallery, Antwerp with exhibitions of Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Ronnie Cutrone, Jonathan Lasker, Walter Swennen a.o.
Het Picturaal Verlangen. Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, 1982 Montevideo, Antwerp Olsen Gallery, New York Museum Dhont Dhaenens, Deurle ICC, Antwerp Plus One, Antwerp, 21/11/15-12/12/15
Patrick Verelst Jason Poirier dit Caulier