Al Hansen

" YEAH " Collage on wood' 11 1/2 x 12
” YEAH “
Collage on wood’
11 1/2 x 12

I once opened a gallery on the Lower East Side.

Many years ago in the mid sixties, I had found a standard 25 x 100 foot loft on the Bowery for $100. Then I found the place on Pitt Street for $90. Rents were cheap then, but ten dollars was a big deal in those days. Not sure one could get much lower.

After a year on Pitt St,  I began using the loft to have shows. I called it ” The Pitt St Salon”. I liked using “Salon” as it conjured a fancy place, when in reality one had to climb over drunks and addicts to get in the place. People did brave it and at the initial opening we had over a hundred people and sold quite a lot of work.

Even Hudson Walker, Marsden Hartley‘s great patron, came down and bought three works.

Grace Glueck called me and did an article “Alternate Spaces” for the New York Times. She mentioned my gallery and how I felt about artists not being able to find a gallery that showed interest in your work, so…what do you do? “Open your own”.

A close friend Bob Wiegand came to the first opening and was so impressed that he and nine other formed “Ten Down Town”.  These were artists living below Houston Street Pre-Soho times. That was a great success and opened peoples eyes to loft living.

I had a group show at the Pitt Street Salon showing such people as Peter Dean, Bob Thompson, Salina Trieff and the artist I am showing here, Al Hanson.

I recall Al Hansen dropped this piece off but never came back to pick it up. When Hanson died, Jimmy Breslin wrote an article on him. They lived next door to one another and went through school together.  Breslin said “all he wanted to do was draw.” He was very bright and when the teacher would say “let’s do math”, he would say he knew math, and he did. So the teacher would send him off with his paper and crayons to draw alone.

This titled “Yeah!”, dated about 1964-5. It is prior to his signature Hershey wrapper work. It consists of of a letter dated 1960 and a receipt also dated 1960. There is graffiti writing -some legible, others just barely. In crayon across the middle is ” Oh Yeah”. Then there is a receipt for self service laundry. Then a piece of red mettle nailed with a bent rusty finish nail. The more I study it the more odd writings I find, like”Guess Hoose Guess Again ” with the G in guess missing.

I met Al Hansen a couple of times but cannot say I knew him. I can understand him. One time in the sixties I was invited to do a piece out of found objects. With my son  JZ,  I  appropriated a shopping cart and on the day of the opening we pushed the cart to the gallery finding stuff and putting it together in the cart. That was our piece. Hanson had his grandson Beck go around with him picking up cigarette buts and converting them into art.

Al Hansen was a member of FLUXUS.  He was really admired in Germany and showed with the likes of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I’m lucky he never stopped by to pick up his work, YEAH!


Happy New Year

Bather, 48 x 44, 1985, C3, ID 768I met Franz Kline in Provincetown Mass. He bought a house next door to my studio. I think he had just hit it big and was enjoying buying a house that included an old boathouse that had been Hans Hoffmans school.

He hired three or four guys, including me, to fix it up. He installed two refrigerators, one for food and the other for beer which he stacked with cans of ” Black Label “, his drink of choice. He said to us, “Help yourselves” and then took off for New York City in a brand new black Ford Thunderbird.

We did some patching and plastering, then took a break. Help yourselves echoed in our heads. So we did. We looked around for what was called ” a church key “, a can opener. Could not find one anywhere, sort of odd there being a frig full of beer. Then someone said, ” we  should look in his bed.”  And sure enough, there it was plus a few cans of Black Label.

Franz Kline was a very generous guy who came out of the depression and knew hard times. I had met him a year before he bought that house, but did not know it. An agent sent my wife and I to see a winter studio in Provincetown , We were planning on spending the winter. We knocked on the studio door and a guy came to the door not too tall and with thick black hair and a pencil mustash. He had on shorts and a small apron around his waist. He let us in to look around. On the table where he was working were a bunch of calligraphic, small black ink brush drawings. We did not take long and left, thanking him. It was a pleasant place but not for us. It was later the next year when I worked for him I realized who we had met.

While I worked for him,  I also ran the Sun Gallery in Provincetown. He came by one evening with a few friends. We sat and polished off a gallon of a cheap Italian wine, Tavola. We all laughed, as we had been drinking it straight out of the bottle and our lips were purple.

I saw a Franz Kline painting at the Egan Gallery one time in the late fifties. It was big, black and white and called ” New Years Eve”.  Apparently he did not go out partying that year and stayed home and painted. I did that this year and it made me think of him.

Here is a painting of him, Franz Kline, wading out of the sea.

Happy New Year.