FIUWAC NEWS, Tuesday 20th September 2005
FIUWAC 472-2005 , artwork of the month:
From the American artist Michael Bowen we received the following donation:
Beuys Andy Hopps 20 Barney’s Beanery dream, mixed media on board in handcrafted frame, 47x52cm. We thank Michael Bowen for his meaningful contribution to our ideal; welcome to the FIUWAC. At the centre of the work a button is installed with the text “walter hopps will be here in 20 minutes” The button is a classic and is mentioned in the 24 pages article on Walter Hopps that apeared in the New Yorker, July 29.1991, describing the birth of the legendary Ferus Galery, founded by W. Hopps and Edward Kienholz, L.A. 1962, exhibiting Pollock, de Kooning, Gorkey, Rothko, Motherwell, Newman, Cornell, J.Johns, E. Kelly, Lichtenstein, K. Price, Frank Stella, Clifford Still a. o., some of them for the first time. Bowen was one of the young artist friends who helped to paint the gallery’s premises. The N.Yorker article mentions on page 46; “In 1962, Tom Leavitt hired Hopps as the Pasadena Museum’s first full time curator. The budget was still too low to allow any other staff and Leavitt agreed to let Hopps supplement his meagre salary by continuing to teach the extension course at U.C.L.A. Hopps cut his ties with the Ferus Galery, but he remained in close touch with the Ferus artists. Nicholas Wilder, who had established a gallery on La Cienega (Los Angeles) that vied with the Ferus in showing new art, used to call up Hopps in those days and urge him to come over for lunch or a drink, so that he could look at the work of some new talent, and Hopps, too busy with what he was doing at the museum, used to put him off by saying he would be there in 20 minutes. He rarely got there at all, and it was Wilder who dreamed up the button that said “ Walter Hopps will be here in 20 minutes”, the button that later was recreated by Hopps’s staff at the Corcoran (to state their complaints about his frequent absence from the office).
We asked Michael Bowen the provenance of the button he used in this artwork and here follows his answer:
The button. This button IS the original button made for I think, Walters arrival at Warhol's first one-man show, which took place at the ferus gallery. The button is not any button made by the Corcoran. I got this button from my friend John Kelly Reed who lived for 12 years at Walters Pasadena house. Whatever exhibit this first button was made for that is where he got it.
The entire story of how I came to get the button as well as many other things, some ephemera, some beautiful original paintings by John Reed is a story art history needs to know.
I give you now a very brief synopsis.
I have to start by telling you about myself and John Reed or it will be impossible to understand the
Although I have always made my living as an artist since I was a 16-year-old drop out from Beverly Hills I never liked the commercial tricks I found around Ferus Gallery and the Now gallery, Ed Kienholz first gallery just I think before he met Walter Hopps. By tricks and commercialization, I mean simply that Kienholz, Rushia, and Billy Al Bengston, all older by 10 or 15 years than me were determined to make a success in the art world. Obviously, they did that. My own interests have always been in painting, and using all media to do so. I met Kienholz the first week I left home in Beverly Hills. I lived with him in a falling down place on Santa Monica blvd. near Barney's Beanery, the local art hang out. In this way, I became friends with the people around Ferus. In fact as a kid, I hammered and nailed Ferus into existence. I had a friend. John Kelley Reed. I introduced John to Kienholz, the Ferus, and Wallace Berman, Herms and the other artists and writers. John became close to all of them. I was close to everyone, especially John Altoon, but metaphysically far distant from that group. Reed for example helped me helping with Ferus but also pasted and glued the Semina magazine Wallace Berman created. This was in the late 1950s early 1960s. Now lets shoot forward in time to 1995 96. I was living in San Francisco. One day I got a call from a friend at the Oakland museum for California art informing me that my works had been chosen and were already shipped from a collection in Norway to the Whitney in New York for their yearlong traveling exhibit. Beat culture and the new America 1945 to 1955. I had done nothing to get into this exhibit. In fact, I was doing what I always do even now. That is. Create art and practice and study metaphysical reality or reality from the metaphysical point of view. I and the people around me or the people who I am around. In other words, our small group was filled with a dilemma. If I got active in this Whitney exhibit, we all realized that it would eat our time from our Meta psi work. Therefore, we talked it over, voted, and decided to give it some energy for 5 years. We are well over that limit now. Moreover, it has eaten away at our psi work. In the last, part of the Whitney showing, with Kienholz, Pollack, Jim Dine, Berman Ginsberg, me and others the exhibit opened its last 3 months at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. When that happened my friend Arthur Monroe, also in the exhibition and I felt that so many people who created an amazing world change were left out of the Whitney show that we decided to create another large exhibit in San Francisco for as many of those people as possible. We obtained the buildings and then began the process of gathering the left out artists. One of these artists was John Kelley Reed who had come up to San Francisco and lived there over 20 years before he and berman and the other l.a. people had returned to l.a. I left la in 19 57 and only occasionally visited Kienholz and others. So, John Reed had become missing. He was the first artist friend of my life. Now he was on my list of people to find for the tandem San Francisco showing in 1996. No one who I called in l.a. knew what had happened to him. The last anyone knew he was in Pasadena. That‚s it. So one evening a film producer in Pasadena named Todd mills was having a party for me at his big mansion. I found myself talking to a zillionaire friend of Todd's, a proto bohemian I guess one could say. I mentioned john's name. he said I know him. Well that started the Pasadena hunt for john reed. When I told Todd about this he had a friend come with a camera and westarted looking. We soon found that he had lived at Walters house 12 years before but for some reason unknown then had left. We then heard he was living under a bush by the Pasadena public library. We began searching thru homeless shelters and interviewing people who had known him. This entire 4 day hunt was filmed. Finally we found an old actor with one tooth who knew him only as little john. The actor told us that little john was dying and that the police had begun persecuting him for sleeping under his bush. We redoubled our efforts. We drove back to the library. And there we found john. He was sleeping on the grass in the sun. I woke him. He then began a conversation we had last broken off over 20 years before. The cameras were rolling. Naturally, we gave him immediate help. Found and offered him a place to live. I gave him a thousand dollars I had in my pocket. We got him to a dr, all of the things he could need we were ready to provide. Nevertheless, john knew he was dieing. I of course told him abut the exhibit,. He then told me to go to Walters Pasadena house and get what he had hidden there and keep it, exhibit it, do whatever I wished with it. The cameras were rolling. He refused to go to the house.
Therefore, we went to the house. There we met Walters's caretaker. He was a cruel man who hated John. I think Walter must have visited that house he had created for artists to live in very very rarely. The cruel caretaker talked on and on about how stupid, foolish, idiotic and so on John was. We asked if we could retrieve john's things which john had hidden deep under the house in a small crawl space. Only my pregnant wife isa was small enough to get under the house. She soon emerged with a large roll of paintings. Also a black attaché case. As we left the cruel caretaker laughed about johns plight and told us of his own art. Which consisted of making paintings and then burning them all as the exhibit. We were glad to leave. The cameras were rolling. We saw john the next day. He was happy he was going to be included in the san Francisco show and he promised us he would follow the doctors recommendations, live in the studio we got him, etc. Isabella and I had to leave for Las Vegas. A long drive across the broiling desert to another artist's house. My best friend photographer Roberto Ayala. He also was dying. We stayed with Roberto for a week. We tried successfully to get Roberto's works organized with his wife. Then we headed back to San Francisco still not having opened the suitcase. We had opened the roll of paintings and several were in the Tandem exhibit in San Francisco. That show was called re beat. In San Francisco we finally opened the attaché case. I have it here in Sweden. Inside were many early berman verifaxes. Incredible pieces. And of course, the button. Now you have the button. As I told Patrick, I would like to sell the bermans. He mentioned he might know someone. This will help us get started in Europe. In the meantime, we are happy to be out of America for good. John reed is just a tiny example of how the human spirit as crushed under the heel of the monsters who have taken America. They will take the world into hell if people do not understand what has happened there. John Reed never saw his works on view in San Francisco. But he knew it was going to happen. Two weeks after we arrived back in San Francisco we located a sister of Johns in the state of Missouri. She was overjoyed to hear about John. We got him on a plane to her and he died with his family A week after returning to his home. Best Waldo Michael Bowen .
For more information about Michael Bowen please visit his website at www.beatscene.com.