Wednesday, September 06, 2006


A few months ago I attended the 30th anniversary party for the rooms show that was the inguarual exhibition at P.S. 1, a renovated public school in Long Island city that is one of the premiere art spaces in the city. I was a bit hesitate about attending because I would be seeing artists and old friends that I haven’t seen if not in 30 years then close to it. For moral support I asked Howard to come with me, and being one who never says no to any invite to a social event, he of course readily agreed to come along. Alanna Heiss who was and still is the force behind P.S.1 organized the original exhibition and she was the first person I ran into upon arriving. Nice and warm if a little heavier than she was 30 years ago (who isn’t) she was the 1st to sign my catalog from the original show that I brought along so I could have some of the artists sign it. She wrote “All my love + you are just as good-looking.” Well that was a nice start I thought. The rooms show was comprised of unique installations using the various raw and unfinished spaces around the school by 78 artists. This was the group show of 1976. and if invited to be in it you were indeed part of a very select group. I have no idea how the choices were made, and indeed another whole show using a different group of 78 artists could easily have been made. My contribution was an installation comprising two of my sculptures in a small storage closed that had the door removed so people could look in. The walls and floor were painted white with many coats applied and I left the peeling green paint that ran around the top of the room alone as a nice contrast to the bright white of the walls and the floor. It was also very brightly lit. It took me over a week to do this piece and I was damn proud of it. The fun of taking part in the show was being around all the other artists and the nice camaraderie that was in the air. That in it self was unusual as a large group of artists in one place can be very ugly. At the reunion I saw some old friends and I was struck by how everyone had aged. I thought most of the women had aged very nicely with grace and dignity and many of the women who were good-looking 30 years ago were still beautiful to me. However that all changed when out of the corner of my eye I saw a very strange and somewhat scary looking woman walking around attracting a lot of attention. Thin and gaunt, her face had been lifted too many times and looked like a melting candle dripping over a piece of coffeecake. Her hair was bleached blonde, long and wavy. Way too blonde, long and wavy for a woman of her age which I thought to be around 70+ and her lips were so full of botox that they were practically down to her belly button. A horrible sight. I suddenly realized that this woman was Babs Modar, an artist who was at one time a rather close friend of mine. I finally found my voice and tried to be as friendly as possible, considering the fact that I hadn’t seen her in over 25 or so years and that our final meeting was less than friendly. Still nothing prepared me for the creature that stood before me. Clutching a book on her art in her bony hands, she showed it to me, and I thought that it was a vanity job, as one of the authors is a known hack who will write about any artist who pays him, and I just could not imagine any publisher wanting to do a book on the art of Babs Modar. I had first met her in 1969 when I moved in with “M” in his tiny apartment on Jane Street in Greenwich Village. “M’ decided to give a little gathering to introduce me to some of his more “interesting” friends and to show off his new 20 year old lover. Babs was there, all showy and blowzy trying as usual to be the center of attention Her mouth and sexual appetite was a big as the big sky country of Montana where she originally came from and she still she had a touch of the old Montana accent that would come out when she was drunk, which was most of the time. Sometimes she would get rigged up in cowgirl drag and pose for pictures to use on her art gallery show announcements. She looked ridiculous. Babs had been known as a pop artist (a poop artist is more like it) and had a bit of success with her campy kitschy 3-D painting sculptures of drum majorettes and athletes posed in very sexual situations. I never cared for them, and was amazed that any gallery would even show these horrors, but they did, and the critics usually bombed the work. When out in public and drinking she would be loud and vulgar and every so often at Max’s or St. Adrian’s when she had too much booze she would bound up on a table knocking over drinks and plates of food a cigarette dangling out of her bright red lipsticked lips, and scream that she was the greatest fucking artist in all of New York. Sometimes she would rip off her blouse and stand there on the tabletop only in her bra. A major embarrassment was Babs Modar. She was stridently anti-feminist, would lie about her age and would never list her date of birth on her resume. “I’m not political” she would proudly boast, but of course by saying she “wasn’t political” Babs was making a political statement. This was way too subtle a point for her small mind to comprehend. I just couldn’t understand “M”s attraction to this woman. I always found her work to be lazy, lousy and dumb. And as the years went on it got lousier, lazier and dumber. She would sleep with any male that could help her career and many that couldn’t thus she was nicknamed easy modar. She also adored younger men and she would sometimes turn up at art world functions with guys who looked like they were her sons. Did I mention that she was a major embarrassment? Her work in the early 70’s consisted of this ugly sponge like material that she started to use after she saw a show of Lannie Martin’s who was using the material in a much more interesting and exciting way. Lannie’s use of the material was visually splendid and smart. She had great ideas and was intelligent about art and could be very interesting when talking about her own work. Babs on the other hand was an idiot. She could barely put two sentences together and when she did they made no sense at all. She had no idea what her work was about or why she was using this very specialized material that Lannie had made her own. Where Lannie would use the material in new and unexpected ways, Babs would take the material and stuff it on in and around her rather pedestrian academic unexciting stiff drawings and then sit back all smug & cozy and think how great the work was. I thought it crap but didn’t say anything because she was close to “M” and she was helping him in his career as a performance artist. She was close friends with a crazy female poet who was unstable and who wound up one day sitting in her kitchen sink playing with her own feces. Babs had to have her committed to Bellevue. Another one of her close friends was this tiny nasty bitchy queen who started out as an art critic and somehow convinced the world that he was really an artist. A terrible person, I despised him right up to the day he died of AIDS. Once at an opening at the conservative Architectural League, Babs, “M” the crazy lady poet and the tiny nasty bitchy queen got so drunk that they took off all their clothes and got up on a table (These drunks loved their tables) and did a little nude dance. I was so appalled and embarrassed that I ran out of the place. Some years later Babs confessed to me that she never liked me and was only nice to me because of “M”.


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