In January, 1999, I flew from Detroit, MI to New York City to partake in the glory of a huge Jackson Pollock exhibit. It was the largest such retrospective of Pollock’s art at that time. I’d heard about it on NPR driving home one wintry evening.
It just so happened that I had exactly one friend in NYC: a guy named Charlie who made balloon hats. He and his friend Adi had been on a world tour — from Europe to Africa and beyond — photographing people in the balloon hats they made. I met them because a friend said they might be able to stay with me in Ypsilanti for a few days. I don’t normally invite people to stay with me. But after they told me on the phone about their project, I realized I had to hang with these dudes.
They wanted to take some pics in Detroit and, being Michael Moore fans, Flint to add to their book. Yes, a book. I still can’t find it online and I lost touch with Charlie many years ago. The long and short of the story is this: we had an awesome time together in Ypsi, listening to music and talking about art and travel in the evenings after they finished their balloon anarchy trips.
So a year later, Charlie kindly loaned me a room in his mom’s house in Queens for a couple nights, went to the exhibit with me, and showed me some sights in NYC. He took me on the Staten Island Ferry, to the Knitting Factory where we heard some mind-blowing jazz, and to an Egyptian coffee house where I smoked my first hookah. I have lost touch with Charlie & Adi, but would love to hear from them. I can’t find the book anywhere! Did it get published?!
By a strange twist of fate, a man named Tom also attended that exhibit. We did not meet that day, but nearly six years later in Phoenix, AZ, when I responded to a Craigslist ad he posted looking for a guitarist. Tom and I ended up gigging together once or a month for almost four years! Who knows? We might have even stood next to each other admiring the same Pollock painting one day in New York. Tom taught me all kinds of great things about jazz guitar to accompany him while he played his heart out on the tenor sax.
The catalog from the exhibit had every single piece in the show. An amazing volume, it also has about 100 pages of well-written, comprehensive biography and critique of Pollock. It set me back more than a couple bucks at the time but was so worth it. I choose these pages because we often think of just one aspect of Pollock’s work: big splattery canvasses. And yes, this book has all the big ones — but also some other pieces you might not have seen.
Collector’s Guide: From Jackson Pollock; The Museum of Modern Art, New York.