William Lobdell’s “Flatiron”

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Good old William Lobdell recently did a sculpture of the Flatiron Building.  It’s made of gatorboard, wood, acrylic paint and found objects.  Typical of the wonder of his pieces, it only projects out from the wall about 5″.

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Why would a Midwestern artist do an interpretation of an iconic New York building?  Simple: that’s an easy way to get the attention of New York galleries, where I want to see William placed eventually.  I mean the art critic for the New York Sun contacted us last winter inquiring about him, and was obviously impressed.  All we’re doing now is building up for William’s NY debut.  Should be soon.

Note how he looks a bit like Richard Gere in this picture?  Yeah, well most of my artists are secretly aspiring actors.  Hollywood’s a fallback plan–with a tan.

Friday Tips: New York: What It Means To You, and Us


To be honest, I can’t say whether any of my artists will ever be adopted as the latest rage in Soho or Chelsea, which are tough places to figure and even tougher to break into.  To be even more honest, we haven’t approached any as yet, since my strategies have always focused on artists and collectors west of the Hudson.  Some of my artists would undoubtedly do well in New York, once I get around to setting that gig up.  I just haven’t had time and we haven’t needed it.  I love the town, but being or not being a part of the New York scene doesn’t determine our success.

Many galleries on the Soho/Chelsea front carry magnificent work that, to me, reflect all the values I discuss in my book.  Just as cool, I’ve met scores of New York dealers who fully realize that where one lives is not a determiner of talent.  These folks know they can as readily make their next great discovery in rural Alabama as The Village.

But others who are caught up in the fame machine appear absurd, even ludicrous, for their courting of what they hope will be hip at the expense of everything else, especially talent.  Not only will they ignore the artist from Alabama, but also those from Brooklyn, Harlem, or the Lower East Side—unless they have an entourage.  This excessive posturing seems to bear little substance beyond name recognition, money, and some warped idea of celebrity.  Talent and discipline are often last considerations in these sorts of galleries, superseded by what has tragically become a primary consideration—image.


The most curious thing is that despite its aura of self-importance, this small portion of the New York scene has minimal impact on the rest of the country.  Soho and Chelsea, amazing places though they are, represent only a small fraction of what is now occurring in the arts in America.  And while exhibitions like the Whitney Biennial are finally beginning to pay attention to artists in other regions, a good portion of the Manhattan scene is still under the delusion of assumed superiority based solely on location.  In truth, the New York mystique is what it is because of where it is, not exclusively because of what is carried there—although some of the finest work in America is indeed carried there.  But in my opinion the art world is no longer centered in New York; it began dispersing across the country in the early 90s, a tendency whose time had come, and which is now gaining real momentum.   

From the 1840s onward, Manhattan was necessarily the center of America’s art universe.  I mean, where else would Childe Hassom and Diane Arbus have centered their careers?  Kansas City?  We both know better.  And while artists like Judy Chicago and Wayne Thiebaud did very well by launching from California—another mecca of a different sort—without a nod from New York, their impact would certainly have been less significant.  The entire country, if not the entire world, has been enriched by the cultural wealth of Manhattan.  Whether an artist makes a pilgrimage there, or is indirectly influenced by its many movements, the place is incomparable.  That much is certain.  So is this: things have begun to change.

All the time New York was bearing its influence, the provincial regions were struggling to grow up and stand on their own cultural feet.  Now they’ve begun to, whether in fine art, film, music, what-have-you.  The process is far from complete, but man it has come a long way in a very short time, spurred on by the internet, but also by the inevitable cultural maturing of the country itself.  Outsider art that used to occur mostly in places like The Village can be found in any city now; and whenever that is flourishing, it’s a sign that other disciplines are as well.  This is significant.  Why?  Because without that growth, the country as a whole can’t realize it’s own potential, and young artists in Houston or Milwaukee who can’t afford to live in New York (not that artists there can either), get a far better shot at a viable career.

Since the time of the 1913 Armory show, New York has been the launching pad for whatever was revolutionary, outrageous, or visionary.  It still is, but so are dozens of other cities.  They may not yet have the same cache as Manhattan, but because of the advantages of the internet and a burgeoning national art market (even in the midst of a recession), their influence is steadily growing.

This doesn’t mean that Soho and Chelsea will ever be replaced; I don’t see how they could be.  It does mean though that they are sometimes out of touch with the rest of the country.  This wasn’t so relevant in 1920; now it is critically relevant.  This also means that artists who have been locked out of the New York scene no longer have to look to Manhattan for blessing, consecration, or even approval.  Mutual respect on both sides would be a good thing though. 

I bring all this up because some of you may not be acquainted with the New York scene, yet will be curious about it if not intimidated.  I’m just giving you a brief introduction, and assuring you that your success can mirror or even eclipse ours, with or without New York.  You don’t necessarily need it to have a great career, but having that gig under your belt is often a fine thing if you can land it.

Still none of this changes my love for Manhattan, and the four surrounding boroughs.  I owe New York a great deal, since my years in and around the city had a profound influence on me.  In fact it’s safe to say that without that influence, I would not now be the art dealer or writer that I am.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m unwilling to be bluntly honest about the place; I would be doing you and myself a disservice if I was.   Besides, New Yorkers respect bluntness.

Stainless Steel for Matt Kirby’s Sculpture


Fabrication of the Spar has begun on Matt’s piece for the City of OP.  The stainless steel pipe must now be ordered so he can prep it, weld on the flanges, grind the right texture into the surface, etc.  We want to make it appear light-weight, but in reality each pipe will have a .25″ skin, making some lengths weigh in excess of 250 lbs.  That’s overkill, but only in that way will we know that it can withstand any windload below tornadic levels, or any bunch of drunk college students trying to hang from the end.


So I went around to the yards and priced the stuff, negotiating with several Missouri rednecks, as I love doing. Heck of it is, I learned that if I buy the pipe new, it’ll cost  $6000.  Holy *&#@!.  But if we get it used, it’ll work just as well, since pipe is pipe when it comes to sculpture.  What matters is the finish, and it takes a lot of work to grind out the right finish, because as you can see, stainless ain’t pretty when you first get it.

May get it through American Compressed Steel, who are looking into used it for me.  Good bunch of folks; their CEO has been buying sculpture from us for years.  He was one of the first to believe in regional artists, way back in 1995; now everyone does.  I’d to believe we had a hand in that. 

Completion of Denver Seminar


Gave my Seminar for Artists last Saturday at Meininger’s in downtown Denver.  Had a great time.  Always dig connecting with the artists, and they always seem to appreciate my straightforward, no-messing-around, realistic approach–though it’s done with abundant humor.


Blows my mind how many artists have graduated, whether a year ago or 20 years ago, without a clue as to how to prepare a resume, photograph their work, get into juried shows, approach galleries, approach prospects, write a letter of intent, etc.  Universities don’t seem to teach them these things.  Well, that’s why I do. 

Hanging Lake, Vail Galleries


Stayed in Glenwood Springs the other night so we could soak in the Hot Springs.  Love that town in a tourist sort of way.  Then we hiked up to hanging lake just to listen to the water fall.  Beautiful place.  Very soothing. 


Later on did a little business in Vail.  I went the usual round of galleries, looking for one or two that might be a fit for a couple of my artists.  But the truth is I’ve always found the Vail art scene, if it can be called such, disappointing.  A lot of poorly executed landscapes and figurative bronzes, with the occasional brilliant piece, and nearly no contemporary work.  We’ll see what shakes out later.




Went mountain-biking earlier this week in Moab.  Slick Rock Trail.  100-degree heat.  All up and down for 10 miles, with the occasional sandtrap, or rattler skittling out of the way.  Hardest bloody trail I’ve ever ridden.  By the time we finished, my sons and I were done in.  In fact my younger one got disoriented at the end, took a wrong turn, and we had to back out into the desert after him.  It took a couple of miles to find him, which I don’t mind telling you was more than a little worrying for me.  Man, we rode fast and hard in that search.  What a relief when I finally rounded a cliff and saw him down in a valley.  He was almost out of water and beginning to wonder what had gone wrong. 


That sort of thing can happen easily in the desert, but all wound up well.  It made everyone closer, as it tested our endurance.

What does this have to do with creating art?  Nothing.  But it has everything to do with staying inspired.

Denver tomorrow, and my seminar at Meininger’s.  Looking forward to that gig.

Brent Collins in a Santa Fe Gallery


While I was in Santa Fe this week, before going on to Moab, I placed the work of Brent Collins with one of the leading contemporary galleries there.  By this I mean they’re one of the leading galleries in the country, not just in Santa Fe.  I don’t want to mention them by name yet, but will after the inventory has been installed.


Why would I bother with this?  Because no matter how successful my gallery and book might be, the fact remains that we’re rooted in Kansas City, and my artists need wider exposure than that if they’re to have national careers. Placing their work with established galleries in meccas like Santa Fe, NY and LA facilitates this.  It also allows me to prove–time and again–that the talent in the provincial regions these days is often comparable to that of the major art centers, it just doesn’t have the same exposure.

I knew when I met Brent in 2006 that he could become a major player. Since then, and his commission for H&R Block, we’ve placed his work with Warner Bros, Wesleyean University, and many private collectors. He’s on his way. I can’t tell you how much I dig facilitating that–especially such a great dude from the MO hinterlands.


The picture of Brown Eyes at Palace of the Governors has nothing to do with Santa Fe galleries, I just happen to like it.  Besides, she always helps me select the galleries that I work with.  What does she do when we’re not on vacation?  She’s a teacher for low-income kids, something that she finds hugely gratifying now that our own are grown.

As I write this I’m in an espresso joint in Moab.  It’s 7:00 a.m.  Time to wake my family, rent some mountain bikes, and hit Slick Rock Trail.  It’ll be a great, and very hot, day.

Rafting the Rio Grande / Business in Santa Fe


Went whitewater rafting Sunday on the Rio Grande with my sister Robin, her husband Dan, and my own troop.  We put in well below Taos, where the water was fairly high.  In some areas Stage 3, others Stage 4, then rather placid after.  Brown Eyes got bounced into the drink in one of the rough sections.  I jumped out to help her back in.  Captain Dan, who’s an expert raftsman, said I wasn’t supposed to do that.  I was thinking Like hell I’m not, though of course he was right.  Anyway it allowed her to improve upon her swimming technique.

She and our sons loved it: sunburned, wet, exhausted at the end from all the paddling.  Damned good day. 

Did business in Santa Fe for two of my artists a couple of days after.  Went very well.  Details later.

Seminar in Denver

I’m teaching a Career Seminar this Sat at Meininger’s Art Supply in Denver.  Am told I’ll have a classroom full of artists.  What will we cover? Everything, especially all the career aspects they’re almost never taught in art school. It’s unfortunate really, how every year 1000s of artists graduate as first-rate painters and sculptors, but without a clue as to how to structure a viable career. No one teaches it because no one knows how to unless they’ve run a gallery. I find that no matter what age the artists are, 25 or 65, they’re hungry for this information. Well, I dig walking them through it.

Meininger’s is a huge place on Broadway in midtown. Been around since the late nineteenth century. I didn’t realize so many of those gold miners were artists, but Denver’s always been full of surprises. Looking forward to it, after passing time in Santa Fe and Moab. Want to do some rafting, a little mountain-biking, and a lot of hiking. Oh yeah, and bourbon in the evenings with Brown Eyes and old friends.