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in our previous episode, we left gallery owner cosima collinson being questioned by private detective francis fortescue as to the nature of the works, whose safety she had expressed concerns about, of the artist pete palomine.
"... but, you see, it doesn't take into account the peculiar nature and method of pete palomine's productions. those methods which have caused him to be branded a fake, a poseur, and so forth. methods which have outraged some, and discomfited others. do you know what i am referring to?"
"not really. i vaguely remember something about hypnotism? why don't you fill me in?"
"yes, of course," cosima answered. "as i said, pete has brought a lot of the opprobrium down on himself quite deliberately, in order to generate controversy and publicity. and has, i am sure, exaggerated the extent he uses the techniques he describes." she laughed. "when he talks of 'hypnotizing' his subjects - or apprentices or collaborators or whatever he calls them, he neglects to mention that he has no expertise in hypnosis. he may go through the motions of hypnotizing them, and they may humor him - you get the idea."
fortescue nodded politely.
"if he is hypnotizing these people," cosima went on, "i am sure he does it much more efficiently with bottles of scotch or sticks of tea."
"so he has these - apprentices or collaborators - doing how much of the work exactly?"
"until quite recently," cosima replied drily, "all of it."
"i see." fortescue nodded politely and picked a cup up from the coffee service that lay between them.
"of course, as he points out whenever pressed on the subject, the use of apprentices could hardly be a more time-honored procedure."
"indeed. but do the buyers in today's market accept that? excuse me for saying so, but i have noticed that the yankee mentality has a partiality for what it is regards as the "real thing".
"yes. and that accounts for some of the hostile criticism, but by no means all. much of it is the usual - a monkey could do it, a child could do it, and so forth."
"so these works, however and by whomever produced - are not highly representational - are what the public thinks of as 'modern art'."
"this is all illuminating, but what does it have to do with the threats to steal them? all the objections i raised before, and that you indicated you agree with - " fortescue shrugged.
"the implied threats involve the disgruntlement of one or more of the 'apprentices', who feel they are not to be adequately compensated."
"ah." fortescue considered this. "what kind of money is involved here, if you don't find the question indelicate? and these apprentices - couldn't they have recourse to lawyers?"
cosima laughed. "to answer your first question - hopefully a fair amount of money. as to the second, the kind of people pete uses - or used - he is getting away from his earlier method - are not the kind that have attorneys on retainer."
"oh. and what kind of people does he use?"
"the kind he picks up on the waterfront and in times square."
from the new york world-dispatch, sunday, august 22, 1947:
a new kind of "proletarian" art: the procedures of pete palomine
by florence flanagan, arts correspondent
the paintings on display at the 23c gallery on east houston st this week (through thursday) by the new artist pete palomine might be taken for deliberate primitivism, imitations of kandinsky, or second cousins of the works of recent trend setters like pollock and de kooning. fortunately the artist himself is on hand to reveal just how unique they are. at a very well attended opening, mr palomine was the epitome of graciousness in answering all of your corespondent's questions - as well as volunteering much information she would never have thought to seek.
correspondent: no one ever admits to being a member of any "school". might you be an exception?
palomine: no, i don't belong to any school. that's not the american way. we are all rugged individuals. individualists. in europe they like to sit around outside in cafes and issue manifestos and proclamations. but not here in the u s a.
c: you don't sit outside in cafes?
p: no, here in new york it's usually too hot or too cold.
c: how about inside, in bars?
p: oh, i find my best work - my best inspiration - in bars. and automats. especially the ones around times square.
c: do you associate with other artists at all?
p: not if i can help it. i get out and mix with the people.
c: but you would not call these paintings proletarian art, would you?
p: of course i would. as trotsky said, "art is an expression of man’s need for an harmonious and complete life". and in these works i tap that need directly.
c: where do you find your inspiration?
p: in the dark streets of the city. and the even darker streets of the soul.
c: could you be a little more explicit?
p: sure. i talk to people, wherever i find them, and i ask them if they want to contribute to an artistic project.
c: so how do they contribute to the project?
p: well, if they are agreeable - i don't twist anybody's arms, you understand - i provide them with paint and a canvas and let them go at it. the only thing i ask is that they work fast.
c: who is the artist, they or you?
p: that is a bourgeois question.
c: do you make any suggestions?
p: no, i tell them to just fill the canvas up.
c: what if they don't work fast enough?
p: they usually do. but sometimes if they have inhibitions, i hypnotize them a little bit.
c: just a little bit?
p: no more than necessary. freud said "my arsenal contained only two weapons, hypnotism and electrotherapy… ". my arsenal contains only hypnosis and slipping them a few bucks.
c: have you had any misadventures in your use of hypnosis?
c: so do you renumerate them? just a few dollars?
p: a double sawbuck at most. hey, they are happy to have it. these are real people. i am not approaching people at delmonico's or the four seasons. or even toots shors.
c: i am glad we have heard from comrade trotsky and doctor freud. do you have any final words?
p: another quote from trotsky: "a protest against reality, either conscious or unconscious, active or passive, optimistic or pessimistic, always forms part of a really creative piece of work."
c: thank you for your time, and for being so forthcoming.
p: thank you.
"from the depths", an exhibition of new paintings by pete palomine, is scheduled to run through thursday, august 26, at the 23c gallery, e houston and ridge streets.