Friday, July 28, 2017

Filming Trip: Klaus Kertess

I just wanted to share some memories I was playing in my head last night as I listened to Physical Graffiti. As some of you know, I have loads of images from artists in my screensaver. I use it for, well, I use it because I like looking at what I consider the best art. And inside that barrage of painting and sculpture photos, there is photos of people too. People who have made a significant impact on my life. One of those is Klaus Kertess, granted I only got to meet him once, but damn we had a good time talking in his home. I wonder what happened to his place after he passed. What happens when you don't have kids but you have a home of your own. Does it go into some kind of trust, hell I don't know...Just things I think about.

If you want background on who Klaus Kertess is...go look him up.

In 2004 July, was the first time I got to visit NYC. Because of my friend Joseph Marioni, he helped me to come there for a visit. Granted this trip was only 3 days. You don't get much time to do things when it comes to only having that much time on your first visit. I did get to visit the Met for the first time, but it was also when Moma was over in queens, and I wasn't about to go to queens on my first trip to this city. I remember getting to finally meet David Reed in person on the first day I was in town, was funny because Joe was walking me around chelsea to check out the show at Robert Miller which he was in. Pretty sweet since I also got to see a BUNCH of other artists who's work I had yet to see in person. They had a wonderful yellow painting by Jason Martin too. One thing I remember during that trip was how cool it would be to see Klaus Kertess out and about. Granted I had no idea at the time where he lived.

Fast forward and rewind.... 2003 I wrote to Klaus with a few slides (maybe they were photos) of my work, with a nice letter. He kindly wrote back not long after I sent the letter. I still know the dates, because he wrote back on the same paper I sent to him. Pretty funny in relation to the way our emails go back and forth today. He told me to get in touch when I was there the first time, but alas, I was too afraid to get in touch. It took me quite a long time to even get up the courage to ask Joe if I could come visit with him. Sure was a relief when he said yes, and a few days later I was on my way to NYC. Greyhound. What a journey...i'm not able to sleep on public transport, so the little bit I did get to didn't help much when I got there. I think the second we were in NJ and I could see the Empire State Building, the adrenaline in my body shot through me and I was definitely not feeling tired after that.

Again, fast forwarding. In 2011 I began the long task of filming people for a grand documentary I was to make. In retrospect, it was a good idea, just too big for ME on my own. During the period from 2004 to 2011 I had been in touch with Klaus, he even got a painting of mine...

25.5 X 24"
Acrylic and Wood Filler on Canvas.

Well. When I was planning my first big filming trip, the actual first one was months before when I filmed Carl Belz. But I had to drive up to New Hampshire, 60 miles from the Canada border to get him. And unfortunately I was so unprepared for that interview that I only got 45 minutes of interview with him. I will forever wish I was more prepared on that. If my old Boy Scout troop leader knew that, he'd probably smack me upside the head. LOL.

By the time I went to NYC to stay with Marioni again in 2011 to begin filming where the bulk of my interviews would take place. I was set up to film Peter Reginato first, the day after I got there. Boy was that a wonderful experience, and boy did I learn a lot about my abilities as a filmmaker. The next day I was to go visit with Pat Steir, but as I got there I found out she had been in a bit of a pickle and couldn't do the interview. I did get to spend an hour in her studio, which was awesome just to be there. She was really nice but we haven't gotten to cash in that raincheck yet. It was also the only time I have tried to do two interviews in one day, I went right after Pat's up to Karen Wilkin's place. And here I am carrying two bags of camera gear by myself, I feel like after this whole trip my shoulders dropped a few mm's from all that weight. After Karen's interview, I walked back to Joe's, since it was literally just a couple blocks away. I remember thinking how cool it is to live THAT close to a fellow colleague. As you know, or maybe you don't. I come from Columbus, Ohio, and you don't get any of the same type of art world here as you do in NYC. The next day I was in Brooklyn for my first interview with Michael Brennan. Wonderful times but his lighting situation in his studio was such that it completely messed with the quality of my video. Ended up with all kinds of red bands through the video that was damn hard to fix.

I had a free day after that, and used all the evening to download all the information from my camera to the computer. Took me until I got back home and talked to a fellow filmmaker that I found a much easier way to transfer things into my computer.

Sunday I was able to get up with John Zinsser, who gave me all kinds of new information about being an artist in NYC, along with his history. The guy has amazing stories and is one hell of a painter.

Monday, the day I left, I got to meet up with Klaus at his home on 8th Street. It was a wonderful day, he was out walking his dog and I got him just as he was coming back. I honestly would have thought that a guy with his legend, would be living in a bigger space, but it's his decision on where to live. I had never been in so many different types of apartments in my life. It was wild going into the lair of one of the most legendary of people I had interviewed. This guy had basically at one time been what some thought would be the next Leo Castelli, with the caliber of artists he found and began his gallery with. Klaus had a view outside his apartment most would dig to enjoy each day. Lots of windows from his place meant he barely needed a lightbulb until the sun went down. The windows surrounded two walls in his apartment, which is cool because most only have windows in the front and back. Really gave a wonderful view of his surrounding area. He told me some funny stories about living there, but they are a bit too much for sharing here. It was one person to another, no extensions on those conversations.

He sat in front of a Joan Mitchell drawing and we proceeded to do our interview. Thankfully we were able to get what would become the whole interview done. Granted I wanted to do more but it wasn't long after this that his health caught up to him. I heard a few years later that he was being walked around town by an assistant, and it wasn't long after I heard that news that I heard the news of Klaus' passing. Upon hearing the news, my brain lit up with memories of walking in front of his place when I would go down to the original Whitney museum. Each time I think of him, I think of his telling me I need to get to NY, it makes me wish I had tried harder in order to make that very thing happen.

I wonder about who is now living there, maybe his partner, could be someone completely oblivious as to whom lived there before. Life goes on, but memories keep the past alive too.

Here are a few clips from our interview session...


Thanks for reading. I appreciate your interest in what I am doing.
Jeffrey Collins