Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Art of Caring.

The Odeon, New York 1982
Standing left - right
Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Joseph Kosuth, Richard Serra, Lawerence Weiner, Nassos Daphnis, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenberg, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Artschwager, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Cletus Johnson, Keith Sonnier
Seated left - right
Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Leo Castelli, Ed Ruscha, James Rosenquist, Robert Barry

The photo above has the men and woman Leo Castelli represented, supported and championed all through his career as a NYC art dealer. He was the pinnacle of the profession. His eye and ability to see beyond the veil of subjectivity was without equal.
But that is not news. Just look at his gallery of artists posing with him in the Odeon restaurant that afternoon in 1982. An amazing group of artists huddled around a man who was the last of the great "Art Dealers". The rich and powerful trusted him completely. His artists trusted him to represent them. That is not an easy balance. 
I can tell you from years of experience, that he was a gentle soul with an amazing patience for a little girl, child of one his artists, who loved to wander around his coveted backroom. 
I would take his busy assistants away from their duties to entertain and play with me. Treats and soda drinks were always found for me. Castelli and I watched each of us grow older. He treated my family with much love and concern. He even provided my mother with his attorney and our knight in shining armor, Jerald Ordover, to help when she was accused of skipping out on a HUAC subpoena in Los Angeles while there on a visit in 1953. Of course it was true, she became friends with some of "The Hollywood Ten" while she was in Los Angeles and because of her Communist activities in Italy before and during WWII, was in a position of being very dangerous to those writers she knew in the Hollywood Ten and to herself.
So worthy of a plot from a thriller novel, she literally escaped from the USA, back to her home in Rome. But 1962 came around with a pressing family emergency that forced my mother to take me and come to NYC for what was to be a two week stay. Strings had to be pulled to get us in. 
de Kooning was called in to help and by a twist of fate, he had recently been at a dinner in the J.F.K White House and was becoming great friends with the President. de Kooning took that private number that J.F.K gave him, and called it to help my mother and I get in the country. J.Edgar Hoover apparently was not pleased because a short time after the assassination of the President, a knock on the door of our apartment in Greenwich Village came from the FBI arresting my mother for skipping out on that subpoena in 1953 and hiding the fact that she was once a member of the Italian Communist party. It took Jerald Ordover, coordinating with a marvelous hero of an immigration trial lawyer, the legendary Stanley Mailman, months and months of court hearings. Finally, an intelligent judge who was not in the pocket of J.Edgar dismissed the case against my mother. 
Leo Castelli never flinched in his support of my mother. And that's pretty amazing when you consider the players here and the fact that my mother was long divorced from the artist he represented. 
Castelli was the best friend an artist could have. His loyalty was beyond reproach. He was one of a kind for his time.
Yes, Leo was truly a man that had my heart very early on in my life. He had me at "Come stai, Loletta?"

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