by Paul Alexander July 16, 2002
First of all we had no other place to show our paintings. We all were painters. Even Knute who did collages was a painter in the long run. The gallery scene was poor. Dilexi had a short list (even Jess who showed his paste ups there couldn't get a show of his paintings. Batman was all black and crusty. We were bright colors, not a monotone among us. (Later Wheeler did a 'Blue' show.))
I liked the space we had. The main floor of our flat had an entrance with stairs and two connecting rooms in front. A kitchen, pantry, and back room in the rear.
We invited all the painters we knew and liked and began a series of monthly group shows. We opened on a Sunday and closed the following Sunday--one week including two Sundays for each show. The artists responded enthusiastically and almost everyone brought in something each month.
Knute was doing his cloth and street trash collages. Tom was shipping out most of the time, Bill (Moore) was painting ambitious myths.
Bill McNeill showed his huge poppy screen, Ernie had one great collage after another. Jess first exhibited his 'translations' paintings, including Trinity's Trine now in the Museum of Modern Art collection.
And so on with Harry, Bill Wheeler and Fran.
I was painting Patroclus when we began Buzz. It took months. Later I worked on Twenty Questions and watercolors, drawings and later plastic figures.
Patroclus began as an abstraction. Early on the images began to emerge. I had been reading The Illiad, and the images were of Patroclus, Appollo, Hector, the armor of Achilles, ships on fire in a swirl of activity. The Illiad was in the air. The Playhouse did Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare) which covers the same story from a different angle. George was talking about Homer. Joanne was writing The Odyssey Poems. I was captivated.
Even so I tried to wipe out the figures as they appeared. It was a time of dedication to abstraction and to deviate into pictures was considered wrong. Still the images persisted until I just let them be there, then embraced them and took a new turn in my painting.
Tom was drinking a lot when not at sea. He didn't maintain his own place but stayed at Buzz and at Wheeler's in Bodega Bay. Wheeler spent time in NYC where he painted his one man show in blue.
Tom's one man show was mostly done at Wheeler's and contained “Shell Oil,” a large painting depicting the view and the Shell Oil rig off shore. Tom's paintings were often timely sometimes coming to him over the radio—such as Kent State and the Johnson and Nixon Girls. He also painted the goats and a dead seal. One memorable small painting depicted a man swimming.
Fran's work was influenced by Jack Spicer. It was in some ways the most interesting of all. She has a fluid natural style that hits everything right.
Nemi was in her best mode. Doing large and witty paintings from pop history. The Leaper and Chain Gang being two of the most memorable.
THERE IS SO MUCH TO REMEMBER THAT I WOULD RATHER NOT REMEMBER...
--Larry's indifference --Bill's snobbery
--Lack of attention from the press and 'art world,' ie Humphrey at the Art Museum heard that Jess was showing at Buzz and wanted to come by but never did.
--Knutes' attitude—he said we were too lavender
--the green walls
--not going on after the initial period
Although the group shows were the main events, it is the one man shows that are the best remembered.
I wish I had saved the records and the announcement stamp--we kept a record of all the exhibitions for 3 or 4 months and then stopped doing this. Joanne has a receipt from the poet's show. We saved the carbon and gave the top to the artist.
--The time we didn't have wine for the opening and the crowd immediately thinned to a handful.
--The artistic tempers
--The poet's high handedness
--It goes on....
I remember less about the various readings. Brautigan's was packed for two nights of 'In Watermelon Sugar' readings.
Le Roi Jones with entourage including body guards.
My show was photographed by Robert Berg in black and white—that is, the oils were, not the watercolors and drawings.
The Herndon's bought 'Patroclus' and Robin traded for the 'Europa'. Deneen and Bob Brown owned 'After Goya', which has been lost. The 'Portrait of Tom' went to Australia with Eloise and Don Mixon.
Spicer black listed Buzz. I never knew why.
Knute exhibited in every group show but didn’t have a one man show because he had a show of this cloth collages at the Museum and a show of his pencil rubbings at a little gallery connected to the Art School.
Robert Duncan was very helpful and came by frequently. One Sunday when Joanne and Jack were there as well, we performed a spontaneous opera—I can only remember the madrone tree as a character.Cast: Robert, Bill, Joanne, Me
Audience: Jack Boyce
Robin was always at the openings and helped Fran hang her one man show. He also exhibited a painting in the poets' show. Hanging the shows went smoothly. We took turns being in charge in order to be fair and avoid arguments—only the poets' group show was overcrowded—otherwise we had the space to hang all of the works submitted. We did no editing.
Helen Adam presented a wall of photo portraits (20 or so). She had an uncanny ability to capture the charm of her subjects.
Robert had a wall of drawings that were done for one of his books. One of these was accidentally smeared and I bought it. Later (years) he retrieved it for a buyer who wanted it.
I wanted Bill McNeill to be included but he was vetoed by the others. We finally exhibited his Poppy Screen—a large multipaneled work in gold leaf and color. Bill was becoming known as a master of flowers. He did a series for Open Space.