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1968 January-March - Back & Forth between Rockmore(NYC) & Shirley(BRLA) - Concerns about Potamkin direction vs. Art Establishment

January 19, 1968 Letter to Rockmore From Shirley (en route to Palm Beach) (not sent)

(written on National Airlines air sickness bag)   19 Jan. 1968      en route to Palm Beach

Dear Noel,

            More I think of it - the more concerned I am about idea of Miami show.  What exactly do you mean by ďN.Y. workĒ and ďMiami workĒ?  This can be a dangerous game, even for you - especially when the work in increasing in power and importance.

            Miami show just doesnít make sense for Potamkin either.  Canít believe that as a successful business man he doesnít make a point of finding out how the system works.  By now he must realize the tactical error in trying to promote you as an entertainer.

            The art establishment is intellectual, sophisticated and highly sensitive to that kind of tactical error.  I assume that Potamkin is not just tough and hard driving but is intelligent enough to be flexible.  He must know that the work is good, that it is not in the current mode and the challenge to him is to get it accepted.  It ainít easy - but I believe it can be done.  In time.

            I am convinced Miami show a set back for you and a financial disaster for him.  If he is in a panic about his investment I will be glad to form a syndicate and buy the work for about 10 cents on dollar now, and about 5 cents after Miami.  You can show him this.

            I know the work is good and Iím beginning to find out how the system works.

            This is a rough letter, you can both use the bag, if necessary.



January 27, 1968 (written as 1967) Letter to Shirley (1127) From Rockmore (33W67, NYC)


            Thanks for check - things are very disturbing here - Potamkin is behaving as badly as Larry used to - if I could only discover one person in my life to really back me for 5 years to do any thing I want and reasonable funds I would produce a great new body of work untroubled by the ridiculous sort of crap I am now going through.  Vic sent me to Israel - I came back from a commissioned trip with 30 large polymer paintings on paper and 2 sketch books in 2 Ĺ weeks - he greeted me immediately on my exhausted return with a complaint that I had not done any oils!  Then he said he wanted some big canvases and a show ready by the end of Feb.  - I ordered 2 rolls of canvas and stretcher and 2 big frams and had the 30 pieces matted and covered with acetate for decent presentations and today I received 2 bills for this stuff back from Potamkin Chevrolet with a typewritten note stapled to them saying:  ďNoel - Whatís this all about? Vic -ď

            I will call him Mon. and let him have it because I sure have -

            51 works finished so far and he behaves like a jerk!

            He quit the Greers and called Nicky Wyeth about a new gallery - Nicky told him to contact the Frank Rehn gallery which places me even further out of comtemporary trends even tho it is better than Greer -

            He asked me almost plaintively recently why a few left-over little watercolors didnít sell?

            I think he is trying one last move and then will quit except he better not expect me to owe him money - A few odd bills for frames etc I will pay my share of but salary is non-returnable - he wonít buy the Duplex so I better not get married - 2 canít live at 33 W 67 -

            Well - I am doing gorgeous miniatures - bought a lot of tiny frames and maybe the next $550 deal we have will involve a dozen miniature paintings rather than a book - are you interested?  I even would like to write Larry -

            I also wish I could buy back the ďLabyrinthĒ from Dr. Levy but obviously I canít afford it - I will send some new shots of Israel series soon and please write - I need whatever real friend I have -                       

                                                            As ever


February 1,1968 (postmark) Letter to Shirley (1127) From Rockmore (33W67, NYC) (written on back of 3 Guest Checks)

Dear Shirley,

            Here is a group of Israeli work - all acrylic on canvas -

            If you add to these 8 or so pieces a 60 x 80" Wailing Wall - 30 x 40 W.W.  40 x 50 W. Wall in the Rain, 30 polymers on paper 14 x 20 and several other paintings plus 1 Ĺ sketch books you can see that 1 Ĺ mos. work can compress 1 year for any other artist - as much work as it is I donít feel any connection to it -

            I donít agree with you about Miami - everyone else says your opinion is hard to understand - why you really are against there moves and were for the Greers, I will never understand - also I donít know what you mean about working with Vic - he would never consider a new arrangement and you canít blame him - anyway - things are settled down a bit since I last wrote but I must say Shirley, your immediate negation a la Miami depressed me unnecessarily especially since everyone says you are crazy frankly - but I do appreciate your concern - but try to be less emotional and see the long view - I am starting a realistic big portrait of Sergio next week and the Lighter works I am working on now to lend a touch of appeal decoratively to an otherwise dark and heavy series - I agree with the idea or I wouldnít go along with it - my sister is no aesthetic tramp and she says fine!  My career is not going to swing through the normal channels and Nick Wyethís attitude is full of shit in some ways -

            I have begun investing in speculative stocks with my Cousin Steve Rockmore and in general intend to improve my position - I am too old and worked-out for the garrett scene or hand to mouth -

            Take care and I will call you soon as I know plans -

                                                            As ever,


February 5, 1968 Letter To Rockmore From Shirley

Dear Noel,

            Just finished speaking to you and there are a few things on my mind.  While I do not think the Miami show is to your interest or Potamkinís I donít think itís a great idea for me to interfere and for you to throw up to him suggestions I have made which I suspect you plan to do.

            I donít think itís a good idea because I think the time may come soon when it is to your interest to have Potamkin and myself working together on your behalf.  That is, if you really want public recognition within a reasonable time.  There is some question in my mind as to whether this is what you really want.  You once said something about preferring to work in creative obscurity.  You may be right.  My feeling about promoting your work involves the belief that the work is important and should be seen and felt and absorbed by as many people as possible; and also I would like to see my faith and commitment possibly justified.  Which it will be sooner or later.  Sooner would be pleasant and relieve some of the pressure.  But I I can wait if you can.

            I sometimes feel that the work requires a stronger, more integrated personal base.  But I have enough faith in your genius to believe that you can become what the work demands you become.

            I also have the feeling that you are several jumps ahead of me most of the time.  At which time you regard my earnest attempts to be helpful with some amusement.

            Oh well - toujours gai.  Good luck on the stock market.  Remember - a gamble is a gamble is a gamble.  And if you lose your shirt donít cry, cry, cry about it.  Unless, of course, you enjoy crying.

            Keep well.  Keep in touch.              

                                                                        As ever,


March 5, 1968 Letter To Shirley (1127) From Rockmore (33W67, NYC)

Dear Shirley  

            Thanks for check - I see Vic tomorrow and am very apprehensive about it - no N.Y. gallery at all - I feel cut-off from the ĎArtí world but as we discussed - I am willing to try it this way for once - the Octagon Seitz was interested in will probably go too so forget that deal - Vic would go along but I just donít have the energy to explain it to him -

            Been working on Sergioís portrait and it is very stiff but powerful - I leave for the coast soon - am definitely going back to oil - I love oil!

            I am very worried mostly about myself emotionally - Robin and Saki are both fine girls but my basic method of dealing with a human situation is either to avoid or depict -

            I have done some exceptional new pages in the big black book you are getting from the Coast in a month or 2 - strange - my drawing is pure and increases in quality every year -

            I would like to commit myself to a girl tho and get married even tho Sergio says donít - my ability to accept another person would be the biggest step I have ever taken - the end of drinking in another major goal and on this trip I will definitely achieve it -

            I have several major pieces (oil) revolving in my head and I know I will have to put them down this next year -

            Plan Italy in June after L.A. and a return to N.Y. briefly (if I do go to Italy) to deal with the Duplex situation - will allow me any time for work on my structural dream works I donít know - but I will do them somehow -

            I am definitely walking a tightrope these days and I canít even fully explain why - it is like having a vague pain somewhere and it will take some time before it materializes definitely as a head-ache - flu - or cancer -

            All in all I am fearful and nervous but not afraid - I am positive that more will be clear about the actual potential of this whole deal with Vic and Sergio after L.A. - before is too conjectural for my taste - the chronic and total loneliness I see in all people becomes more and more my one great theme as creator.

            Take care and remember that the only relatively unmanageable thing in life are manageable absolutes.


March 7, 1968 Letter To Rockmore From Shirley

Dear Noel,

            I was a little groggy when you called last night - having dozed off in front of TV.

            I gather you are in some kind of bind with Potamkin and in some kind of anguish as a result.  I cannot resolve these differences for you even though I suspect you use me a both shield and club in your relationship with him.

            The only thing I can think of is that Seitz said that tho your work has not been in the current fashion, it may come into its own soon.  If you do not give up the ship - or paint down to spite Potamkin.

            It would help too - if you could mine your talent in a definite direction so you can get the kind of critical attention necessary to have the work sell and thus get Potamkin off your back.  If this is what you want.

            I certainly would not presume to tell you what direction your work should take.  I can only pass on what Seitz indicated.  I will send you the sketchbook that so impressed him if you need it.  This is a loan not a gift.

            Take it easy re the midnight calls.  I canít be that accessible.

            Take care.  Keep in touch.  Let me know how the work goes.


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