May 30, 1968 Note To Shirley (BRLA) From Borenstein (NOLA)
E. Lorenz Borenstein Gallery Telephone 523-0549 511 Royal Street New Orleans, LA. 70130
May 30, 1968
I know you are the kind of gal who likes to read other peoples mail. I am enclosing a typescript of a letter from a woman who lives near Philadelphia and who went to see the Rockmore show at my request. It also turns out that she was on the gallery’s mailing list so she had an invitation as well. She is about your age and from a similar educational and social background. I thought you would like to see her comments on the Rockmore show and my answer.
Received your note and was very pleased to hear from you again. Re Noel’s show (which we attended by invitation) we, and some of our friends were very disappointed. I am not an art critic or a great collector, but my personal opinion was that I felt disappointment. His view of Israel (to which he is assuredly entitled) was depressing and representative of a small minority of the people. Technically he is facile and uses his material well, but the excitement of my painting and of the jazz group that I still remember, was missing. I got the feeling that he switched to watercolors to be more commercial and bring his work to a price level more easily sold.
The one or two things I might have bought were already sold, so I left empty handed. I hope I have not been too harsh and let me know if you have had other opinions. I think he is so talented that I suppose I over-identified and over-reacted.
By the way - I have never been to Israel.
It was so nice to hear from you again. I understand your reaction to these paintings as other people whom I know reacted to the show in a somewhat similar way. I have only seen the catalogue so all my observations are limited. My feeling is that this collection fits into the grand plan of his career as once again he has reacted to the sadness of humanity and set down his statement of the wonder and futility of life. No one wants to be jarred into remembering these mysteries and since he provokes the viewer and does not solve the enigma each painting has an irritating quality which is one of his characteristics and one of the reasons why people who own his work are fascinated with it and wish to see more, always hoping that in the next paintings a little more of the shroud would be pulled away and the unanswered questions finally answered with lucidity. Of course, one of the possible conclusions is that he too is seeking this same answer and perhaps one day it will spring from his palette and shine from his canvasses and then all of these disappointing works will stand in his path like stations of the cross, but just as surely as he succeeds in solving the problem, so surely would his career be over.
Reading that back makes a sloppy sentence but if you can’t follow what I mean this is the wrong letter for you anyway. What I am trying to say is that the “small minority” of people don’t represent an importation limitation. These people have in common with all people the same quest. He can do the same thing with a gross New Yorker at Coney Island, a Mexican peasant, a New Orleans prostitute or a Terre Haute brickyard laborer.
The painting you own has the advantage of fantasy. It is the artist’s interpretation of his parents. You are not asked to believe anything in order to enjoy it whereas these paintings require that you believe that there are human beings who look this way and feel this way.
June 2, 1968 (postmark) Letter To Shirley (1127) From Rockmore (33W67, NYC)
NOEL ROCKMORE Studio THIRTY-THREE WEST SIXTY-SEVENTH STREET, NEW YORK 23, NEW YORK
You write nice letters which like the proverbial ice-berg, retain their implied mass of base material in your head - the letter is always the exposed tip - whereas I am all exposed on one level -
Vic is disappointed with sales in the show and is shipping the 2/3 remaining to the Coast for a fancy opening early Aug. -
Strange - he owns proudly and lives with one of the difficult great works of my parents - and yet tells me I got to paint pretty pictures of $ or else he quits etc - I will do a big circus series this summer - polymer panels like the jazz series but after that I will be back to my big unsaleable works again -
I am going along with Vic at present because I really must have money and this next year should do it - who knows - maybe this re-showing in L.A. may sell well or the circus series may -
$16,000 sales in 2 shows in 6 mos and not one nickel for the Artist - wild no?
Anyway I will leave for the coast right after the middle of June and stay there for a couple of months - he may also ship out all the pieces in the Vault as well -
What kind of mad scene am I involved in? A 3rd show in 8 mos?
Take care and Robin sends her best - she is going on tour in July -
P.S. I am sending 3 pieces of yours next week and will include a couple extra - if you can buy them for $100 I could use the extra cash - take care -
June 26, 1968 Letter To Shirley (1127) From Rockmore (33W67, NYC)
We both have different ways of getting over things - my way is through painting - enclosed are shots of “Assassination Composition” - the skulls represent RFK and JFK and usual Rockmore still life objects - an indictment canvas and will be in my private collection - the only major work I will own - there will be a fish on table and 2 tiny portraits growing out of flowers of evil of Oswald and Sirhan -
Will be great work - I will do 2nd version for career but this will be hidden -
My financial situation is so bad that when I send your 3 signed watercolors I will include a couple of others for $100 I hope if you can spare it - if not it’s O.K. - Vic is still not back and doesn’t know I have rebelled against commercial work and will only do my own composition so it remains to be seen how he reacts -
Robin is in French Hospital with a very serious internal infection and in bad pain - I am worried about it but what can I do - except visit -
This is a difficult life and I can not be blamed for my work being on the dark side - take care - will call soon