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1970 July (3) Letters from Rockmore (NOLA & NYC) to Shirley (BRLA) - From Tired to Inspired to Drunk, Depressed and Alone

July 1, 1970 Letter To Shirley (BRLA From Rockmore (638 Royal, NO)

Dear Shirley

            Hope new book arrived O.K. - I have been very tired and lazy last 2 weeks - lethargic - I hate it!

            Because you might not fully enjoy some ‘shorthand’ experiments like the Bill Russell or Terry with Dulcimer - etc - I added two extra for 28 instead of the usual no.

            The character of this book is again different from the others especially in the middle “Melrose” - “Ott Family” area - also the progression in the mother and child series at the Clinic is very unusual for me - I feel as always that these books should not be evaluated immediately otherwise I will tighten up in their creation - work may be of different character in diff. phases but if intrinsically fine it will always grow with time -

            This last book reflects the Melrose Plantation theme and relates to Clinic series continuation -

            The next book (which I will start probably in Aug. and mail to you in Sep. or by Oct. 1 -) will deal with new material again - possible a few pages on Coney Island or Central Park (Zoo) etc - and Mus. Nat. History (which will someday be an entire book of Birds etc) and then in (N.O.) plants and general state of mind studies -

            I have no direct control over the ‘technique’ character of each book - try as I may each one reflects a state of mind in the period it is done in every way - I feel your next 2 or 3 books should be among the best of all because I am coming more and more into a land of richness in the work where even the most simple and rapid study (such as the 2 Ott boys embracing) does more things in less development than many of my major oils -

            I am going to N.Y. on the 9th to meet my sister for ten days and maybe make a deal with Larry or ACA gallery on remainder of my mother’s work - if you can pay in 1 or 2 installments for books I have a better chance of putting as much at least some of it toward my studio in N.Y. which I still owe $9,500 on - depressing but if I work hard I might be able to chip away at it and these books are one of the ways -also I didn’t realize how much they have become a sort of visual lexicon or diary of concerns and habits in any given period - difficult tho they may be they crystallize much for me -

            I will rest a bit in N.Y. - met a good new girl Riva - a great model -

            Back in N.O. by Aug 1 - or earlier and on to big series of major oils for N.Y. career in 2 or 3 yrs.  Finally - I have sort of held back in last 6 mos. but it has been a surgical phase which will probably pay off well later -

            I also want to do a French Quarter series - houses etc - large ink and W.C. - but the next 6 mos will be mostly on Melrose (58 x 62" oil) Sister Gertrude and Dream - Gospel ship - Gospel train - Ott family - Busters - and a big alphabet oil - and ship series to N.Y. for storage -

                                    Take care and God bless you


July 17, 1970 Letter to Shirley (1127) From Rockmore (NYC)

Dear Shirley

            Thanks for check - I am doing a few beautiful different w.c. ink studies of police stations and my cousin Julian Rockmore in N.Y. for your next book which will not be ready till Sept. sometime - I will make it an especially beautiful and fantastic one! - I am so inspired!  No time to do my work - am in N.Y. with my sister who joined me from S. Francisco to sell the 60 remaining pieces of my mother’s paintings to Larry which we did today - my sister needs cash desperately and I can put it toward my studio at 33 W 67 which I still owe $9,500 on - while she is here I am not wasting time so I have started a great 30 x 40 oil self portrait with my sister and view from my mother’s studio at Des Artistes.  I have 5 more sittings with Debbie and then we both leave but I think it will be my definitive portrait of her - during the last sitting a pigeon flew in the studio and I put it in the painting immediately! -  fluttering wings - what an intrusion of time-space!

            I am eager to return to N.O. and get to work on Alphabet series and Sister Gertrude series and Melrose Plantation and Home of Arata etc - and etchings of the Quarter and so on - a great period - and then in spring may be a commissioned trip to Montmartre for George Wein and a very lucrative series?- or VENICE??

            The books for you remain a stability for me and crucial so God bless you - I will continue doing 1 every 2 or 3 mos. for you - the collection must be getting quite fantastic!  I have to see -

            In spite of Larry investing in the block of Gladys’ work I am seriously,  at my sister’s prodding, contemplating a break with Borenstein in Jan. 71 at latest - no recriminations - just a desire to be represented professionally and steadily rather that all bullshit and too much pressure and no income.

            Bryant Gallery very good and very interested in me so I think the final total split will take place in Dec. or Jan. - I want a new direction in my life and I will get it for better and for worse - less flamboyant but more dependable -

            All Larry has to do is same as Potamkin  - sit on the stuff and wait - the bigger my career develops the better for them - so I don’t worry but I can’t be bled to death with sheer numerical productivity any more - too much important work awaits and I must be Razor-sharp for it -

            I will send you B and W shots or Polaroid of new work more regularly - after the break in Jan. perhaps you might want a new oil for your collection for a change but for God’s sake let’s continue the books - they are a life-line for me and a wonderful controlled outlet and must continue -

            Take care and God bless you and your belief in my work - It is rare these days - the work seems more and more difficult for people but they will get used to it - I am in my prime I think more and more - Wait and See!

                                                                        As ever, old friend


July 20, 1970 Letter to Shirley From Rockmore (NYC)


            My sister leaves tomorrow - I am drunk and depressed alone - Canady describes depressing 999 out of 1,000 who don’t make it and I feel very low - sick of Borenstein and Potamkin USERY - I want good middle road gallery with no spectaculars and steady representation God help me - I need a N.Y. gallery which believes in me but I am getting complex as hell so it’s difficult - nevertheless I can’t stop now - I will dig deeper and stay long enough to develop any material - everybody today merely states the promise and moves on - phoney - crap -

            I am so alone - part is deep and removed and out of it and surgical and discomfiting and dangerous but that is it -

            I will stay with it and develop - enough statements for now - too many “artists” touching the attractive ‘effect’ surface and not enough plumbing the confines and depth of development and commitment - I must go deep into the arena of the unknowable and come back with fact -

            I love the attempt - all else bores me - compulsion is normality because the norm is insipid -

            Beethoven’s notebooks vs. Agnew!

            I am acutely aware of my own inadequacy for the task but impelled toward the goal -

            The goal is the imagined light at the top or end of the very real tunnel - around all the restful niches along the way -

            Today you have to assume inevitability in a chaos of arbitrary cop-out convention and actually there is a world of rediscovery if you apply patience to drive

            Bill Russell burying Pretty Boy (his bird) is a great image -

            The terrible eminence of these thoughts results in loneliness and a need for form to free the image and so it can breathe - it has to breathe outside the self or it dries up -

            Life is in the way of Art - and get it is the only devious way to the easel - ridiculous -

            Soon I will tie up with Bryant Gallery in a good normal step in career away from the Potamkins and Borensteins and screws and bullshit -

            But depth is painful and these is no rest for the weary - no development because each achieved premise becomes a question not an answer if you don’t cop out - the process is the thing - the illusions is always superior to the realization - such is Art and Life -

            The most complete and fulfilled realization of a concept is in turn a mere skeleton of the committal hope - has to be -

            I will never give up but I know I will never realize more than the blue-print - the actual edifice is in the mind always -

            Thoughts late at night dear friend - working on new book -

                                                                        As ever

                                                                        (Rockmore) N.Y.C.

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