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Kathy Zimmerer

A DAY IN THE CITY


I was surrounded by art from the beginning, as my parents collected California Impressionist paintings before they even bought their first furniture.  They also relentlessly took the entire family to all the local museums, where we were always closely followed by a guard.  During the seventies I was fortunate to study with the free wheeling faculty of UC Irvine and the great scholars of UC Berkeley.  At Williams College for a master’s degree, I immersed myself in the magnificent 18th- and 19th century French Art collection at the Clark Art Institute.  

Then I took a seminar in my second year with the modernist scholar Sam Hunter from Princeton on “The Dada/Surrealist Heritage.”  “Dada Sam” planned to have us curate an exhibit of contemporary art influenced by Dada and Surrealism (shades of the recent Magritte exhibit at LACMA), and arranged a long weekend in New York City, where we would visit artists, select works of art and soak in the city’s intense creative atmosphere.   

The weekend was a revelation.  Our first meeting was with Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who were both charming and forthright, hosting a long discussion about the tedious planning needed for their “Running Fence” (Sonoma and Marin counties, 1976) project.  The meeting was highlighted by a chance to view Christo’s fluid drawings documenting their project.  Next we went to the Bowery, where a key lowered down to us on a fishing line let us into Tom Wesselman’s cavernous studio.  There, a huge cut-out canvas of Mary Tyler Moore and her trademark smile took pride of place.  Scattered around were various and sundry nudes on canvas in provocative poses.  We visited William Wegman, whose bizarre and hilarious videotapes were just beginning to make the rounds.  His tongue-in-cheek commentary with his dog Man Ray fit in perfectly with the Dadaist tone of the visit.  The weekend was topped off by a visit to OK Harris Gallery in Soho where we listened to the powerful dealer Ivan Karp, while hundreds of people flowed in and out the galleries.  At that time, the district was in its heyday.    

Against the frenzied backdrop of the New York art scene, I became fascinated by the vivid images, personalities and ideas of contemporary artists, a passion I am fortunate to be able to pursue to this day.