Friday, September 6, 2013

Patron Saint #10: Deborah Remington - The Future Looks Back


Ackia -  color screenprint - 1975, Deborah Remington



“My work concerns the paradoxes of visual perception, the enigmas and quirks, and how it all forms the basis for our realities. The impact, excitement, and energies created by incongruity, juxtaposition and opposites all interest me.

The images are couched in paradoxical terms and must challenge the mind’s eye, must invoke opposites and hold them in tension. The work at times seems to refer to something in reality, but then the reference is denied. Identity; the fusion of so many experiences, so many inquiries, so many intuitions is also a primary issue.”

- Deborah Remington, from a quote found here.



"...Drawing doesn’t have to have color for me. The Japanese would always say, ‘Can’t you see the color there in the black and white?’ It’s implied, and if you’re a really good artist and if the paintings are wonderful enough and if they really sing, then the viewer gets a sense of color. That influenced my work a lot, mostly the philosophy of calligraphy.”
(via a 2008 interview with Nancy M. Grace)



"Anyway I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at Gallery Six that night, which was, among other important things, the night of the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was the one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience standing around in the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o'clock when Alvah Goldbook was reading his, wailing his poem "Wail" drunk with arms outspread everybody was yelling "Go! Go! Go!" (like a jam session) and old Rheinhold Cacoethes the father of the Frisco poetry scene was wiping his tears in gladness."

- Excerpt from The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, 1958



"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by 
              madness, starving hysterical naked, 
       dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn 
              looking for an angry fix, 
       angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly 
              connection to the starry dynamo in the
machinery of night, 
       who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat 
              up smoking in the supernatural darkness of 
              cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities 
              contemplating jazz, 
       who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and 
              saw Mohammedan angels staggering on
tenement roofs illuminated, 
       who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes 
              hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy 
              among the scholars of war..."

- The initial lines of Howl by Allen Ginsberg, 1955, found here (with audio).



“This was the time of the Rosenbergs and the [Estes] Kefauver hearings, the Hollywood blacklisting. It was horrible. The police were everywhere, and it was kind of a fascist country. This was the climate within which and against which we were working. We were trying to break all the rules. It didn’t matter: you just broke the rules. You rarely got anything substantial out of it, but by hit and miss we did.”

Deborah Remington, from Inside and Around the 6 Gallery with Co-Founder Deborah Remington 
(via a 2008 interview with Nancy M. Grace)


***


"It was a great night, a historic night in more ways than one..." wrote Jack Kerouac in 1958, for his semi-autobiographical Beat novel, "The Dharma Bums." He was referring to an actual event, a poetry reading that took place in a San Francisco art gallery - the 6 Gallery - October 7, 1955. 

In his thinly veiled account, Kerouac mentions a number of Beat luminaries on the scene that night.  Alvah Goldbook was, of course, the poet, Allen Ginsberg, who astounded the crowd with an impassioned reading of his definitive poem "Howl". "Old Rheinhold Cacoethes", on the other hand, was Kenneth Rexroth, while Kerouac's close friend friend, Gary Snyder, appears as Japhy Ryder. Earlier, he mentions a "delicate pale handsome" poet, Ike O'Shay, referring to a very young Michael McClure*. Of that night, McClure would later write: "Ginsberg read on to the end of the poem, which left us standing in wonder, or cheering and wondering, but knowing at the deepest level that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America..."



Deborah Remington as an art student in the 1950s - Photo credit: unknown
Currently found: Remington's NYT (2010) obituary (click to enlarge)

Oddly enough, one figure who does not enter into Kerouac's fictional account - although, certainly worthy of a mention - was a six-foot tall, redheaded woman** - and one of the six Beats who owned the gallery - artist, Deborah Remington. (Her co-owners were artists, Wally Hedrick, Hayward King and David Simpson, and the poets, John Ryan and Jack Spicer.) Granted, Kerouac was loaded on California Burgundy - Dionysus being the god of lost histories - and focused on the Beat literati, but, it's hard to imagine that such a strikingly beautiful young woman would've fallen outside his radar. Then again, judging by her own brief account (via an interview excerpt included in this .pdf file), Remington fails to recall the presence of Kerouac and several members of his poetic posse that night. Go figure.