When Roald’s agent phoned to say that the gallery was canceling his new exhibition, his first thought was arson. He knew a guy. His second thought was that he also knew guys at other galleries. Wisely or not, Roald went with his second impulse.
A lot of good that did him.
If any bothered to return his calls, the answer was always no.
In April of 1962, everyone Roald knew was getting the same runaround. Three years ago they had ruled the art scene. Now no one wanted to talk to them. He took to sitting around coffee shops with his other loser artist friends.
“Fuck Andy Warhol.” Said Gus, despondently pouring brandy into his coffee.
“Fuck pop art.” Said Joanne, the token female abstract expressionist of the scene who had never quit her day job.
“Fuck Campbell’s soup.” Said Roald which earned him confused scowls around the table.
Roald’s solution came to him in dreams he tried to ignore. But within the next couple of years, he was haunting underpasses and train yards, befriending the kids beginning to tag trains and buildings uptown.
The graffiti first appeared on several gallery walls in Soho. The first wave consisted of giant bubbles filled with classical art masterpieces. When Davide French of the Davide French Gallery hired painters to cover the floating DaVincis and Bosches, people gathered to shout and throw things at the painters. Monsieur French relented and left the graffiti in place.
It was the second wave that changed the mood of the art world.
On wall after wall, there appeared crude messages and outright threats. Sloppy spray paint outlines of penises and lascivious mouths were slapped over the exquisitely rendered Madonnas and demure Dutch matrons.
Davide French and his counterparts up and down Broadway and across to Chelsea were outraged. Paint companies enjoyed a brief surge in business. The next week it was all back. Not in waves this time. And not quite so carefully rendered. Now the Vermeers and Remingtons were smeared right into the graffiti. Worse — or better, depending on your point of view — the carnage was not limited to gallery walls.
Business owners throughout the city found an incoherent mishmash of fine art and obscene graffiti covering their walls and windows alike.
By the 1990s, Cunderson Galleries had locations in Soho, Chelsea, and in Harlem. Old school galleries were unable to compete and closed up shop. Davide French went to sell “art” to tourists in Ft. Lauderdale. Roald became the champion of the new generation of urban artists. Young men and women, mostly Black or Latinx, were the stars of the new scene and found a welcome home with Cunderson.
Many had burst onto the scene in the notorious Graffiti Wars that covered much of lower Manhattan in an unprecedented melange of fine art reproductions and wildly free-form graffiti.
Roald never painted again and his estate was valued at $13 million at the time of his death in 2005 according to the Wall Street Journal.
© Remington Write 2020. All Rights Reserved.
In August 2020, AleXander Hirka set himself the challenge of creating a daily digital collage based on an image and a concept. The image is that of the antique Omega watch that belonged to his Mom and the concept is Time. In September 2020, the Anomalous Duo is challenging themselves to write a short piece of fiction for each collage — the Our Hours project.
Note — thanks to AleXander for his collaboration on this one that I published before he got to see the draft. Oops!