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 PICTURES IN YOUR PAINTINGS!


Interview conducted w/ David X. Young
John Szpunar & Melanie Dante' for HeadPress UK
August, 2000 - March, 2001.
DXY passed away May, 2001. 

2010 EXHIBITION
La MaMa Galleria
6 East b/t 1st  & 2nd Streets off Bowery
22 April 2010 - 16 May 2010
opening exhibition photos on view at BDC Flickr

For more information on David X. Young please contact his daughter:

 

 



New York City

Forty blocks down town from the hub where the music and art business sector stands, sits a building in the dynamic area where Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown meet. It was there, on 336 Canal Street, that David X. Young defied the "Who's Who" of pop and fine art and became a legend in his own right.
 
Born in 1930, Young came of age with the abstract expressionists and allowed his own work to revel in the joy of their spontaneity. But Young's was always a tethered spontaneity. Pollack heaved his brushes at the canvas to "free paint". David X. Young always kept one eye fixed on reality. Critic Juan Osaka McFelsnir noted of Young's work: "To refuse paint's picture-making aspect would be to kill a major part of the possibilities. And a major part of the fun."
 
The impact that the underground jazz scene of the 1950s had on Young's work cannot be ignored. The proprietor of the legendary Jazz Loft in Manhattan's flower district, he opened his doors to countless musicians and documented them in hundreds of paintings and photographs. Young wanted his brushes to go where the improvisation of jazz had gone. Night after night, he took them there.
 
A multi faceted renaissance man, Young threw fashion out the window with his short film Klaximo (1963), a film so far ahead of its time that it is just now gaining recognition. "I knew it would be shocking, but I didn't think it would be the film that shocked the avant garde!"
 
Undaunted by the direction that the art world had taken in the '60s and by egotistical jabs from the New York film underground, Young kept working, producing a myriad of photographs and paintings embracing life and love in Haiti. Toward the end of his life, he completed work on his children's story Cissimon.
 

Outspoken until the end, David X. Young passed away on May 22, 2001. Those lucky enough to have known him will never forget his generosity, kindness, and passion. Those who didn't have something to treasure as well. Pause for just a moment and look at his work. The life is there, bursting forth from countless canvases, photographs, and prints. David X. Young was once criticized for having "pictures" in his paintings. They're there all right, for the entire world to see. And with them is something to treasure forever.

 

HEADPRESS: You were born in New England in the '30s. Conservative times for an artist.

 
DXY: Well, yeah. I was born in 1930 and Roosevelt was elected in 1932. My grandfather lost his fortune in the crash under Hoover. But he hated Roosevelt. So every night, members of the family would gather around the fireplace. I was a little squirt. They hated Roosevelt. All I can remember is the harshness. It was very conservative.
 
HEADPRESS: I imagine that there wasn't much talk of Picasso around the fireplace.
 
DXY: No, there wasn't! (laughs)
 
HEADPRESS: So what was your first introduction to painting?
 
DXY: About the first thing I fell in love with was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was strictly Disney. But I'll tell you exactly what I felt. I knew it was drawings. I knew it was all a painting. But it was real. You believed in the personalities of the dwarfs, you kind of accepted it-it was real, but not real. It always fascinated me. Of course, we weren't exposed much to art. There was no culture - it was Time Magazine covers and Norman Rockwell illustrations.
 
HEADPRESS: I know you started to draw at an early age.
 
DXY: I used to do drawings of Mickey Mouse, because I wanted to get a job as an animator for Disney. When I was in junior high school, I got sick of drawing a mouse with circles. So I started using squares and rectangles. My teacher said, "That looks like Cubism." So I took out a book and read about Picasso and thought, "She's right!" And then I read that Picasso had sold Girl Before a Mirror to the Museum of Modern Art for $125,000. Well, so long Mickey Mouse! Things just opened up.
 
HEADPRESS: What were your influences as a teenager?
 
DXY: There wasn't really much going on. I remember back in 1948, everybody wanted to be the nice Norman Rockwell. I was already fed up with him by the time I went to art school. I had teachers who thought I needed glasses. But (laughs)... I was a very hip young guy! Everyone in my family said, "You don't know how to draw." It was, "You want to be an artist. You just sit around and draw. You just want to piddle with your paints." Which I guess means just pissing on paper.
 
HEADPRESS: How long was it before you were taken seriously?
 
DXY: Well, I guess my talent was recognized quickly enough. I put on a lot of school plays and things. It was a great way of getting out of classes. One year, a guy came-this was 1947 or '48-he was a guy whose job was to help place students in jobs. He saw what I did, and he said, "There's this new thing starting in New York called television. I can probably get you a seventy-five dollar a week job." My mother wouldn't let me go. "I'd lose a son!" Those are the breaks.
 
HEADPRESS: Your mother was a writer...
 
DXY: She wrote love stories. Very pulp, very sappy. She just wrote raw emotion, she never bothered to figure out plots. Very perfumed. When I was twelve, I used to make up plots for her. I didn't know about sex or anything. A pair of identical twins falls in love with another pair of identical twins. One goes to the war and gets killed. Stupid, silly plot ideas, but she wrote them up. She smoked furiously and drank a lot of wine to get that emotion. It sort of turned me off of being a writer.
 
HEADPRESS: You attended the Massachusetts School of Art?
 
DXY: My mother had this idea of keeping up with the Joneses. I went there, put on a play (Tempers Fugit), and they tried to throw me out of school. That was halfway through my freshman year. Then they decided to give me a mature job at the school supply store to teach me to be responsible. So I took that job, and they were paying me seventy bucks a week. So I stuck around and stole all the art material.
 
HEADPRESS: What was the response to your work in school?
 
DXY: I had one teacher who was very hip. He took my work to a gallery in New York. That was Larry Kupferman. He sent me a telegram saying, "Congratulations. You're going to New York." I was blown away. I'd never been to New York in my life. I didn't know about art deals or percentages. Of course my mother said, "Paint sailboats. People will buy that." But, I did sell some paintings-in 1950, it was good money. Finally, I couldn't stand Boston anymore. So I moved to New York.
 
HEADPRESS: Did you finish art school first?
 
DXY: Yeah. I was making money. And I stayed for about a half a year in Boston to find out what I was going to do. I realized that I had to get out. I met a couple of people who showed me how to get along; how to get an illegal loft-how to bribe the building inspectors. How to live like an outlaw.
 
HEADPRESS: You first hung around the jazz crowd while you were in Boston, though...
 
DXY: Yeah. I used to hang around the jazz joints. My school wasn't that far away. The places where Bird played, rhythm and blues bands... Woody Hermann. I was soaking up a lot of jazz. But then, it was like a second nature to me.
 
HEADPRESS: Your father was a jazz musician.
 
DXY: Right. I was born with it. So, I got to know a lot of those guys. They were transient. Most of them were based in New York City, which was a pretty easy connection to make.
 
HEADPRESS: Can you compare the art scene in Boston to the scene in New York?
 
DXY: Brown was the color of Boston. A lot of brown suits, all the buildings were very dirty. The painting was very drab. All of the art school paintings in Boston were very religious. A lot of crucifixions, painted over with yellow varnish. Not one pretty girl!
 
HEADPRESS: What was your first impression of the New York scene when you got there?
 
DXY: Well... I arrived with only a few hundred dollars. And I think the first four or five days I gave away $100 to drunks and junkies. I was very innocent. But Charlie Parker used to wait for his connection on the corner of West 3rd and 6th Avenue. I used to see Bird every morning.. It was great. All the people I admired were there. I'd go across Washington Square and see Kline and his gang. I thought that was the way things would be forever.
 
HEADPRESS: You did some cover art for Prestige Records.
 
DXY: They were a cheap company and they were recording a lot of jazz musicians that nobody else would hire. They put out ten-inch records with no covers, just type-Mile Davis Plays. So, Jimmy Raney and Stan Getz were going to record for them. I wrote them a letter hoping to push the virtues of graphic design and offered to do the first cover for nothing. The second one was The Modern Jazz Quartet. I did that for a while.
 
HEADPRESS: The Cedar Bar was a popular place for New York artists at the time.
 
DXY: Well, the Cedar Bar was three times the size of this loft. It was down on University Place and 8th. Most of the painters, the abstract expressionists, were guys who had government support until the end of the war. And they were a pretty serious gang. They used to hang out after work at The Waldorf on 8th Street. They'd get together, drink a cup of coffee, talk about each other's art. Well, they tore that down. So, the nearest place to go and hang out was the Cedar Bar- it was a half a block away. The glass of beer was the same price as a cup of coffee. So they all started drinking. They all became a bunch a drunks! Today they say, "To be an abstract expressionist you have to be an alcoholic." It just sort of happened. It was a great place. I got to know Kline very well. I'd met Pollack before and he was very gentle and sweet. But at the Cedar, he wa s... he got very violent. He'd walk in the door and the place would be absolute chaos.
 
HEADPRESS: You were showing with DeKooning and Pollack when you -- and your -- work came to be  considered controversial..
 
DXY: Yea (shakes head) The shit hit the fan about my work after some success in Chicago-selling to Hugh Hefner in the company of Pollack, Kline and DeKooning-all good friends. The only controversy was that I was intruding on the turf of the Poppers. They moved into the money of the art market with their trash neo-dadaism called Pop. I was about the age of most of those Poppers and thought the whole thing was just silly and stupid. When the tide turned against real painting, Jackson, Bill, and Franz had big enough names to survive on their own, but me, the beginner did not. I stuck to my guns henceforth... I think that made Geldzahler and company regard me as some kind of a threat. That was the only controversy involved. Of course, the kind of painting I did was generally known as controversial at the time. But that wasn't just me.
 
HEADPRESS: What advice do you have for people who have creative aspirations of their own?
 
DXY: Go to law school or turn to crime! By all means stay out of the gossip of the art world. It will only contaminate the brain. A quote: "Love work, hate mastery, and do not let the government know of thy presence." 16th century rabbi. Cultivate that little world of pure pleasure that making art gives you, and forget about being important. If you actually are important, in time, people will find you out.
 
HEADPRESS: In 1954, you got your loft in the Flower District.
 
DXY: Well, I couldn't find a decent place. Every place in the Village was so dark. It just so happened that there were three empty floors on 6th Avenue. They were $120 bucks. So I rented them, rented out two of the rooms. My grandfather was a plumber, so he helped me out. I got some non-union guys to help with electricity. I even had a chimney sweep work on one of the chimneys, so I had a fireplace. I heated the studio with a kerosene space heater and the back with a gas heater. I broke up orange crates and junk from the streets to heat the place. I came all the way from Cape Cod to New York to learn how to live like a bum.
 
HEADPRESS: You eventually brought in a piano.
 
DXY: Yeah. I was dead broke. I couldn't afford to go anyplace to see jazz. But I had this loft and I had all these friends who were musicians. And they couldn't afford the studios to jam. So, I opened up my doors and got all the jazz for free. I got that piano-a very good used upright- and brought it up by block and tackle! After that, I kept an open door. Anyone who wanted to play could come on up. Thelonious Monk would rehearse with Hall Overton right below my bed. I'd go to sleep at night being serenaded by those guys. This was after going out downtown and hanging out at the Cedar.
 
HEADPRESS: The door was open for musicians... What about people who just wanted to hear the music?
 
DXY: Well, there weren't that many people who were interested. Eventually, people came to realize that it was a scene. They didn't know why it was a scene, but they knew there was action there. I mean, we all smoked pot. There were only a couple of cases of heroin. So a lot of these squares would come in with a cheap attitude-just to get high. But we had jam sessions-Zoot Sims was playing upstairs, Monk was playing downstairs. That was the real shit.
 
HEADPRESS: One of your tenants was LIFE photographer W. Eugene Smith.
 
DXY: I was on the top floor. Hall Overton was below me. And he rented out half of his floor to Smith. Smith had just lost his job at Life and was down and out. Very depressed, very drunk, and very crazy. And very impressed with himself. I sort of avoided him for a long time, but I knew he liked jazz. So I invited him up one night and we started talking. We became very good friends.
 
HEADPRESS: How was your artwork progressing at this time?
 
DXY: I had a few shows. I was developing. I wasn't trying to take over the world yet. Smith was around. I sort of absorbed photography through him. I got interested in film.
 
HEADPRESS: You made a few trips to Haiti during that time.
 
DXY: Well, Charlie Parker was around. I knew him quite well. Mingus was coming to my place a lot. Mingus and Bird were very close. We were all hoping that he'd show up one day. He died on March 12, 1955 and Mingus got very upset. I can't explain it, but I felt that I had to try to get to the heart of black culture. To do that, you would normally go to Africa. But Haiti was just down the street. It was French as well, and if you wanted to do anything with art, you'd go to France. That's originally why I went.
 
HEADPRESS: With paints and a camera. Were you consciously moving into a new field?
 
DXY: I've always been interested in images on a flat plane within the confines of a rectangle. Never the third dimension. Sculpture always bored me. Sculpture is phallic, it sticks out at you. Painting is vaginal, it sucks you in. So photography fit that interest quite easily. After I got to know Gene Smith's level of print quality, I could see how you could do really fine work as a photographer. But for me, it was always an adjunct-- like spare visual parts. Movies were another dimension to photography, and I liked the storytelling climaxes and rhythms. Like music.
 
HEADPRESS: A lot of what you shot in Haiti has a documentary feel.
 
DXY: I was never interested in reportage. I just kept a camera with me and when I saw something to shoot, I shot it. When I was in Haiti, I acquired a Bolex movie camera and 600 feet of color film. It turned up in a film I did on Haiti called Seven Haitian Moods. Now I look back at the photos I took in Haiti and realize there is an instinctive documentary there. There's a certain hunk of lost Haitian history. But I was there before it left and recorded some of those things. And now-gee-whiz, look what I got!
 
HEADPRESS: In the mean time, the loft scene was dying?
 

DXY: Well, let's say this. In 1963 or 1964, Pop-Art started to come in. That killed abstract expressionism where I was coming from. Then the Beatles came over here and there was no room for jazz. There was no work for musicians. The spirit was gone. They were raising the rent. It was time to do something different. I went back to the Cape and made Klaximo.

HEADPRESS: Let's hear a little about that film.
 
DXY: I did that film in 1963. It was way ahead of its time; I still can't get it shown.
 
HEADPRESS: Do you see Klaximo as industrial eroticism?
 
DXY: For one thing, I hate the term industrial eroticism. It's an oxymoron. I made Klaximo as protest against that very notion. The idea that machines or computers could better the idiosyncrasies of the human psyche. The big problem was to convey the illusion convincingly, which of course meant erotically. And it was largely a mise en scene editing and rhythm problem. It was a challenge just like painting a leafy tree in certain lights is a challenge. No other difference. I don't see anything avant garde about it. I think it is too clear for that category.
 
HEADPRESS: What were you getting at?
 
DXY: I thought I'd do something different. I didn't want to do anything unless I could carry it all the way through. I suddenly had enough film that I could actually do something. Those were the days when the computer was beginning to be talked about; if you keep a computer writing long enough it would write all of Hamlet. You could play chess with a computer. There was a guy I met who was around twenty-eight years old. He was legally blind-he had these big thick glasses and was bald. He was devising a computer that could make the trumpet sound of A flat the way Dizzy Gelespie could do it and then the sound of A flat the way Louis Armstrong could do it. This was really very different. He was going to invent a computer that could play jazz in any style, and therefore eliminate the need for jazz musicians all together. That's what mediocrity's always trying to do, to get rid of the artist by some mechanical means. I was completely horrified by the whole thing. And I started to think, "How the hell can I express this horrible idea?" It just so happens that I was living with a beautiful blond girl at the time. I got this idea that the most horrible thing a human could do with a machine would be to fuck it. So, I decided to make a film about a girl fucking a robot. All of my friends said, "You can't do that! How the hell can you do that?" It was a challenge, so I worked on it and worked on it. The movie was very convincing; it scared a lot of the guys. The women loved it, though.
 
HEADPRESS: Why did you decide to make a film in the first place?
 
DXY: Film was my first love. Somehow down the line, I got 4,000 feet of black and white Tri-Ex reversal film. I had just gone through the whole scene with the art world-Pop-Art coming in-and I realized that I didn't want anything to do with the art world until Pop-Art blew over. Little did I know it would last so long. I just decided to shoot movies instead. I figured with 4,000 feet of film I could really do something. I could afford to make mistakes and all that.
 
HEADPRESS: So you jumped into it without any real training?
 
DXY: I'm a completely self-taught person. And everything in that film is something that I just made up.
 
HEADPRESS: Who influenced you?
 
DXY: My two heroes are Orson Welles and Louis Bunuel. I always loved Bunuel's sardonic streak and Welles' visual sense. I tried to utilize both influences.
 
HEADPRESS: A lot of painters have turned to film at some point.
 
DXY: Film is a different way of approaching an audience. You had the audience's complete attention for a half an hour, an hour, or whatever. You were commanding their total thing. A painting is something that's on the wall. You're drawn to it or not drawn to it. With film, it's a chance to be boss for a while. Welles describes it very well: "A ribbon of dream." Something that can trigger the imagination. And I always loved things that could trigger the imagination.
 
HEADPRESS: You tried to apply the free form of jazz to painting. Was this easier with film?
 
DXY: I think that jazz works in certain cases in films. Of course, the joy of jazz is some guy taking a solo and going off on it. If that's too dominant, it can take away from the drama of a film.
 
HEADPRESS: Film is pretty calculated.
 

DXY: There's a little dance thing that I did that is definitely cut to the beat. A visual jazz thing using the music as the source, instead of trying to fit the music to the story.

HEADPRESS: Klaximo was shot at your family's cabin?

 
DXY: At Eastham, Cape Cod. We shot at my cabin. It doesn't even exist any more.
 
HEADPRESS: Did you do any story boards?
 
DXY: I story boarded it after a while. I had to keep track of what I was doing. I shot 4,000 feet and the film was 1,000 feet so we shot four-to-one. That's a pretty good ratio. Then it got to the point where it was hard to keep track-a cogwheel cutting to a hip. It was very difficult. I had to story board before I could edit. I did it in three tempos; slow, medium, and fast. The most difficult sequence was the bar scene. The hardest one to edit. I really didn't know what I was doing. I was at the bar and just shot the kind of mood I wanted. This guy takes a drink, this guy looks over here-none of it led to anything. The first edit was dreadful. When I did the final cut, it was really hard to make it build. The rest was far out, but it was regular filmmaking.
 
HEADPRESS: Where did you find your actors?
 
DXY: They were a bunch of guys who were party buddies of mine. They were just hanging around. It was the end of the summer and we didn't have anything to do. The clubs were closed and all that. So it was a hobby or something.
 
HEADPRESS: Was it difficult to direct them?
 
DXY: Visually, I got them to do exactly what I wanted. And once the camera was on, they were very serious. But they regarded it as a party. And I don't think any of them thought I was serious. Probably the most interesting one was the old guy, who literally was a dirty old man. He loved to rent his place out to young college girls in the summer. He said to me, "Imagine you asking me to play a dirty old man in a movie!" And he did it like a trooper!
 
HEADPRESS: Did you process the film along the way?
 
DXY: Whenever I had the money. Literally cashed in beer bottles and waitress tips. I'd sell a drawing for $25 and I'd process more film. I had a hard time getting the nudity out of the lab. This was 1963, before X rated films. They thought I was a college kid making a porno. I had to convince them that I wasn't.
 
HEADPRESS: There really isn't a lot of nudity in the film.
 
DXY: There was only 100 feet of nudity, and it was basically bare buttocks. But, yeah, I tried to get things done as best as I could. I guess what I'm trying to say is that nothing was regular. I had to look at what I shot as it came.
 
HEADPRESS: Where did you end up cutting the film?
 

DXY: I cut it on the Cape. That was the initial cut. The last cut was right here, in this loft. I finally got a hold of a four-plate editor and I matched it, synced it.

HEADPRESS: And let's talk about the score.
 

DXY: The main jazz theme was done by Zoot Sims. Zoot was at my place one day and I asked him to do something. He said, "Oh, I can't do any thing..." Five minutes later, he came up with that. He'd done a jazz-blues thing that we recorded at my jam sessions. He changed the emphasis on it-it's the same notes, different stress. The other music was from-I got this guy who knew about computers. I felt a synthesizer score would be appropriate. He did all the incidental music, and I thought it worked very well.

HEADPRESS: You composed the title track?
 
DXY: The title track, yes. I did the music and lyrics, though Carsten Bohn did the arrangement and my daughter sang it in multiple overdub. It's actually kind of a bebop riff tune. But the rain theme Dark Cloud at the end is pure Zoot Sims, bless him, and the incidental music is Bohn.
 
HEADPRESS: So what did the cast think of the finished film?
 
DXY: They loved it. They loved seeing themselves. The old man, especially.
 
HEADPRESS: Do you consider Klaximo a feminist film?
 
DXY: I suppose you could say that now, but there wasn't any kind of feminist movement then. That came later on in the '60s. But I was just trying to express my horror of the machine taking over humanity. And I wanted it to be erotic, but not pornographic.
 
HEADPRESS: The film is beautifully lit.
 
DXY: That's one of the reasons that the Warhol crowd hated it, I think. (sadly shakes his head) Because it looked so professional.
 
HEADPRESS: If the men had built a robot for themselves-
 

DXY: If I would have done it that way, they might have liked it. Maybe the fact that the film conveyed a reasonable approximation of intercourse with a woman made it hard for them to take!

HEADPRESS: What kind of lighting set up did you have?
 
DXY: A lot of the film was done with two lights. Some of it with one. I was a still photographer-I didn't know that I couldn't do it. It was innocent bravado, I guess.
 
HEADPRESS: What do you remember about the New York underground film movement at the time?
 
DXY: Well, the underground film movement was very small. There was Norman McLaren, Douglas Crockwell out in upstate New York; people like Kenneth Anger. It was very small. And most of the films weren't very good. They had things like The Geography of the Body, and it's a camera panning around the body of a nude guy lying on a table. About as uninteresting as you can get, unless you're gay. But I knew that that was the market to show these things. I got the idea for Klaximo almost simultaneously with all of that. The Warhol people were following the influence of Anger and all those people. They were all set to move in on the scene. Warhol was a very clever guy. He knew that world and he knew that there was a lot of energy that wanted to get attention. So he was like a general managing the troops. Jack Smith was doing things like Flaming Creatures and all that stuff.
 
HEADPRESS: When did you first become aware of that movement?
 
DXY: After I made Klaximo. I brought the film to New York and was screening it here, trying to get some attention. Shortly after that, they became in; everyone wanted to make movies. We got some pretty wretched films out of that, didn't we?
 
HEADPRESS: You showed the film around New York when it was finished?
 
DXY: I showed it to the Museum of Modern Art. They rejected it. Willard Van Dyke was the guy who was running it at the time. I took it to Janus Films, or something like that, a company that released a lot of the early underground films. They rejected it. Nobody had done anything that outrageous at the time. It was a real first. I thought a friend of mine at the New York Theater would do something, but he wouldn't show it. Then I took it to the Cinemateque and had a disaster with Mekas who came here several times when I was working on the film. He would never write about it.
 
HEADPRESS: When did you first meet him?
 
DXY: I met him through Dan Talbot in 1959 or 1960. They wanted to do a film on Howl, Ginsberg's thing. It ended up being Halleluiah the Hills. He came up with a script and I was looking at it with Dan Talbot. I thought it was hopeless. He then became a power, writing for The Village Voice. His brother Adolfas liked the film. I ran into Jonas Mekas twenty-five years later and he refused to shake my hand. So, obviously, the film made some kind of serious dent on him. Dan Talbot would only say, "I'm not ready to show it now." He wouldn't say that it was a bad movie. But I really don't know why no one would do anything with it.
 
HEADPRESS: Do you find it ironic that now, thirty years later, you are becoming a "Pop Popular"?
 
DXY: I guess it is a good feeling, but it hasn't bought me that house in the South of France yet. And I don't think I shocked the Poppers of the '60s as much as I intruded on their turf-claim as the next underground avant garde. Which was really just a polymorphous perverse group indulgence coming out in the open to claim some market action. They resented Klaximo as if it were an intentional power trip, which surprised me at the time. I thought they'd like it-after all, in its own way it is quite perverse. As for now, it is just that the times are finally catching up with me.
 
HEADPRESS: Has the film been screened publicly since then?
 
DXY: I showed it at The Knitting Factory in 1997. And I had great reactions. I'd do it again, except I'm not a promoter so much. I'm interested in doing other things. More painting.
 
HEADPRESS: Do you feel that cinema and photography made you a better painter?
 
DXY: Not at all. It's still the same eye. I liked [with SLR cameras] how you could vary depth of field and mix soft and hard focus in the same picture. Very painterly effects of a sort. Movies add rhythm, like music. And you have all those theatrical things to play with. I'm afraid today with digital-and all these film cutters on cocaine-that the dream is becoming too reflexively nightmarish.
 
HEADPRESS: What are you working with now?
 
DXY: I used to like oil painting best, until turpentine shot up from a dollar a gallon to fifteen bucks a gallon-that killed all the splashy fun! I couldn't stand acrylic until I realized that the painters who used it were such bad painters to begin with. I devised my own formula for acrylic and use it quite a bit now. But the odor! I used to love the smell of turpentine, but acrylic smells like a stale brontosaurus fart. But the demands and quixotic nature of watercolor-I'm growing to like that best. It's also portable, vivid and quick, great fun once you really get into its rhythm. Full of surprise! I love painting the female figure and country-seaside landscapes. Sometimes just form/shape speculations just to see what comes up. No real preference-just what is in front of me that might give a tingle. I hate the city and city shapes-it's all just boxes and dirt and rectangles. But really I never know what I am going to do.
 
HEADPRESS: You've just recently begun showing again, after about twenty-five years. Are there any contemporaries that you feel connected to?
 
DXY: There are no real painters left that I have found; not that I've looked very hard. Certainly no adventure and excitement since DeKooning and Kline. It's all in the past I'm afraid. There are a lot of illustrators of course-but most of that now is just Photo Shop, which I consider cheating when taken solo. Illustration kills adventure-just something that "looks like art." I hate "style"; it's a very self-conscious thing. Things just come out, good or bad. I could show you things I did that recall DeKooning done long before I even knew of him.
 
HEADPRESS: You once said that you came to New York to be a part of an atmosphere that was nowhere else to be found.
 
DXY: I think all the freedom's gone now. There wouldn't be fifty thousand kids trying to be artists if there wasn't some kind of taste of money. When we started out as artists, we didn't have any taste of money at all. We did it out of love. It was the only way we could live. That's a fundamental difference. The kids today want to be loved. They don't have the pure instinct. Big egos. They graduate from art school with all kinds of degrees, and think they have all the answers. A friend of mine was at the Cape. He said, "There's an underground movement going on right now to bring the painting back. I don't know. Maybe it's just a question of time. But the freedom, the joy, and the love for creation in this city.. It's not there now. And I think it will be a long time coming..."   
 
finis.

revised 2010


For more information on the Jazz Loft that began with David, please check out The Jazz Loft Project
 
&
 
  A posthumous exploration from W. Eugene Smith's perspective; also NPR Weekend Edition