My conversations with Rene Ricard were many, but this conversation, from early 2013, was the only one we agreed to record for this show focusing on his poetry, paintings, and life at the Chelsea Hotel under new ownership.
Mentors are hard to come by; one who takes you in, spends time with you and teaches you something that may one day become useful. Recently, I attended a brilliant show called Fabulous You at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Gallery in Brooklyn. The concept of the exhibition was for the gallery artists to select work from their mentor, or peer, and to exhibit it next to their own. The show reminded me of all I have learned from my mentors and precocious contemporaries over the duration of my own career. We alone have the power to chose our own mentors and bosses, as a surrogate for the examples we want to follow and one day pass on to other eager rookies. This episode is dedicated to those who intend to insight curiosity and cognitive knowledge in others, especially in this unstable chaos of fact vs. fiction and post-truth.
Today, I would like to celebrate one of my friends in particular, Rene Ricard. At one time he was my boss, and during that year he became a mentor to me, a commanding influence by imparting his taste, unsurpassed wisdom and opinion of all things.
From a life fully lived, he was mercurial, sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, truly informed (he read and read and to absorb concise facts on all historical periods - - he read Museum catalogues from cover to cover, which is an act I now practice and promote). He was an underground Warhol movie star, art critic, painter, and poet. He is credited with launching the career of Basquiat for whom, in 1981, his essay The Radiant Child was published in Artforum. He had no room for BS, but he was generous, and above all - with information, he taught me his first person history of New York and more.
Rene enlightened me on the finer details of general world history — mostly through art, including social etiquette and the ways of life over greasy steak and cheese sandwiches he liked to share before starting the days work at his Midtown studio. He brought me along to parties of NYC Painting Gods and Goddesses I had admired since my own teenage move from New England to New York City, like Rene’s own.
My friend Rita Barros, whom Rene lived with and is spoken about later in this show, had arranged visiting me in Granada Spain, where I was living between 2011 and 2012; Rita, Antonio, Rosario and Rene made the trip from Lisbon. Rene was unforgettably excited to interact with the art, tromp-l’œil, architecture, food and everything in between. He made an arresting performance for the begging Gypsy’s in front of the Cathedral, where Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand are set in their tombs. If I recall correctly, as my memory will never be what his was, Rene was wearing his recently purchased heeled Flamenco dancing shoes.
Back in 2013 after years of dinners and delicious conversations at Rita’s apartment in the Chelsea, we agreed to record one of our conversations in his Chelsea Hotel studio. Rene passed away less than a year later.
At the time of the conversation, and unfortunately still today, there was severe discontent in the Hotel. Artists who had been living there for over 40 years were being appallingly harassed by what can only be considered slumlords, trying to drive out the tenants with whatever means possible to free up space in the historic 222 West 23rd Street building. The plan of the new owners was to convert it into a luxury hotel however, some still have the New York fighting spirit.
I learned a great number of things from Rene, chiefly to have a fucking opinion and express it with all that you have while being prepared to back it up with authority; facts, and experience. Just listen and absorb….