“It’s easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It’s a lot more difficult to perform one.” -Chuck Palahniuk
One of our most popular pieces at the Ekphrasis show at Lift Trucks was a 1961 drawing of Sardi’s by Leroy Neiman. Interestingly enough it was this piece that got a lot of people talking about the show. “I didn’t know Leroy Neiman could draw like this” was commonly heard. So, naturally, just three days after his death, a New York Times piece entitled “Achieving Fame Without a Legacy” got our attention. Not even in his grave and Mr. Ken Johnson from the Times is already dissing him?
While he might not leave the legacy of Picasso or Warhol, Neiman definitely had a masterful drawing ability and was capable of some very interesting work. Take said drawing “Sardi’s”; it’s based on the famous New York hot spot where celebs and show business folks went to dine and to be seen. It was tough to get a table unless you were among the exalted few fortunate enough to be caricatured on the walls. Mr. Neiman’s sketch offers a unique observation with the commanding figure of Vincent Sardi splitting the page as a sentry-gate keeper wielding a huge shield-like menu. In a draughtsman’s shorthand Mr. Neiman offers glimpses of what could lie in store for you. If you could only get by the maitre ‘d, you might join the lucky sot at the leather and wood bar or get a table by the couple on the left and have a waiter fawn over you too. This drawing, obviously done on the spot, reveals an interesting story with an economy of line. Try drawing from life in a crowded room sometime. Now try to make the drawing “talk”. Not that easy. Really.
But for many who trumpet their own art authority with credentials like going to an art “…grad school…” a mastery of journalistic drawing just isn’t good enough.
One of Mr. Johnson’s main points is that Leroy Neiman isn’t part of the “galleries like those lining Chelsea” or art “whose orbit included New York Times critics”. Point taken. If that’s all that matters. And yes, Mr. Neiman did tragically throw it all away with the endless golfers, wild animals and that awful Olympics mural for Channel 7 Sports. But at least check out his early sketches and the exquisite Femlin he created for Playboy.
Almost all “art” critics miss the point as they endlessly parade around the same galleries with the same artists in the same neighborhoods and the same art fairs and yawn, the same curated museum shows.
We would like to invite you to take another work at a man, who like his hero Frank Sinatra “Made it my way”.
Let us now hoist our tiki mugs high and give it up for Leroy. Not a bad life ‘ol boy. Better than tragically worrying about snarky critics. Who cares? And whose going to light this cigar for me?