Q&A re Jack Smith
I will be happy to answer all your questions on Jack smith. I am usually known for my cooperation. I only have issues when people get me stoned before an interview and then spring questions on me from events that occured 15 years before and then make my confusion about dates and who , what where into
a kind of proof that I am lying, which was what occured in my distressful interview with Mary Jordan when I had been told in advance that I would be asked questions about Jack Smith's work and philosophy and instead I was asked why I didn't call Jack's sister and tell her Jack had Aids and was in the hospital as if that was my decision to make when Jack was 57 years old, completely sane and self directed and was emphatic about making his own decisions Anyway up until I brought up if he wanted anyone notified like family for instance, he never spoke abut his sister and only then said he hated her, didn't want to be in touch with her and that they had been estranged for years.
I am sorry to be this blunt. I spent years NOT talking about what Jack said about his sister whike he was in the hospital and testories he told about her and her husbands cruelty towards him. The unfortunate thing in a case like this is that there will always be real investigtions and press reports that will have to reveal
the real story of Jack, his death and what has happened since.
That aside, I know everything about what was in Jack's apartment sine I had been taking care of him hands on before he went into the hospital and he was very specific about what he did with his work...and what he considerd important. I CHOSE to save everything I could and I held on to Jack's apartment for almost two years while trying to save it as a museum. I have the history of that struggle and the letters of support and suggestions by two prominent architects Robert Moon of The Rockerfeller Plaza Restoration Project and Frederich Fisher , the renown museum architect. I also allowed anyone and everyone to document the apartment in photo and video.So there is plenty of documentation not to mention what Irving Rosenthal shot.
The idea that Jack still had any cameras by 1989 is sadly absurd. Jack used borrowed cameras .
Somehow this has been glossed over by Jordan, Podell and Rosenthal but Jack lived in abject poverty. He almost never ate.He had no way of earnng money and had never held what is populary called in ethe art world a 'day 'job
Jack was living on the interest from the $50.000 in bearer bonds from the nuclear power plant in Washington State (which I gave to his sister in order to get her to agree not to trash his work and apartment, which she had wanted to do ) The bonds gave him about $750. a year in dividends...at least I think the dividends were paid once a year..if they were paid twice a year that would have given him the grand sum of $1,500 a year..( no wonder he lied to SSI and welfare saying had no assets ...the man was starving to death ( I wonder where his sister was while Jack (who had depended on his mother for handouts all his life) was literally eating gruel for ten years)
Jack had this income from the bonds from 1978 or 1983 until 1989 . I think you will agree that this was not very much money (no wonder he was toothless!.)..He proablaly pawned what ever he could have years before.Howevr I also have the list of jewlry that was divided by Mrs Slater's own lawyer in 1977 between Jack , an Aubt Julia and Mrs Slater. I it's entirty it was work under $2,000. i have the paperwork. It is not the fortune his sister is srying out about.
Jack's rent was $260.00 a month not counting utilities and phone..he had next to no other income...what do you think he was living on? what was he eating? he had virturally stopped photographing in 1965-66
as he began to focus on performance art and he became the photgraphic subject of his work and was photographed by others..the only self portrait that I know he did was of his penis!
Irving Rosenthal hadn't seen Jack Smith in person since the late 60's has kept up a furious and hysterical belief that whatever he remembered from Jack's loft or apartments in the mid 60's was still extant. Jack was evicted and moved 3 times before he settled at 21 1st Avenue.
Irvings insistance that there would be prints of Jack's black and whites in 1989 the way there may have been in the early 60's when Jack was a photographer is like someone remembering their friend in high school's record collection and expecting it to still exist when their pal was 57. I wish I had the record collection I had when i was 19..it would be worth a small forturne.
Unfortunately , the people who are coming up with the list of what Jack possessed are largely uneducated about Jack's work. Jack was not a painter. He painted and decorated his apartment.
Mary Jordan convinced Mrs Slater , Jack's sister that the place was hung with paintings like the Louvre. There were NO PAINTINGS in Jack's space. except for what jack painted directly onto the walls. Jack loathed 2 dimentional art as he called paintings.
You can always inquire from Bill Neiderkorn, Charles Alcroft, Ela Troyano and Uzi Parnes, and Agosto Machado what Jack had in the way of paintings. He was not friends with any painters and to my knowlege NO ONE had ever given Jack any paintings. Jack was only interested in photographs of himself. My ex husband Mitch Markowitz painted a portrait of Jack and Mitch gave it to me. He is the only painter I know of who painted Jack.
Many people contributed mementoes to the PS122 show believing as I did that Jack's work was going to stay together, according to Jack's wishes and instructions, and end up in a public arts institution (which is what Hoberman and I had been working diligently towards for 14 years)
I direct you to my website blog for more background..you could also read my account of the last days and last moments of Jack's life under Friends on my site. It is the original from Film Culture in 1992...Ed Leffingwell, frighteded of alienating Rosenthal or Allen Ginsberg, edited out the parts that refered to them in the catalogues version of my essay.
On of the most annying issues is the red herring of 'missing work' It is just that , a red herrring Everything that Tony Vasconsellas , the PS1 program director thought should be archived was brought to PS 1 in 1992 along with items donated from far and wide (The boxes rescued from Jack's house had been in the center of my studio for over a year,(from 1991 to 1992) until they went to PS1 because I had no money for storage , and no one in the art world was willing to help save Jack Smith's work and that is a fact. Which is why the elephant tusk is here.
Jack's record collection , which was also made up of many borrowed records has been stored for years by the Plaster Foundation at Anthology Archives.I believe since 1990 or perhpas 1989.
The mural which was painstkingly removed with great difficulty, in July 1990 when there was threat of the landlord gutting the apartment, and which I was able to show at Lincoln Center's Serious FUN , in the art show dedicated to Jack that year by curator Frank Moore, is also here as there was little place to store it and it was never considered important by the curator Leffingwell and frankly was treated as an afterthought in the exhibit in 1998 because as i said it was a set decoration , not a paintng as such..because as everyoen knows..Jack did not paint.
I admit to being resentful, when allegations and rumors are tossed around publiclly without anyone (Ie Mr Podell or Mary Jordan ) ASKING where things that they are interested or curious about are, however you can feel confident that I enjoy talking about Jack's work and have been doing so publically for years before Jack died.