Monkdogz' Interview with
Ed McCormack, Managing Editor of
Gallery & Studio Magazine

Now in its sixth year of publication, Gallery & Studio Magazine, published by a former associate of Andy Warhol and his writer/artist wife, has established itself as a presence to be reckoned with by virtue of its lively and informative coverage of the New York art scene. Its relative longevity in an era when it is difficult for small, independent cultural publications to survive for more than a few issues, obviously has much to do with its insightful reviews, often irreverent feature articles, excellent color reproduction of art work and uncluttered, esthetically pleasing design. Even more germane, however is the fact that Gallery & Studio has made its press coverage elsewhere, juxtaosed with articles on more established art world personalities. Recently while Jeannie McCormack, the editor and publisher of G&S, corrected final proofs for an upcoming issue with Pipi, the couple's pet parakeet and the magazine's mascot, perched on her shoulder, we sat down for a Q&A with Managing Editor Ed McCormack.

Q: What made you and Jeannie decide to start an art magazine, of all things, in a time when it's so difficult and expensive to sustain a print publication?
A: Well, for one thing, Jeannie was tired of working in advertising and I was tired of freelance journalism. That's the practical answer. But what really convinced us to give it a go was that we've both been involved with art in various ways for many years and we were acutely aware of what was lacking. A mere handful of well known artists, relatively speaking, seemed to be getting most of the attention in the art press. Nobody was really paying attention to the hundreds of  lesser known but equally deserving artists who were having exhibitions every year. They didn't have a prayer of getting noticed by the New York Times or the more established magazines like Artforum unless they were in some big, highly touted survey of "hot new talents" at P.S. 1 or something, and that struck us as a goddamned shame, quite frankly.

Q: Why do you think that is?
A : I think it's because almost every magazine that covers art these days, including the Great Gray Times, has fallen under the spell of the People magazine mentality.

Q: Can you explain what you mean by that?
A: Well, you know: this whole notion of  the artist as celebrity. It can be very attractive if you're the one getting that kind of attention, of course, but most artists don't. They work all year in solitude in their studios. Then if they&'re lucky enough to be represented by a gallery, they have a show. And nobody notices. It passes like the wind, without a single review, because they don't happen to hang out with Iggy Pop and Johnny Depp and Paris Hilton or get invited to the kind of parties that get covered in The New York Post.

Q: How did that situation get started in the first place?
A: It started quite a few years back when the term "art stars" came into popular usage in the press­­often to describe very young, very trendy artists who also happened to be good-looking and photogenic. I'm sure you've seen the kind of articles that have become a staple of  magazines like New York. They'll run photographs of five or six young artists, male and female, who look like models in a Calvin Klein ad, along with a headline that says, "The Return of Painting!" As if painting ever really went away!

Q: Yes, I've seen those articles. They seem to appear from time to time and usually the artists who are featured in them  do become this years art stars.
A: Exactly. And to the exclusion of almost everybody else. But don't get me wrong: We love young artists. Probably half the artists we review are young talents who bring a lot of energy into the scene. But, unlike a lot of other publications, we also review older artists. Youthful energy is great, but maturity and experience  also count for something in art. You need both. But a lot of dealers and curators have created this kind of youth cult. We've all heard the stories of how they go trawling in the more fashionable art schools, like Yale and Columbia, looking for talent that they can turn into a flashy, marketable commodity with lots of shelf life.
It's what I call the Artist As Rock Star Syndrome.

Q: Speaking of that,  besides having been one of the original contributing editors of Andy Warhol's Interview, you were a feature writer for Rolling Stone for years, covering rock stars and popular culture in general. Can you tell us something about that and how it relates to Gallery&Studio.
A: Sure. But first, just so you'll know where I'm coming from,  let me make clear that I actually started out as a painter. At the same time, I always had an interest in writing, too,  and for a brief time, as a kid,  fresh out of school and totally apolitical at that time, I was actually personal copy boy to William Randolph Hearst Jr., who ran his empire out of the Hearst Magazine Building on 8th Avenue and 57th Street ­­that picturesque pinkish castle with the spires that they're building an office tower on top of even as we speak. I was the mick Sammy Glick, always running, who snatched dispatches from the chattering teletypes and sprinted them into the beefy paws of power; the eager beaver who ran downstairs to get coffee for Zsa Zsa Gabor when she visited Hearst. "Tell dem Zsa Zsa vants it in a real cup dollink, no paper," she'd instruct in that accent of hers...But enough about that­­Yes, I was a painter, but then the whole hippie thing started up in the late sixties, and I sort of got waylaid into making these weird  drawings for Changes, this underground cultural journal published by Susan Graham Mingus, the wife of the jazz musician and composer Charles Mingus. I didn't actually intend to become a writer, but in the freewheeling spirit of that time I started writing things on my drawings, cryptic little commentaries and texts that eventually  became more and more prominent and somehow I ended up as the managing editor of Changes. It was actually a very hip publication. Fran Lebowitz published her first pieces with us before she and I both started working for Interview and Billy Joel, of all people, wrote a regular column for us called "Diary of a Young Artist"²­-all about his struggles trying to get started in the music business...

Q: What was it like working for Warhol?
A: Very weird and very instructive. Andy taught me more about the nature of publicity than anybody else. When I was writing for Interview he'd introduce me to people as "Ed McCormack, the famous writer," and add in that deadpan way of his, "He's faaaahhhhbulous...He's  the new Tom Wolfe." Well, obviously I wasn't the least bit famous and I certainly wasn't the new Tom Wolfe­­ but if Andy said it, it must be true, right?  And  of course that was how he kept people working for him without paying them very much. I mean, I don't know what it's like working for Interview now that it's a big corporate venture, but then it was more like a house organ to The Factory, and Andy was notoriously cheap. Yes, you can  have your fifteen minutes, but don't expect a living wage! Still, it was a valuable to see how he operated, even though I have mixed feelings about him, his work, and his influence. It was a wild time, a time when it was sometimes difficult to tell the transvestites from the socialites, the debutantes from the drag queens, and I got to observe the whole Factory menagerie up close: Paul Morrissey, Gerard Malanga, Lou Reed, and all the fabulous flaming creatures like Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling. But that's a complex subject, more suitable for a book I may write someday than for this interview. Suffice it to say, one thing  I learned from Andy was that you had to work hard if you wanted more than your fifteen minutes, and another thing was that simple notoriety could often have the same cash value as honest fame. I mean, I would sometimes write outrageous, unflattering things about him and his cohorts and he'd publish them in Interview anyway. The exception to the rule was when I wrote an article for Oui magazine that they ran with the headline "Andy Warhol, Angel of Death." It wasn't my headline, it was theirs, but needless to say, Andy was upset. But by then, I was already writing for Rolling Stone, anyway.

Q: What was that like?
A: It was like writing for the New Yorker must have been in the thirties and forties. Rolling Stone had one foot in the underground and the other foot in the big time,so while the reporters for Time and Newsweek were waiting out in the hall for their five minutes, you were embedded, so to speak; you had unlimited access because everybody who was part of the whole hip scene wanted to be in Rolling Stone. If you saw the movie "Almost Famous," that pretty much caught it. But besides going barnstorming around the country on those rock and roll robber baron tours with bands like Alice Cooper and Aerosmith, which was like traveling with a psychedelic circus, I wrote a regular column for Rolling Stone  called "New York Confidential," all about the Warhol crowd and CBGB's and all that. In fact, although I wouldn't want it carved on my grave stone or anything, I coined the term "³punk rock" in an early article that I did  on the scene at CBGB's before they had a name for it. I guess you could say I was like the whacko Walter Winchell of Max's Kansas City. I'd sit there drinking beer and people would slither up and whisper items in my ear, the more scandalous the better. But after awhile, that sort of thing gets really old. Even though you learn a great deal about the underbelly of the culture, about the juncture where certain elements of high and low culture intersect, for me mucking about  in popular culture was like a long detour. After awhile, one longs to climb to higher ground, to get back to where you once belonged, to paraphrase the old Beatles song. And that's where Gallery& Studio comes in.

Q: So you see Gallery&Studio as a truer calling?
A: Yeah, definitely. Visual art was my first love. And I married an artist. Jeannie and I have always looked at art together, so it was the most natural thing in the world to want to combine our talents and publish a magazine together. And we knew exactly how we wanted to go about it. In 2001, after she redesigned the magazine to make it more compact, so it could be more easily placed in hotels and other venues as well as art galleries, Jeannie wrote an eloquent little statement of intentions, in which she contrasted what we do with art writing that was, as she put it, "jargon-filled, pretentious, and needlessly obscure." Since I couldn't possibly paraphrase it as well as she wrote it, I might as well quote directly: "Initially we were encouraged in the daunting task of starting a new art publication by noticing that so much art criticism was so boring. Once, critics who were also poets and artists­­people  like Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, James Schuyler,  Elaine de Kooning, and Fairfield Porter­­wrote about art with clarity, wit and enthusiasm. So, we knew from the beginning that there was a precedent for the kind of writing that we wanted to present in G&S. We knew that art writing, in order to be intelligent, did not have to be dull." She went on to say, "We're also determined never to succumb to the tendency of many other art publications to cover only artists who are well known or who fit into some currently trendy category. This strikes us as criminally narrow, not to mention shortsighted. Never before in the history of art has there been such exciting diversity, such delicious uncertainty...such a loose canon,"so to speak." If I can extend the pun, I think Jeannie and I both enjoy being loose cannons, so to speak, in that we don't really play by anybody else's rules.
And  from the feedback we get, I think a lot of people appreciate the fact that, as she put it in that piece, ³for  many artists who had not yet received the attention they deserved (at least before we wrote about them and other publications, including The New York Times, followed our lead) we have often been the only forum in town."

Q: Why do you think no other art magazine is taking the same approach as G&S?
A:  I think maybe they're too worried about being in tune with the latest trends. They really believe in some kind of art world hierarchy that we don't even acknowledge, that we regard as some kind of snobbish joke. In fact, we don't really think much about the art world as an overall entity, only about the art itself. Like anybody else who publishes a magazine, we get tons of invitations, but it's like pulling teeth to get us to go to an opening. We prefer to go to galleries during the day, when there aren't a lot of people with drinks in their hands blocking our view of the paintings. In fact we're such phantoms socially that we sometimes jokingly refer to ourselves as "the Gallery&Studio elves." We sort of duck in and out: now you see us, now you don¹t. But we see you; we don't miss a trick. And it¹s always great when we're making our rounds in Chelsea, Soho, or uptown on 57th Street, to see people walking around carrying the latest issue of Gallery&Studio. It helps, of course, that while you have to subscribe to get the magazine outside the metropolitan area, in the galleries people can pick it up free of charge. In other words, you don't have to go into a store and lay out five or six bucks for it, so that means we really get around. And that's what it's all about, isn't it?

So, we can do things are own way. We don't have to shmooze be effective, as long as we do good work. For example, we recently reviewed the first New York exhibition of a British painter named Steven John Harris, a real working class guy who makes these sort of kinky, erotic paintings .We were the only American art publication to review his show, even though his work is really unusual. We compared him to Francis Bacon and, because it was a lively, funny piece, the review got picked up and quoted extensively by all the English newspapers: The Times, The Independent, The Evening Herald, and a few others. Believe it or not, this guy even had a TV news crew show up unexpectedly on his doorstep with their cameras to interview him about his triumph in New York! I mean, as I said earlier, I know all about publicity, having learned from Andy Warhol­­the master media manipulator himself...But sometimes the power of the printed word surprises even me.

Monkdogz would like to thank Ed McCormack for his time, talent, commitment, dedication and passion for the arts. The Editor