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
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
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
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
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
John Ashbery, James Schuyler, Elaine de Kooning, and
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
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
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