Robert Cenedella: Artist, Satirical Painter – Part 2/2 | BuildingNY:NYStories


♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>>CENEDELLA THE ARTIST, CENEDELLA THE CAPITALIST, CENEDELLA THE ROGUE. LAST WEEK WE TOLD YOU A LITTLE ABOUT THE EARLY DAYS OF ROBERT CENEDELLA, WORLD RENOWNED PAINTER AND ARTIST THIS WEEK WE’RE GOING TO CONTINUE ON FROM AGE 18 TO THE CURRENT DAY. SO YOU’RE AT THE ARTS STUDENTS LEAGUE. WE WERE TALKING ABOUT YOU SOLD THE I LOVE LUDWIG, OKAY, I LIKE LUDWIG HELPED PAY THE TUITION. WHAT HAPPENS AT THE ARTS STUDENT LEAGUE? YOU MEET THIS PERSON WHO WAS A POLITICAL PAINTER ALSO FROM GERMANY. WHAT HAPPENS?>>I WENT BECAUSE IT WAS THE ONE SCHOOL I COULD GET INTO WITHOUT A HIGH SCHOOL DEGREE AND MET A MAN NAMED GEORGE GROSZ. IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I DIDN’T KNOW WHO HE WAS. JUST KNEW THAT HE TAUGHT LIFE DRAWING. IS ONE OF THE THINGS THEY NEVER TAUGHT AT THE MUSIC AND ART BECAUSE THEY WERE TALKING IN THOSE DAYS ABOUT EXPRESSION AND THIS AND THAT. I WAS ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR MORE TECHNICAL ABILITIES AT MUSIC AND ART BUT I MEET THIS GUY. IN ONE DAY, I REALIZE THIS GUY COULD JUST TALK ABOUT WHAT HE COULD DO. >>WHAT EFFECT DID HE HAVE ON YOUR PAINTING?>>THE EFFECT, MAYBE INSTEAD OF GOING INTO WRITING, WHICH NOW I HAVE GOTTEN A LITTLE NOTORIETY FOR WITH MY ATOM BOMB DRILL PIECE, HE PROVED TO ME THAT DRAWING, NUMBER ONE, COULD BE TAUGHT. NUMBER TWO, THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAWING AS IT RELATES TO PAINTING AND TO EVERYTHING ELSE.>>SO WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE FIRST IMPORTANT PAINTING?>>MY FIRST IMPORTANT PAINTING WAS A STILL LIFE, A STILL LIFE THAT I DID AFTER I STOPPED STUDYING WITH HIM. I REALIZED THAT I COULD PAINT WHAT I SAW AND — >>WHEN DO YOU LEAVE THE ART STUDENTS LEAGUE.>>IN ’59.>>ALSO LIVING WITH CENEDELLA, 310 WEST 79th STREET TO NOW 301 EAST 50th STREET. >>RIGHT. >>FROM THERE YOU START SOME PAINTINGS OF THE CITY. IN MANY PARTS OF YOUR LIFE, THERE’S PAINTINGS OF NEW YORK CITY AND NEW YORK CITY LIFE. >>NEW YORK BECAME MY — IT WAS MY PALLET. IT WAS — SECOND AVENUE WAS ONE OF THE EARLY PAINTINGS I DID. AT THAT TIME THAT PAINTING SEEMED ABSURD, THE BIGGEST TRAFFIC JAM EVER. IT WAS SORT OF LIKE, OH, BOB, YOU SEEM A LITTLE OVER THE TOP. TODAY THAT PAINTING IS LIKE A MILD VERSION. A LOT OF THE THINGS I’VE DONE –>>WHAT ABOUT THE DOGS. >>SOUTHERN DOGS. THAT WAS 1965. I HAD GONE TO THE MARCH IN WASHINGTON. WE WENT FROM WOODSTOCK, NEW YORK, WHERE I USED TO GO IN THE SUMMER. THAT PAINTING WAS, YOU KNOW — IT’S RARELY BEEN SHOWN BECAUSE A LOT OF MY STUFF HAS BEEN CENSORED. >>LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT. YOU HAVE THE DOGS AND THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN PEOPLE. >>YOU KNOW, AS A SATIRIST, IF THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT TO CALL ME, YOU REALIZE ART ISN’T JUST MAKING A PAINTING OF THE INCIDENT, OF THE DOGS AND POLICEMEN. I INVERTED THE DOGS. I PUT THE DOG’S HEAD ON THE POLICEMAN AND THE POLICEMAN’S HEAD ON THE DOG. THIS IS WHAT MADE THE PAINTING UNFASHIONABLE IN THE SENSE THAT THE “NEW YORK TIMES” WOULDN’T PUBLISH IT, BECAUSE DOG GENITALS IN THE PAINTING, WHICH WAS A LITTLE SUSPECT. YOU KNOW, THE POINT IS WHEN CENSORSHIP COMES FROM WHAT YOU SAY.>>AS OPPOSED TO WHAT YOU SAY IS THE WAY YOU DISPLAY IT. >>YEAH. I WOULD LIKE TO BE KNOWN — I WOULD LIKE TO LOOK AT MY WORK AND SAY, WOW, IT’S HOW YOU PAINTED THAT PAINTING THAT MADE IT THE WAY IT IS. THEY DON’T DO IT. THEY SEE THE SUBJECT, SUBJECT MATTER, AT LEAST FROM THAT TIME IN THE ’50s, THAT’S WHEN ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM WAS GETTING POPULAR AND SO ON. IT’S THE SUBJECT. IF YOU DO IT RIGHT, IT GETS PEOPLE QUEASY. >>WHEN DID YES ART COME OUT. >>YES ART WAS ALSO IN ’65. >>LET’S TALK ABOUT THE YES ART. IN ’65, YOU’RE ABOUT 26 YEARS OF AGE. >>24. >>OKAY. YOU HAD DONE SOME WORK. SOUTHERN DOGS WAS THERE. SECOND AVENUE WAS ALREADY DONE, A COUPLE OF OTHERS. HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON YES ART. >>YES ART WAS MY FAIRWELL TO ART. I WAS DISTURBED ABOUT THE ART WORLD. AT A YOUNG AGE, I WAS LIKE IF A SOUP CAN CAN BE DISPLAYED NEXT TO A REMBRANDT AND YOU LOOK AT IT — SOMEWHERE I TOOK A DIFFERENT PATH. I DID YES ART AS A WAY OF SAYING I CAN GET THE MOST PUBLICITY OF ANY SHOW IN NEW YORK, AND I JUST FOLLOWED WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE ART WORLD. I JUST DID IT A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY. IT WAS THE BEST WIDELY PUBLICIZED SHOW THAT YEAR. >>ANDY WARHOL HAD CAMPBELL’S AND YOU THOUGHT HEINZ WAS BETTER?>>ALWAYS THE BETTER SOUP, NO QUESTION. >>WHAT ABOUT — >>JAMES HARVEY WAS AN ABSTRACT PAINTER, STRUGGLING. DESIGNING. HE DESIGNED THE BRILLO BOX. WARHOL SIMPLY COPIED IT AND PUT IT INTO A GALLERY. HE ACTUALLY MADE BOXES. THE LITTLE KNOWN FACT, JAMES HARVEY SEES HIS BOXES IN A GALLERY AT MADISON AVENUE, WALKS IN. HE SAYS, THESE ARE ANDY WARHOL’S. HE SAID, NO, I DESIGNED THAT BOX. HE WAS SEEING WARHOL AND SAYING, THIS IS MY WORK. AND HE DIED AT 36. BUT HAD HE LIVED AND THE LAWSUIT — >>HE WOULD HAVE WON. >>HE WOULD HAVE WON. >>POP ART PROBABLY WOULD HAVE DIED. >>OTHER POP ART YOU DID WITH THE TELEPHONE COMPANY, RIGHT? I DID — WELL, I DID A NUMBER OF THINGS. I DID PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE. >>YOU DID THE ASHTRAY SAYING NO SMOKING. >>I DID THE FIRST NO SMOKING ASHTRAY WHEN SMOKING WAS ALLOWED, YOU KNOW->>LET’S TALK ABOUT THE EXHIBIT YOU DID WITH S&H GREEN STAMPS. >>THIS WAS THE MAJOR PART OF THE YES ART, WE GAVE OUT S&H GREEN STAMPS.>>WHERE WAS THIS DISPLAYED. >>MADISON AVENUE GALLERY. THE FITZGERALD GALLERY. IT’S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. I HAD SIGNED A CONTRACT WITH S&H GREEN STAMPS. >>SO IF I BOUGHT A PIECE OF ART, I WOULD GET S&H GREEN STAMPS. >>THAT’S RIGHT. >>DID YOU HAVE THE GIFTS AND THE GALLERY?>>THE GIFTS WERE — >>DISPLAYED. >>WERE DISPLAYED. IF YOU BOUGHT ENOUGH ART, OF COURSE, YOU’D GET 10,000 S&H — >>PEOPLE WERE GOING TO A&P AND BUYING GROCERIES AND THEY WOULD GET S&H GREEN STAMPS. SOME CAPITALIST DECIDED IF YOU BUY MY ART, YOU CAN GET GREEN STAMPS. >>ALSO GREEN STAMPS. THAT GIVES YOU — AND MAYBE YOU COULD GET A TOASTER, YOU KNOW. SO YOU GET A LITTLE BONUS FOR BUYING A CENEDELLA, A PIECE OF YES ART. IT WAS A UNIQUE EXHIBITION. >>AFTER THAT, WHAT’S THE NEXT PHASE OF YOUR LIFE. YOU’RE ONLY 24, 25. >>SO I’VE MADE MY POINT. I’VE GOT ALL THIS DIVERSITY, WHICH SEEMED LIKE ART WAS ABOUT, MORE PUBLICITY, LESS ABOUT THE ART. I REALLY FELT I HAD DEVELOPED AS AN ARTIST YET. I SAID, HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT, IF SOUP CANS IS THE DIRECTION THAT I’M GOING TO GO, I GOT A JOB IN AN AD AGENCY REALLY BASED ON THAT SHOW, BECAUSE I HAD NEVER BEEN IN ADVERTISING EITHER. TOOK ALL THIS PUBLICITY FROM YES ART AND I HAD ENOUGH ADVERTISING FOR ME. >>YOU REALIZE THAT FORM OF CAPITALISM WASN’T FOR YOU. >>WASN’T QUITE — >>SO YOU CONTINUE ON. THAT’S WHEN YOU DID A LOT OF STREET SCENES AND FOOTBALL SCENES OF GIANTS AND HOCKEY AND BASKETBALL. SO THAT WAS OVER THE PERIOD OF TIME. DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH GEORGE. TELL THE STORY ABOUT GEORGE AND THE TRIP HE’S MAKING BACK TO GERMANY YOU’RE ON THE BOAT WITH HIM. >>OKAY. THIS IS IN ’59. I WAS SUPPOSED TO — WE HAD BECAME QUITE FRIENDLY. WE SAW EYE TO EYE. HE WAS GOING BACK TO GERMANY, LEAVES IN ’59. I’M INVITED TO THE SHIP HE’S GOING BACK, TO HAVE A FEW DRINKS, MAYBE 20 OR 30 GLASSES OF PROSECCO. WE’RE IN PRETTY GOOD SPIRITS AND DECIDED MAYBE I SHOULD JUST GO STRAIGHT AHEAD TO BERLIN INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR THE FALL. >>YOU HIDE IN THE CLOSET?>>I HIDE IN THE CLOSET OF HIS ROOM THERE. UNFORTUNATELY HIS WIFE DISCOVERS ME, AND I AM NOW — THE SHIP IS — I HAD GONE OUT TO SEA. IT WASN’T OUT OF THE HARBOR YET. AND I WAS BROUGHT BACK TO COURT AND THE STATE OF NEW YORK. UNFORTUNATELY HE ENDS UP BUYING LIKE THREE WEEKS AFTER — >>WHEN DO YOU DO THE PAINTING ON GEORGE’S LIFE, THE DEATH OF GEORGE?>>THE DEATH OF GEORGE GROSZ I DID IN 1962. THIS WAS THE FIRST IMPORTANT PERSON TO ME. HE UNDERSTOOD ME. I UNDERSTOOD HIM. WHEN HE DIED, IN A SENSE, A PART OF ME HAD GONE AT THE SAME TIME. IT WAS A MAJOR, MAJOR MOMENT.>>SO NOW, AS WE WERE TALKING AFTER THAT, YES ART, OKAY, THEN YOU WENT TO THE ADVERTISING AGENCY. WHAT HAPPENS THEN?>>AGENCY — >>AFTER YOU LEFT THE AGENCY. >>THAT WAS WHEN I HAD DONE THE HOSTILITY DART BOARDS.>>HOSTILITY DART BOARD. YOU HAD ONE FOR LYNDON. >>YOU HAD ONE FOR NIXON. >>THESE WERE THE TWO MOST POPULAR. THERE WERE MANY OTHER POPULAR ONES. THERE WAS REAGAN. I THINK I EVEN HAD CASTRO. THIS — THE BUTTONS, IT WENT VIRAL, EVEN THOUGH DIDN’T HAVE THAT THEN, IT WENT VIRAL. I HAD A BUSINESS, A REGULAR BUSINESS SELLING POSTERS AND DART BOARDS. IN THOSE DAYS SOLD THESE BOARDS AT MACY’S, ET CETERA. TALKING ABOUT CAPITALISM. TODAY, I COULD NOT SELL THESE SAME ITEMS IN STORES LIKE THAT, BECAUSE THERE IS A — THERE IS A KIND OF, YOU KNOW, A REPRESSION IN OUR DEMOCRACY DOESN’T REALLY- IT’S ONLY HALF A DEMOCRACY, HALF FREEDOM, WHICH IS TOO BAD. >>WHAT HAPPENS LATER ON? HOW DO YOU RETURN TO THE ART STUDENTS LEAGUE?>>BECAUSE I WAS — I DIDN’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT MAKING A LIVING FROM SELLING PAINTINGS, I WAS ABLE TO PAINT WITHOUT ANY RESTRICTIONS. I PAINTED FOR MYSELF. I DIDN’T PAINT FOR THE MARKET. SO I GOT QUITE A LOT OF PAINTINGS. SAATCHI AND SAATCHI OFFERED ME A MAJOR EXHIBITION AT HEADQUARTERS AND SO ON. EVERYTHING WAS FINE UNTIL THEY LOOKED AT A PAINTING I HAD THAT ACTUALLY THE SHOW WAS BASED AROUND, THERE WAS A PAINTING OF A CRUCIFIED SANTA CLAUS. THIS WAS IN THE RIGHT MONTH, DECEMBER, THIS SHOW. ANYWAY, THIS IS THE ORGANIZATION THAT SHOWS ANYTHING SUPPOSEDLY. SAACHI AND SAACHI IS KNOWN FOR THE SENSATION SHOW THAT THEY HAD AT THE MUSEUM IN BROOKLYN. SOMEHOW THIS PAINTING WAS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHRISTMAS AT THAT TIME. THEY TOLD ME THEY WOULD ONLY CENSOR THE ONE PAINTING. BY THE TIME THE SHOW- HAD TAKEN OUT SEVEN PAINTINGS INCLUDING SOUTHERN DOGS AND THAT KIND OF THING. THAT SAME DAY, THIS WAS A TERRIBLE DAY FOR ME BECAUSE MY MAIN PAINTING WAS TAKEN OUT OF THE SHOW. I WAS HAVING TO COMPROMISE. YES, I WANTED TO JUST SHUT THE SHOWDOWN. BUT THIS THING HAD BEEN — THIS WAS PROMOTED FOR YEARS. IT COULD HAVE BEEN MY BIG MOMENT. YEAH. SO ANYWAY, THE ART STUDENTS LEAGUE I HAD KNOWN IN ’59. THIS WAS ’88, CALLS AND SAYS, BOB, REMEMBER ME? OH, YEAH, YEAH. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO TEACH THE OLD GEORGE GROSZ CLASS? I WAS SILENT BECAUSE I HAD NEVER TAUGHT. SHE SAID SAY YES. I SAID YES. I MET HER TWO DAYS LATER AND THAT’S WHERE I GOT MY JOB. >>LET’S TALK ABOUT STOCK DOW JONES 2000. >>2001 STOCK ODYSSEY WAS A PAINTING I DID, WHICH HAD A LOT TO DO, OBVIOUSLY, WITH CAPITALISM. IT HAD TO DO ALSO WITH THE ART MARKET. I HAD AS ONE WHO HAD TROUBLE WITH CENSORSHIP OF ONE SORT OR ANOTHER, I FELT I COULD SELL STOCKS IN A SINGLE PAINTING, WHICH HAD NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO MEET A FINANCIAL PRINTER NAMED CHRIS CANNON, AND I TOLD HIM ABOUT MY IDEA. HE HAD BOUGHT THE PRINT OF THE PAINTING. I TOLD HIM NOW I WANTED TO SELL STOCKS IN THE PAINTING, WHICH MEANT THAT ANYONE WHO BOUGHT TEN SHARES OF STOCK, YOU’D HAVE TEN PRINTS. THE PAINTING SELLS FOR A MILLION DOLLARS, YOU HAVE 10%, WHAT THOSE 10 SHARES WOULD REPRESENT. YOU WOULD BE — >>GAIN IN APPRECIATION. >>GAIN IN APPRECIATION. >>SOMEBODY MIGHT SAY THAT WAS LIKE A MADOFF. BUT HERE YOU HAD REAL ART. >>THE IDEA IS IF YOU BUY A PIECE OF STOCK, YOU PUT IT IN YOUR DRAWER. THIS WAY YOUR STOCK, YOU FRAME IT AND HAVE IT ON YOUR WALL, SO YOU’RE ABLE TO ENJOY. IT COULD BE GAINING IN VALUE. SO I FIGURED THAT WAS — THAT’S WHAT THE ART MARKET HAS BECOME. IT’S ABOUT MONEY. I REALLY FIGURED OUT THE WAY TO CIRCUMVENT THAT. WE ALMOST PULLED IT OFF. >>IN 2017 WITH CROWD FUNDING, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO PULL IT OFF WITH THE ART IN A LITTLE WHILE. LET’S TALK ABOUT ANOTHER FAMED ARTS. 150 PEOPLE. >>AGAIN, ANOTHER ONE OF MY STUDENTS, THE ART STUDENTS LEAGUE WAS MARRIED TO BRIAN MILLER. >>FOOD CRITIC AT THE “NEW YORK TIMES.”>>SHE SHOWED HIM MY WORK. HE THOUGHT HE HAD DONE A BIG REVIEW ON LE CIRQUE AND HE SAID HE REALLY SAW ALL OF THE FIGURES THAT I WAS ABLE TO PUT INTO PAINTINGS, THAT KIND OF THING. AND HE INTRODUCED ME TO — HE SAID THAT’S NOT REALLY POSSIBLE. HE SAID PEOPLE HAVE TRIED TO DO IT AND COULDN’T. I SAID, LOOK, I’LL DO — OF COURSE HAVE TO — THE DRAWINGS, AND HE AGREED. HE SAID — I THINK IT WAS YEARS LATER I WAS READY TO ACTUALLY START WORKING ON THE PAINTING. SIX MONTHS LATER HE CAME DOWN TO LOOK TO SEE IF HE WANTED IT OR NOT. HE CAME DOWN TO THE STUDIO. HE SAID HE HAD TEN MINUTES. HE STAYED FOR THREE AND A HALF HOURS. SO HE BOUGHT THE PAINTING.>>LET’S TALK ABOUT THE FILM, WHICH HAS WON CRITICAL AWARDS “ART BASTARD” YOUR LIFE STORY. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?>>IF YOU LOOK IN ART HISTORY, YOU’LL FIND MANY TIMES A PAINTER HAS ONE MAJOR BUYER, SUPPORTER. GEORGE GROSZ HAD ONE. THE GUY WHO BOUGHT 2001, CHRIS BUCHANAN. HE HAD BECOME MORE AND MORE INTERESTED IN THE ART WORLD. IT WAS MORE CORRUPT THAN THE STOCK WORLD. HE KNEW BOTH WORLDS. HE COULDN’T BELIEVE — YOUR WORK. HE STUDIED, HE GOT TAPES. HE HAD NEVER BOUGHT A PAINTING BEFORE HE BOUGHT MY PIECE. SO THIS INTEREST WAS REALLY NOT JUST IN MY WORK BUT ALSO IN RELATION TO WHY I WAS HAVING A HARD TIME GETTING INTO THE GALLERY. NO MUSEUMS HAD BOUGHT AN ART PIECE. HE SAID FINALLY, I THINK, INTERESTING STORY. IT TOOK ABOUT FIVE, SIX YEARS TO PUT THIS TOGETHER. WENT THROUGH MANY DIFFERENT PHASES. A DIRECTOR, MUSIC, JIM McDONALD, SPECIAL EFFECTS. ALL OF A SUDDEN, I NEVER THOUGHT THE MOVIE WOULD COME OUT.>>BOB WAS REALLY A TRADITIONAL PAINTER. HE UNDERSTOOD THE BASICS. >>GEORGE GROSZ SAID THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A LINE IN NATURE. IT’S ALL IN OUR HEAD.>>BASTARDIZE EVERYTHING ELSE IN YOUR LIFE. BUT IF YOU COMPROMISE YOUR ART, WHY BE AN ARTIST?>>WHEN IT CAME OUT, IT — I WAS REINVENTED.>>I HAPPENED TO SEE AN EXCELLENT PRODUCTION. WITH TWO MINUTES LEFT, YOUR WIFE LIZ, MARRIED HOW MANY YEARS?>>25 YEARS. >>YOU HAVE A SON DAVID. >>DAVID IS A PROFESSOR ON TAXATION AT THE CITY UNIVERSITY.>>RIGHT. RIGHT. >>QUICKLY WITH LIKE ONE MINUTE LEFT, ONE OF YOUR LAST WORKS IS CALLED FIN DEL MUNDO. THE END OF THE WORLD?>>THE END OF THE WORLD. THIS WAS A COMMISSION. A COMMISSION FROM SOMEONE WHO KNEW ME 30 YEARS AGO. HE WAS VERY DEPRESSED AND SO ON. HE SAID I THINK YOU CAN EXPRESS MY DISHEARTENED FEELING ABOUT PEOPLE LIKE DONALD TRUMP AND ROGER AILES AND FOX NEWS, ALL THE THINGS. AND HE GAVE ME A LARGE DOWN PAYMENT. HE SAID, YOU HAVE TO FINISH IT BEFORE ELECTION DAY. AND I MANAGED TO DO IT. AND LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, I THOUGHT THAT TRUMP WOULD LOSE. THE PAINTING WAS BASED ON — IT HAD A LOT OF THE INCIDENTS LEADING UP IN THE NEWS. NOW I HAVE DECIDED TO CONTINUE THE PAINTING. >>THE PAINTING RIGHT NOW IS IN MEXICO. >>IT’S IN MEXICO. THEY ARE HAVING A SHOW IN OAXACA, MEXICO. A LOT HAS TO DO WITH THE WALL, THE FAMOUS WALL TRUMP WANTS TO BUILD AND HAVE THEM PAY FOR IT. >>SO IT’S NOT COMPLETED? IT’S A WORK IN PROGRESS. >>IT’S A WORK IN PROGRESS.>>I WOULD SAY FOR THE WORK IN PROGRESS, OF THIS WORLD RENOWNED PAINTER, ARTIST, CAPITALIST ALSO, SOCIALIST, THE KID WHO GREW UP IN MASSACHUSETTS, UPPER WEST SIDE, YOU’VE DONE A LOT AND I’M HAPPY YOU’RE MY GUEST TODAY. THANKS FOR BEING HERE. >>IT’S BEEN GREAT TALKING WITH YOU. IT REALLY HAS. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

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