Category Archives: Exhibitions

ART Basil King Basil King MIRAGE film Critique Exhibitions Green Man Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) museums News Poetry Prose Readings Writing

The YEAR 2015

Just got (unrequested) a look back at 2015 from Facebook, hitting not much of much interest. Thus am prodded to do my own.

February – Baz reads at the Dia Foundation with the wonderfully multi-talented multi-named Pam Dick (Mina, Gregoire, et al) in celebration of the 2014 publication of his The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand. Marsh Hawk Press.  Available at SPD and elsewhere. (Probably even ABE’s for the pennysavers.)

 Basil King’s … mashups of art, culture, and lived experience, both minute and momentous challenge the reader out of conventional notions of art history, by a continuous attention to detail. . . .” — Kevin Killian

April – At the AWP meeting in Minneapolis. Martha speaks in a panel discussion, organized by Martha, about the influence of Black Mountain today, with C.S. Giscombe, Burt Kimmelman, Lee Ann Brown, and Vincent Katz. Later a terrific reading by Baz and C.S. Giscome and a larger group reading also including Sam Truit, Kim Lyons, Burt Kimmelman, and more, at James and Mary Laurie Booksellers

AprilIn conjunction with AWP, “Basil King: MIRAGE” a film by Nicole Peyrafitte and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte is screened at the Walker Art Center.

May – Baz is 80 years old.

June – New York premier of selections from George Quasha’s monumental Poetry Is project at Anthology Film Archives includes Quasha’s interview with Baz.

June– Martha returns to poetry with work in Bone Bouquet, 6.1. Still available:   So too is Bone Bouquet 6.2 just out this fall. One way to reassure oneself that the era of adventurous magazine publishing is far from over is to check out this magazine.

November – Martha’s memoir Outside Inside – that is 50 pages of it, expertly excerpted and condensed by Brigid Hughes, is featured in issue 22 of A Public Space magazine.With photos of the long ago that seem fresh.  Issue 22 –print or digital—can be ordered here:

December  short podcasts of Baz reading the following poems – and one personal recollection of TV in the early 1950s. Go here!

Basil’s Lifeboat   (1 minute 23 seconds)

Inside Delacroix’s Garden (2 minutes 14 seconds)

The Butterfly and the Rat (2 minutes 32 seconds)

Looking for the Green Man (3 minutes 53 seconds)

Highway Obstacle (4 minutes 11 seconds)

Channeling 3 – (4 minutes 18 seconds)

The Americans – The Immigrants   (6 minutes, 48 seconds)

Grey – complete (14 minutes 27 seconds)

Working in TV – from an interview (2 minutes 46 seconds)

AND MUCH TO COME IN 2016, including BASIL KING ART at the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, Asheville, N.C., opening SEPTEMBER 2.

Bone Bouquet, Spring 2015
Bone Bouquet, Spring 2015
Martha King reading . Photo by Sarah Kaplan.
Martha King reading in Minneapolis . Photo by Sarah Kaplan.
Baz reading at the Dia Foundation9
Baz reading at the Dia Foundation. Photo by Garth Davidson.
At the Walker Museum, April 2015
At the Walker Museum, April 2015
ART Basil King Critique Exhibitions Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) News Poetry Prose Prose Pros series Readings Writing

NEWS: Events, Publications, and a Show — November 2014

November 6 at 6:30.   Basil will read from his new book, The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand (Marsh Hawk Press, 20l4*) and his old friend Hettie Jones will read some of her not-yet published short fictions.  They are both being presented by Prose Pros at Side Walk Café, Avenue A @ 6th Street. (Free, donations requested.)

Front cover of King's The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand
Front cover of King’s The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand


November 16 at 3:00Martha King and Basil King will read from new work published in Local Knowledge, Fall 2014, a biannual literary magazine featuring art, photographs, poetry, and prose of many kinds and variations. Basil is represented by “Basil’s Lifeboat” from his “Learning to Draw” series. Martha appears twice: in a note on dead cats and in “It Starts to Drizzle,” a history of her zine Giants Play Well in the Drizzle. Gala magazine launch & reading at Swift Hibernian, 34 East 4th Street, between Bowery and Lafayette.(Free, purchase of magazine requested.)

Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge, fall 2014
Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge, fall 2014


November 20, 21, 22, and 23.  Three evening performances at 7:30 and one final matinee at 3:00.   Basil will be the Narrator in “Black Mountain Songs” – a program of music by seven young composers, inspired by artists associated with Black Mountain College.  The Brooklyn Youth Chorus sings. Part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual NEXT WAVE festival. Tickets sell out quickly. If you want to attend, please connect with BAM.

A painting by Basil King (from his “Looking for the Green Man” series) will be in the BAM lobby exhibition until January 2015.

*There will be a reading and book launch for Marsh Hawk Press’s full fall list in December.




ART Basil King Exhibitions Martha King News

Fall Now–and Summer Was


Sag Harbor
Sag Harbor

Three trips this summer:

1) To Sag Harbor, where the factory in which  a large cohort of young working women licked the brushes they used to paint glow-in-the-dark watch faces. They later died horribly of radium poisoning, their teeth more devastated than a meth addict’s.  The building  is now being “repurposed” for high end condo buyers: spa bathrooms, “light drenched”  living rooms, chefs’ kitchens and hefty monthly charges. But we didn’t stay there.  We visited one of our oldest friends still on earth — and lazed in his backyard, and talked all night.   Also had a long liquid lunch at a restaurant on a spit overlooking bay waters, somewhere off Bridgehampton, with an umbrella to tame the dazzle. Thank you LYNN.


The Peace Stupa
The Peace Stupa

IMG_69682)  To Wynncot in Northfield, Mass, where the faint scent of  “The Great Awakening,” of Christian work camps and fresh air idealism still drifts like the smell of hemlock needles. It’s amplified today with Eastern hopes: The Peace Stupa, e.g.  But better,  it harbors birds, trees, and friends in a wonderful huge house: once an Arts & Crafts summer “cottage” and later in turn a school, a youth hostel, a nursing home, a bed and breakfast.  The house sits on a hilltop that was once an island in Lake Hitchcock 15,000 years ago; the retreating ice sheet and a huge dump of glacial trash at the bottom blocked what would become the Connecticut River. The lake was 200 miles long before it burst through and roared out into Long Island Sound.  The biggest noise at Wynncot this summer was a dinner party, where we feasted on lobster and corn.  Thank you ED, and LISA too.

Door in the dining room, Florence Griswald home.
Door in the dining room, Florence Griswold home.


3) And finally we missed the Climate Change march because we were having a delightful weekend with Mark and Rachel in New Haven…with visits to Yale Art Gallery,the Center for British Art and that haven for polite early 20th century landscape painters, the boarding house of Florence Griswold in Old Lyme. Sure made us know how badly we all needed (still need?) the modern. But we did see a great folk art exhibit on loan.    THANKS Mark, Rachel, and Lissa!








Fall today and crisp cool & sunny.  If you are acculturated to school  –and who isn’t– fall always begins a new year, a new start, something new to read, to smell, to wear or at least something unworn since way last May. New Year, even if one isn’t Jewish!

ART Basil King Critique Exhibitions Green Man Martha King Prose Writing

Old files! Fielding Dawson on Basil King

Cleaning closet and old files, and here emerges a pamphlet with text on Basil’s art by Fielding Dawson, written twenty-five years ago. The pamphlet accompanied  “Paintings from the Cards,” an exhibition of Basil King’s work at Steve Clay’s first New York City shop, Granary Books, 636 Broadway—September 21-October 20, 1989.

There were eleven paintings in the show, all oil on canvas, all done between 1985 and 89, and none captured by digital photographs. There are slides. And the paintings themselves are in storage at Crozier Newark.

Twenty-five years ago, Fielding (and Basil) attributed his angle of vision to a birth accident – as once again we’re doing in re Baz’s spinal-fluid gap (aka salt water ocean) in his right brain – and the amazing overgrowth of  his left brain.

Good to know that today’s neuroscientists have debunked the old left brain/right brain dichotomy. (Left being intuitive, inventive, open to the subconscious and Right being bookkeeper, analyst, grammarian, mathematician.) Instead it’s rosy grey all over with many ways and means to cross talk.

None of that is as interesting as the insight Fielding had on Baz’s paintings which holds up years after Fee left us.  AND in language with punctuation that uncannily captures Fee’s unique vocal presence. It’s as if Fee himself emerged out of that old filing cabinet.  Scroll down for Fee’s essay!

Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his  "Looking for the Green Man"  paintings, 2012.
Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his “Looking for the Green Man” paintings, 2012.


Looking for the Green Man,  80"x 54: mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010
Another “Looking for the Green Man,” 80″x 54″ mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010


New work  18" x 24" mixed media on Stonehenge paper, Basil King,  2013
From the “Windows” series – 18″ x 24″ mixed media on Stonehenge paper, c Basil King, 2013


On Basil King’s Paintings   –   Fielding Dawson

Early work, in an artist’s life, is predictive.

Later, mature work, is reflective, in particular if it’s original.

It is in retrospect we see first clues to the genius of Pollock in that first, small self portrait…more of the same, but as none other, of Mozart, in his first symphony, written at eight, which we hear throughout the piano concertos and in the final work of work, the unfinished Requiem.

And once in a while we’re lucky to have a mature and original artist whose most recent work reflects not only the entire body of his work, but himself as well.  I’ve known Basil since we met at Black Mountain, 1951 or so, so these words are from experience, as well as ideas.

His work is meant to be seen before it is judged, just like Van Gogh’s. Or Soutine. Look at it, see what you see. This work speaks its own story because it’s involved with style.  The way paint is applied is the style of his visions (not true of dozens of painters, from Hals to Rothko: where paint is the medium toward impact).  Basil’s figures are painted on, they do not emerge through. He’s an illustrator after appearances, illustrating what he wants but we might not want, to see.  This work reflects his point of view his way:  he’s the artist, not the apologist.

The responsibility of seeing art is also in the viewer, and here—perhaps as always—to forget Rembrandt and look at Rembrandt’s work, see what you see, if we forget about who painted these paintings, and concentrate on the work, a good understanding is possible.

These odd diffuse presences, on their flat netherworld surfaces: classical shades near the River Styx, silent in their infinite, in part Surreal elongations and distortions—bodies unlike familiar bodies, heads unlike familiar heads, faces and expressions unlike oh ANYTHING as we know it!   For in our Western world it all becomes subjective, while pretty still lifes and landscape posters from the Met and the Louvre, like advertising not an inherent part of our lives, but like Impressionism in clever hands, are preferred, attractive and recognizable, these even beautiful images we imagine are part, perhaps denied, but part of our lives, in an inner, romantic way.  Beauty as inner experience, preferred and enjoyable we wish—WISH! DREAM it to be imbued in us which thereby we pray it becomes REAL, and we do pray.  A subjective prayer toward what the media and the cultured art world have assumed is proper, and nice.

We don’t know how brainwashed we are until we see original work like this, that reaches in, grabs hold, and gives our senses a good rattle.

No matter what we do with it, art was, is and will never be any one way.  It is the one experience of humankind where all the rules can be broken and it will survive, healthy and of its own, intact. And, like nature, it reflects the artist by casting in its reflective way light on aspects of a potential sphere of action many are not aware of, or are aren’t sure…if all things are taken into consideration—brushstroke, size of canvas—all things (his awareness of the edge of the canvas), open all the doors (all his colors appear mixed no use of the primaries), and the artist—with an interested onlooker only an elbow away—will see the inevitable image or composition that is beyond his control but is yet a great part of his life, which so few artists admit:  this other face, or image—identity, that so few painters confront but is such a part of the dynamo…in his concoction where behind his eyes a blend results in a visual transfer of identity to emerge complete with a point of view not unlike, if we put aside Stevenson’s theatrical lab work, born all over again:  Mister Hyde the artist.

Who might regard these paintings as the result of a collective Eyes Closed effort, a stylized pictorial range of human shapes and configurations ignored, if not avoided, but which are with us still and in great numbers there, in Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, so near Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in the blood of Agent Orange children painted through, not from, right through Ethan Allen interiors: through the false color of color television: on opaque backgrounds, foreground image-figures, cartoons, alive by a will greater than their own.

The artist possessor of that will discovered of recent (how old is Basil, fifty-four?), and in conversation in his studio this summer, said that after lifelong upper back problems—causing a slight difference in posture—he saw yet one more in an endless chain of doctors who, with his hands on Basil’s back, asked, had Basil been born in Caesarian birth?  Yes.  Well, this medical gentleman said, he had been lifted out at the wrong angle, causing the spine…on the first day in the world, of the man who painted these paintings.

Fielding Dawson,well-known for his superb short stories, novels and memoirs, is an artist as well, whose collages and drawings have been widely published.




ART Critique Exhibitions Martha King

Jasper Johns at MOMA


Jasper Johns. Untitled. 2013. Ink on plastic. 27 1/2 × 36" (69.9 × 91.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift from a private collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson
Jasper Johns. Untitled. 2013. Ink on plastic. 27 1/2 × 36″ (69.9 × 91.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift from a private collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson

First, take your time.

A large painting hangs dead center in the first room of this exhibit.  Dimensions aren’t given on the wall sign, but the press kit lists 67” x 96”.  This painting is central and all the other works dance in variating attendance on it, playing off and playing with it. It’s a stopper. Not just the deaths head in the upper middle, but as you look, the two women, the haunted magician, the grimacing masks, the wings, the eggs, the northern shivering lake — and these are what I saw in just a few minutes in just one visit, and just in the central middle top of the great “Regrets” 2013.

Take your time.  Johns paints what we don’t see – exactly what Barry Schwabsky once said to Basil King about Basil’s work.

When we arrived a serious young man was seated on the bench facing this painting, writing rapidly in a small notebook.

Johns has the authority to demand his viewers take the time.  The one-hit wowser, illuminating or titillating, is somewhere else at MOMA.  In here, grays in quietly manic variety, via quietly grey inks, water colors, pencils, chalks, charcoals, here color gets a quick laugh, but there is always more.  Blotches, scratches, hatching.  Delicate precision lines and wide swatches of splash. Paper. Plastic. Canvas.

Neckties • villages • aerial views of suburb landscapes • windows • rooftops • Swift changes of proportion • huge chairs and a bed • tiny dark boxes • glinting mirrors.

One needs time to unpack it like a really great poem. And Johns packs it in, going over and over ways to never repeat.

In some versions the visitors’ faces are shielded; they sit opposite the man who sits with hands in front of his face. Sometimes these doubles disappear completely into the material, both always and never abstract.  Sometimes there is only the man on the bed.  Lucien Freud. Is he mocked by Francis Bacon? Is he competing with Jasper Johns? Is Jasper Johns outdoing him? Is this an art-world palindrome: paintings and etchings springing from the crumpled remains of a print of a 1964 photograph taken by British photographer John Deakin, and retrieved from Bacon’s studio floor, then enshrined in its torn up form in a photograph that appeared in Christie’s auction catalog?  This mangled print is on display here, meaning, I’m guessing, that Johns bought it from the auction, after all its travels.  Breaking, crumpling, dividing, varying.

How many ways can an artist mine a single image?   The answer is not here; the work goes on, Johns’ work and ours. We will need to come back again and look again. Call and response – a change and a change again.  How many times can someone sign with an unchanging rubber stamp? Is it mocking or reaffirming? Or is it simply the joy of the stamp’s calligraphy?

Someone once defined art as something that has to be looked at again and again, because it can deliver something else, something more, over time.  This is very opposite of propaganda or illustration, standing as they do exactly in the moment.

When we left, the serious young man was sitting opposite the ultimate painting, still writing rapidly in his small notebook.

JASPER JOHNS, Regrets.  2013. Watercolor, charcoal, and pastel on paper, 31 ½” x 46 7/8”  (80 x 119 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Promised gift of Marie-Josee and Hanry R. Kravis. ©Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.
JASPER JOHNS, Regrets. 2013. Watercolor, charcoal, and pastel on paper, 31 ½” x 46 7/8” (80 x 119 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift of Marie-Josee and Hanry R. Kravis. ©Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

The exhibition is up until September 1.  There is time to visit again. As noted on the captions some of these works have been promised as gifts to the museum. So they are promised to be around again.



ART Basil King Exhibitions Garden Martha King

The Pigeons of Winter 2013

Baz has been moving across and back from abstract to figures again. There will be pigeon paintings on canvas this winter. For a look at numbers 1 to 8, copy this link into your browser:

These eight are all mixed media on paper, 26” x 40,”  November and December 2013.  (The media are ink, charcoal, library chalk, and oils.)   We put number seven on a New Year greeting emailed to many friends.

Number 1
Number 1


Number 8
Number 8

Pigeons have been appearing in Basil King works ever since Mulch Magazine in 1970, when he photographed the flock living in the triangle behind old Cooper Union as well as single birds sitting on benches in Central Park. From the seventies on, pigeons do turn up.  This November 2013, he and I visited the Delacroix museum in Paris, which is simply Delacroix’s home and studio, nicely preserved.  A domestic and workspace setup of consummate elegance, simplicity, and grace.  And in his garden, yes, a pigeon.What show his 40 years of bird work would make!

The studio in Delacroix's back yard, Paris, 2013
The studio in Delacroix’s back yard, Paris, 2013
And one of the birds.
And one of the birds.












ART Critique Exhibitions Martha King

Japanese Sex Art

© The British Museum, reproduced with permission
© The British Museum, reproduced with permission

 “Shhh  Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese Art”  is on view at the British Museum, London, until Jauary 5, 2014.

Shunga actually means “spring pictures.”  Many pictures from the floating world, another lovely meaning  we all recognize…floating.

According to the catalog, shunga was never censored formally but was suppressed from 1870 on as Japan sought to “modernize” which was apparently taken to mean conform to western morality. Only in the last twenty years has it been okay once again to exhibit and publish.

© The British Museum, reproduced with permission
© The British Museum, reproduced with permission

Western porno looks so limited in comparison! Not to mention so often aesthetically unpleasant.

These works range freely from political criticism, to  literature, theatre, to red-light district enhancements, to a need for newly married men and women to realize what can be explored.  There’s  humor. Parody. Jokes (as in the art at the top…where there is no cock except on the bedspread).  A good deal of political comment, for which context is provided. Sensuality supreme.  And titillation of course, who could look at some of these images without a tingle?  But never isolated titillation. These are loving images, meant to stir joy. Created in a culture without morally enforced divisions between “art” and “pornography.” A wonderfully releasing wow. This was clear to all the museum visitors. I saw no embarrassed or flustered faces and the show was crowded with a grand mix of generations, races, genders. We were enjoying ourselves, which meant spending time at very close range, for these are small scale works with many finely rendered details.

At that small scale, we were presented with ebullient exaggeration—we’re looking at men with dongs the size of fireplugs, women with cunts as big as dinner plates–not to mention lascivious octopuses, mischievous enablers, beautifully rendered bedding and bed clothing. I, for one, have never seen female genitalia represented with such enthusiastic sensitivity.

I usually quail at exhibitions with lengthy captions mounted alongside …they can seem nearly as brutal as those pre-recorded lectures that cue viewers to click for an art history lesson at pre-selected sites. But because the information was so germane to the context, because the context was both alluring and unfamiliar, it was seamless to read the texts while looking at the art.

By the way, the British Museum acquired its first shunga prints in 1865. Today the George Witt Collection is considered one of the best anywhere outside Japan. I expect one could ask to see some examples after this show is no longer on

© The British Museum, reproduced with permission
© The British Museum, reproduced with permission



ART Basil King Exhibitions Martha King Movies Poetry Prose Readings

UPDATE on Basil’s Arc

Please note a few key program changes: the film begins promptly at 5:15.

The reading of King’s writings at 3:20 will feature Joe Elliot, Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Martha King, Mitch Highfill and Michael Mann.

The basic plan is unchanged: “Basil’s Arc – The Paintings and Poetics of Basil King” at Anthology Film Archives on September 22, 2012, starts at noon and ends at 6pm.

The focus is the visual art of Basil King and includes conversations (illustrated with slides), original music inspired by King’s images and texts, and culminates with the debut screening of Basil King: Mirage, a film created by Nicole Peyrafitte and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, commissioned by the Friends of Basil King.


12:00 noon   – Doors open.  Coffee.  Book table for examination or sale.

12:20  KIMBERLY LYONS:  Welcome remarks.

BURT KIMMELMAN: On the Friends of Basil King and why the Friends made this event.

12:40  DANIEL STANIFORTH:  “The Green Man,”  a music video.  Staniforth’s original music and images from King’s The Green Man paintings.

1:00   “Origins and Sources”

ANDREW LEVY, MC, with EDNA AUGUSTA, HARRY LEWIS, and TOM PATTERSON: Tom Patterson on why Basil is not an “outsider” artist but a “hidden insider artist.”  Harry Lewis on two paintings done when King was in high school and how they relate to King’s mature art. Edna Augusta, archivist, on her experience of discovering King’s art.  Open for audience questions and comments.

2:15    “The Poetics of Basil King’s Art”

VINCENT KATZ, MC, with TOM FINK, PAOLO JAVIER, and BARRY SCHWABSKY:  A wide ranging, conversational dialogue that tackles themes including hybridity, embodiment of image, poetic and visual line and color, spatiality and surface, and engagement with precursors in King’s work.  Open for audience questions and comments.

3:20     “Selected texts by Basil King”

MITCH HIGHFILL, curator, with invited readers, and a performance of  “I have a little song” with original music by NICOLE PEYRAFITTE and text from King’s Mirage.

4:00  “Place and Placelessness in Basil King’s Art”

KIMBERLY LYONS, MC, with WILLIAM BENTON, LAURIE DUGGAN, and GEORGE QUASHA: Taking off from King’s points of arrival, arriving at unknown ground, and figuring the where his paintings bring us to. With reference to the American and the European, geographic and minute, local/personal and art historical. Open for audience questions and comments.

5:10  NICOLE PEYRAFITTE and MILES JORIS-PEYRAFITTE, filmmakers: Brief remarks about the making of the film, shot in Basil King’s studio January, 2012.

Premiere of the 22-minute film, Basil King: MIRAGE

5:45  KIMBERLY LYONS:  Brief concluding remarks. All are invited to the B Bar and Grill, East 4th Street at Bowery, after the program. Cash bar.

Basil and Martha King in the studio