Portraits & Passages

Chapter 6

 Paintings prior to installation, Skybo Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, 1966

ORATORY MURAL florescent light small

Oratory Mural  at Skybo Hall, Carnegie Mellon-University, 1967

I tell you, there really is no fire down here. Everybody brings his own fire with him when he comes.  - Sufism

 "A Heart of Darkness" Aladar Marburger
 Fischbach Gallery

The whole four months Barbara was my guest at the Cite des Arts Aladar was petitioning her return to New York. They were friends already from Philadelphia  and continued to be at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. There they both attached themselves to Elaine who was a visiting professor. Through Elaine, Aladar secured  Marilyn Fischbach's belief that he could take over the reigns of her gallery even though he was a youngster. Actually, Aladar was never a youngster except in years . He was born as aged as any phantom coming from hell could be. He was sharp, ambitious, and towards me he carried a grudge.

In 1967 I was still in Pittsburgh when Barbara introduced us. I was four years older than they and somewhat of a legend at Tech as I had two exhibitions their freshmen  year in the campus's most prominent place of meeting, Skybo Hall where in the fall I showed “Ship of Fool's”,  “Six Characters in Search”, “The Jewess Taken in  Adultery”, and  “Rose of Washington Square”, and in February  “The Oratory Mural”.

I remember meeting him when Barbara and I crossed his path. Even then I could see something crossing his mind that was disturbing. It had a quality of disbelief and  then outrage that I didn't know who he was already- that I didn't recognize his importance. I had my own demons and preoccupations, but I know I was in no way impolite to him as we all met going around a revolving doorway.

But something in him needed to prove something to me, needed to let me know that he was far more important than I would ever be; that some day I would be  sorry for that slight; that someday I would come begging him. For what I don't know, by the time I returned from Paris in the spring of 1971 he was running  Fischbach Gallery, which was still situated grandly in the Fischbach Building on fifty Seventh Street. He knew I would die for a show there, and he also knew that he  would never give me one till Hell froze over! However, in 1976 after “Carnegie Mellon Alumni in New York” where I showed “Luke” I felt more confident and offered to do a portrait of Aladar in grattage. He seemed delighted, saying that he  always admired my portraits. For the first time in years I was hopeful. I said that I regretted the distance between us, and that maybe the portrait would make amends.

Portrait of Jane Rubin, 1976

Portrait of Luke, 1973 (and detail)

Well, it never happened, Aladar never could make time for a sitting. It's a shame because he looked like Van Gogh, but more feral. It would have been a striking  portrait. That was the last time I went to the gallery. A year later I would desert New York for the first time. I didn't see Aladar then for half-dozen years and quite  by accident on Fifty Seventh Street. He had never looked young when he was young, but this was different- it was shocking to see him. He was wasted by some  illness, and for that split second that we recognized each other in passing a sneer distorted his face, and he was gone. Aladar always said he didn't want to live  beyond thirty. Sometime in the mid-eighties he died of aids. I can't for the life of me understand his extreme dislike of me. He took it to the grave but not before punishing me.

Portrait of Michael Weber and Detail, 1976

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