CM I sometimes forget how crazy this place is until I visit other cities and come back—and then I realize how intense New York is. It seemed a lot more gritty and scary back then. And people forget about how tragic things were in the 1980s when AIDS appeared and we all lost a lot of friends. I was working as an art therapist and case worker with AIDS day treatment programs in 1990 and met an amazing and courageous world of people in Harlem, Red Hook and the Lower, East Side. I was totally inspired by the work made by these “untrained” men and women—it made art world paintings look formal and self-conscious in comparison. I was inspired to start using glitter (glitter and gold and silver paint were the most prized materials in Harlem) and other non-art materials and opened up my practice to a wide variety of images around then. The art world crashed in the early 1990s but the Brooklyn scene was growing. There was a lot of energy in Williamsburg with little galleries, music clubs, parties… You and I both did big shows in Williamsburg around 2000, I think. I felt a great sense of community then and still do—we were all starting to make our best work—it felt like as artists we were all getting crazier and younger every day. Williamsburg was a different place then—we were building our own community of painters dancers poets musicians etc. The Brooklyn Rail grew out of that—it became a platform for so many different writers because nobody was paid but everyone had a lot of freedom to write what they wanted. They published some strange diatribes of mine on painting that no normal art magazine would take, and they did lots of interviews with all kinds of people from the community—really cool stuff.
JP In the ‘90s I was going to Paris a lot, so I was not so connected to the Brooklyn art scene. But around the end of the decade I started to feel like I became part of the Williamsburg art community, especially when I showed at Flipside, an artist-run gallery that was only open on weekends. I had a solo show with them in 1999 and loved the fantastic “just do it” energy. I was thrilled when Pierogi opened his space and I tried to support it. I have such respect for Joe Amrhein and what they are doing. My friend Alun Williams also opened a beautiful space in Williamsburg called Parker’s Box, where I had a one-person show entitled “This Must Be the Place” in 2006. And Mike Ballou ran a film club at his house that I loved. Anyone could come and show their films, some were great, some were not, but I felt a bond when I was there. In 2009, after thirty years of being in the ballroom, I had to leave. I found a studio a block away from the old one: a regular space with running water and heat. For my 2012 show at Petzel, “The Return of Batman,” I brought in all my stuff from the studio, including the floor and wall. For the exhibition at Lisson I did the same, creating an installation of all my toys, my inspiration, inside one room. I wanted to show who I am: this is me—take it or leave it. That’s my world.
CM You know sometimes I think we were very lucky not to become famous when we were kids. We did have these great studios to make stuff and we had years to live and develop our worlds. By the time we showed in Williamsburg we were kicking ass—we had our shit together!