apexart :: Collier Schorr :: The Sound of One Hand

The Sound of One Hand
curated by Collier Schorr

Selections from the private collection of Collier Schorr. The curator/collector investigates the ways in which a collection defines and represents its maker.

March 19 - April 18, 1998

291 Church St. New York, NY 10013

Artists: Harry Callahan, Gregory Crewdson, Sue de Beer, Patrick Demarchelier, Mark Dion, John Dogg, Nicole Eisenman, Mitch Epstein, Tim Gardner, Felix-Gonzalez Torres, Gary Hume, Karen Kilimnik, Silvia Kolbowski, Fran Lebowitz, Mark Morrisroe, Daniel Oates, Jack Pierson, Richard Prince, Thomas Struth, Wolfgang Tillmans, Eric Weeks and Gary Winograd

Schorr brochure

download pdf of exhibition brochure

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March 25, 1974
It was 1:30 a.m., half-hour to closing time in Billy Goat's Tavern, which is in a basement on Hubbard Street near the Chicago River. A dozen or so people sat at the bar. Most of them had finished work at midnight, so it was their cocktail hour. But people who finish work at midnight aren’t full of smart cocktail talk. They don't even drink cocktails, at least not in Billy Goat’s, where the "in" drink is still a shot and a beer.

In 1974, when journalist Mike Royko was hanging out at Billy Goat's Tavern, I was asleep in my
brother’s cobalt-blue Fiberglass racing-car bed. Our paths crossed again early this year, when I found his book Sez Who? Sez me in a carton on an Upper West Side curb. Rummaging around in the box I found more than a few books that I already owned. Christopher Isherwood, Paul Theroux, John McPhee, Gore Vidal, David Halberstam. There were a couple of baseball books that were as familiar as my own hand and the exact same paperback copy of Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain. I took the Royko, which seemed sufficiently hard-boiled to be of interest and a biography of the Newscaster Jessica Savitch; which I don't recommend because once you read about how TV news works you can't not see the lips moving as the newscasters read. What struck me about this box of books, all suddenly quite disposable, was that it described me as well as it did this stranger, probably a man, probably someone who got review copies. What did it say about me that I had the same taste in books as this mysterious guy who also read about insider trading and micro-managing?

How much of what you own is coincidentally related to you? I thought about that as I gathered the works for this exhibition and wondered how the owner of such works would be measured. And would that measurement approximate me. I have wanted to collect a lot of things in my life, but art has never really been one of them. I have a baseball card collection I keep in two shoe boxes. My best cards are kept in plastic sheets in a binder that also houses some of my early negatives. I have a sports equipment collection; two field hockey sticks, two pairs of golf shoes, a pair of metal spiked cleats, 5 baseball mitts, an old and a new squash racket, a baseball signed by Catfish Hunter. I collected first editions for a time. I have 21 books by Honoré de Balzac. And Levi's. And army uniforms and paraphernalia. Once, when I was in college I hung a pair of rowing oars above my bed. Unfortunately they were from a row boat. Collections I started and then lost interest in were varied—Limonge china, Sporting illustrations, LaCoste tennis shirts, Motorcycle pants, post cards, pens. Once I had the almost complete works of Louis Auchincloss.

I am waiting for my grandmother to give me her blown-glass paperweight collection, which I always wanted, but wanted more after I read that Truman Capote and Collette had one. I don't think any of my collections are exemplar examples. And they aren't even that quirky. More than anything, I think they represent a need to have more than one thing of a particular thing. I learned this from my father, who along with cars, rifles, tin toys and slot machines collected scales, of which he probably amassed 25. The word hoarding comes to mind and because I think of hoarding as collecting and because I am an artist, I don’t like to think of what I make as something to be accumulated. Therefore, I never really thought about collecting art. This said, I seem to have accumulated quite a bit of art. Not a huge amount, not enough to build a foundation around, but certainly enough to contradict the above statement. With the exception of one piece, which came framed, none of this work has ever hung on my walls. In fact, I now wander around my house worriedly, wondering where and if I can hang it when I get it home. Do you hang a portrait of a stranger in your bedroom? What do people who have my work do with it? Do they look at it everyday and wonder who that kid with a sock in her jockey's is? A landscape is fine, but I only have two and they're both so big. Is it easier when you have a big house? Do people like to buy pictures of ugly people? I seem only to have collected pictures of attractive people. Does that make me vain or base? I have almost exclusively pictures of men, mostly by men. Does that make me a bad feminist? I think my 80's education made the representation of female so mired in the problematic that I have avoided her ever since. Is the predominance of photographs of young men a reminder of my own work—therefore admitting that I collect narcissistically? I traded with one artist who went out of his way to pick something that didn’t reference his own work. I didn't have this inner strength. I have only paid for one piece in my collection and have traded for only a few. This satisfies my "it's a good deal, it's a good deal for me" philosophy, but also explains how I got so much art when I didn't really go out of my way to get it.

When you collect art, you have to make choices. So then, you have to really look at it, you have to choose between what you like the best (for silly reasons) and what you like the best (for smart reasons). Then you have to decide what is the best piece in terms of representation of the artist's work, which piece would have the most re-sale value, which piece would age the best. Which piece would retain its meaning over time. Which piece would look the best in your house. By the time you consider all these things, you start thinking either you don’t want anything, or, in fact, you only want it if you can have three, because if you had three then you wouldn’t have to choose the best. This can be exhausting. The anxiety attached to choosing a piece of art can be so high, that the amateur is likely to give up. However, after the choosing and the framing and all that is out of the way, sometimes you are just left with this great picture that looks really good above your desk and reminds you of all this stuff that you rarely talk about, fragments of memories that entertain you while you dwell on everything else but the task at hand.

Collier Schorr ©1998