Hello Rene Ricard
Rene Ricard is a semi-secret hero of American art and culture, specifically New York-ish art and culture in the later 20th century.
Jun 1 2009, 12:00am
VICE FASHION - HELLO RENE RICARD
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIRABELLE MARDEN, INTERVIEW BY ROCCO CASTORO
Stylist: Jaclyn Hodes, Model: Rene Ricard
Click Here for photos of Rene Ricard Rene Ricard is a semi-secret hero of American art and culture, specifically New York-ish art and culture in the later 20th century. He was there at Andy Warhol’s Factory from the first days. Some people say that he basically made Julian Schnabel happen. And if that’s not enough right there, just light some black candles, write “SAMO” on your floor in goat blood, and ask the spirit of Jean-Michel Basquiat for a short list of the people who were early champions of his work. Ghostly Jean-Michel will tell you that Rene wrote the first major article about him (for Artforum, in 1981).
In his criticism, Rene was one of those guys who saw things before anybody else did and who knew how to make people understand why what they were looking at was so damn important. That’s an essential role. That’s the kind of guy we all need.
Rene is primarily known for his poetry and his art writing, which is great, sure, but he also makes art. In fact, he has a show of new stuff opening up at the Half Gallery in Manhattan this summer. We’ll be there along with anybody else with good taste within a 50-mile radius.
Many journalists who’ve tried to interview and photograph Rene have called him things like “reclusive” and “mercurial,” but he was extremely gracious when we called him to chat for a bit so that we’d have some words to go along with these photos that his friend Mirabelle Marden took of him.
Vice: What can we expect to see in your new show?
Rene Ricard: There are some new paintings and drawings and I did some collages, which are pseudo-prints. I printed them off the computer and wrote on them and they look nice, very turn-of-the-century, 1890s or early 1900s kitsch.
Over the years you’ve transitioned from text to a more visual type of poetry and communication. How did that happen?
I began adding images because I’ve always liked to draw and paint. And it was hard to find junk-store paintings of the right quality, things that could support some writing, so I just started making the images myself. Unfortunately, people really like that, even though I far prefer just the writing. I’m vain about my handwriting. An artist once called it my “font.” [laughs]
How do you feel about state of poetry today, especially in New York?
I loathe poetry. I just gave a poetry reading, and other poets were standing up and reciting their rhymes from memory. I guess that’s cute, you know, with the backbeat, but I loathe it. I don’t like what I read in the New Yorker. I really like my own poetry a lot and I think that’s why I write it. Of all the arts, it’s the one I know the least about, and it’s interesting that it’s the one I practice and earn my living on. Anyway, yes, I like my own work. It speaks to me. [laughs]
That seems reasonable. It’s better than acting like you’re ashamed of your work, which so many poets do.
It sounds terrible because I have colleagues like Bob Holman, who I’m sure will hate hearing this even though I adore Bob and I like his work. But when it comes down to it, I like my own work the most. I don’t think that I would proliferate it the way I do unless I really liked it.
What about your acting days? Are you up for doing some of that again?
Oh, I was just in a movie that was at that Robert Redford thing. What’s it called?
Yes. So many of my friends are terribly young and do things like make movies. And if they ask you to do it, what are you going to say? No? You’re not going to say no. You know what I mean. If somebody needs an old man in a movie, I’ll do it.
What’s the name of the movie?
You Won’t Miss Me. My friend Ry Russo-Young made it and Stella Schnabel is in it and that’s why I did it. I play her uncle. She won an award for it—the Geraldine Page Award for Method acting. You know, Geraldine Page was my absolute favorite actor and I know all her kids. Seeing Sweet Bird of Youth at too early an age turned me queer. Geraldine Page turned me queer. She was so glamorous. I didn’t want to grow up to be a movie star—I wanted to grow up to be a faded old movie star.
Are you still living at the Chelsea Hotel?
Sure, but I’m not telling you my apartment number.
Why are you still there? The energy can’t possibly be the same as it was in the 60s, or the 70s, or the 80s.
They let me pay late.
That’s the most important quality to look for in a landlord.
With real landlords you get evicted when you’re a couple of days overdue. I had an apartment out of the rental office of 6 World Trade Center and I had to go down and pay every month because they started evicting me after just a few days. But they were paid back for fucking with me—they don’t exist anymore. That address is no longer on the map of Manhattan. They should not have fucked with me. The Chelsea is a little wiser, so they let me go for a long time.
Have you ever considered leaving New York for an extended period of time?
Are you mad?
I thought you would say something to that effect.
Still, I love Lisbon. I love Morocco, but I’m not so crazy about Paris. I had a big show in London last year. They treated me really well. I got everything except belted by an earl.
I know you don’t normally sit for photos like these. How did this shoot happen?
I have absolutely no idea. Mirabelle just stunned me with a phone call and of course I took it all in stride. I was really flattered, massively flattered, and the shoot was so much fun because the stylist had all these crazy clothes for me to try on. She sent me the final edit but I did not look at it because I want to be surprised. I’m such a sissy. If I hadn’t known Mirabelle since she was born, it would not have happened.
Do yourself a huge favor and check out Rene’s new exhibition, “The Torturer’s Apprentice,” at Half Gallery. We promise you’ll like it.