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Parallel & Simultaneous: First-Ever Interview with 1960s Artist and Extreme Recluse, CLYDE DILLON
by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer


 

 

 

 

 

Clyde Dillon may be a total unknown today, but that was not always the case. At least, not exactly. Dillon dramatically entered the downtown New York art world in 1968, disappearing soon after and nearly as suddenly, and with as little explanation, as had been his appearance.  In a certain sense, he is just one of the many, many forgotten casualties of those exciting, heady days. But much more than most, his biography and trajectory have been heavily shrouded in layers of thick impenetrable mystery and a till-now-unbroken silence.  One of the very few things known about him (pre-revelatatory interview) is his early affiliation with then hot-shot ‘Conceptual’ artist Stephen Kaltenbach, who championed Dillon’s sculptures and acted as a kind of mentor.  In this, Dillon’s first-ever interview, we find out a bit more about him, though his odd and unschooled manner leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

[Nota Bene: Mr.Dillon's misspellings have been deliberately preserved for authenticity.]

How did you start making art?

I appreceate the oppertunity to speak about my life. I am rarly questioned about the creative side of me.  Just to get off on the right foot, my name is spelled with Dillon as in the ficticious marshel of Gun Smoke TV rather than the somewhat more real Bob. I started my art career rather suddenly when I was at a bronz foundry and notised a lot of materials around and nothing to do.  They let me cast a few things but I didn't have enough money to do as much as I wanted. (I've never worked and so - no money.) These sculptors were really good because they were abstract. Nobody can tell what they are at all. I stopped because some careless person hauled them off to the dump after they got wet in the basment because of flooding. That was really stupid due to the simple fact that water does not hurt bronz.

Do you consider yourself a sculptor? a conceptual artist? both? neither?

I am neither one.  Although I might be a conceptule because I don't know who they are.

Where do you live?

I live in the Museum of Modern Art. The letters are all capitolized due to the fact it is a famus Art Museum.

Where are you from?

I am from the Museum of Modern art on Fifty Seventh Street in New York City.

Did you train as an artist? Where?

I never had the chance at education due to being born at the age of Twenty-five.

Do you have any relationships with artist peers?

Being as I live in the Museum, most of my peers are dead but that is ok because I don't talk much. I like de Chirico. He paints town scenes and I would like to live there. There are some other good ones there. I like the ones where the paint looks like it is going someplace rather than just sitting there being colorful or whatever. I like William De Kooning because his paint is still sliding around after all that time. I have a lot more friends there but I am tired of talking about them.

What year was your brief moment in the art world sun?

I was only around for a year then and I had my hands full so ask Steve [Kaltenbach] but he was supposed to show it to gallerys not move away and put me in the Best Museum.

What did your early bronzes look like and what was your project with them?

I already told you about those beautiful sculptors of mine but I could say that they looked like little tornados or big (real big) grubs. My project for them was to sell them for 10,000 dollars apiece. But that guy just hauled them away. They are on display now at the city dump but they are probly one hundred feet down stuck between some rusty steel and broken glass. Just like here at the Museum. As you can probly tell I do not like David Smith and I don't like that Marcal Dushamp. Maybe I should but I do not get it. If you know what I mean.

[Additional information provided by Steve Kaltenbach: “I heard a rumor that you were looking for info on Clyde's sculpture.  There were eight pieces as I remember, all about 1x1x2 feet.  Bronze on stone bases. All 1968. It was early work so pretty conservative. Mostly based on casting the preliminary waxes into wheel thrown forms that had a lot of texture from finger marks and stretch cracks that happen when the clay is opened beyond its elasticity.”]

How did your early bronzes get lost?

[If your story is the same as what Steve told me—about their ending up at the  Scarsdale dump—I can cut and paste his telling of it to save you the trouble]

I don't want any help from that jerk, Steve. He has been really stingy with me and basically left me stuck here with not much to do.

Do you prefer to imagine that the lost bronzes are still buried under garbage at the dump or that they have perhaps been scavenged and found by some dumpster diver?

I don't like to think about those master peaces.

Could you describe the work you did after the bronzes, if any?

I never did any more sculptor art. You can't make any money if they just throw it away. The work I did after the bronzs is literary. I write poetry and short storys. I am good at literatur too. I have a lady who writes essays here who will copy edit my writing for free. So even tho I did not go to school it is OK.

What/who are your influences? Your heroes?

I like Magrite because he stayed home all the time too. I don't like that much of his painting though. He always gets something wrong like an apple that is too big or a rock that doesn't fall down. But he's not my hero. The lady who edits for me is my hero and really cute. William shoulda painted her.

Do you feel you are an outsider artist? Have you purposefully removed yourself from the contemporary art world? Perhaps as a gesture of refusal, defiance, exhaustion, disgust, and/or boredom?

I live in Modern Art and that's contemperary enough for me.

Do you prefer to work in obscurity? Or would you like recognition and attention?

Writers gotta have privacy and I have never seen myself so I do not know how anybody else can recognize me. And I get attenti/on usually when I am trying to boost some food from the resturant which is good, I recommend it.

Thanks for your intrest in me. A lot of other things happened to me so if you get time you can ask about those.

What other things are you referring to?

I do not like to answer general questions.

Did you and Steve have a falling out? You don't have to answer that if it's too painful or complicated.

He was suposed to help me learn art and I guess living in The Best Museum has helped but I wanted, I mean, I hoped. I do not know. He said I was a groovey artist. Which people never say anymore because it does not mean anything so i guess this is what he meant. The one thing Steve did that was good was he let me teach his class.  He let me use a suit he bought. And I got to smoke a cigar - IN CLASS! I'm telling you this because he took a picture of me teaching, and I think I look real good, better than him anyway, but I did like having people see me.

I bet he never even thinks about me. Which is why i write stories. I mainly worry about art and my stories are about saving art. Here in the Museum they call it preservation. I think all museums do this. Anyway I thought i offered you to read my stories. Maybe i dreamed that i did because I dream a LOT. I know I am not famous but you could be one of the first people to read one. Exept my copy editor who is beautiful. She is a breathing person, not like Marcel who says he emenates from his art. He says he lives in the meaning of his work. I don't get it. One of his is Mutt. Who is his dog but he says he is our dog to because we all use it. I understand why dogs are so populer. But here in the Best Museum they all have to stay in the mens room exept Our Mutt who stays down here.

-Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

The only available image of Clyde Dillon.



Posted by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer on 9/7/10

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