Keith Mayerson is exhibiting a breathtaking retrospective of his work for the next seven weeks at the Marlborough Gallery in New York. If you can possibly go, go.
You can see pieces of his at MoMA, the Whitney, LA MoCA, the Corcoran, SF MoMA, and other places. But it's very rare indeed to see it collected like this (most of this work is already purchased and scattered across the world). There is a cumulative power and vision that will, I think, make a lasting impression.
Keith came into this world sideways and there is no one remotely like him. He is tender, uninhibited, joyful, humble, curious, and aesthetically fearless. He sees the world through his own emotional prism, but he also filters everything he does through a deep well of knowledge and ideas. It doesn't take long to become enamored with his unique mind, but it can take a very long time to fully appreciate his breadth. It's taken me thirty years.
We met on the third day of college, in 1984. He and his fantastic roommate Spencer Green had already transformed their room into a living art organism, with drawings, doodles, clippings, posters, cuttings, and quotes covering every square inch of wall and furniture. Odd, dizzying, inspiring.
A year later, in the fall of 1985 (thirty years ago, this month) Jonathan Karp, Editor-in-Chief of the Brown Daily Herald and my first real mentor in journalism, invited me to revive the Herald's weekend magazine. I thought the idea was nuts, but I also immediately knew that I wanted to do it if I could get Keith to do it with me.
Ours was a true partnership, two semesters long, one issue per week. Loosely, I was in charge of editorial and he was in charge of art, but we crossed over (I interfered; he suggested) constantly. We yelled at each other some, but there was also some real magic there. Sometimes we negotiated because we had to, other times because we genuinely wanted the other person to take a weird, raw idea and shape it a bit.
Imagine if you got to spend your entire Age 19 in collaboration with Andy Warhol or Robert Plant or Robert Mapplethorpe. I'll tell you what it feels like: You have no notion of becoming more like that person, but you feed off the energy of that person as you become more and more yourself.
In 1988, a few months before graduating, I got paid $400 for an article published in the Brown Alumni Monthly. My first writing paycheck. Can you guess what I did with it? That same week, I went to Keith's senior art show. He had a huge, unstretched canvas filled with an odd, sad, colorful bald man. I bought it for exactly $400. I'm very proud to say I became Keith's first collector.
Years later, I became an odd, sad, colorful bald man myself. As for the others:
Spencer Green went on to write for In Living Color, Mad TV, and other funny shows.
Jon Karp went on to become one of the most influential editors in publishing. He is currently President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster Publishing Group.
Keith Mayerson painted lots of wonderful paintings, and isn't finished.
Go to Keith's show at the Marlborough.