I’ll be there tomorrow.
Coinciding with a retrospective of Kevin MacDonald, the Alper Initiative for Washington Art presents the second exhibition in it’s space: Twisted Teenage Plot.
The Alper Initiative exhibition will showcase visual artists who played in bands in Washington in the late 70s and early 80s, including Robin Rose, Joe White, Dick Bangham, Clark Fox (aka Michael Clark), Michael Barron, Judith Watkins Tartt, JW Mahoney, Steve Ludlum, Root Boy Slim, Michael McCall, and Michael Reidy.
In addition to the artist’s visual work, the exhibition will include sound recordings, posters, videos, and memorabilia from the bands these artists were a part of: Urban Verbs, Root Boy Slim, Tiny Desk Unit, The Examiners, Twisted Teenage Plot, (the) Razz, and The Slickee Boys.
An exhibition catalog for Twisted Teenage Plot will be available through the museum book store.
Portrait of Pamela Webster, Oil on canvas, 1979-1982.
Here’s how I recall the times…
I dressed up in a Twisted Teenage Plot T-shirt and I poured all the drinks at a WPA opening and they made more money that night because Joseph Hirshhorn came in and I got everybody really sloshed. I just kept pouring. You know Joe was a champagne guy, and everybody just came back to the bar, and Carol Sockwell almost got punched out by this judge, because he got so drunk, he was coming on to this judge’s wife because she looks like Lena Horne. It was a crazy night, and they added a thank you thing – a photo of me – in the Washington Review.
Kevin MacDonald and I had a funny thing going with the number 6 we were both born in 1946, we met at the Corcoran school of art in 1966, we both married women born in 1966, my wife at the time and I actually went on Kevin’s honeymoon to Oaxaca, Mexico…. Kevin died in 2006 and this art /music scene exhibition is happening in 2016. In the 60’s Mac and I went to many rock & roll shows together.
The DC Color School artists were all jazz enthusiasts, listening and talking about music all the time, but our generation not only liked music but also wanted to make music as well as art. Joe White and I had lived together in Washington in the 60’s and New York City in the 70’s. Joe made his own instruments and was influenced by music from India & the East, and liked avant-guard music like La Monte Young and obscure West Coast modern composers. In the many years I knew Joe, he played music by himself for an hour or two a day. He never played anything that sounded to me like western music or rock and roll. His music sounded like outer space music to me, but I always thought it sounded cool but a bit bizarre. He did know a lot about west coast psychedelic music that went along well with his abstract paintings from the 60’s. Joe had been in two Whitney biennials, so in SF and NYC he was considered a famous artist with a solid reputation.
I think that the advent of Punk & Performance Art made it all happen for us. I then met Robin Rose in the 70’s and spent a lot of time hanging around and doing stuff with his band Urban Verbs. It was a great period to be in DC, as you could get by on almost nothing and spend most of your time painting or doing music stuff. I knew Root Boy Slim from the mid-60’s, when he was known as “Ken” to everybody. He was taking classes at the Corcoran, too. The mid 60’s on was like one big party, probably from all the Vietnam War money floating around DC & NYC. Lavish parties were happening all the time. The atmosphere was like everybody was high on life. It was pretty exciting but kind of dangerous at the same time. Crime was on the rise so I always felt like you had to watch your back all the time. Joe and I in the 70’s and 80’s kind of went back and forth between NYC & DC, although I spent a lot of time in Paris and San Francisco.
Joe, Kevin and I were kind of neo Beatnik types, always looking for “kicks,” which were pretty easy to find in those days. I always loved being on the road, looking for inspiration for my art and life. We started out with a band called The Red Starr Band after the red star in the Republic of North Vietnam flag. Then, one day when I was at a coffee house in North Beach San Francisco reading the SF Chronicle, I was reading an article about two boys who killed their parents, took all their parents dough and headed for Las Vegas to gets some kicks…it was a “twisted teenage plot,” according to the writer. I went nuts laughing! Eureka! That’s the new name for the band! Back in DC everybody liked the new name and that was it. They liked the name partly because you have to be a twisted teenager to become an artist because it is such a crazy profession. Judith Watkins was in The Red Starr Band and Twisted Teenage Plot. All the dates on how we pulled the music together are kind of fuzzy, we would practice about once a week or so at Joe’s garage, so we had a number of people that came to the practice space and people begged to play with us. We had a small but loyal following, but most people just didn’t get our sound. My big idea was to create a sound that made everybody go crazy [anarchistic] and when we were on, people did go nuts! Which I loved, sometimes people hurled coins at us… pretty hard, I might add, but it was better that spit! We had kind of a rock beat going. But after that it was totally spaced out sound. I guess our high point was playing at Layfette Park in front of the White House with punk masters “Fugazi” when Ron Ray-gunn was president. The secret service requested that we turn the volume down. I made t-shirts of the “TTP” band members including Robert Goldstein from the Urban Verbs). So TTP was a “punk performance social-political art” band… I got Kevin into Harry Lunn Gallery, you know, that goes way back. You know Kevin MacDonald had his own art gallery for about 10 minutes, at Washington Circle. He went in with a partner, this guy, and as soon as they rented this building, I think it’s a hotel now, this guy split, and Kevin got stuck with having to pay the rent, so they had one show. It’s kind of wild. And Kevin was working at The Philips Collection, so he was actually doing his drawings at The Philips, and so was Joe White. I had dinner with Joe, he was looking for a place, and he blew me up so bad ‘cause he was this Beatnik snob. He was telling me to quit art school, so I was like, look, I am kind of busy, but if you cannot find anybody else, give me a call. 20 minutes later, Joe came over and he stayed there 6 weeks. And so then I moved to New York, me and my girlfriend split up, but we all ended up going to New York. But we couldn’t afford living together anymore, so I moved in with Joe, on Canal St, in Jackie Winsor’s building. I ended up having to come up with the rent, so I became Joe’s art dealer. I turned him on to Walter Hopps, and got him a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. And he was doing abstract when we were living together, and I gave him a painting from my “window period,“ and he switched to architecture, and so did Kevin MacDonald and John Grazier. Three of the best guys started to do architecture, cause I was doing architecture. That’s a whole little movement right there, and all of sudden it just went in another direction, and architecture became not popular.