Having clothed all manner of politicians, presidents, actors, and authors over the years, Brooks Brothers’ lifetime client roster reads like a veritable who’s who of American icons, but few names among that list stand out quite like Andy Warhol’s. As the ring leader of New York’s mid-century Pop Art explosion, Warhol does not immediately strike as the standard Brooks Brother’s customer, but throughout his fifty-eight years the artist remained one of the shop’s most dedicated clients, amassing a wardrobe that was almost entirely composed of Brooks Brothers staples.
To know JP Williams is to enjoy the pleasure of his company while being continually surprised by his relentless aesthetic sensibility. He’s a creative director and designer, a Southerner who’s traveled widely. He maintains his singular blog and just happened to have been painted by the late Richard Merkin. He wears white shoes and drinks gin year-round, which is a lesson for all the kids out there. He has an exhibition opening tonight at Mondo Cane in Tribeca, Little Things: A Flaneur’s Finds, that’s full of brilliant, idiosyncratic objects that are carefully considered without losing their light touch.
JP’s range of knowledge is unmatched, his perspective is even better. What follows is one of the most wide-ranging interviews we’ve ever conducted. He’s a friend of ACL. and believe it when we tell you we’re proud of that fact.
David Coggins: Let’s talk about your collections and the objects you made.
JP Williams: I have different categories of collections. And one of them is that when I travel around the world I always buy a ball of twine. I go to a hardware store or a market. So each one that I’ve had cast is from a different place, one of them is called Florence, one is called Dusseldorf. This one is from the Paris flea market, it must be from the 1840s. There’s a little bit of a character to them. When the economy was poor, instead of buying things I started looking at my collections. That’s why I started the blog. I started to revisit box after box of things. Then I started writing the stories behind them. I have a great memory for detail.
A little while back I went to the preview for an auction of William Eggleston prints at Christie’s, a sale that was arranged to benefit the Eggleston Artistic Trust. It was a particu;arly interesting event for me for a few different reasons. First because I absolutely love Eggleston’s photography (and the man is one of my favorite living artists), and also because the auction consisted of large format digital pigment prints, a rare departure from the dye-transfer prints that helped solidify him as one of American’s greatest photographers.
This past Sunday I paid a visit to the Brooklyn studio of artist Bailey Hunter Robinson. You might remember Bailey from one of my Brimfield posts this past summer, when I caught him lying on the grass trying to escape the mid-day flea market heat. Upon arrival in Brooklyn I explained to Bailey that I was the guy who took his photo that hot summer day while he was trying to get some shade. “I’m sorry for taking your picture and putting on my site. I remember at the time you didn’t seem too happy about me taking the picture.” I said as I took off my coat and set my gear on the worn wood floors of Bailey’s new studio. “Oh it was fine. I was really hot that day and I was losing my ass up there, I don’t think I had sold a thing at that point.” he said. Such are the ways at Brimfield on hot summer days I suppose.
Bailey’s interest in furniture, vintage objects and things like Brimfield can be traced back to the influence of his parents while growing up in a small town in Alabama. “My parents were huge collectors of early English stuff, big oil paintings and things like that.” he said. It was this interest and his friendship with Luke Scarola (who co-owns the vintage furniture shop in Brooklyn called Luddite) that has helped shape the aesthetic of Bailey’s studio. “Luke and I used to drive five hours to go to an auction and they drive five hours home in one day. There were times when we were out and so exhausted that we couldn’t keep track of who bought what.”
Seeing Dunhill’s new ad campaign didn’t make me want to buy luxury goods from London; it made me want a Miller. A Harland Miller. He’s the rather shabby fellow among the three fairly obscure Brits chosen as the brand’s new faces this season, the one trying to hide behind an $1,100 briefcase (below). That must be why I failed to recognize one of my favorite contemporary artists at first, but reading the fine print I found he was one and the same. The talented painter and author first caught my eye when his 2007 monograph International Lonely Guy landed on my desk. What he does best are atmospheric re-interpretations of classic Penguin paperback covers – and I know I’m not the only one around here with a fondness for those.
It wasn’t until later in his career that Lancaster, Pennsylvania born artist Charles Demuth began painting in watercolor. The American produced a swath or beautiful industrial works in the style of Precisionism, a technique he helped create. I spent the afternoon at the Whitney Museum yesterday with Hopper, Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz & Mr. Demuth and figured a few of his works would look nice on the walls around here. I’ve never seen a grain elevator look so good.
This past sunday was full of coincidences, three degrees that led to this post. My Sundays generally start and end at the same place, CBS. The day begins with with bow tie afficinado Charles Osgood’s Sunday Morning and ends with the newsmagazine 60 Minutes. I relish both programs for their unique stories and the two shows are some of the few that I regularly make a point to watch. On Sunday Morning yesterday there was a story about Eric Daigh, the third place winner in Grand Rapid’s wonderful program ArtPrize. Daigh’s work is centered on making beautiful large scale pictures (a la Chuck Close) out of thousands and thousands of push pins.