Skip to main content
Want more images or videos?
Request additional images or videos from the seller
1 of 4

Larry Hill Art
Cormac's Meridian

2017

About the Item

Shortly before Walt Esslinger died a few years ago, we talked in his small yellow painted studio in Bakersfield. Sixteen years my senior, he’d been my close friend, mentor and running mate since 1960. “You still writing?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered, taking in the space’s renovations he’d recently sub-contracted. Ninety one years old, and he was thinking ahead. “Do me a favor,” he said. “Write the Andy Warhol story.” Walt was a Central Valley guy, an L.A. guy, a Las Vegas guy. A man who knew his way around. “I want you to put on record what happened back then when I bought the soup can painting.” Back then was the fall of 1962. The two of us had been exhibiting our paintings in the L.A. Art Institute’s gallery for locals only. Walt had given legendary Ad Rhinehardt a story about how he and I had been working in both Edward Kienholz’s and John Altoon’s studios (false—we’d only been visiting). One morning, the Institute’s Director, who hadn’t suspected us to be charlatans yet, introduced us to a reed thin, tow headed young man leaning against the main gallery’s wall. “Meet Andy Warhola,” he said. “Andy is from New York.” “Warhol,” the boy/man said. “Painter?” Walt asked him. “Shoe Illustrator.” The director made a snorting noise I took to mean that Warhola or Warhol’s modesty was posed. He mentioned something about Andy having a show on the La Cienega strip of galleries. We exchanged mumbles about how the art world was in flux, nothing more than that, and Walt and I moved on. If this strange cat had anything to look at, we’d see it. It was a Monday, and La Cienega’s twenty some galleries would be opening new shows and serving champagne that evening. North La Cienega Avenue, laid over a network of oil veins decades before, had become the street for the Cool School, a group of artists and gallery people trying to bring Los Angeles’s art scene to life. The galleries were small but proud. Sure, Jazz was born on the Delta and raised in New Orleans, St, Luis and Chicago, but L.A. had fifty-three jazz joints according to Chet Baker, who’d blown with the best. Why then should the West Coast be lagging behind New York in the other truly American expression, abstract art? At the Ferus Gallery that night we found Warhol’s exhibit. “Shit,” I said. Walt grinned. “You no like?” “Not exactly my can of soup,” I said, peeking into the small space, loaded now wall to wall with paintings of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Walt stepped into the space. “How about the idea of it?” I made my way through spectators looking at once to be confused, amused, enthused and abused. When I came back to Walt he was still smiling. “Why didn’t he silk screen ‘em?” I asked. “That’s probably his next move,” Walt said. “You wanna stay?” Walt’s keen eyes cased the joint. “I see Irving Bloom over there,” he said. “Believe I’ll stick around and talk with him.” Bloom had been operating this popular gallery for some time now. “One hundred a month,” he’d told me. “It’s not like I’m getting rich.” I stood around for a bit, heard a fellow abstract expressionist I’d met tell a young lady who looked to be lost, “Okay that’s the soup. Come with me, baby, and I’ll show you the juice.” Two doors down I stopped at the Primus-Stuart Gallery. A group of people had gathered around a display of soup cans, stacked grocer’s pyramid style in the window. All Campbell’s. All Tomato. A sign leaning against the grouping stated: “Get the real thing. Thirty cents each.” That’s the way it was. Twenty-four galleries forming a gauntlet between La Cienega’s 300 block, all the way up to Barney’s Beanery at the corner of Santa Monica. Hollywood types dressed to the nines, Beats dressed for the times just gone. Champagne popping. Jazz bopping. Sweet talkin’. All of us walkin’ the night toward lives we thought would never end. “Barney’s Beanery,” I reminded Walt. “When we met up later that night in Barney’s, you told me that you’d given Irving Bloom one hundred dollars for one of the soup can paintings.” Walt glanced up from his computer, where he was composing a high resolution photo of jazz pianist Earl Hines’ face, the musician’s nickname “Fatha” under it. “That’s the story I want you to tell.” I studied his hands, still ageless, still steady. The same hands that had helped design the iconic Flamingo sign in Vegas, well over a half century earlier. “How did it work?” I waited until he caught my grin. “The part where you didn’t get the painting.” “Bloom called me after about a week,” Walt said, like he was orating for prosperity. “Told me he was sending my check back. That Warhol wanted the paintings sold as a unit.” Over the years we’d talked of Warhol, how Walt, at first glance, had understood what the artist was about. “You said that night that the idea of the paintings as a suite was their importance. Their ‘bonafides’ was how you put it.” Walt leaned back in his chair, eyes looking beyond his Van Gough yellow studio. “Bloom knew it too,” he said. “He ended up giving Andy one thousand for the lot and sending him back to New York.” Of course Walt had told me about this before, but I wanted the details again. “And Warhol accepted that?” “It was his first show ever, Larry. You have to get that part, what the guy must have been thinking. I doubt he even showed up at the gallery that night, everybody walking by putting down his work.” “Bum kickin’ it,” I said. “Thinking it was a ruse.” “Like Dizzy blowin’ a Magee on a tune just for kicks.” Walt laughed, that wonderful near soundless cackle. “Anyway, Bloom saw it too. He told me he’d sold three or four others and had little trouble giving the payments back, that the buyers had second thoughts about the soup cans and were happy to know their checks would be voided.” “And Bloom kept the paintings for two decades.” “More like three.” “And finally donated them to the New York Museum of Modern Art.” “Donated,” Walt said, his voice a rasp in the quiet, sunlit space that held countless touches of his art, “for fifteen million dollars.” He handed me the graphic of Earl Hines. “This what you wanted,” he asked, fixing a gaze on me over his glasses. “I used Avant Garde font on ‘Fatha’.” “Perfect.” We sat in silence for a few moments. “How old were you when you roomed with Earl Hines above the Grand Terrace in Chicago?” “In the Parkway Hotel,” he said, finding a memory. “I was nineteen.” “Another story.” “Yes,” he said. “Another story.”
More From This SellerView All
  • Alamo Heights
    By Larry Hill Art
    Located in Fresno, CA
    I believe a painting (story) must have an initial dramatic impact and at second glance should include tantalizing nuances of drawing (plotting) and gestures (conflict) to stay alive....
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil, Acrylic

  • Townes
    By Larry Hill Art
    Located in Fresno, CA
    The first time I heard the words “abstract expressionism” I was in New York, trying to grab another day of leave before the army shipped me overseas. At that time in 1952, while brow...
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil, Acrylic

  • Malibu
    By Larry Hill Art
    Located in Fresno, CA
    The first time I heard the words “abstract expressionism” I was in New York, trying to grab another day of leave before the army shipped me overseas. At that time in 1952, while brow...
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil, Acrylic

  • Powder River
    By Larry Hill Art
    Located in Fresno, CA
    The first time I heard the words “abstract expressionism” I was in New York, trying to grab another day of leave before the army shipped me overseas. At that time in 1952, while brow...
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil, Acrylic

  • Free Fallin'
    By Larry Hill Art
    Located in Fresno, CA
    The first time I heard the words “abstract expressionism” I was in New York, trying to grab another day of leave before the army shipped me overseas. At that time in 1952, while brow...
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil, Acrylic

  • Walk on the Wild Side (Diptych)
    By Larry Hill Art
    Located in Fresno, CA
    I believe a painting (story) must have an initial dramatic impact and at second glance should include tantalizing nuances of drawing (plotting) and gestures (conflict) to stay alive....
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil, Acrylic

You May Also Like
  • Up From The Ground
    By Leah Durner
    Located in New York, NY
    LEAH DURNER Up from the Ground, 2000 Acrylic and oil on canvas 60 x 66 inches
    Category

    Early 2000s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Canvas, Oil, Acrylic

  • Grove
    By Leah Durner
    Located in New York, NY
    LEAH DURNER Untitled, 2000 Acrylic and oil on canvas 60 x 66 inches
    Category

    Early 2000s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Canvas, Oil, Acrylic

  • "Hey Sinatra" Abstract Oil Painting on Canvas Portrait of Iconic Frank Sinatra
    By Cindy Shaoul
    Located in New York, NY
    This painting is from the artist's Hollywood abstract series, where she instills the character on the lower half of the composition and depicts abstract colors and movements around t...
    Category

    21st Century and Contemporary Abstract Expressionist Portrait Paintings

    Materials

    Canvas, Oil, Acrylic

  • "Terra" - Abstract Portrait of a Young Man in Earthtone by Masri
    By Masri Hayssam
    Located in Carmel, CA
    Presenting "Terra" a work that emerges as a profound expression of stillness and human depth, as conceived by the adept hands of Masri. Within the 40" x 30" expanse, this abstract po...
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Portrait Paintings

    Materials

    Canvas, Mixed Media, Oil, Acrylic

  • Deep in the Forest, Abstract Gestures on Cream, Vertical Colorful, Brush Stroke
    By Natalia Roman
    Located in Barcelona, ES
    "Deep in the Forest" is an abstract painting diptych by Spanish artist Natalia Roman. It is a beautiful series of rhythmic brushstrokes combined with subtle tones and unique shapes t...
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil Pastel, Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache

  • Pretending Glitter, Urban Brush Strokes in Metal Tones, Vertical, Orange, Pink
    By Natalia Roman
    Located in Barcelona, ES
    "Pretending Glitter" is an abstract painting diptych by Spanish artist Natalia Roman. It is a beautiful series of rhythmic brushstrokes combined with subtle tones and unique shapes t...
    Category

    2010s Abstract Expressionist Abstract Paintings

    Materials

    Oil Pastel, Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache

Recently Viewed

View All