“Everybody was looking for the next van Gogh . . . so that opened up the space for anybody who put two sticks together to be a sculptor, or two dabs of paint on a canvas to be a painter: ‘Don’t miss him! This man is a genius!’ You’re not going to catch the next van Gogh by just throwing everything on a wall.”
Jonah Kinigstein is having a moment . . . at 92! The painter and cartoonist has published his first collection, The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Tower of Babel in the “Art” World (FU Press) and had an exhibition of his work at the Society of Illustrators in the past few months, and he’s just getting warmed up! We met at his studio to talk about the abysmal and unredeemable state of modern art, and why he elected to stay in the representative mode of painting despite the allure and rewards of conceptual art. He also talks about a near-century of New York City, his glory years in Paris and Rome, his disenchantment with the National Academy, and more! Give it a listen!
“Here I was, studying anatomy . . . and there’s a man who’s dripping on the floor! I’ve got a lot of drippings on the floor; I think I’ll put them up!”
Jonah’s got plenty of venom to spare for artists like Pollock, de Kooning, and Hirst, but also talks about his great artistic influences, his reasons for pasting angry anti-modern-art cartoons on the walls in SoHo, why he paints on wood instead of canvas, and making a living designing department store windows and point-of-sale whiskey displays. It’s a fascinating life, and I’m glad we had the chance to talk! You can check out my photos from Jonah’s studio, including several of his panels, over here.
About our Guest
Born in 1923 in Coney Island, Jonah’s early influences were discovered during visits to the Metropolitan Museum- “When I really saw the old masters, it blew my mind, of course.” He attended Cooper Union for a year before he was drafted into the Army, serving from 1942 – 1945. Soon after, Jonah moved to Paris where he spent time at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, conversing with other aspiring artists, exchanging ideas, exhibiting his work, seeing established artists, and generally soaking up a fertile creative environment. He exhibited in several shows including the Salon D’Automne, Salon de Mai, and the Salon des Moins de Trente Ans, and had one-man shows in the Galerie Breteau and Les Impressions D’Art. After Paris, Jonah moved to Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship and studied at the La Schola Di Belles Artes. After a year, he returned to the U.S. and exhibited his paintings at the Downtown Gallery in Manhattan. Like so many painters, he was unable to make a living solely from painting, so he worked in the commercial art world and did freelance illustration and design. Throughout this time, Jonah’s commitment to his own art never wavered, and he continued to paint and occasionally exhibit.
Credits: This episode’s music is Sous Le Ciel De Paris by Edith Piaf. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Kinigstein’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Kinigstein by me.
Barring a major investor jumping in during a time of financial panic, it looks like the Official Newspaper of Gil Roth will be shutting down in a week. How’s today’s Arts+ section looking?
- Victor Davis Hanson reviews Martin Creveld’s The Culture of War: “he presents himself as a Thucydidean”!
- Steven Nadler reviews Joel Kramer’s biography on the Great RaMBaM: “From Moses to Moses, there was no one like Moses”!
- Eric Ormsby reviews Fernandoz Baez’ history of the destruction of books: “Unlike Borges, who delighted in inventing titles which don’t exist (but should), Mr. BÃ¡ez describes books and whole libraries that fell prey not only to fire and flood but to sheer human malevolence”. . .
- And speaking of Borges, Alberto Manguel reviews William Goldbloom Bloch’s The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel: “Mr. Bloch notes in his preface that the ideal reader of his book is Umberto Eco”!?
- Paula Deitz writes up the Venice Biennale of Architecture: “Two different exhibitions featured walls of refrigerators as stand-ins for enclosed spaces”?!
- In a rare disappointment for me, it turned out that Valerie Gladstone’s Bacon and Rothko in London does not actually involve pork products: “‘What I find amazing,’ Mr. Gale said, ‘is that even after all the preparation for this exhibition, looking at Bacon’s paintings still makes my spine tingle. I never stop being overwhelmed.'”
And a bonus! This weekend, the New York Times wrote about the Sun’s plight! While it can’t be bothered to mention the Sun’s top-notch arts coverage until a passing ref. 6 paragraphs from the end — presumably because it puts the Times’ coverage to shame — it does manage to include a quote from a writer at The Nation who called the Sun â€œa paper that functions as a journalistic SWAT team against individuals and institutions seen as hostile to Israel and Jews”! Awesome! Now I can miss it even more. . .