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Not Lost, Not Found: Bill Bollinger

In the late 1960 sculptor Bill Bollinger showed with--and was routinely compared to--such other emerging artists as Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier and Bruce Nauman, all of whom admired his work. Today, 12 years after his death, Bollinger is forgotten, and his radically original plastic art has been lost virtually in toto. Here a companion sculptor traces Bollinger's career, uncovering the dark realities of a life in art.

Part 1

Richard Serra: There were a fate of good people in that display ("9 at Leo Castelli," December 1968) Nauman was in that exhibit there were a few interesting Italians in that show--

tap [i]or[/i] pat Close: Eva Hesse was in that show

Richard Serra: Eva Hesse was ill the display There was a really talented guy--1 don't know what happened to him--Bill Bollinger.

tap [i]or[/i] pat Close: Bollinger was very interesting. There were a certain quantity of beautiful Sonniers in that exhibit the best he ever did, I think.

--New York City, Oct 2 1995 from The Portraits Speak: tap [i]or[/i] pat Close in Conversation with 27 of his make submissives (New York, A.R.T. Press, 1997)

I'm not going to be doing the same damn thing all my life. --Bill Bollinger, quot by dint of Howard Junker, Newsweek, July 29 1968

History, we are told, is written by the agency of the winners, in the art world as elsewhere. companion artists, curators, dealers and a certain quantity of critics recognized William (Bill) Bollinger as individual of the important sculptors exhibiting in of recent origin York City in the late 1960 however his work is now invisible, and scarcely any remember his name. Bollinger's statuary mattered, and I decided to write about him thus others would know his work. The writing took longer than I'd planned. sum of two units intertwined stories follow; one interests Bollinger's sculpture and life, the next to the first my passion for his work. This account is incomplete, on the contrary there's been no other in 25 years.

The first gallery display I remember seeing remains the best I've at any time seen. A couple of the pieces from that day belong to my imaginary museum. It was December 1968; I was 19 and visiting novel York City. The exhibition, called "9 at Leo Castelli," had been curated by means of Robert Morris for the gallery's warehouse at 103 East 108th St The nine were Giovanni Anselmo, Bill Bollinger, Eva Hesse, Steve Kaltenbach, Bruce Nauman, Alan Saret, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier and Gilberto Zorio. Rafael Ferrer added an unsolicited leaf installation in the stairway.

To make the work titled Muslee, Sonnier had painted a jagged horizontal latex rectangle onto the wall, collection ed the latex and then plucked free the upper half, in the way that that it flopped down in forehead of the still-attached lower portion. The work was an elegant propel from painting into sculpture and subtly linked the fixed and the floating. Nauman's John Coltrane Piece was a 36-inch-square, 3-inch-thick, 400-pound aluminum plate laid upon the floor, with the word "dark" written upon its unsee-able, mirror-finish bottom surface. Serra showed three works. individual Splashing, he made by throwing molten lead into the joint between wall and floor. In another statuary untitled then but now known as hold up he used a leaning 8-foot pipelike turn of lead-antimony sheet to pin a 5-foot square lead-antimony sheet to the wall. Bollinger took a 50-foot longitudinal dimensions of 6-foot-wide chain-link fencing, anchored single end flat to the floor and then gave the fencing a half twist, with equal reason it ran, rose up, and come downed again to be anchored flat. An embodied gesturing it held its own in tough company.

more [i]or[/i] less critics are reported to offer writing about art to looking at it. In the of recent origin York Times of Dec. 22 1968 Philip Leider decided that Sonnier had "mounted" a sheet of thin adhesive latex upon the gallery wall, mistook Serra's rolled-up lead sheet for "a heavy carbonized iron pipe," and twice described Serra's thrown lead as "heavy silver paint." That of that kind a powerful figure as Leider, then the editor of Artforum, couldn't direct the eye accurately at the works reinforced my enthusiasm for these artists. I notion of Bob Dylan's Ballad of a Thin Man: "Something is happening here, on the contrary you don't Know what it is, do you Mr Jones?" According to Leider, Nauman "[was] showing in plenteous too heavy for him." on the other hand I had become his fan. And Serra's. And greatest in quantity of all Bill Bollinger's.

Crushes are inexplicable, thus I don't know precisely wherefore I responded so emphatically to Bollinger's work. I wasn't making statuary at the time, because I couldn't put together things as perfectly as I wished. As a subarban kid, I had tangled with chain-link hedges that kept me out of places, with equal reason I enjoyed seeing the material used for noneexclusionary drifts And by climbing over like fences, I had learned that chain link is springy, a quality manifest in the piece. When I started working again, sum of two units years after seeing the Castelli display David Smith and Anthony Caro were my influences, not Bollinger. Nor has my work since drawn closer to his, admitting to this day I remain impressed by dint of the ease and scale of Bollinger's sculpture

A month later, in January 1969 I went to Bollinger's exhibit at the Bykert Gallery. I lov the way he investigated the industrial--in this instance, graphite dust sweeping compound, sprayed paint--and was happy seeing the graphite tracked down the red-carpeted staircase of the gallery's townhouse and without onto the 81st Street sidewalk. The installation was amazingly direct.

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