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Jake Berthot and Me

all my friends had just graduated and I took it out on Rohrer,


I referred to him behind his back as The Preacher, he was rumored to have been a Mennonite minister, he had told me he thought I would like this guy Berthot because his smoky surfaces were like mine and for all my resistance to Rohrer he has been an influence on my work, that is the thing about art school, you are not exactly being taught, you are being inoculated by various artists 


so Berthot shows up from New York, I guess he’s in his thirties and he’s hard to a make out under his long hair, he’s wearing beat-up cowboy boots and jeans and a dark green bulky-knit turtleneck sweater and he’s got a tobacco pipe sticking out of his back pocket, he’s nervous, he chain smokes unfiltered cigarettes until they burn his fingers then rubs them out on the floor with the toe of his boot 


there was a xerox of an essay on him in Arts magazine by Dore Ashton, titled something like Jake Berthot Paints Quietness pinned up outside the studios and he'd brought a few small paintings along and they are hanging in the painting department’s office, they can’t be more than eight inches square, it’s obvious they were worked on and worked on and the paint was scratched into them to make a square inside them and then more paint was put on and they all looked like he did, all this smoky dark green obscurity, and like New York, where if you came from there at that time, a barely perceptible filter of soot seemed hang over you, surrounding you in an ashen cloud 


that was in his paintings, too, as was an aura of danger via the legendary and real violence of this city at that time, he makes reference to his kid almost being killed in Union Square in the Dore Ashton review, and then there was the general seriousness attached to making art there 


but I was simply puzzled by the work and by him


he gave a talk to the assembled students and faculty and showed some slides of his rat-colored slab-like paintings and he gestured towards two equidistant centers of one of them and explained that these were focal points and that he painted towards a non-color color and that he liked Giacometti’s color 


this was the first thing he said that made me sit up


To read the full article click here or download the PDF below.