The Batman Gallery

This is more job work by Auerhahn: an announcement for an exhibition of Robert La Vigne at The Batman Gallery. I have read quite a bit and there is quite a bit written on the Ferus Gallery but I find myself drawn to The Batman Gallery. I really do not know much about it; Jason Davis recommends Jack Foley's O Her Blackness Sparkles as a place to start. Mental note made and soon to be acted upon.

Billy Jahrmarkt started the Gallery on November 3, 1960 with his father's money. It was in large part a measure to keep Billy occupied and out of trouble. The gallery was sold in 1962 to Michael Argon, who ran it until 1965. This above announcement is late in the game for Batman: 1964.

The Gallery was located at 2222 Fillmore, next door to the International Music Hall and down the street from the McClure's residence from 1958 to 1961. Michael McClure figures in huge in the Gallery; he suggested the name (after Billy's obsession with Batman); he persuaded Billy's father to release the money; and he provided content by putting on The Feast there soon after the opening. The space was a defunct dress shop located by Bruce Conner, and he designed the Gallery. Conner was the subject of the Gallery's first show.

Jahrmarkt is one of the doomed figures of the Berman Circle, who played careless with his talents and interests. Given Jahrmarkt's addictions and wandering interest, the Gallery opened when it happened to open; mounted shows on an irregular schedule; and in some cases even sold some art. I would suspect the sale to Agron marked a shift in operating procedure and standardized things a bit. In a characteristic gesture, Jahrmarkt gave Berman his Verifax machine after Billy had grown bored with it. Berman put it to good use.

On Jahrmarkt, McClure states, "Nobody expected Billy to live very long." He did not. Jahrmarkt moved to Afghanistan because heroin and guns were legal and freely obtainable there. In 1973, he dropped a gun and accidentally shot himself in the stomach. Not realizing the direness of the situation, he did nothing to address the wound and bled to death by the morning.

I have to admit that figures like Jahrmarkt fascinate me. And there are several like him in the Berman Circle. The carelessness, the wastefulness, the insouciance. The disrespect shown to one's own abilities and one's artistic output. The opportunity, the possibility, the inheritance, the promise squandered. It is the same reason I am drawn to the philosophies of Bataille. All this was reflected in the creation and day-to-day operations of the Batman Gallery. With Jahrmarkt it is a miracle that anything was accomplished, that any of it survived, and that any of it mattered. In my eyes they definitely did.



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