Monday, May 21, 2012

Open Sesame

Many important Jewish traditions have permeated the fabric of American culture, or so claims a controversial new book on the subject by my dear old friend David Schoffman. From the Ten Commandments to the love of Zion, Jewish law and lore have penetrated the American mainstream. But Schoffman goes further claiming that "no Jewish tradition has impacted the country more indelibly than the 'thirteenth bagel'." The book is called Between Knish and Nosh: How a small minority retaught us how to spell (Amphigouri Press 2012) and it has caused a minor literary tempest among specialists and academics.

For those of you unfamiliar with this allegedly ubiquitous tradition, next time you buy a dozen bagels count the contents of your bag.

When I recently pointed out to David that what is referred to as a "baker's dozen" dates back to Victorian England he became  agitated and defensive. I stressed that whatever skills he lacked as an historian he more than made up for in his genius as a painter.

from The Body is His Book: 100 Paintings, David Schoffman

"Who cares about painting?" he replied indignantly. 

I suppose he's right ...

Sunday, May 06, 2012


When the Colorado tenth circuit court converted Valmont EEB2 from an individual Chapter 11 petition to a Chapter 7 the California art world experienced an unexpected ripple. The forced liquidation of business assets was a routine affair until a weathered Strathmore sketchbook was discovered under a mountain of black accounting binders.

Dated September 1969 and signed on the front in an adolescent cursive, the product of rote training in what used to be called penmanship, was the name David Schoffman.

Untitled drawing, David Schoffman, conté crayon, 1969

This remarkable discovery of Schoffman juvenilia - by my calculation David was 13 when this drawing was made - has forced the critical community into a radical reassessment of an entire oeuvre. Previously, the conventional wisdom has been that the early stirrings of Schoffman's imagination were deeply rooted in his complete and total lack of academic training. His early work, which was seen as a combination of rabid appropriation of affichiste pastiche and Franco-Belgian bandes-dessinées could very well have been a more organic outgrowth of Bargue's systematized canon of classicized forms.

I find this reappraisal rather fascinating for it sheds some light on this important period in my dear friend's development. Though it is not the precocity of the drawing above that amazes me - my own drawings from childhood are quite frankly much more accomplished - it is that a court appointed "specialist" appraised the entire 20 sheet sketchbook at $115,000!

Now there is a mad treasure hunt for more of these trifles.

Nom de Dieu!!!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


My good friend David Schoffman is well known for his incorruptible indifference. He has a coarse quarrelsome nature and knows its best for him to avoid the necessary kinships and vital alliances of the art world. Upright in the portentous glare of his reputation, David never misses an opportunity to sabotage his considerable achievements.

It actually soothes his heart to alienate people of influence.

Every generation has its artistic Edens and David insists on banishment from each and every one. Back in the day he bickered with Greenberg, groused against Gogosian and tussled with Castelli. He clashed bitterly with Schjeldahl, fussed endlessly with Danto and had a knock down barroom dust-up with Peter Pyrenean, the former editor in chief of ArtNotes.

I even heard from a reliable witness that while David was still a student he picked a fight with Pierre Matisse just to see if he could carry on a credible altercation in fluent idiomatic French.

Much has changed in the intervening years. After a particularly ugly incident involving an art handler, a Scandinavian collector and a broken window, Schoffman left Manhattan and settled in  Gualala, California. He sees practically no one and has neither cell phone nor computer. To reach him one must send a letter to the post office on Highway 1 and hope it somehow finds him. 

View from Schoffman's studio window, Gualala, California

I heard from our mutual friend, Dahlia Danton that he is doing beautiful work and that he is still living off of residuals from a Korean sitcom he did in the early 80's.