Monday, June 25, 2012

LeRoy Neiman Dies at 91; Artist of Bold Life and Bright Canvases

I was sad to hear of the passing of LeRoy Neimam. I really was.
For me, in some ways, he was a big influence on my work. I was a kid back in the 1970's when Neiman seemed to be in his heyday; his work was ubiquitous. You would see his paintings in Sports Illustrated and see him painting them on TV during the Olympics and football games. And when I was ever lucky enough to get my hands on a Playboy back then, you would see them in there too.

I love, still, to splash around paint and to paint images over colorful backgrounds. I owe some of this enthusiasm to him. Sure I loved looking a Fauvist paintings and Post-Impressionists like Soutine
for inspiration, but for me Neiman was capturing subject matter that was loaded with meaning on a personal level....getting to paint Joe Namath and Ali and Playboy Bunnies was the stuff of pure fantasy to me.

Here is a funny story...the closest thing I have to a Neiman-story...
I have this friend whom I have known since I was in Junior High. One time I went to a Bris for his new born son. His dad was there and his dad was a big time lawyer, and he ran up to me, he wanted to tell me a funny tale. He was higher ed by these guys, they wanted Neiman to do a painting of Wayne Gretzky.
They were going to make a huge edition of prints and make a fortune, they hopped. My friend's dad told me that Neiman wanted a million to do the original and he wanted $500K up front. The contract said he would be paid the second half when it was finished.

They went into contract and paid the first installment, and the guys went about their business of raising the rest of the funds. Well, the lawyer told me, the next day Nieman calls up and says 'he's finished!' He wants the rest of his money.

The lawyer called his clients to ask about the $500K and they told him to stall Nieman. They still  needed some time to raise the funds. So my friend's dad tells me he goes down to Nieman's studio, and asks to look at the painting. Then he suggesting to  Nieman maybe he isn't finished yet..."Maybe the background could use a little work?" Well Nieman figured this all out pretty quick. According to my Friend's dad, Nieman said "...Get the fuck out of my studio, and get back here with my money, or I am keeping the god damn painting!"

A couple of days later Nieman got his check.

Hey LeRoy Nieman may never have gotten the critical acclaim that maybe he was ever after, but who cares. I always tell myself since then that even the best review ever in the New York Times will only get you so far...that and $2.50 will get you on the Subway in this town.



Anonymous said...

The subway costs $2.25, you out-of-touch hoighty-toighty artist!! No really, when I read the Neimann piece in the Times a few days ago it made me think of your work a bit. DANK!

Anonymous said...

To my follow comment-er: If David wants to pay $2.50 that's fine with me. About Leroy: I never liked his work; too flat and gaudy. More importantly, I hated that dead animal under this nose.

david kramer said...

I admired the mustache too...

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