Wednesday, January 02, 2013

In Memoriam: Gary Bachman 1956-2012

While we were in Miami for the fairs last month, I was shocked and saddened to learn that artist Gary Bachman had suddenly passed away at the age of 56. I mostly knew Gary socially (he was part of a CalArts grads contingent that we intersect with), but he was a bit soft spoken and so I never got to know him all that well. But just knowing him a little I can tell you straightaway that Gary was among the sweetest people you will ever meet in the art world. Moreover, he and his artwork embodied a wry wit that personally I feel the art world could use a great deal more of than we're currently treated to. In short, he was one of the good guys; smart, funny, kind and so very likeable.

Gary was included in a large group exhibition at our gallery last year. The show, "Loughelton Revisited" looked back at a gallery that began in the heyday of the East Village, a time when CalArts grads were shaking things up quite a bit in New York. Gary's work in the show garnered special mention in the review by (then) Newsweek's Blake Gopnik:
At Winkleman Gallery, the artist and former gallerist Barbara Broughel has organized a show called "Loughelton Revisited," which gathers together work that was shown (or could have been shown) at her own Loughelton Gallery, once a highlight of the now-defunct East Village art scene. The works are from the 1980s, and include pieces by a number of now-famous names, including Richard Prince (under the pseudonym John Dogg), Polly Apfelbaum and John Baldessari – whose "Studio," from 1988, is today's Daily Pic. The strange thing about that piece, like nearly every object in the show, is that it looks like it could have been made yesterday – which argues either for Broughel's farsighted vision as a dealer, or for the stagnation of artmaking today.
Maybe my favorite work in the show is Gary Bachman's (unphotogenic) "One Pound Prop", from 1986. It is a little house-of-cards cube whose four sides are lead plates, three inches by three, that each weigh one quarter pound. And of course the whole thing's a knock-off and take-down of Richard Serra's macho "One Ton Prop," which was the same piece, made the same year, only chest-high and 2,000 times heavier. And here's a nice detail: Bachman's object exists in an edition of 2,000, so the total heft of his work matches Serra's.
The Star Ledger published an obituary for Gary last month:
Gary E. Bachman, 56, passed away suddenly on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. [...] Born in Summit, N.J., Gary lived in Westfield, N.J., before moving to Brooklyn. He graduated from Westfield High School, the University of Hartford and the California Institute of the Arts. He was an artist and a theatrical Teamster, working for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 817. He is survived by his beloved companion, Deborah Kammer; his daughter, Jett Bachman, and her mother, Susan Silas; his parents, Kenneth and Dorothy Bachman; his brother, Kenneth Bachman, and his sister, Karen Bachman. He is also survived by his close cousins, Valerie MacFie (Rich), Marcia Malcolm, Uma Malcolm and Robert Malcolm.
There's a part of me that can't not discuss the pity it was that Gary never became a huge art star during his life. He was such a nice guy, his work was smart, and he had mad talent. What essential element(s) was(were) missing in his particular case is beyond me. Even after all this time, I don't actually understand why some artists become more popular during their lives than others equally as seems to be quite the craps shoot. Perhaps, in part, it's as simple as how much you want it or fight for it. While I knew him, Gary was never the type to monopolize a dealer's time at a party or bombard them with requests for studio visits. Like his work, he exhibited a soft confidence which made him, again, very likeable, if perhaps seemingly not too bothered about all that career stuff.  I don't know.

I do know his passing saddened a great number of people and he will be sorely missed.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Bachman.


Blogger Stefano W. Pasquini said...

Hey Ed, Happy New Year to you and Murat. I think that being pushy is something that simply cannot be done, if you're not like that. This doesn't mean it's not wanting it hard enough. In this case success could have happened in 10 years time, but bad luck wanted that Gary Bachman didn't have that time. I have lost a few artist friends, and missing them means also missing the artworks they never got to make.

1/02/2013 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger gort said...

I just saw this and hadn't realized Gary had died. We were classmates at the Hartford Art School. Your blog post captured Gary's spirit well. He was such a kind man. Thanks for recognizing his passing.
Gene Gort

1/05/2013 09:03:00 PM  

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