Incisive Reportage: Gallery Beat host Paul H-O interviews Cindy Sherman. (Image courtesy of Guest of Cindy Sherman.)
In 1993, Paul H-O (short for Hasegawa-Overacker), along with a few comrades in arms, launched an arts-focused public access program in New York City called Gallery Beat. For 160 half-hour episodes, H-O and his esteemed colleagues — Walter Robinson, now of ArtNet, Spencer Tunick, of nekkid people fame, and Cathy Lebowitz, of Art in America — crash landed at gallery openings all over Manhattan, armed with nothing but a TV camera, a microphone and probing questions such as, What is it? “Admittedly, half of those episodes are shit and should have never been made,” says H-O. “But there’s some great moments with people in galleries.” Including one with a lot of vagina.
H-O is working on putting the old shows online (a couple currently reside on YouTube), as well as resuscitating Gallery Beat for an internet audience. “There’s a recession going on, which means it’s time for me to come back,” he quips. His priority these days, however, is the theatrical release of his film, Guest of Cindy Sherman, which he co-directed with Tom Donohue, and which will premiere next week at Cinema Village in NYC and the Film Center in Santa Fe. The highly intriguing doc, which chronicles the rise and fall of Gallery Beat alongside the rise and fall of H-O’s romantic relationship with Sherman (expect to see rare footage of her at work), has been making its way through the festival circuit since last spring and is now set for a broad public airing. The footage of H-O & Co. at an early Vanessa Beecroft performance at Deitch is worth the price of admission alone.
To shill the flick, H-O proved willing to submit himself to our pat interrogation methods, revealing who he’d like to see in an artist girl-fight and why he thinks a tube sock and a tin can represent mankind.
C-M: What’s the biggest stereotype about art?
H-O: That tremendous macho attitude that someone like Picasso embodied. Martin Kippenberger established a certain style for himself that way, too. Then there’s Schnabel. People don’t think I like Julian Schnabel, but, in fact, I adore him. He’s given me great material. He is that larger-than-life figure. He adopts the attitude of being Picasso, and since he’s such a visible figure, Hollywood people see him and say, “Here’s an artist!”
When you were a kid, what did you draw?
Soldiers, wars, planes, boats, battleships, war planes, B-40s, B-25s. I was a war monger. I also remember that I once saw the movie version of Moby Dick and then did a drawing where Moby Dick is wiping out all the whalers and they’re flying all over the place.
What image do you currently have as your desktop wallpaper on your computer?
On my laptop: this piece of highway in Panama that I shot when me and my friend Bruce were surfing there. I go everywhere to go surfing. As soon as the film stuff is wrapped, I’m going surfing.
What’s your favorite color?
Seafoam, that kind of an aqua color — the color you see when you’re surfing and the wave is going over you and the sun is going through it. We call it “the green room.” You can see it sometimes surfing in the fall in Long Island when the waves are the color of jade.
If you were to die and come back as a work of art, what would it be?
A psychedelic poster by Mouse & Kelley.
If aliens landed on Earth and wanted to take back a single work of art to represent all of humanity, what would you give them?
One of those sculptures by B. Wurtz made with a tube sock and a tin can. They’re these stripped-down encapsulations of a minor signature of human existence. It’d be a real baffler. The aliens would really have to think about it. It’d definitely be something modest like that. I wouldn’t give them a diamond-studded skull.
What type of art do you like to look at when you have the munchies?
Those really big installation pieces by Jason Rhoades, the ones with the disco lights and garbage.
Which artists would you like to see duke it out in a celebrity death match?
Tracey Emin and Cecily Brown. I’ve seen girl fights before—and two British chicks facing off against each other? I’d want to see that.
If you could vandalize a work of art, what would you do?
Those big Jim Dine Venus pieces on 6th Avenue in midtown Manhattan. I would just knock them over and leave them like that — and then I wouldn’t let anybody touch them.
If art could kill, how would you like to die?
I would like to be, literally, transported into death through the aesthetic experience. There have been times I’ve been deeply touched by a Rembrandt, and when I was in the Prado, I saw a Hieronymus Bosch that brought me to tears. My death would be of love: I’d be so struck by the work, that’d I’d just drop dead.
What piece of indispensable advice can you give the current crop of MFAs?
Go out and get a real job. Give yourself some grounding in life.
Do you believe what you say?
I believe what I say if it’s not a joke. But there is not that much that isn’t.