I’ve never met the painter Harry Jacobus but his position in San Francisco art history is unassailable, and his romantic vision has this sort of, oh I don’t know, sublime excess that speaks to me even today. Maybe you have to be in the right mood to get him, and perhaps that’s why his reputation is highest among poets, musicians, and other artists. That’s just a guess on my part. The work is decorative, pleasing, and stops just this side of florid, but all these things are true of Cezanne, right, and yet Harry Jacobus is a name unknown except for, hmmm, I am tempted to use the term cognoscenti even though that seems dead wrong! But I do love him.
Some find his work unbearably twee, even trite. If you find the early, romantic pictures of Jess too sincere, you are definitely not man enough to stare down the limpid realities of Jacobus at his most characteristic. (With Jess and the poet Robert Duncan, Harry Jacobus founded the legendary King Ubu Gallery on Fillmore Street back in 1953.) Thus it was with great interest that I opened my mailbox to find an invitation to a show of Jacobus’s crayon drawings—some paintings—that was going to be held at a private home in Berkeley right behind the Claremont Hotel.
I went with Eric Delehoy, a friend of my wife’s who was visiting from Portland, a man whom I hoped would appreciate the rarity of the occasion. Eric, a writer himself and one of the editors of Gertrude magazine, just gulped and got into the car, and from there we got lost three different times. So when we tiptoed in, the event had begun and our hostess was playing some French music on the piano and it was like a Raul Ruiz film come to life. Either she had taken all her other art work down, and just hung every wall with Jacobus work of all periods, or she actually has this on her walls every day.
A drawing by Robert Duncan sat on the spinet—or whatever it’s called. Outside of that it was 100 per cent Harry Jacobus.
Christopher Wagstaff, the organizer, works with the Jess Collins Trust, and he is well known for his pioneering work curating and publicizing the work of the artists in the circle of poets Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer. His interviews with the leading lights of this undersung group are fantastic—a book of them would be a revelatory experience, and a game-changer for what we now think of as Bay Area art of the 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.
SFMOMA, for example, owns nothing by Jacobus. But canon-making was far from our minds that afternoon—except the prices were so crazy cheap! I have absolutely no room in my apartment for another Jacobus drawing, and yet how could I resist? They are so beautiful and “reasonable.” Wagstaff joked that these were recession prices; if I had gone to lunch by myself at Chez Panisse I would have spent more totally! I thought of getting like a dozen as Christmas gifts, but as I say, HJ is not for everyone and I might have lost some friends I guess. Some sheets had a drawing on each side, same cheap price! Now that’s value.
Christopher showed each piece on an easel, then another, and another, and then we looked at each one separately again. Then the crowd shouted out our favorites and we ooed and aahed about each of them. And then finally the drawings were laid in heaps on a long refectory table, vacant with beauty. The artist is still alive, he’s 85 or something, and lives in Fulton, Alabama, and all the proceeds of this little sale were going to be sent directly to him. Was it Fulton? Now I’m forgetting—something like that. Or was it Leroy? For some reason I’m thinking Leroy. The drawings occupy the space between figuration and abstraction, and the stippled marks on the paper create a ripple of association every time I look at one. Over the years, I have looked at one of these drawings hundreds of times, and seen something different in it each time—specific things, eerie and unpleasant things as well, for they function as Rorschach blots of the perverse imagination: oh look, there’s a little man throwing up; oh look, there’s a patch of violets on fire; wow, I never noticed before but there are children’s heads, rolling down a Mexican hill, surprise and bewilderment in their tiny rolling eyes.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF BENTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS
19TH JUDICAL DISTRICT WEST
JEFFREY SABLOTNE PLAINTIFF
SPACE PIONEERS LLC
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF ARKANSAS DEFENDANTS
JANET ROBB, PERSONALLY
REQUEST TRIAL BY JURY
Comes now the plaintiff, that is disabled, with a fixed income and cannot retain an attorney. Now respectfully brings this libel complaint against the defendants. With all due respect state the following;
(1)That the incident giving rise to the plaintiffs’ cause of action arises in Benton County, Arkansas within the last 27 months and is still continuing. The applicable statue of limitation for libel for Arkansas code is 3 years.
(2)The plaintiff is a resident of Benton County, where his business attempted operation online out of his home since 2005.
(3)The defendant is the Better Business Bureau of Arkansas, 15 Kanis Rd, Little Rock, Arkansas, with Janet Robb as president of the branch.
(4)On Thursday 25, 2008, 3:37pm, I received an email from Donna Schonher of the BBB (att #1). The subject was stated as BBB accreditation for Space Pioneers LLC. It further stated the attachment contained all the information regarding accreditation of Space Pioneers into the BBB (att #2). The attachment stated membership is strictly by invitation only. It also stated that Space Pioneers would receive the logo and receive immediate verification that earned the right to display BBB Trustmark. Then the last sentence was welcoming Space Pioneers LLC onboard as a vital and valued member of the BBB. It would only cost $535.
(5)The next thing was being on a fixed income I could not afford to pay the dues.
(6)What happened next was unbelievable. Monday, July 20, 2009, 1:38pm, I received an email from Bill Millager, my SCORE counselor (att #3). First, it proved third party exposure. The note stated that this front page story didn’t look good, in fact the story does not appear to be factually correct. (att #4) The article for the BBB against Space Pioneers LLC.
(7)Janet Robb stated she put $28 cash in an envelope addressed to Space Pioneers to purchase an acre on the moon. She also stated several items about the company. I took into consideration freedom of speech. Then when I reviewed it closely, I found Janet Robb had crossed the line. First, she said we had no government claim (att #5).When in fact we have a notarized filed and recorded claim since 1992. Second, she stated our company was a SCAM. In fact we are a 100% legal business because we utilize a Derivative Conveyance Deed. Derivative means derived from: in this case derived from our claim (and it is stated on the document).Conveyance means a document transferring ownership, in this case it is what is covered by the claim. In simple legal terms, if the claim becomes recognized, then your deed becomes recognized (att #5)(att #6). This is my abstract and research paper for private property rights in space and explains how Space Pioneers is a legal business.
(8)Then unbelievably (att #8) the Readers Digest August 2011, with an article called Money Digest came to my attention. It states the bully tactics the BBB uses for memberships and it paralleled what happened to me.
(9)Janet Robb said we never sent her a Deed. When in fact we did at no cost to her.
(10)So in good faith I tried to make an appointment with her to help her with the misunderstanding and lack of research, which she refused several times to meet with me.
(11)Janet Robb is in a position of public trust that was abused. In the public’s view she holds a position where she should know the truth. Instead she made false statements in a way that they would be thought to be true.
(12)The statements were designed to be injurious and to keep 3rd party people from associating with us or doing business with us.
(13)In the plaintiffs’ estimation she is wasting the courts time and your honor, and mine by not meeting with me.
(14)We are asking for unspecified amount of damages at this point.
(15)The plaintiff realizes that the court has no jurisdiction to rule on private property rights in space.
(16)The plaintiff is praying for the decision that what we are doing is legal according to the law.
(17)The plaintiff is praying for an immediate injunction to stop the current postings that are still plaguing our website.
(18)The plaintiff prays for all relief due to us by the law and a formal retraction.
(19)Whereas, the plaintiff prays for a judgment against the defendant for damages, costs, proper relief in carrying out this complaint of this action.
Dear David A, it was super elegant and she is a wonderful hostess and pianist. Do you know, that after my notebook catastrophe outlined above, she took the trouble of finding my number and calling me up and getting my address so she could mail it to me! I’ve never had such highclass treatment in my life and I’ve left behind things in every state of the union. As for the spinet being a harpsichord, yes that was me trying shorthand to describe the polished style of the afternoon. What do I know about spinets? I’ll tell you everything I know in 4 lines: “We need a little Christmas/ Right this very minute/ Candles in the window/ Carols at the spinet.” That’s from the musical Mame with Angela Lansbury. Great to hear from you and thanks.
Hi Kevin, That’s a harpsichord, I believe. You could do a lot of good with this blog and I trust you to do so. I guess the way to get things done in this world, is not to be too fussy about fact-checking, and I guess your approach is suitable of a sort of ad-hoc salon event; on the other hand, it was an elegant affair in a lovely setting even Harry might have approved of including Karen’s playing was magnificent, I thought.
Is this the real Harry Jacobus? Oh my goodness! Somehow I never really thought you’d see this article. Well, you are a master and the pictures of yours that I have I look at daily and love ’em. Foley, Alabama, for some reason I just couldn’t keep it in my mind. The whole exhibition and sale so staggered me that I wound up leaving my reporter’s notebook at our hostess’ house, nearby the piano. Thanks for writing in, and Vivat! Vivat Harry Jacobus!
I’m really only 82 going on 13 and living in Foley Alabama..loved the article especially the twee part, Chris thought I would be offended for some reason. You should write art reviews for the New Yorker it woulf make the magazine