Jonathan Grossmalerman and his onetime arch-painting-nemesis meet again, from the November 2014 issue

By Jonathan Grossmalerman

Mike and Jonathan. Courtesy the author

God-fucking-damn it!! Like, only about the worst thing ever is happening.

Right now!!!

I called the building manager about getting this window I accidently shattered, over and over again with my hammer, fixed, and the guy they sent me was none other than my onetime arch-painting-nemesis and neighbour Mike L… Apparently he’s the new building handyman! I’d heard that he’d fallen on hard times since his gallery had imploded. I don’t mean that in any metaphorical sense, it quite literally imploded. One minute it was there and the next all that was left was a small tangle of hair and a bloody tooth. No one knew where to send the mail, and they finally just put a park bench where the gallery had once stood.

Now it’s been forgotten entirely.

And that was just last season!

I heard he hadn’t taken it well, and to add to the tragedy, the market for his particular brand of bland derivative process-oriented abstraction was just about to take off on a global scale… and he without a gallery!!! He completely missed the boat! Again, this isn’t metaphor! He actually missed the hotel boat in Venice and had to be fished out of the canal, arriving at the glamorous Gagosian dinner late, soaked and smell - ing like shit mixed with vomit at low tide. His networking ability severely curtailed, he was only able to secure an eventual show with a small gallery in Roquefort that didn’t seem to notice the smell. But regretfully, one small gallery in France does not a career sustain… and… one embarrassing display of ‘feelings’ after another eventually alienated him from the New York artworld.

So, now, finally, here he is, in my spacious painting studio, unable to look me in the eye as he fumbles with a pane of glass and some putty. Murmuring how it’s good to see me when it very obviously is not. The putty is too dried-out to work and I wonder when he’ll come clean about that. I know it. He knows it. But he says nothing. He just keeps pushing the crumbs in the gap and they fall out again. I can see the beads of sweat forming on his temple. He wants to say something but why won’t he? I thought to myself. Can’t he see that this is intolerable? Say something! For Christ’s sake say something! Anything! But preferably something like, “You know, I’m going to leave because this putty is old and dried-out and cannot do what it is intended to, so I’m going to go… I probably won’t be back.” It was all just too awful for words, so in a sudden fit of anguished embarrassment, I exclaimed, “Hey, Mike, I was just about to have a beer. Would you care to join me and take a load off? We could chat about painting… or some good museum shows… or–” Mike cut me off. “I just fixed the radiator in apartment 2L. Do you remember apartment 2L?” Was this a rhetorical question he was asking me? Apartment 2L? Everyone remembered apartment 2L. Placed as it had been, firmly between apartments 2K and 2M. “Wasn’t that your–” “That was my apartment!” he angrily interrupted. “Before everyone turned their backs on me and my beautiful large-scale works that investigated processes of abstraction, nature, chemical entropy, atrophy and oxidation, all through a poetic vocabulary of stains, flecks, smudges and splotches that were, all in all, extremely pleasant to look at…” He sipped his beer. “Now I have a room next to the boiler where at least it’s always warm.” After more silence, he inexplicably lumbered towards the couch, eyeing my most recent painting, Lovely Cunny #3. “Still painting vaginas, huh?” He sipped his beer in a fashion that could have only gotten his lips wet and settled in on the couch. “Your place is nice. Mine isn’t so nice. But at least it’s always warm. You don’t know how good it is to be warm until you’ve been very cold. Jonathan? Have you ever been really cold?” I looked at the mess on the floor under the window. Putty crumbs everywhere. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of that later,” he said. “Have you seen that Robert Gober show at MoMA? I have some really insightful criticisms I would love to share with you. Do you have any chips or anything?”

With my eyes, I located my hammer. After all, it had gotten me in this hot water and it could get me out. Metaphorically speaking. 

This article was first published in the November 2014 issue.