Doug Chrismas Photo by Joey Krebs

Breaking Art News Daily Worldwide


Drawing by Rick Griffin, Courtesy of Ron Cooper




by Gordy Grundy


Editor's Note: The famed chronicler of Los Angeles life, Eve Babitz (1943-2021) recently passed. Vanity Fair called her the "secret genius of L.A." All about Eve can be found Here and Here.

Female Bot Voice: This call is now being recorded.

Gordy Grundy: Before we get started Ron, did you ever meet Eve Babitz?

Ron Cooper: Oh, yes.

Gordy Grundy: Really!

Ron Cooper: Yes.

Gordy Grundy: Wow. I got to have drinks with her once. Eve was alone at a table. The gal I was with knew her and we sat down. Eve was interesting. Do you remember her that way as well?

Ron Cooper: Sure. I don't know if I met her through (gallerist) Earl McGrath or how I met her, but she decided she was going to go move in with me. So, I had to take her. She said— Well, I'm not going to say what she said but—

GG: Damn. I'd like to hear that!

RC: So, I had to go pick her up, pick up her stuff from her home up in, what is it? What is that area called? Franklin and up in the hills?

GG: Los Feliz? That rings a Babitz bell.

RC: Below the Hollywood sign, up in there.

GG: So, Los Feliz, East Hollywood? Her Dad was a studio violinist. 

RC: Yes. So, I met her dad, mom and her sister. Her father was quite interesting to me, Sol Babitz. Eve moved in with me for, I don't know, two or three weeks. Picked her up in an old Ford Station Wagon I had. And, uh, we had an interesting time. Then, we decided mutually to end that—

We continued to be friends for sure. She had me over for dinner one night, over off Franklin. There were bunch of rock n' rollers there. And she wanted to fix me up with Linda Ronstadt. (Laughter) I wasn't too interested, you know. I was more interested in my art than being a boyfriend or a groupie of a rock n' roll person. 

GG: So, you picked her up in her family house and brought her to your place. Where were you living then? Say in late '68?

RC: Well, my studio earlier than that, '65 up until '69 was on Figueroa Street which is now under the Staples Center. It was a second-floor loft above an old Buick agency and was like, a 6,000 square foot dance hall. For weekends in the '40s, they'd have bands and attract people and sell cars. So, this place was quite amazing. It was a really beautiful place. The doorway into my little living quarters, not so little, but I made it a foot wide and twelve feet tall.

GG: (laughing) A foot wide and twelve feet tall?

RC: Yes. So, I can run up to it and just turn sideways and slip through. I remember Ileana Sonnabend then came to visit but she couldn't come into my living quarters.

RC and GG: (Laughter)

RC: The studio was amazing because it had hardwood floors and all the windows, everywhere, were all that kind of wire and pebbled glass, so you couldn't see out, but you saw light. Every afternoon as the light would change, I'd sit down in the living room, I had a great couch, and I just faced west and watched the color change, you know, through the pebbled glass. That was kind of— That was before the word 'meditation' hit public. It was a meditative, contemplative way.

GG: And so, is that the studio where you moved Eve into?

RC: Yes. Yeah.

GG: Well now, if we— As we move closer towards '69, you're an artist in town, you're hanging out, Doug Chrismas was— Actually, you were part of the Barney's Beanery crowd, right? 

RC: Well, earlier, you know, when I was in art school, yes. In like, '63-4-5, Barney's was an interesting place for us then. Harry Dean Stanton and Dennis Hopper were buddies. There was an interesting group of people hanging out at Barney's.

Ken Price took me down to Barney's in '62, from California Street in Ventura, on the surf point, where we both lived and had separate apartments in this old Victorian. And one night he said, "Hey, you wanna go down to LA?"

And he and his girlfriend were in a Volkswagen, with no back seat. We loaded up and went down to (Billy Al) Bengston's studio in Venice. That was an interesting meeting. Then we all— We picked up Judy Henske, the folk singer, and we all went to Barney's. And I met Larry Bell there, (Robert) Irwin and, maybe Craig Kauffman and Irving Blum and just a whole introduction of the LA scene that night. Then we went back to Ventura. So, that was my earliest introduction to the art scene in LA. 


...I looked at a lot of art and I went, "Oh, okay. I guess I'm going to be an artist."


GG: Were you doing your vertical bars back then or—?

RC: No. I was a dumb, young (Laughter) art student at Ventura Junior College for a semester or two. I had come back from Europe after high school. My best friend and I went to Europe for a year. We stopped in New York on the way in 1961, summer of '61. We spent two weeks in New York and I went to all these museums. And instead of being the greatest car builder in the world, I went, "Oh, art!" 

GG: So, that's what did it for you?

RC: Well, in Europe too, all the museums in Spain— You know, in Spain, looking at El Greco and Goya, in the main museum there in Madrid, The Prado, you needed a flashlight. They were so poorly lit back then. I mean postwar. Europe was really postwar. So, Spain, Greece, France, London, Italy, Austria, Germany, I looked at a lot of art and I went, "Oh, okay. I guess I'm going to be an artist."

We lived on the island of Hydra for three months in Greece, at my buddy Siggy's brother-in-law's place. Yorgos Cassipides had a house on Hydra and it's a pretty famous island actually. I just decided I was going to be an artist.

So, I came back and started painting. And I couldn't live in Ojai anymore; it was too small. So, I found myself a job in Ventura and ended up living there for a year or two, before LA.

GG: Ahh!—We've got to have a couple of more conversations, just because all of this is so classic. I'm reminded of Hunter Drohojowska-Philp's 'Rebels in Paradise'— Let's get you back up to life in 1969. You've kind of probably heard a little about this guy named Doug Chrismas, a Canadian in town. He's got a space on Melrose. Is that how you first heard about Doug Chrismas?

RC: Oh, I don't know. In '69, a group of us had studios at Pacific Ocean Park. P.O.P.

GG: Wait, say that again?

RC: A group of us, (Jim) Ganzer, Guy Dill, Allen Ruppersberg, I'm forgetting other people, but we each had a studio in this abandoned entertainment pier, Pacific Ocean Park. And, well, I guess I had started making the resin pieces and bars earlier than that actually, back in '65 I guess. I don't remember exactly when I met Doug Chrismas.

GG: Well now, he had a space on Melrose, right? Near Gemini?

RC: Well, there was a big old wooden building that he had space in. Yes. Funky warehouse barn like place. 

GG: Was that a gallery or more of a frame shop? 

RC: I think it was a gallery. Whatever space he had, it wasn't the only space in the building. I only went there once and it was, I don't know, kind of smelly and— (Laughter)

GG: And it had some kind of weird flooring or something?

RC: Yes. It had very rough-hewn flooring. There was— I guess he had a performance. I remember a piano and mice and something. I don't know. It wasn't something I was very interested in and impressed by.


...I knew Ron Davis back then in '66. Terry O'Shea and I showed him what we were doing and we became friends and he picked up how to use resin from us...


GG: Didn't he invite you to that performance, your first meeting with him?

RC: Yes, he did. But previously I had been showing with Eugenia Butler. At least she had been buying my work. She moved—what was that park? Not Hampton Park, or is that—?

GG: Hancock Park?

RC: Hancock Park. She had my work and Doug Wheeler's work and other people's work. Then she had a gallery on La Cienega. I remember I took Allen Ruppersberg shopping at Bourget Brothers Building Materials in Santa Monica, because I had a charge account there because of (collector) Stanley Grinstein. And I bought him all the materials he needed for his first show, which he had via Eugenia Butler, but it was actually in an office space on Sunset Boulevard, upstairs which he used as a studio. So, he built out this whole exhibition up there. 

So, I'm just trying to remember what was going on then. Terry Allen was a good buddy... 

GG: Wow!

RC: We went to art school together. Boyd Elder, Laddie Dill, (Chuck) Arnoldi, Doug Wheeler. I'd also been showing with Nick Wilder...

GG: Uh-huh!

RC: And, let's see, I knew (Bruce) Nauman back then in '66. Ron Davis came to town earlier in '66... But I tried to add, figure out how to— I was painting and working with resin then. Terry O'Shea and I showed Davis what we were doing and we became friends and he picked up how to use resin from us. 

There was a period, that was an early period during the love-ins and all that stuff. I had an old tortilla factory on Temple Street, right next to the massive LA interchange. And then moved around the corner to Beaudry Street and had this Victorian house and Terry O'Shea lived in the backyard in a guest house. I began there to make the vertical bars, and then moved to Figueroa Street.

GG: Was it the vertical bars that interested Doug the most?

RC: Sure. I'm sure... And let's see who... Who did that? I think Nick Wilder hooked me up with Dick Bellamy. 

GG: That was a dealer?

RC: Yeah, Richard Bellamy was a dealer. He had me in a show, a summer show, where every summer he took over the Noah Goldowsky Gallery, which was like a Picasso, old masters kind of gallery, but Bellamy took it over and had a show called Arp to Artschwager. Bob Smithson was in the show. Michael Heizer was in the show. Donald Judd was in the show. And I had two vertical bars, the first time they'd ever been shown anywhere. One of them was bought by the architect, Johnson. What was his first name?

GG: Phillip Johnson?

RC: Yeah. The guy who did the Glass House. 

GG: Wow!

RC: Yes. He bought one of the bars. And then this very interesting couple, John and Kimiko Powers, in Aspen that collected early contemporary art bought the other piece, and it was just such an honor, real honor to have my work in New York and have it accepted. It was really cool.

GG: And these were the bars back then?

RC: Yeah. 1965. That would be about the time that I met Chrismas and I was beginning to make resin pieces in this studio on Figueroa Street. 


...Bob Smithson was in the show. Michael Heizer was in the show. Donald Judd was in the show...


GG: Very cool. So, how did it progress such that— You have an awareness of Doug and he has knowledge of your work. How did that lead to his inaugural Ace Gallery show at the Virginia Dwan space that he bought in Westwood? 

RC: Well, he offered me an exhibition and I was making these seven and a half-foot resin squares. I did an exhibition there. One man show, my first one man show. 

GG: That was Doug's first show in the Virginia Dwan space, right? 

RC: Well, I don't know if it was the first one or not. But it was 1969. Rick Griffin who I went to art school with, he was a good buddy,

GG: (Gasp!)

RC: ...the famous illustrator of all the psychedelic album covers—

GG: He's amazing. Legendary.

RC: (Laughing) He did my first announcement for that show. 

GG: Wow. Do you have a copy of that? Or an image of that?

RC: I do. Yes.


GG: God! Classic! ...So, Doug went from the space on Melrose to his new gallery at the Virginia Dwan space. Is that correct?

RC: That's correct.

GG: What was that like? Whereabouts in Westwood?

RC: When you turn from Wilshire onto Westwood Boulevard, you hung a right and there was a famous art supply store (M. Flax Artist Supplies) right next door. (Dwan) was just right there. And I had been there to see two shows. I went to the Tinguely show.

GG: Tinguely show?

RC: Yes, Jean Tinguely. When it was Virginia Dwan's space, yes. A buddy who does mainly frescos, David Novros showed at Dwan and there was a really interesting European show, a guy named Martial Raysse did neon in canvas and photographic works on canvas at a show there. And then I went over to UCLA to hear a lecture by Buckminster Fuller...

GG: (laughing) Whoa!

RC: (laughing) Ya know, the whole art world and intellectual scene in LA was about, I don't know, about 50 people back then. It wasn't very big. 

GG: But powerful.

RC: Well, everyone knew everyone. Yes, it was great. 

GG: Now, how long did you show with Doug?

RC: Well, I'll tell you. We had that show in '69. And then, I think after that, there was an exhibition called the Black Show.

GG: That was in Doug's place?

RC: Yes. And it traveled to Edmonton, Alberta. So, Larry Bell, Peter Alexander, De Waine Valentine, ah, I don't think Wheeler was in the show. Peter Plagens came on this trip to Edmonton, Alberta. And McCracken, John McCracken.

And it was really cold up there. Doug picked us up in the car, I don't know in Vancouver or where it was, but there's a funny story. You might check with Peter Plagens but there's a funny story about how he wouldn't let us put our luggage in the trunk of the car. We had to have all the luggage on our laps until the car was full of people and luggage. We're joking about, well, "What the hell's in that trunk?"

GG: Well, actually Plagens did write about that in his book. So, it's kind of a funny story. And of course, your crowd was a little wild. I guess Doug got kind of pissed off. 

Editor's Note: From "Sunshine Muse: Contemporary Art on the West Coast" by Peter Plagens, 1974:

“In the early ’70s, Doug arranged for a bunch of L.A. artists that included Peter Alexander, Larry Bell and Ron Cooper to speak at a museum in Vancouver, and he flew us all up and picked us up at the airport. When we got to the car, Doug said, ‘You can’t put your bags in the trunk — they’ll have to go up front, because there’s something in the trunk.’ All those guys are wise-asses, so they started getting on Doug about what was in the trunk, and he got visibly upset. After we’d ridden for a while in this packed car, we started complaining loudly — ‘Come on, Doug, why can’t we put our bags in the trunk? What’s in there? Dope? A body?’ He got vividly angry, like veins bulging at the temple, pulled over on the freeway, and yelled that if we didn’t stop asking what was in the trunk we could get out and walk. To this day I don’t know what was in the trunk. It was odd.”

RC: Right. There you go. Anyway, and then—

GG: Now, you told me the story about that Vancouver gallery space. How it had a couple of levels and on the bottom level, Doug had a kitchen devoted to Native Indigenous cuisine or something. 

RC: Well, he had a very modern building in Vancouver, on a hillside as far as my memory goes. He had a complete restaurant kitchen and early back then he had Native American—different tribes come and prepare meals as events. Mark Miller who created—

GG: The chef?

RC: —of Southwest cuisine, Coyote Cafe, is a buddy, and he's talking about the same in New Mexico, just getting around and doing that now, which would be 50 years later.

GG: So, Doug was ahead of that curve as well?

RC: He was quite ahead of that curve... But anyway, my studio space at Pacific Ocean Park got demolished and I was evicted. I was going to go over to be in, I believe either Prospect 69 or, yes, Prospect 69 in Düsseldorf, which was an incredible exhibition. Wheeler and I were in that together. Joseph Beuys, Donald Judd— Hold on, let me— Charles Ross, Bob Smithson and Michael Heizer and others. It was a fabulous museum exhibition. And while I was gone, they tore my studio down. Doug had all my shit put in storage and it all got lost somehow. Navajo rugs, tools, all my shit got lost.

And when I came back from Europe, Hal Glicksman at Claremont Pomona College had asked me to be an artist-in-residence. I tried to get out of it by saying, "Okay, only if you get me a cabin on the top of Mount Baldy." But he did! So, I did a month of glass pieces there, with kind of mentoring some students. And at the end of that, I drove down to Valentine, Texas, a town of 72 people where the railroad stopped. The next town north, Marfa, Texas. And I spent a couple of weeks with my buddy Boyd Elder at his grandmother's ranch, Nanny Bell's Ranch. Boyd got a little bossy, so I looked down a map and saw up north was a place called Las Cruces. So, I hit it up there in my pickup. And I got there and there was nothing there, just the crossroads. So, I kept going north and I ended up driving down into Santa Fe on the Old Pecos Trail that was mud back then, and into Santa Fe's Fiesta with all these drunks poking their head in my pick-up and I just went, "Whoa, I don't want to be here."

Headed north, up along the Rio Grande to the first place you could pull off which was the little place called Pilar. Spent the night in the back of my pickup, sleeping bag. And up in the morning, pumped up a little kerosene stove to make some coffee. And there's a lanky long blonde-haired hippie, came walking down right by the Rio Grande River and his name is Orteo Good-sky now, but it was Craig Erickson, who I went to Chouinard with. He drove up the first year I was at Chouinard, in a '40 coupe with a big Chevy engine, fresh out of Indiana, crew cut kid and he became this incredible hippie. (Laughter.)

He invited me to stay in his old adobe church that he had there in Pilar. And I stayed for two or three days. He said, "Hey, you've got friends up in Truchas", the most remote village in northern New Mexico, and, Tom and Lisa Law, who were part of the Jook Savages. We were kind of a loose hippie artist group, like the Hog Farm. We were friends with the Hog Farm. They were in Tujunga, in their early days. And then they had moved out to Llano in New Mexico.

So, I headed up, and Lisa Law had a three-day old baby and Tom Law was just leaving on this tour, to kind of do a Kundalini yoga guru tour around the world. And there she was all alone with this new baby. So, I said, "Hey! I think I'll stick around and help out for a while."

GG: Good man!

RC: I ended up in Truchas for a year. Broke a horse. Ploughed with a one-man plough. Bought some land in the highest place in Truchas. Nearest neighbor was a 70-year-old goat herder whose family had all left in World War II to work in the shipyards in Oakland. Biggest smile you've ever seen. Bound from rock to rock, dancing with his goats...

After a year, Christmas owed me a bunch of money. He said, "Hey, come on back. You got a show at the Pasadena Museum. You have an exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany with this great German dealer, historic dealer, Alfred Schmela." And he said, "I want you to do a show in Venice." My buddy Jim Ganzer was begging me to come back to help him get the lease on a building in Venice. A 12,000 square foot building.

So, I packed up my stuff, went down to the airport in Santa Fe which later had the runway closed because of potholes and stuff. It was deactivated for years. And I went down with an octagon barrel 25-20 sawed-off rifle, a chainsaw and a metal toolbox full of tools. And I got on the plane with all that. (Laughter.) And smoked Camel cigarettes. And moved to LA.


...I ended up in Truchas for a year. Broke a horse. Ploughed with a one-man plough...


Then, I rented a Mustang convertible at the airport, drove to Venice, honked the horn, Ganzer slides open a giant twelve-foot sliding door, with a baseball bat, chasing junkies out of this condemned building. (Laughter.) That began my return to Southern California.

Doug wanted a show. By that time, he had moved to Market Street, next door to Larry Bell's old residence on Market. And I did a show, but I didn't have—my studio wasn't set up. So, being interested in hot rod cars and knowing about all that stuff, I went over on Melrose, across from Paramount Studios. Larry Watson was this great pinstriper. He created custom panel paintings on cars. And I commissioned him to paint 10 bars for me... And I just bought one of them back, at auction from a collection of someone that had passed away. 

GG: These were vertical bars that you had already made before?

RC: No, I had a fabricator, to fabricate the bars, but I didn't have a dust proof studio to paint them in. So, I got Watson to paint them for me. And I had this show of these bars at Doug's on Market Street and we sold almost all of them.

Then previous to leaving for Europe, and losing the studio and all that, I had been making— I did another show at the old Dwan space. You couldn't go in the front door, you had to enter from the back, the back alley. And there was a long hallway, an office and then a long hallway. And then you would walk into this gigantic, I don't know, 30-foot ceiling gallery space. And I sealed the gallery with a sheet of glass, so you couldn't walk in. You could only look in. And it had gallery lighting, which was as white as it can be, incandescent lighting. And then, I had these eight-foot colored fluorescent fixtures on the floor. Red, yellow, green, blue. So, four different fixtures. And I had the gallery assistant choose which one to plug in each day. It was arbitrary. And it filled the hall space with these intense colored lights and you'd walk in and look into the gallery and, over 45 seconds, the space would change from the white to the complement of this fluorescent light, that was lighting the hallway. So, your brain would project the complement. So, if there was blue fluorescent light showing in the hallway, you'd see the gallery turn orange. If there was red light showing the hallway, you would project that space would become green.

So, I don't remember how long the show was up for. A couple of weeks. But that put me on a quest. I stopped making resin pieces and it put me on a quest doing these fluorescent light and glass pieces called Separator Variations. And I did those for quite a while. 

GG: I didn't realize Doug kept the space in Westwood after he moved into Venice. 

RC: Well, I don't know how long he kept the space in Westwood, but I had a show in one of their early shows in Venice. Michael Heizer had a show there, where he cut out the floor, three different rectangular shapes and had lowered giant boulders into the sand below the concrete floor. It was a very beautiful exhibition. Richard Serra had an exhibition there, where they had to take out part of the roof, to drop in work. Doug has always been really interesting to me in terms of the way that he will accommodate to anything, to accommodate a great work of art. 

GG: Right. Now, why did you stop showing with Doug or what was the ending of that?

RC: I don't think he was very uninterested in the fluorescent light and glass pieces. I don't think at the time he could sell those... Irwin did a beautiful scrim piece in the Dwan space. I don't know if that ever sold. 

Anyway, photographing these light pieces became very interesting to me. So, I stopped making work and began exploring the camera for four or five years. (Laughter.)

GG: Wow. So, you just went off on the study. 

RC: Oh, yes. Yes. I never stopped.

Art to me was supposed to be an adventure. I admired Sam Francis. He was a really good guy. He made a lot of money, making beautiful work. But I didn't want to continue doing the same thing for the rest of my life. A work of art was successful to me, if in the making of it, it generated a question. And then the answer to that question was the next piece. You know those Chinese flipflop puzzles? You know, they were like a little deck of cards, you hold in one hand and it just keeps cascading. Have you ever seen those things?

GG: Yes.

RC: Well, that's the way I looked at art. It's supposed to be like that. Remember, I came from this place of hot rods, building great cars. So, I have a different perspective on what art is, and can be. 

GG: So, after you took off on your journey of exploration, you never showed with Doug again?

RC: Let's see. There was a period, where I was making these torchiere lamps. In '75-'80, something like that. I had a commission. I was making these bronze vases and— I was sure it was my friend (gallerist) Earl McGrath. He was on Robertson. And I was making these bronze v0essels that were very strange. You looked at them and... they were just a weird shape. Until you looked at the air around the vessel, that it was carved to be of the profile of a human being, looking at themselves.

So, I started using the heaviest materials to shape air. I did these giant torchieres and Doug placed one. It was a one-and-a-half, life-sized portrait lamp of Picasso. So, I was doing portraits of artist friends. And, you know, I made one of Duchamp and one of Picasso, because they were the most influential artists of the 20th century. Doug placed one of those. He sold that piece to Vanna White, the game show person. 

GG: Obviously, she was the woman of good taste! 

RC: Obviously. I'm sure she still had the piece. I did a whole lot of different series, leading up to those. I was photographing the human torso, with a black hood, black leggings, black shoulder length gloves, on a black background with a white grid. The broken fragment, there's the torso. When you saw it, you didn't think, "Ah! Ancient sculpture meant to glorify powerful person, destroyed by invading armies or acid rain," you went "Art!" So, this torso became the symbol of art. And the grid behind it, this grid space, became the symbol of logic. That was where I ended up with a camera, photographing these torsos, printing them bigger than life-size. And I had a few shows with those. 


...photographing these light pieces became very interesting to me. So, I stopped making work and began exploring the camera for four or five years. (Laughter.)


GG: Were you still working with Doug at that time or had you kind of moved on to other places?

RC: I had moved on. I was showing with Rosamund Felsen, and a gallery in Houston, and I had a show at The Kitchen in New York. And then, people would look at these photographic torsos and go, "But where is the head?" (Laughter.) I went, "You fucking airhead!" (Laughter.) So, I had moved back to— I moved out to Taos, New Mexico. There was a clay production place there that mainly made sinks. Lynda Benglis worked with them. Ken Price worked with them. And they invited me to work there.

And I started making clay torsos with labyrinths, because the last photographic torsos were in a pitch-black room and I used a flashlight and drew a labyrinth on these human torsos. So, the symbol of art had within it, the symbol of logic, which became chance and chaos. The grid changed too. So, I began making these clay torsos in New Mexico, as I was building a studio, with these labyrinths scribed into them. I made molds of friends and clay tiles which made a grid into the mold. And I did a series of those for a while, a year or two. And then I got invited to do monoprints down in Santa Fe. I thought about, you know, you hear Jesus Christ as a vessel, women's torsos look like vessels. So, I started doing these monoprints that were historic vessels. And that led to be invited down there to a foundry where I began to make bronze and cast-iron torsos with labyrinths. And there's a big piece, 15 feet tall at the museum in Albuquerque, it was a giant cast iron torso with a labyrinth in it. And then I started making these vases, these air heads. And I did quite a few of those.

And then I got a commission in LA at this place that was IBM and McGuire Thomas. I got called and was asked to submit a concept for a fountain at the pool in the middle of this place in LA, Santa Monica, 26th Street and Colorado. I submitted a— It's funny, I made a maquette. I made these palm trees out of baling wire and I made a little plaster pitcher, pouring water into this pool, feeding this soul of LA. And there was a competition among three different artists and I was awarded the commission. So, I spent a year, building this 5-meter, 15-feet tall bronze pitcher, pouring 300 gallons of water a minute, into a pool feeding the soul of LA. 

GG: Spectacular.

RC: That was an interesting project.

GG: Well, Ron, I've got a question. The relationship with, between artist and gallerist, I mean, there's so many variations and demands of that relationship. Some people are dependent upon it, some people see there's more than a friendship or a working relationship. Sometimes it can be very emotional. What was your relationship with Doug, as an artist to a gallerist?

RC: ...Well, Doug is a strange guy.

GG: In what way?

RC: ...Well, we never spent a lot of time hanging out. He's just a different kind of person. So, we didn't share a social life.


RC: ...He's a nice enough guy... And, also, when I finally got around to making these resin pieces in my studio in Venice, 90 percent of them went to Europe, went to this dealer Alfred Schmela. 

GG: Did Doug set that up? Or was that a previous—

RC: No, Doug set that up. I don't think I was showing with Doug anymore. I had this exhibition of pieces that was in the Pasadena Museum, a one man show. Later, I had the last installation, the whole space, at the old La Jolla Museum, with fluorescent light and glass pieces. 

GG: Was Doug a part of that show?

RC: No. He wasn't. It was just me and the curator and the director. So, I don't think Doug and I ever had an argument. I don't think we ever had a falling out. He had his interests. I had my interests. Sometimes they'd coincide and sometimes they don't. 

GG: That sounds like a beautiful working relationship.

RC: Right. Well, yeah, it was okay. 

GG: Ron, we've got a lot of great material here for this piece. Incredible stuff. And I am glad we met. I knew very little of your story and I'm impressed with your approach to art, your humble approach. Kinda unheard of, these days...

This conversation has been wild. From Eve Babitz all the way to— God, you name it, I mean Rick Griffin; in my youth, all we did in class was draw waves and letter like Rick Griffin. Ganzer, Smithson, Heizer, you knew all the greats. You knew everybody. Simple as that. 

RC: Simple as that... (Laughter.) Ganzer and I drove to Mexico with Ed Ruscha one time. Interesting adventure. (Laughter.)

GG: (Laughter.) Why was it interesting?

RC: Well... I'll tell you next time. To be continued. 

GG: That's a cliffhanger!



Among his many accomplishments and interests, Ron Cooper is the founder of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal from Oaxaca.



GORDY GRUNDY is the editor-in-chief of Art Report Today .com, the most comprehensive arts and culture news platform in the world.


Back to Main Page


Special thanks to Frances Colpitt, PhD for her research help.


Images courtesy of the artist Ron Cooper

Doug Chrismas Photo by Joey Krebs

Photo Illustrations courtesy of Art Report Today .com


Gordy Grundy

Gordy Grundy

Gordy Grundy

Gordy Grundy

Gordy Grundy