Letter to SFMOMA Curator Henry Hopkins
April 27, 1983
Dear Henry Hopkins,
A few weeks ago the University gave me the good news that I would be granted a sabbatical leave for a year, beginning in June. OLE! CARAMBA! I sez to meself, planning to head straight to Brazil, enter a samba school, and pursue the study of "style" in the contexts of the fine, folk and popular arts: chile dishes in the tradition of Amazonian cuisine, charango music, Xica as a modern role-model with an excursis on feathered head dresses versus the Carmen Miranda charisma.
But no. The standard press offers scant encouragement. While sifting through the pages of the San Francisco Comical for news items on riots in Rio, what to my wondering eyes should appear but notice of the Museum position no further away than Van Ness, and McAllister.
Then a distinguished colleague showed me the open letter from Thomas Albright, underscoring several similarities in mythopoeic character there invoked and what I must seem to be, based on the checkered record.
True, I did play one of the first Ray Charles records in a UCLA classroom ("What'd I Say?") and screened Bruce Conner's Movie; have a tape of Claes Oldenburg and one of my grad seminars, (we went to see a giant sculpture of the empty cardboard toilet paper roll, of the kind redundantly appearing set up as sculpture--now in this, now in that part of the house--or reverently left in situ between the sprongs-- although the actual mechanics of changing same with a full, fresh roll are not, in themselves, that demanding: surely one of the most mystical of ordinary objects), and I have a marvelous slide of Ed Kienholz's "Backseat Dodge '38" infamously installed in the LAC-Muse, two nuns in the background.
But are Albright's heroes those of the Board? Is heroic effort required, indeed, just to contemplate the high theater of the job? And just how are the Trustees prepared to address the old material question?
Enclosed are some leaves from the dossier. Tell me what you think about it all, say, as a field research project and worked example (for a year?) on Cultural Customs of Central Californians. Ars longa, etc.
Kurt von Meier