Whitehot Magazine

Don’t Fear the Sweeper: How Breakfast with Kim MacConnel Led Me to the Whitney

Kim MacConnel at Salomon Contemporary, 2015

By JAMES SALOMON December, 2019 

Kim called me up saying that he was coming to New York. This made me happy because I haven’t seen him in a few years, and he’s one of the nicest guys on earth. We set a date at Café Gitane, which doesn’t exactly have a bohemian clientele as the name would offer, but it does have the look and feel. I was running late, comme d’habitude, and to make matters worse I decided to drive instead of take the PATH so I could talk on the phone. There would be parking issues, but I decided to “deal with it when I get there”, a myopic attitude that sometimes bites me in the ass.  

So I get to Mott Street, and sure enough, parking looks impossible. I notice though that there is an empty spot very close to Gitane. There’s a hitch: It’s in a street sweeper zone and everyone is in their cars waiting for it to pass – because this is New York City and that’s what (some) people do. Park in the garage? I don’t surrender that easily. A guy standing by my car, Jason, happens to be the super of the apartment building in front of. He’s looking out for the street sweeper to notify a tenant. So after some small talk I ask him to call me when he scouts the sweeper. 

I go in and there’s Kim, of course in full understanding and chuckles when I explain my parking scenario. He and I met each other several years ago when Ned Smyth was curating a series of shows for me. Kim and Ned had a good run together with Holly Solomon, and it should be said for those who don’t know that Kim is an important figure in the Pattern and Decoration movement that Holly championed (See: Glenn Adamson, Art in America, September 2019). We talked about life in Encinitas, his wife Jean, the big P&D show in Dijon, then another at LA MoCA… it’s been a good year for this fella. In the middle of our coffee and eggs my phone goes off and I’m running down the street to deal with the sweep. I feel like I am in a Seinfeld episode, but I set myself up for this and “When in Rome (or NYC)”. 

I walk back to my table with composure, having gotten that out of the way, and we continue. Kim is in town for Making Knowing: Craft in Art 1950-2019, a very large and seemingly thorough group show at the Whitney curated by Jennie Goldstein, Elisabeth Sherman, and Ambika Trasi. He was at the patrons opening the night before, and showed me some photos. I’m thinking I gotta get over there soon.

We moved onto other subjects, mainly art world stuff. He told me that he had a great experience with Tom Solomon (Holly’s son) earlier in the year at the Felix Art Fair in LA. Dean Valentine helped set this up at the Roosevelt Hotel where each gallerist rented a room to exhibit. Tom had the hotel take out all the furniture so that Kim can bring in his own painted chairs and fabric material. Holly used to commission these types of installations back in the 70s, and they’ve stayed as part of of Kim’s work since. Wanting a piece of greatness, I ask him if I brought a piece of furniture over to where he was staying, would he make it a KMac original? He says sure no problem – so game on!

We said our goodbyes for the day, and I’m thinking of how soon I can get to the Whitney.

It took me a week, but it was worth the wait. The whole thing was comprehensive, elegantly presented and felt fresh. My images won't do it enough justice but I took a crack at it. Enjoy.

As for my sofa, things worked out splendidly. Thank you, Kim. Xo. WM 

Liza Lou, Kitchen, 1991-1996.

Students appreciating Jeffrey Gibson (L) and Nick Cave (R) sculptures.

The ceramics room includes Katy Schimert, Betty Woodman, Sterling Ruby, Viola Frey, David James Gilhooly, Richard Shaw, and Robert Arneson.

Simone Leigh, Cupboard VIII, 2018 (detail).

L-R: Kiki Smith, Pepón Osorio, Rosie Lee Tompkins.

Robert Gober,  Untitled, 1991.

Mike Kelley, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin, 1987.

Kim MacConnel, On TV, 1978.

Betty Woodman, Hydrangea, 1987.

Miriam Schapiro, The Beauty of Summer, 1973-74. (detail).

Robert Morris,  Felt, 1967-68.

Alan Shields, J+K, 1972.

Alan Shields, J+K (detail).

Eva Hesse, “No Title”, 1969-70 (detail).

L-R: Claes Oldenberg, Yayoi Kusama, Richard Artschwager

Harmony Hammond, Hug, 1978.

Ann Wilson, Moby Dick, 1955 (detail).

Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks, 1954 (detail).

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1955.

Charles LeDray, Milk and Honey, 1994-1996 (detail).

John de Fazio, Crystal Meth Crucifix, 1999 (detail).

Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, A Rite of Passage: The Velvet Cat Tail and the Silk Tiger Lily, 1987-88 (detail).

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Portals, 2016 (detail).

Jordan Nassar, A Lost Key, 2019 (detail).

Elaine Reichek, Sampler (Kruger/Holzer), 1998.

Elaine Reichek, Sampler (The Ultimate), 1996.

Ree Morton,  Signs of Love, 1976 (detail).

Kim MacConnel installation at Holly Solomon Gallery, 1977.

Kim MacConnel installation at Thomas Solomon/Felix Art Fair, Los Angeles, 2019.

Mongo lounging on MacConnel.


James Salomon

James Salomon is the Director of Achille Salvagni America in NYC. He occasionally takes photographs and tells stories for Whitehot and various art and lifestyle publications.


Photo: Lori Hawkins


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