An Artist Who Has It Made
By Art Seidenbaum
Times Staff Writer
“The are Burt Shonberg,” says the poster in a burst of grammar that may have been dropped By Alfred Hitchcock’s birds.
Taking Burt Shobergs, one by one, the basic ingredient is an unknown painter who likes to call himself a “magic reality” or a “living surrealist,” his brush dipped in mixed mysticism.
The display Shonberg is a La Cleega first - a whole gallery opened for the single purpose of bringing one man’s work in front of the passerby.
The corporate Shonberg is a man with a patron-manager, public relations firm, gallery director, legal consultant. He is supposed to be the new working model: how to magnify a modern painter so the word will know he exists. Mass communicate him.
The personal Shonberg is a man who welcomes the retail retunue because it leaves him free, theoretically, to paint. “The artist is supposed to struggle and suffer nd all that crap - the stuff of pulp magazines” beams Shonberg behind a few five-o’clock shadows. “An organization that supports him is a beautiful set-up.”
The beautiful set-up is Gallery Contemporary, a place that would not have existed if there were no Shonbergs to sell. In space rented from longtime gallery-owner Ernest Rahaoff for at least four months at $350 per month. Valerie Porter sits among 49 hung-up Shonbergs which range from $150 to $3,000.
Valerie is a sculptor when she is not ornamenting the shop. The heroic clay head of Burt Shonberg that stares out the front window in fact, is a Porter work. She has been an admirer of Shonberg, been collecting his paintings for some time.
Pasted on the other side of the front window are various press clippings to prove that Shonberg’s name is already dropping in public. This suggests a somewhat show business approach to visual arts and the impression is absolutely correct.
For behind the assorted Burt Shonbergs stands Goerge Greif, music manager, recording guru and one time manufacturer f the Christy Minstrels. Grief is patron and producer of the “This are Burt Shonberg” package. Grief and partner Sid Garris are the management team presenting a painter to the world.
George hoist some junk on the public with good merchandising and public relations” explains George. met singular Burt a couple of years ago, the the 34 year old artist returned to Los Angeles from Ibiza. Collector Grief immediately liked what he saw and decided that Shonberg only needed some subsidizing to become a modern master.
So Grief-Garris became the business half of Burt Shonberg and it was their decision to open a new gallery in his honor.
“Our idea is not to hoist some junk on the public with good merchandising and public relations,” explains George. “But we’re putting a new sound to art. Like it or not it’s a new sound. And we’ve opened our own avenues”
George does not tell Burt what to paint, unlike the music business where a smart manager picks his artist’s materials. But he does set the financial tone for the operation and masterminds promotion.
He likens having his own gallery t the success of the Tijuana Brass in launching their own record label.
“All of a sudden, just have one these become a hit painting and Burt will get the recognition he deserves”
Greif-Shonberg will divide the proceeds from this revolutionary technique.
But the serious side of the magic realist admits that artistic success and commercial success do not necessarily happen together. As guidance for critics and audience alike, the incorporated creator offers a line from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: Be not attached to, nor repelled by, anything.”
Then, nodding, smiling, the artist advises, “Let it all be news.”