I received a call from Ivan Karps son Ethan two days ago letting me know that Ivan had passed away quietly at his summer home in upstate New York. As I looked back I realized that my relationship with Ivan and OK Harris Gallery had spanned four decades .
It was a relationship that started with a trip to New York from Wisconsin in the early seventies with a roll of canvases I had painted and a sense that I had created a group of works that finally were my own in terms of idea and construction. After carrying around this eight foot roll of canvases for three days, taking them into numerous galleries I ended up at OK Harris in SoHo, and it was here I was to meet Ivan Karp the legendary owner. Ivan as I recall said roll them out let's have look which I nervously did. After taking a moment and looking he said no one in New York is doing paintings like these. He asked are these available to sell and I said I had sold one of them for the sum of three hundred dollars. It was a painting that had taken me over a month to complete, and he said I should be getting much more for the work than that.
What happened next was a call to the owners of a new gallery that was opening across the street on West Broadway. Carlo Lamagna one of the owners came over and shared Ivans view of the work and offered me a solo show on the spot. It was one of the great moments of my life coupled with an even stronger feeling that happened when I entered the gallery many months later to see my efforts and was greeted by a sell out show. As I could not afford to take my wife to the opening I called her in Wisconsin where we were living telling her what had transpired and to charge a plane ticket so we could celebrate together. It was thanks to Ivan taking the time to view the work of a thirty year old artist and giving a helping hand that my career as a painter was to begin in earnest.
Later I was to join as he refered to it the stable of artists at OK Harris itself where I have shown to this day. It was always with a sense of pride that I was to show there and and as I recently wrote him I always thought what would Ivan think of these paintings as I embarked on putting together an exhibition. I have seen very few weak show at his gallery which remains a testament to his visual judgment and my sense of pride in being able to be a part of the gallery.
Ivan was as has been said, could be a curmudgeon, difficult and demanding yet one of the most generous, caring and loyal persons I have known. As a friend said who used to work for Leo Castelli he is the last of the great old time dealers. I have felt fortunate to have known him, as both a dealer and a friend and I will miss his good humor and insights and love of the great pleasures of life.