Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

This entry is part 8 of 22 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection
Fred Barzyk (2007)

Pete Hoving (camera) and I traveled to New York to work on a documentary about a Boston still photographer, Marie Cosindas. We had received a grant from Polaroid to help defray the cost of doing this “Creative Person” 1/2-hour show for NET.

Peter and I both had experience at the MFA in Boston, where they would never let us roam free without someone from the museum staff being with us. (Probably those restrictions happened after one of our lights melted a painting on exhibit. It was a scoop light that was a little too close to the painting that caused the disaster. Fortunately, the museum experts where able to retouch it and it looked pretty much the same. The MFA kept on doing Museum Open House and WGBH employees knew the rules of engagement.)

But here at the MOMA, we were shocked at what happened to us … free and alone in a gallery with some of the worlds most noted modern masterpieces. Here is a little poem recalling the event.

Guernica, from Wikipedia

Museum of Modern Art, 1962

I couldn’t believe it —
We had been left alone —
The top floor of the MOMA
Just me and my cameraman
Left alone by a busy curator
Before any security guards appeared
In the middle of a deserted gallery
We waited, quiet, uncertain
Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Pollock, Klee, Kandinsky and all the others
Colors, shapes, demanding us to pay attention
Visual challenges screaming out from the shadows
Paintings, barely lit by the early morning light
We tried to comprehend their messages
but the images just stared back,
providing no other clues
We waited, quiet, uncertain
Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Around a corner is where it was hung
Twenty five feet long
Eleven feet high
Black and white,
A screaming woman,
A limp baby
A severed arm clutching a sword
Pablo Picasso’s scream against war and carnage
“Guernica”
We looked, quiet, uncertain
Alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Then the Silence stopped
Now an ugly sound filled the space,
a sound so loud and awful
a horrible sound heard only by our eyes
emanating from the massive, black and white canvas:
red, hideous yellow fire bombings,
pink flesh gnashing against brittle bones
hot blood flowing dark purple, crimson;
black explosions,
white screams;
until nothing but
Death
Horrified, we listened with our eyes
Alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Then it stopped. Gone.
The sound of high heels on cold tile
The gallery lights sputtering on.
The curator returned and the carnage vanished
Replaced by distant city traffic down below
by a car horn, a police siren
by the heaviness of our breathing.
Time now to film our documentary
Time to turn our attention to another artist
We set up our tripod and loaded our camera
Point and shoot, focus and zoom
We try to forget the cries of anguish we saw
While we were alone in the Museum of Modern Art.

But we can’t.
Never will.
Never.

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (1950s)

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (LECJ) was a series funded by the US Department of Justice for in-service training of police officers in the New England area.

James Patrick Kelly was one of the most colorful people to ever be employed by WGBH. Policemen, as a group, are some of the best storytellers in the world and Jim was one of the best of the best. He spoke out of experience and he framed his stories with humor and understanding of human frailty of which he had seen a lot.

Filming of a scene for the series. The WGBH "shooter" is Peter Hoving.

A former New York City policeman and a longtime investigator for powerful House and Senate Committees, he had experiences quite unlike any other executive producers at WGBH had. He had worked directly for Bobby Kennedy and had been deeply involved with the Kennedy vendetta against Teamster president, Jimmy Hoffa.

In his office, he had a photograph of a group of men — I think they were a baseball team — seated outside wearing dull gray uniforms. It was taken at a Federal prison, Allentown, perhaps, and there in the center of the front row was Jimmy Hoffa. I had the impression that Jim enjoyed the fact that his undercover work had helped to put there.

Ralph Salerno, Peter Downey and James Kelly. Each program (there were 19 one hour episodes) had a studio discussion segment.

Particularly outstanding were two programs on Organized Crime. The guest presenter was Ralph Salerno, national expert on the Mafia. WGBH was broadcasting information about capos and button men not long after law enforcement officials learned how the crime families were organized.

This was before Mario Puzo had published The Godfather, and this information was just not available to the public anywhere else at this time.

Jim inspired great personal loyalty among the people who worked for him and that included myself; Grace Papps who was the associate producer and assistant to Jim; Marie Foskett, a volunteer who seemed to put in more hours than some of the full time employees; and Margo Child, production assistant.

Writing this reminded me of what happened at one of the studio tapings. The heads of several police departments were there in the studio before the show and were gathered around Jim Kelly talking animatedly while I did those last-minute things producers are supposed to do which as I remember consisted mostly of worrying about something that might go wrong.

Grace had taken to calling me “Chief” which I rather enjoyed, but on this particular occasion, in the studio, when she wanted to get my attention, she called out, “Hey, Chief” — about a third of the men in the room, most of them in uniform and gold braid, turned around.

We got to shoot inside the FBI Lab in Washington. Peter Downey, series director, supervises a close up with Peter Hoving.

always seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than you could read in the papers. One day during a trip there with him, we were having lunch at The Monocle restaurant and “The Director” came in. Everyone in Washington knew “The Director” was J. Edgar Hoover. He went to his table to have lunch with his friend, Mr. Tolson but he spotted Jim and gave him a wave and a smile that made me think he knew him.

That’s why when the Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate Building were burglarized, I wanted to know what Jim thought, if he had any particular information that was not public. Jim, a partisan Democrat, was under no illusions about his party. He said that the break-in was connected to much larger misdeeds by the Administration but that the Democrats did not have the stomach or the skill to go after the facts effectively so Nixon would be safe.

Thoughts of Jim are now crowding my head. His best stories were about undercover work, not so much his own but working with informants. He had done a lot of that as an investigative reporter for CBS News back when they were doing real investigations about crimes and people went to jail as a result.

This "victim" appeared in a dramatic scene.

There was one time that the undercover camera van pulled out, too fast, into traffic. Jim and the cameraman hit the back door of the truck and fell out onto a Manhattan Street directly in front of the car they were shooting. Two prominent members from a NY crime family looked over the hood and saw two men, a tripod with an Arriflex mounted on it, and figured this was not good news. It pretty much shut down that investigation.

Jim told the story, not with anger, but with a real appreciation for the absurdity of the situation.

The Party VI

124b.

Henry continues, introducing alumni speakers and performers, calling first upon Henry Morganthau, who he praised for many years of landmark contributions to the history of political and public affairs programming at WGBH.

124c.

124d.

Henry Morganthau regaled the audience with a few observations out of school, and an appreciation of ‘GBH’s pioneering role (against monumental budgetary odds!) in the field of public broadcasting.

125.

The ever lovable Emily Lovering.

126.

Lacey Dean with Nick Anagnostis.

127.

Tom Pugh, David Alred and Sue DeMarco.

128.

Shiela Smith and Russ Morash.

129.

Mary Ide attends the archive interviews.

130.

Louise Daniels-Miller and Rick Hauser.

131.

The inimitable Peter Hoving with Chris Sarson.

132.

Ruth Barzyk and Fred with former “roomie” Tom McGrath.

The Henries Becton and Morganthau: Don Hallock; All others: Jeffrey Dunn