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by Charlie Finch
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Most of the time, I’d rather have my good times happen by accident. Such was the case when I walked down Second Avenue on a cold evening a few weeks ago to visit the Half Gallery on Forsyth Street, which, since it combines the powers, formally and informally, of Bill Powers, James Frey, Andy Spade, Carter Burden, Cynthia Rowley, Olivier Zahm and others, probably has more celebrities per square foot than all the ersatz parties in Miami Beach during the first week of December.

Opening at Half was a painter named Donald Shambroom, who lives outside of Boston. It’s his first New York exhibition in 20 years and comprises a series of mournful paintings of orange gardenias, and one of an outstretched pink hand, bowing towards a gravestone, mockingly thanking George W. Bush on behalf of the war dead of the last decade.

I asked myself where I had met this Shambroom fellow before and, when a number of familiar faces arrived, realized that I had not seen him since he was painting at Yale in 1973. Memories, none mournful, flooded back of other marginally promising painters of our era (Dirk Nelson, Frank Cole), and the faces in the room identified themselves: here was the avant-garde guitarist Gary Lucas, sidekick of Captain Beefheart; there was Robert Rubin, who curates at the Bibliotheque National; and there was painter Dennis Kardon, he of the brash nudes and frequent mentions in Artnet Magazine.

In short, all the oldest whiteys were in the house and there was an after-party in a luxe pad on 19th Street, full of paintings by Karin Davie and Donald Shambroom. Chili was consumed, wine imbibed and a joint passed around. Gary Lucas and I told each other "lies" about David Bowie and John Cale and observed that Don Van Vliet, like Jorma Kaukonen, turns 70 this month. To recover, I took Don Shambroom and Dennis Kardon around the corner to a coffee bar for espresso and we sat on the stoop until 2 am, debating Brice and Rothko and Jay DeFeo, just like we did four decades ago in New Haven.

Don’s wife died nine years ago. He’s 60 now and thinks of her each day. When I go back to his show at Half Gallery, I’ll think of her, too. 

Donald Shambroom, "Bloodbath," Nov. 30-Dec. 22, 2010, at Half Gallery, 208 Forsyth Street, New York, N.Y. 10002

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).