Last Tuesday was Tony Guerrero’s last day at work. Tony spent 17 years as director of operations and exhibitions at MoMA PS1 in Queens. As my colleague at Artnet, artist Tony Fitzpatrick, emailed me last week, "I had a show at P.S.1 awhile back and they treated me so bad that I wanted to quit, but Tony Guerrero smoothed it over."
That’s what Tonys do, they smooth things over.
So it was, with a sad heart, that Tony’s significant other, painter Ena Swansea, held her annual vernissage of new work during Armory week, with art-worlders like Knight Landesmann, Jon Kessler, Lisa Ruyter and Cay Sophie Rabinowitz attending. As a goodbye to Guerrero, MoMA sent curator Ann Temkin, wearing an uncharacteristically slinky black sweater dress, with plunging neckline, rather than the man who fired him, Klaus Biesenbach.
Symbolizing the sadness was Swansea’s newest painting, awkwardly titled Hercules and Hercules Junior, a work that reminded me of Max Beckmann’s epic triptych, Departure, which I first marveled at in MoMA’s permanent collection 45 years ago. The same rich colors, exotic lines, elements of myth and mystery, sense of grand purpose and unanswerable eternal questions resonate from both works.
Ena Swansea had struggled over Hercules for four years, never getting the eyes of her central hero quite right until she overlaid sunglasses on his face the day before her party last week.
If ever there was a Hercules of P.S. 1, it was Tony Guerrero, literally cleaning out the stables of that rickety Queens schoolhouse for most of his art career. That MoMA chose to dishonor his quiet heroism is a disgrace.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).