Sunday, January 20, 2019

Old Man Looking Backward - Bob Haozous

An exhibition currently at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian titled “Old Man Looking Backward” is devoted to Bob Hazous (b. 1943). Son of the sculptor, Allan Houser (!914-1994). Haozous was born in Los Angeles, but spent much time in Apache, Oklahoma where his father’s Chiricahua Apache tribe was headquartered.  His parents taught at the Intermountain Indian School in Logan, Utah and Haozous studied at Utah State University and before enlisting in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.  After four years serving on board the USS Frank Knox, he attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and earned a BFA in sculpture.

Although he is best known for his large outdoor sculpture (see his 1991 piece “Border Crossing”) he is also known for his jewelry, drawing, painting and print making.  His sculpture too, ranges through various media including steel, stone, aluminum and wood.  In fact, a couple of years ago we were on our way to Taos for my wife’s shoulder surgery when we stopped at the Rancho de Taos (a church made famous through photography, particularly an image by Ansel Adams).  There we found a small antiques shop where we saw what reminded us of an Italian Comedia del Arte mask in wood signed by Hazous.  After acquiring it, we decided to get in touch with the artist we had already admired to find out more about our piece.

I believe quoting part of his response might help to understand the artist.  “I created the mask sometime in the late 1980’s.  I carve wood when the weather is restricting my outdoors work time.  Sometimes the challenge of working in wood and creating something ‘different’ drives my imagination.  I clearly remember making the mask, probably looked at as a humorous piece by some, but to me it represented an aesthetic and compositional challenge, probably inspired by the eyeglass frame.”  The latter was part of the “junk” he acquires for possible future use.

Artists don’t always share all their work with the public.  Some only let go of enough so that they can feed their families and then most are in the middle somewhere.  Until recently, Bob Haozous did not wish to share the monoprints he made, and they remain NFS (not for sale). There is, however a rare chance to see these personal recollections in the Wheelwright exhibition.  In a film he did with Rose Simpson, whose work occupies the museum’s main gallery, he shares his critiques of contemporary American values and advocates for nature-oriented definition of indigenous identity. One of his big concerns is that Native American art has just become decoration for the Anglo home and lost its story.  As stated in the introduction to the exhibition he creates art to encourage dialogue that addresses “the profound problems [and] complex people we are today.”

In the film he is fashioning brass knuckles and if he made a fist and hit you with them you would have dollar sign marks embedded in your skin.  He says it is only partly a joke because he has a point to make.  The space where the video is shown is dominated by his large sculpture called, “Good Indian”, 2018, clearly done for the show.  It is a huge mouse trap with its a spread of one-dollar bills on the base and the words Good and Indian encircling the word “Trap”. Before I went back to the museum to check the title, I would have written that the title was “Good Indian Trap” because that is precisely what the artist means.

 Money may be a trap for Indian artists, but I would venture it is no different for Anglos.  They/we get caught keeping score by how much we make.  Coincidently, I just read a quote by the country singer Johnny Cash, “Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world except money.”  How true is that?!

Every time I went back to see the exhibition, I became more aware of how angry the artist is.  It is not so much in the images themselves as in the verbiage within the images.  In Haozous’ depictions of himself, and there are several in the show, there are no words, just images of melancholy.  In the signature work, “Old Man Looking Backward”, I would guess that the planes and puffs of smoke above are reminiscences of his experiences on the destroyer during the Vietnam War watching the planes above and the bombs being dropped.

One might think the artist is recalling beautiful women of his youth in the striking blonde “Pocahontas”, which is literally front and center in the exhibition, but then you start to focus on the angry worlds on the piece..  The fact that it was created in 2017 makes one think of the Trump era and his hateful dubbing of Senator Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas.

In this image titled “Invisible Indian”, which is both humorous and significant, I believe that Haozous is commenting not only on how many different art movements have come and gone during his life time, he is also making fun of how we try to pigeonhole artists into categories.  He believes that the artist, and particularly the Native American artist, should be delivering a more important message as to their histories and struggles.

We might as well end with a boom … actually “Boom” 2016, is the title of the image of another voluptuous woman, probably intended to grab our attention, so that we notice the words in the piece that vividly describe the horrors of the Vietnam war.  Not everything we look back on is happily nostalgic, sometimes it is just tragic.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Inuit Games

Whenever we visit my son, Dan, in Traverse City, I make a point of visiting the Dennos Museum at Northwestern Michigan College.  There often are interesting loan exhibitions but I am drawn to the galleries devoted to the museum’s Inuit Collections which consist of mostly sculpture and prints.

The Dennos has built a serious Inuit Collection and there is always work by Inuit artists on view. The Inuit live in the Canadian Arctic and used to be known as Eskimos. When we were at the museum this time there was a show within the installation of prints showing Inuit Games appropriately called, “Game On”. 

Why do we play games?  Naturally, it is because we enjoy them, and they are challenging.  Outdoor games are also good for your health, barring injury, but there is a more important reason for the Inuit.  They live in the very harsh arctic climate and need to be in excellent shape to survive.

Let’s begin with a game that is not necessarily played outside.  This lithograph from the Museum’s own collection is called “The Wishing Bone Game”,1987, by Andrew Qappik.  Games often have different rules depending on their origins.  Here three teens use small pointed seal bones to construct a diagram of an igloo with food stashes.  Depending how the bones land one player can take bones from the other’s stash and the one who loses all their bones first loses the game.

A stone cut and stencil print by Napachie Pootoogook is simply called “Eskimo Family Playing Ball”, 1961.  The artist is illustrating one of many ball games the Inuit created or adapted over generations.  This game is a modification of Lacrosse, invented by aboriginal peoples south of the Arctic Circle.  Players use a sealskin racket to catch and throw a small, stuffed ball made from animal skin.  I think we might call the game racket ball but note that here the players may use two rackets simultaneously.

Some games are more difficult than others and can become harder as the game goes on. So it is with hi-kick ball.  In this stonecut and stencil print, “High Kick”, 1984,  the artists Agnes Nanogak Goose and Harry Egutak collaborated to show the game at its zenith.  The idea is that the players try to kick a ball from a standing or lying position.  Each time one succeeds the ball is raised a bit higher.  Unfortunately, I could not find the image I saw at one time where ladies are gathered in a second story window raising the ball and clearly giggling as they dangle the ball out the window just out of reach of the players!

As usual, I like to keep the best, or maybe in this case the worst for close to the end.  I don’t know of similar games in the world today.  This is the ear pull and its close cousin the cheek pull.  This print of the former is by A. Karpik & Josea Maniapik, 1979.  The traditional Inuit game tests the competitors' ability to endure pain.  In some circles, American Football might be thought to fall into this category!  In the ear pull, two competitors kneel or sit facing each other, their legs straddled and interlocked. A two-foot-long loop of string, similar to a thick, waxed dental floss, is looped behind their ears, connecting right ear to right ear, or left to left. The competitors then pull upon the opposing ear using their own ear until the cord comes free or one player quits from the pain. The game has been omitted from some Arctic sports competitions due to safety concerns and the squeamishness of spectators; the event can cause bleeding and competitors sometimes require stitches.  When will we follow suit re football and boxing?

You have probably heard the saying, “don’t send a hungry man grocery shopping.”  He is bound to buy food he doesn’t need and shouldn’t eat.  Same goes for a writer with much of a blank page.  I want to illustrate another print I wish to share. Though it doesn’t depict a game, it will end us on a happier note.  The stencil print by Mabel Nigiyok and her children, Lucy and Louie, called “Asking for Help,” 1994, illustrates the life lesson that no one succeeds on their own without help.  You can see a dancer singing and drumming surrounded by spirit figures , including a man, carried in the clouds by a bird ,and a dancing bear whose power is suggested by by his paw prints scattered throughout. Deducing that the airborne man is a shaman, a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits and having the ability to heal, my interpretation is that even a shaman needs help sometimes.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

David Kutz

To start the year, I am going to write about a friend, David Kutz, who works in one of my favorite fields of art, photography. We read about outsider artists who are often defined as self-taught but David has received a serious education in his field and used it well.

He holds BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York (and it is no coincidence that George Eastman House and the Kodak Company, aka Kodak, were situated there as well) and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts with a Merit Scholarship. In addition, David Kutz made, in what to my mind, is a brilliant move by taking the Executive education program at Harvard’s business school.  So often I have seen that artists do not realize that an understanding of business is vital to their success. 

Moving to New York City fresh out of college in 1974 he went to work at the newly-founded International Center of Photography which has become a very important exhibition space for the field.  After a couple of years there he became an independent photo journalist with assignments from, Life, Look and Time Magazines as well as the “Old Lady “herself, The New York Times.

When my wife, Penelope, was a curator at the Metropolitan Museum she was asked to come up with a short video for a project that the Getty was funding.  Since she did not want to make a typical stodgy art historical documentary, she asked to work with the sort of filmmaker who worked for MTV (she did not want to make a typical stodgy art historical video) and she found David Kutz. They came up with an exciting concept about a fire in the studio of André Charles Boulle, cabinetmaker to Louis XIV.

Unfortunately, their film project was not chosen by the judges (probably too popular for the 1970’s).  Meanwhile, Penelope came to work on exhibitions and research at Rosenberg & Stiebel and in 1989 our gallery, wanted to celebrate its 50 years in the United States with a video about our history.  Of course, we turned to David Kutz. The result was a great success.   David focused on some of our better-known clients including a major investment banker, a member of the French Rothschild family, a couple of museum directors, a curator and private clients giving different perspectives on the art business.  If you want to learn more about the project you can click here to watch the 24-minute video.

David went on to even more important films like one for the US General Services Administration about the discovery of “The African Burial Ground” in lower Manhattan which is today a National Monument.  Another was a collaboration between the International Center of Photography and the United Nations.  It is a short (3 minutes) but very effective video about climate change with Sebastiao Salgado, a Brazilian social documentary photographer and a photojournalist.

In 2013 David decided to concentrate on digital still photography as an art form.  In recent years he has written on and lectured about photography but more importantly he has participated in a number of group-shows as well as solo exhibitions of his work. 

He writes, “I am now actively engaged in making work and continuing my research into geography, urban planning, travel and globalization.  I am an active member of Soho Photo Gallery, a cooperative gallery in New York City, the International Panorama Council, and volunteer with my local arts organization: Arts Gowanus.” 

David travels a lot and he took this image in the Town Square, Ericira, Portugal.  I love the way you see down a number of streets and the Café Central is in the middle and the light and dark side of the street comes down the center of the image ... click on the images to get their full effect.

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They say the Brooklyn Palisade offers a great view of Manhattan, which reminds me of a realtor in New York who tried to sell us an apartment by pointing out the historic building we could see out of the window, saying, “if you lived in the historic building you would have to look at this place!”  Here David shows us a closeup of what the Brooklyn Palisade from Manhattan.

Click on image to enlarge
Currently David is in a solo exhibition at the Soho Photo Gallery called, “Cultural Landscapes” through February 3.   The Soho Gallery is artist-run and was founded in 1971.  His works in the show demonstrate how he has found a way to immerse the viewer in the scenes he captures.  For those technically inclined:  the images are all multiple exposure-stitched panoramic images, most using a Zeiss Otus 55mm lens on a Nikon D800e camera. 

Here is the photo that had me take full notice of his fine art work.  It is titled, “Dumbo, Brooklyn” for those unfamiliar, Dumbo stands for, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.  It looks staged but remember it is multiple exposures except for those two women rushing along on the left.  Typical New Yorkers, they are not going to stop for anything, (that is why when a movie is being shot on NY streets there are crew member blocking pedestrians who will not be stopped and would end up in the film!

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This next image is called, “The Stranger’s Path”, it is taken at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport”, built by the GDR (East Germany).  This long walkway connects the airport to the train station.  The photograph itself is 20 feet long. By the time you have seen the whole image you may feel you have taken that long walk pulling your suitcase behind you!

Click on image to enlarge
A place I am better acquainted with is the Paradeplatz in Zurich, Switzerland.  It is a major intersection of town and the tram goes through it. The images of the square and the tram made me feel I was back in one of my favorite places.  David tells me that both images were taken from the exact same vantage point without moving the camera.

Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Will David Kutz become a household name? Who knows, but it is certainly heartening that there are people out there with a keen eye who have honed their skills and are willing to devote themselves to their art for the benefit of all.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Into My 10th Year

This past week I have been more involved with family than writing ...

Photo by Aidan Stiebel, the young man with beard

I am now into my 10th year of publication and looked back on what I sent between the holidays at that first year.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Norton Simon

When we were in Pasadena, the Norton Simon Museum was an inexpensive Uber ride away so why not go?

In the 1970’s the Internal Revenue Service asked all institutions to appraise their collections.  A rather futile concept which happily was soon scrapped but meanwhile the museums had to give it a try.  The Art Dealers’ Association of America was asked to work on these appraisals and committees were formed.  My father ended up with the group asked to appraise the Frick Collection in New York!  To do an appraisal one uses comparisons, i.e. a similar work was sold at auction for X and this piece is better, therefore it is worth more than X.  One of my very favorite paintings, the Giovanni Bellini of St. Francis in the Desert (1476-1478) had to be given a value although there was no comparison to anything sold in recent times.  Eugene Victor Thaw (Gene), great dealer, collector and patron of the arts, lead that committee and he came up with the following formula.

Photo by Michael Bodycomb

At that time Gene had a billionaire client who wanted to build a great Old Master collection when many said it could no longer be done because all the great paintings were already accounted for.  The client’s name was Norton Simon (1907-1993).  Gene suggested they would use the highest price that Norton would pay for a painting.  I am afraid I do not remember what that figure was, but you can be sure it would be much, much higher today.

At his father’s insistence Norton Simon went to Berkley but quit after only six weeks to found a sheet metal distribution company.  He went on to invest in a bankrupt orange juice bottling plant, selling that to Hunt’s Foods for a controlling interest.  Like Warren Buffet today, he formed a holding company for companies such as McCall’s Publishing, Canada Dry, Max Factor, Avis Car Rental and others.  Aside from all the individual works of art he acquired he bought the Duveen Gallery in Manhattan including its contents.  He sold enough of them, I am guessing, to cover his purchase price and kept what he wanted. 

Norton came regularly to our gallery but bought little from us.  My father never wanted to be stuck in a car with him because he always had a large envelope of photos and transparencies that he had collected from other dealers or saw coming up at auction and wanted an opinion.  Then, I presume, if he heard enough positive responses, he bargained a bit and bought.

Norton supported the Los Angeles County Museum but also lent his paintings to museums around the world.  What he really wanted, however, was a museum of his own to house what ended up being 4,000 works of art from around the world.  In 1972 The Pasadena Museum of Modern Art was financially strapped and solicited him and his collection.  Soon he gained control and naming rights, so it became the Norton Simon Museum.   In the late 1980’s UCLA attempted to do a deal with him that he would keep most of the collection in Pasadena, but they would build a museum on their campus for the rest of his collection and run the museum in Pasadena as well.  Almost as soon as he agreed to the deal, he changed his mind.

I had been to the Norton Simon Museum before, but I was so pleasantly surprised at how good it looked from the point of view of the quality of the work which was being shown.  The fact alone that they own three Rembrandts is pretty impressive.

One painting in particular brought back personal memories…. We had a rather flamboyant client, Audrey Cory de Ayala, who I remember sweeping through her salon in her long robe,.  She was quite a character who was said to have been the girlfriend of Samuel Kress.  She had a very nice art collection and it is believed that many of the pieces were gifts from Kress, adding to their allure.  One of her paintings which we acquired was a small Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), just 5 ½ X 6 ¾ inches.  It represents a nude woman on a bed and was cut down from a larger panel.  Though we had acquired it, Gene had the right client in Norton Simon.  If you take a look at this drawing by the artist in the Getty Museum, you will see that the picture originally showed the nurse with the standard cleansing remedy of the 18th century, the enema!   Neither the Norton Simon Museum’s audio guide nor their text on line mention this fact, while the Getty text below the image makes it clear.

In the mid 1970’s before I married Penelope, we worked together on an exhibition from art dealer inventories in the States and Europe at the Metropolitan Museum.  She represented the museum and I, the dealers.  Museums even today do not want to recognize the link between the commercial world and the art cathedral known as a museum, so generally, it was expected to be an exhibition of not worthwhile artifacts.  We, and subsequently The New York Times, knew better.  I have always wanted to write about the works of art that were not taken seriously then and are now in museums and I am still planning to do so.  In the Norton Simon Museum, we recognized one of those pictures.  It is a striking portrait of a Soldier Holding a Pike by Jan van Bijlert, a Dutch artist dating from about 1630.  For the show in 1974-75 it was lent by Edward Speelman, Ltd.,  London.

Let me end with one of the more important paintings in the collection which Norton bought at auction in 1965.  It is by Rembrandt van Rijn and is labelled simply Portrait of a Boy, but it is generally thought to be Rembrandt’s son, Titus.   It is considered unfinished, but I find it’s sketchiness very appealing in the depiction of a young person.

The cover of the Norton Simon biography “Odd Man” by Suzannne Muchnic, art writer and art critic for the Los Angeles Times is a photograph of the billionaire collector with this painting. Although it was published five years after Norton’s death it is still in print.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

LiT: The Work of Rose B. Simpson

I made a good friend in Santa Fe by the name of Rina Swentzell (1939-2015).  Rina and her family are from Santa Clara pueblo and though Rina became an anthropologist she, like her daughter Roxanne Swentzell, and grand-daughter, Rose Simpson, was an incredible artist.

We first saw Rose Simpson’s work in clay when she was still young enough to be called Rosie and was making small clay dolls.  Now over two decades later she is an established artist whose clay sculptures can be found in museums, private collections and many exhibitions.  She is from the  renowned Naranjo family of ceramic artists, but as you must know by now, artists never wish to pigeon hole themselves in one medium any more than actors wants to be typecast. 

Rose is currently having her first retrospective exhibition at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe.  Not bad for an artist in her mid-thirties.  It is a very original installation without real walls but rather framed veils of muslin separating the pieces.

At the end of last year the artist sat down with the designer, Louis Emmanuel Gauci, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee and comes to Santa Fe to design the Wheelwright’s shows. He presented alternate sketches of his ideas of how the gallery might be set up to show her work at its best and within a day he and Rose had worked it out..

The lighting, which was also superb, was done by a local lighting person, Todd Elmer, who worked with the designer until all was just as they wanted it.  Jack Townes is the preparatory and exhibit installer.  All have worked together at the Wheelwright for over 15 years.  When you have a team like that on a regular basis, they get it right! 

I bring all these details up because they were crucial in getting the effect the artist wished to convey and making the work look its best for the visitor.  This show is one of the most dramatic I have ever seen. Of course, the artist’s works are mainly responsible but it takes the right setting to maximize their effect!

The curator for the exhibition was Yve Chavez (Tongva-Gabrielino).  Yve was the Wheelwrights’ first Andrew W. Mellon fellow.  She had to learn about the artist’s many facets to write an essay for the catalog which should be coming out next month.  She had to work not only with the artist but with the artist’s gallery, Chiaroscuro, to pick out the best pieces for the show and learn in which collections the sold ones were.  To put on a museum exhibition takes a village and then some. 

You may be wondering as I did, what the LiT in the title of the exhibition is supposed to mean.  It is typical of this artist’s in depth thought process which can, frankly, be difficult to follow sometimes.  This is a very self-aware artist whose work, as you will see, can be very tough.  Rose is thinking of LiT as “she is lit or illuminated from within while shining light on ideas captured in her work.”  She goes on to say, “I want my work to be accessible enough that it doesn’t scare people away, and I don’t know if I am always successful in that way.” 

Rose see’s much of her work as self portraits undertaken in order to analyze herself.  Here is the figure that greets you when you arrive at the show.   When her daughter was born a couple of years ago, Rose like most mothers became very protective of her daughter.  In this sculpture she portrayed herself as a V8 engine.  Rose said that before giving birth her body felt like a machine but, “After I was a human again, It was like the building of the baby that felt like my body was out of control, like a ’69 Chevelle going full speed, and my brain was a deflated balloon hanging off the rear bumper.”  I think any woman who has had a child can relate to that.

Rose first learned from her mother, a major sculptor in clay, Roxanne Swentzell. Like any great artist she did not say I know all there is to know but went on to get her BFA from The University of New Mexico where her focus was studio arts, writing and dance, then further to graduate with an Honors MFA in Ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design.  You would think she would stop there, but no, she attended Northern New Mexico College’s Automotive Science Program with a focus in Auto Body and is currently enrolled in the Institute of American Indian Arts in their Creative Writing MFA program!

What I find so wonderful about Rose’s work is that one can appreciate it without any background information whatsoever,  or you can get another layer of stimuli by looking at it through her eyes with her mystical and ethereal interpretations.  This baby, for instance, Rose identifies as a self- portrait although it also might make one think of her own child, but her daughter was born two years after the piece was completed!

The untitled sculpture which Rose refers to as “Horned C-section” is a collaboration with her mother and father, Patrick Simpson, who owns this piece.  Rose sees this as her mother giving birth to her.  Her father is an artist who works in clay and metal and as a youngster she helped him carve wood. sculptures  She learned that if you put your mind to it you can do anything and she eventually mastered sewing, drawing, painting welding and automotive design and repair.  If your car is stuck on the side of the road, hope that Rose will come by!

At the end of the show is “Rose’s Cabinet of Curiosities”. She sees it as kind of a kunstkammer (my word not hers)but these are pieces that have special meaning to her. So what is an oversized bullet doing there?  Bob Haozous who also has an exhibit at the Wheelwright that I hope to write about in the next weeks, gave Rose this oversize dud as a high school graduation present. The label states “She has had it with her ever since. It represents the power of not going off even when provoked, but still has the power and capacity to do so. Boom”.

The show will be up until next October but if you go now you will miss the summer crowds.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Erle Stanley Gardner

After the wedding I wrote about last week we went to Temecula, California to spend Thanksgiving with our new in-laws.  What a great family holiday that was, we got to meet a slew of new relatives and had a delicious meal.  After dinner we played celebrity!

Needless to say, we had to check out the local museum which was naturally about the growth of the town that was only incorporated in 1989.  Every small town touts their Native Sons and Temecula did as well.  It turned out to be one of my favorite authors from my youth, Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970).

In a corner upstairs at the museum was the recreated study in Gardner’s ranch house in Temecula where he lived from 1937 until his death.  Should the name not ring a bell, he wrote all the Perry Mason mysteries which were eventually turned into radio shows and then appeared on television.  Gardner was a self-taught lawyer who started as a typist in a law firm and then passed the Bar without ever having any formal training.  After passing the Bar he joined a well-known law firm where he was a litigator, often in criminal trials.

After a while the law began to bore him, and he also wanted to make some more money, so he started writing stories for pulp magazines producing 600 in all.  In this way he honed his writing skills.  When he was teased that his good guys always being killed off the heavies with their last bullet, so they must have been very bad shots, he is said to have responded “At three cents a word, every time I say “Bang” in the story I get three cents.  If you think I’m going to finish the gun battle while my hero still has fifteen cents worth of unexploded ammunition in his gun, you’re nuts.”  What adds credence to that story is that in 1932, his last year of writing exclusively for the pulps, he earned $20,000, the equivalent of over $300,000 today.

Although he is now best remembered for the TV show that ran from 1957-1966, I became interested in Perry Mason on the radio.  It ran as a 15-minute continuing series from 1943 to 1955 on CBS Radio.  I must have caught on in the late 40’s.  I began reading the novels around 1953-54.  How, you might ask, can you remember that? It is actually very simple:  In 5th grade I had a French, French teacher, Monsieur Turgeon. I know he was French since aside from his accent he said to me one day…”Tomorrow is parents day and I must try not to touch all the mothers!”  Can you imagine the reaction today to what was then the way many Europeans spoke using their hands and touching.  Monsieur Turgeon was also planning his return to France and had to give up some of his home clutter.  Knowing I was interested in Perry Mason since I was already planning to grow up and become a great criminal defense lawyer (Yeh! Right!). Monsieur Turgeon gave me all his Perry Mason mysteries.  There must have been at least a dozen.  I wonder if he read them to learn the American vernacular?

Gardner wrote other mysteries as well, but it was the Mason publications that brought him fame and fortune.  In all 119 were published. For the most part dictated by Gardner and typed up by his seven secretaries.   Perry Mason went from book to radio to a long running TV series starring Raymond Burr, here portrayed on the museum’s television together with his nemesis, the homicide detective on the show, Lieutenant Arthur Tragg.  His other memorable characters were Della Street who was a compilation of three sisters among his secretaries (one of whom he married); Paul Drake, his detective whom Mason depended on for the evidence to find his clients innocent; and Hamilton Burger the inveterate prosecutor who lost almost every case to Mason.  There was not much to learn about any of Gardner’s characters background from the novels themselves and that is probably why I remember the TV characters best.

Still today the Perry Mason series ranks third in the top ten best-selling book series.  For that reason in 2015, the American Bar Association's publishing imprint, Ankerwycke, began reissuing Gardner's Perry Mason books, which had been out of print in the United States.  Or maybe they just want to inspire more young people to become lawyers after all the bad press they get!

If you wish to delve further into this subject I found, but have not yet read, “Erle Stanley Gardner : The Case of the Real Perry Mason” by Dorothy B. Hughes.