Excerpt from Hal Glicksman Interviewed by Rebecca McGrew, Hal Glicksman's home, Santa Monica, California, December 4, 2008
REBECCA MCGREW: Let’s start by talking about how you got the museum director’s job at Pomona College. Did Mowry Baden contact you?
HAL GLICKSMAN: Yes, he did. Mowry came to me and he basically offered me the job. I told him that I wasn’t a museum director; I was a preparator. I said, “I hang the shows,” and he said, “Well, the artists don’t seem to think so. You’re always the one that gets everything done.” So he just offered it to me.
RM: Where were you working at that time?
HG: I was the preparator at the Pasadena Art Museum from 1963–69. And my wife Gretchen Taylor [died 2009] was the registrar. Walter Hopps was the director at Pasadena and he had six people doing all the work. It was unbelievable; Walter would pick up the phone and say, “We’re going to do a show and…” So in the end I did a lot more than hang pictures. I built a room for Bob Irwin, and solved a lot of problems. We did the first [James] Turrell show. John Coplans was the curator, but he didn’t know anything about how it came into existence physically. I remember Jim Turrell asking, “Do you have a soldering iron? Do you have a VTVM [vacuum tube volt meter]?” That was a little meter for electricity. And every time I said, “Yes,” I got really proud because I’d accumulated all of these tools that people needed. Then he says, “Do you have an oscilloscope?” And I had to say “No,” I didn’t have an oscilloscope. To which he says, “When you’re in this long enough, you’ll have one of those, too.” [Laughs.] Anyway, Mowry had heard stories like this because he asked the artists and they said, “Hal Glicksman knows how to do this and that.”
RM: Then you started at Pomona in September of 1969. Did you initiate the artist’s gallery immediately when you started?
HG: I was director for only one academic year. The summer before coming to Pomona I visited Lloyd Hamrol. He had this beautiful artwork installed in his studio. It was a cube made of red vinyl thread, kind of like a Fred Sandback piece. It was a drawing in space made out of red tubing, and the corners of it were held by almost invisible, clear monofilament from the ceiling, walls, and floor. All you saw was a red cube about the size of a room, floating in a much bigger space. I said, “Oh, you should show that.” And he said, “Well, you never have any time with these shows, there’s two days to install, and they don’t have anybody to help, and you know, it’s just impossible. And besides, I like to do things for the space.
”So he gave me the idea for the artist’s gallery, and I gave him the first show. I said, “Well, why don’t we have a gallery that functions like an artist’s residency? And you could come and take all the time you need to do the piece. So, out of the six weeks he did four or five things that he took down the next day.
RM: When you conceived of the artist’s gallery, you scheduled the installations for about six weeks per artist?
HG: I think it was six weeks, but it might have been a little more. You know, it was always dependent on the school’s breaks and things. And some artists had projects that they wanted to do that took many weeks just to construct, like Tom Eatherton’s piece and Michael Asher’s. So it depended.
RM: How did you select the artists?
HG: There was no formal selection process. Artists knew me as someone who was interested in the processes and technology of creating art and showing it properly. I was able to see the correlation of the materials and the aesthetic goals of the work. The artists that I showed were friends, and there did not seem to be any conflict of interest because there was no special prestige or advantage to showing at Pomona College at the time. The artists expected that only other artists and art students would make the trek to Claremont to see their work. They wanted to show because otherwise the work would not be created, or even conceived.
RM: Did you let the public observe what the artists were doing?
HG: No, only the students. You see, there were three galleries. So I could always have something up while the artists were working on their projects in a separate gallery. People couldn’t go into the artist’s gallery space, but there would be another exhibition that they could see.
RM: So Lloyd’s was the first artist gallery installation, and at the same time you invited Robert Irwin to exhibit one of his disks?
HG: Yes, Irwin came for a half a day. He didn’t need to experiment, because we knew exactly what we wanted, and I had already installed a disc at the Pasadena Art Museum. I knew what Bob wanted, and he knew I knew, so he trusted me.