Monte Factor: L.A. Collector
Two weeks ago, I called my friend Monte Factor and invited him to go to the Hammer Museum. Monte and his late wife Betty were early supporters of contemporary art in Los Angeles, and long ago acquired the work of Lynn Foulkes. So I knew he would be a good museum companion for my second visit to Nine Lives in L.A. at the Hammer.
The show starts and ends with Lynn Foulkes, appropriately. Foulkes’ space is totally unreal, a kind of compression and illusion that is found in dioramas. Constructed of such unlikely materials—from carved plywood to found objects and even common towels—the paintings and the space totally work. The artist’s one-man band is featured on recordings near the exit for the show. One can listen on headphones. Both Monte and I were entranced by the constructions and the music.
A few days later, I helped to arrange for the Getty Research Institute to come and interview Monte at his home. The GRI was responsive and inquisitive, ably represented by Andrew Perchuk and Rani Singh. Monte gave a guided tour of his home and collection. When he flipped a switch at the base of one Ed Keinholz assemblage, two blue lights flashed on at the top edge. Monte explained that the gun, which is pointed at the viewer, is set to go off once in the next 200 years. “Ed wanted the message to be about risk and contingency in our everyday life. There is live ammunition in the gun. He got in a lot of trouble with the German police over this piece,” added Monte.
Later in the afternoon, there was a moment that gave me goose bumps. As Andrew Perchuck and Rani Singh came upon a photograph mounted on one wall, there was a moment of recognition of Los Angeles art history. Andrew calmly asked Monte to identify the people in the photograph, from left to right. He repeated what had been written about the picture before: “This photograph was taken in the showroom of the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas in 1963. From left to right are Teeny Duchamp, Richard Hamilton, Betty Factor, Bill Copley, myself clenching a cigar, Walter Hopps, Betty Asher, and Marcel Duchamp.”