JF: Oh yeah. Yeah, I was a hot number in the 1980s.
AF: Yeah, tell me. Tell me about your art career.
JF: Well, first of all, I got involved with Henri [Henrietta Springer Ehrsam], who at that time, in the 1970s and 1980s, she was the gallery in Washington. I mean, there was Henri and then there was everybody else. She had a gallery that was on P Street, a couple blocks off Dupont Circle. Her building was a corner building. The building had a turret on the corner, so it was like rounded off, okay? And then there was this open sidewalk. She started putting my sculpture on that open sidewalk, and she was selling them like one a month. It got to the point that I had drilled so many holes in the sidewalk that the sidewalk didn’t hold up. The concrete had just turned back to sand.
But she sold a tremendous amount of work. Plus the fact she got me a one man show at the Phillips Collection.
And then here in Baltimore, I got involved with Barbara Kornblatt. And Barbara Kornblatt was a totally different person from Henri. Everybody called Henri, Henri, but she was a woman. Most people would tell you she was cantankerous, but I got along very well with her. Most of all I think because when I went over there I invariably took my kids with me, and she fell in love with the kids.
But Barbara Kornblatt had a gallery here in Baltimore and she did very well by me. I had two hot galleries thirty-five miles apart. I mean, I was really a hot number. And then Barbara Kornblatt moved to Washington, what used to be the retail district of Washington. It was between Chinatown and the Capitol and the Mall and the Smithsonian. Is that called Constitution Mall, maybe? Chinatown was up here and then there was a retail district—Hecht’s and name another department store here in Baltimore. But it was a retail district. And this building was a building that had basically been abandoned by the retail people and a bunch of galleries took the building over. Again, from the 1980s into the 1990s, this building, it was on 7th Street.
JF: Yes. It was the hot gallery scene in Washington. One of the neatest things that ever happened to me—I was taking work into the building for a show—the other thing about it is Kornblatt had a gallery right on the first floor. It would be like the elevators here and this space would be her gallery and it was all glass. While you were waiting for the elevator, you could see what was going on, which was a real sales advantage. But I was loading this work into the gallery and this guy came down the street. I didn’t know who he was. He came down the street and he said, “Wow, that’s a nice piece of sculpture.” He said, “Don’t bother taking it into the gallery.” He said, “Just leave it there. I’ll get it.” And it was Hirshhorn. It was David Hirshhorn himself. I didn’t know who he was.
AF: [Laughing] That’s incredible.
JF: But he went inside and Kornblatt knew who he was. And Kornblatt was stunned. She came outside and Kornblatt always had something to say. She was mumbling. She said, “You know, that was David Hirshhorn and he said don’t bother bringing the piece inside. He said. ‘I’m going to get a truck to get it and I’m going to buy it.'” There was no question of price or who I was or anything.
AF: He just wanted the piece.
JF: He just wanted the piece. No bullshit, you know, just bam!
AF: And so now that’s part of the permanent collection at the Hirshhorn.