PRINT October 1986


Rex gets his feet wet.

IN TWO WEEKS REX would have exhausted his savings. (Which reminded him that J. L. Gigot; Parisian critic at large for various French periodicals under formation, still owed him $43.85 which Rex had loaned him to help meet the month’s rent.)

But there was hope. Dorothy, his guardian angel from art-school days, had promised to introduce him to the director of a midtown indoor tennis court, who was looking for an artist to create a fresco for the entrance. And Rico Radziwell, his building super, for a consideration to be paid him if Rex got the position, was arranging to have Rex’s name put on the waiting list for a job as a guard at the Brooklyn Museum. Rico himself had once been a temporary guard for the museum’s special contemporary shows, and had absorbed much of his art information there. Hence the inspiration for Rico’s collection of young artists right off the boat, so to speak.

Still, hopes aside, Rex could not hold out much longer unless he found work. On a hunch, he subwayed over to the School of Visual Arts and took notes on the most likely leads for jobs pinned on the bulletin board—a photographer’s model, a carpenter, a magazine salesman, an artist’s assistant. The last struck home with an uncommon wonder. It was the job of jobs. He’d meet other artists, some renowned. Doors would open, some belonging to galleries. He went right to the phone. A woman answered, demanding to know how he had gotten her number. She was irate. Rex was taken aback and stammered out an explanation. Yes, she remembered calling the art school and asking for an assistant, but that was over a year ago. She was perfectly happy with the one she had now, and would he tell the school to please not give out her private number to anyone ever again. Rex pushed down his feeling of humiliation and, in a mad stab at bridging the human gap, so that he would leave the booth feeling whole and the person at the other end not annoyed, said, "Well, anyway, it was a privilege talking to you. I’ve always loved your work.”

On the subway back to Brooklyn, Rex wondered who the artist on the phone had been. The number was still, he hoped, crumpled up in his pocket.

Frederic Tuten is a writer of fiction. He is a professor and the director of the graduate program in English and creative writing at the City College of New York. This serial appears regularly in Artforum.