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Gustav Metzger

Gustav Metzger, Norfolk, England, 1960. Photo: Ida Kar. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

IN THE LATE 1950S, I was an assistant at Drian Galleries in London, and that job brought me into close contact with Denis Bowen, who had a small exhibition space nearby called the New Vision Centre. On weekends I would earn extra money by working there. It was a pioneering avant-garde gallery, open-minded enough to exhibit radical artists whom no one else would look at. One day a small figure came in with a pile of paintings and set them up for Bowen to look at. They were figurative works in the David Bomberg style of Vorticism. Bowen, who was kind but didn’t mince words, told the artist that he wouldn’t get anywhere with those canvases—they represented the past, and he should go away and invent something that no one else had done. This was my first encounter with Gustav Metzger.

At that time, things were moving fast in the underground culture of London. The short-lived Peace

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