Portrait of an Artist


1934   BORN CONEY ISLAND, NYC


Coney Island in the 1930s/40s. Photographer Unknown.
A typical weekend on Coney Island beach. As a boy, Marty made pocket money selling knishes on the beach.


1947 TRADITIONS


Marty Greenbaum’s Bar Mitzvah (1947) with his parents, Jenny (nee Katz), a homemaker and Reuben Greenbaum, baker; his mother died the following year.


1951-54   BASKETBALL


Greenbaum on the court, #13, Lake Grove High School 1951-52.
Marty played both basketball and baseball in high school and attended The University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship.


1956-58   YOUTH COUNSELOR
FIRST JOB VIA THE JEWISH BOARD OF GUARDIANS


Marty and the Pharoahs: 'Once there was a street gang' Altered photo by Marty Greenbaum, Text by John Burke, Chairman Trinity Teenage Program (link to pdf, click to open).

After college, Greenbaum returned to New York City working as a counselor at The Girls Club, Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn and Kaplan House on Saint Marks Place.
“Marty worked for a nyc youth board program that brought local youth groups together with artists. He invited me to photograph teenagers in a program held at a Brooklyn Heights church. We’d have talk sessions with kids about drugs and social problems. Marty, like a big brother, won their trust. I’d take pictures and return with them. Images often opened talks about personal issues that otherwise would have been kept left secret: criticisms, and associative responses played a lay-therapeutic role, made them more willing to see ‘ahead’ instead of feeling hopeless. Marty’s generosity of spirit helped kids feel better about themselves.” Arthur Freed


1958   CAUGHT UP IN LOCAL POLITICAL BATTLE


New York World Telegram and Sun, June 11, 1958.
"Youth workers of the Teen Age Club which met at the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity Church cart away their belongings after the parish house was closed by the anti-Melish vestrymen yesterday. Marty Greenbaum, the club’s youth director, is at left."


1960s   PHOTOGRAPHER / 'WALKER IN THE CITY'


East Harlem, 1960-61, 11 x 8.5”, Photograph by Marty Greenbaum.

“Marty took to photography in an instant. It mated his love of walking to aesthetically observing urban minutia. He was a body in space capturing familiarity’s often ignored beauty, the undervalued marks and surfaces one usually passes by.” Arthur Freed


1960s-90s  ART TEACHER

Teaching Art 1960s-90s
In 1991 Marty received a Masters in Teaching from Brooklyn College, NY.



1960-63   JUDSON CHURCH: CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR
THE HALL OF ISSUES


Marty reading (middle right) The Hall of Issues, Judson Memorial Church, New York City. Greenbaum co-organized these weekly events with Phyllis Yampolsky.

“Every Wednesday evening, hosted by an up and coming Ed Koch, was talk-out night; politics, petitions, guest speakers. debates, music, poetry, experimental films….. For this event, all the 4 x 8s, containing the Sunday postings were reassembled, and the room again became the very visual Town Hall….Marty and I operated this extravagant rhythm. Without Marty, the Hall of Issues would probably not have continued… Without questions, comments or complaints. Marty was simply there. We never even met for a coffee, outside the Hall….. Now I am able to be stunned by the super human heights of love and devotion Marty gave to the Hall. At that time, so in need was I, we simply accepted what had to be done….” Phyllis Yampolsky


BREAD AND PUPPET THEATER


Bread and Puppet Theater performs during a protest in New York, circa June 1982
As a conscientious objector, Marty was involved with public theater and protest, specifically the Bread & Puppet theater where he worked frequently with Peter Schumann. (1960-63)


1960-2020 ARTIST
Marty is best known for his mixed media assemblage, boxes, reliefs, painting, and artist books.


"Greenbaum's frenetic maximalism reflects the neon-lit fragmentation, sensory overload, and utter too-muchness of modern life." Ed McCormack, Exhibition Catalog, Marty Greenbaum: Visionary Mojo Man in the Postmodern Age, 2001

“Greenbaum, an early conceptualist, burned books in the 1960s, exhibiting the remains as ‘corpses.’ Today he makes fetishistic notebooks filled with colored paper and scribbled equations, accretions of feathers and Rhoplex.” Guy Trebay, The Village Voice, Jan. 10, 1977.

Selected Works 1960-2020:
                                      

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LEFT TO RIGHT (Click on Thumbnail to view Fullsize Image in Website Galleries)

' BOOK '

BOOK AS ART
  Marty’s ‘books’ were included in numerous exhibitions of the period. Highlights: Artists’ Books U.S.A., a traveling exhibition curated by Peter Frank and Martha Wilson, Independent Curators International; Metamorphosis of the Book, Documenta 6, Kassel, Germany (1977);

In the introduction to their exhibition catalog, Artists’ Books U.S.A., curators, Peter Frank and Martha Wilson wrote: “These book works range from the publication of purely verbal material hardly different in method or message from the items one encounters in bookstores and libraries to the fabrication of unique sculptural objects whose shape refers deliberately to, and takes liberties with, the book.” catalogue, 1978.  Full introduction here
        
In Marty's words:

"Many techniques and strategies have been used in my mixed media books. By the time of 'In '84 Returned in 2004' I was cutting out shapes and opening up areas in the pages of a finished or an empty book. This device mirrored my sense of movement through space and time, the turning of the pages like a walk through the city, became an exploration of a multidirectional experience, ricocheting back and forth -- the going out and the coming back, the going forward and the return."

GREENBAUM ARTIST BOOKS, 1960s: In the mid 60s Marty was experimenting with the concept of ‘book.’ He saw the potential of book and book format as a basic art form to be addressed via imaginative and creative inquiry.

"Calendar pages, recurring collage elements employed as markers of time, seem especially appropriate in this piece, given its long gestation period. Here, dates, days, doodles, personal symbols, and graffiti-like markings that predate Basquiat by decades emerge from thick, warped pages encrusted with paint, crayon, and wax. Shredded, distressed, flecked with strident yellows and visceral reds, the pages spill out like eviscerated entrails. Resting atop the freestanding tome, the 'pointer' of the title is a stout, serpentinely crooked stick. Decorated with colorful stripes and incised with scratch "X"s, it coudl resemble the witch doctor's staff that Screamin' Jay Hawkins brandished when he shrieked, "Ill Put a Spell on You!"
Marty Greenbaum: Visionary Mojo Man in the Postmodern Age, by Ed McCormack on the occasion of Greenbaum's solo exhibition at Pacifico Gallery, 2001.

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LEFT TO RIGHT (Click on Thumbnail to view Fullsize Image)

For Lulu, 1963, mixed media, 8.5 x 14 x .5"
Diary and Pointer, 1969-2000, wood, mixed media, 15 x 18.5 x 14"
Marty Greenbaum’s ‘tripbook’ “Batman” which he created between 1963-67 while living in Downtown New York. Courtesy Fales Library; Blog

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EXHIBITIONS


Stryke Gallery
“Marty Greenbaum [Stryke] is a sophisticated primitive. He says that his “social program is home and home is anything I’m in.” His small constructions and notebooks (children’s unlined school books) are full of the objects, toys, photos, stickers and clippings that he stumbles over in the course of any day. He seems to take pleasure in anything, so that no matter how crude the result – and his work is certainly crude – there is always that sense of living and pleasure about it. The notebooks are a kind of diary of ephemeral possessions and daily thoughts and activities as well as a direct projection of sensual indulgence. Bulging with wax and clippings, they appeal to sight, touch and smell.” J.J.,
Art News, 1963



Stryke Gallery, NYC, 1965
“Marty’s work has the chaotic immediacy of life itself. Animistic spirits could inhabit his work. His constructions include games-of-chance that don’t let you win anything, swinging doors that open on nothing, pieces and parts to be moved at whim… Marty Greenbaum’s work is genuinely messy, crude and seemingly generated by a kind of infantile depravity. The show has the look of a sleazy midway at Coney Island (where Greenbaum is from). It comes on as pathetic, trivial, and awful, and succeds at being thoroughly enchanting. Marty Greenbaum and Lulu, art, David Bourdon, the village VOICE, January 14, 1965.



Objects: Dorothea Baer, Jackie Ferrara, Marty Greenbaum, Lulu, Carolee Schneemann, Van Bovenkamp Gallery, 1965



Play Piece/Art Darts, 1975, wood, chain, string, feathers, mixed media, 77” x 7” x 5” in Artists Make Toys, The Clocktower, NYC, The Institute for Art & Urban Resources, Inc.



Fetishism: Contemporary and Primative, 1992, Letter from Duke at the Allan Stone Gallery, New York, NY



Marty Greenbaum’s show Recent Work at Pacifico Gallery, 2001

"At a time when most of his contemporaries were calculating how to harden their edges or revamp their styles with the window dressings of Camp, this primal mixed media whixkid from Coney Island labored like an entranced shaman, to conjure up zanily beauitful art brut paintings and weird, wax-drizzled voodoo altar assemblages that resembled nothing so much as the ritual artifacts of some lost psychadelic tribe!
If Greenbaum had any peers at all, they were a world away, on the West Coast, where funk/junk assemblageists like Bruce Conner and Wallace Berman practiced the alienated aesthetic of the Beat Generation while luxuriating in a laid-back critical vacuum. Marty Greenbaum, however, possessed the singular ability to be brilliantly alienated in the middle of the Art Capital of the World. This probably explaines his status as a cult figure, beloved by fellow artists and some of the more discerning collectors and museum ucrators, but not as well known as he deserves to be by everyone else."
Marty Greenbaum: Visionary Mojo Man in the Postmodern Age, by Ed McCormack on the occasion of Greenbaum's solo exhibition at Pacifico Gallery, 2001.



Jack's House, 1996-97, steel, rock, string, ceramic, mixed media, 12 x 3.5 x 4.75" in One Plus One Equals Three, 2019; Curated by Roger Winter, Kirk Hopper Fine Art, Dallas, TX.

Marty's visual work, whether mixed media collages or unique books, had a similar candid brevity. He left it the way he put it down; take it or leave it. Nothing was affected for the sake of catering to this or that audience. His work encapsulated his life's experiences. His media was whatever he happened to find, wherever he found it: on a New York sidewalk, in a nowspaper or magazine, from a trash can, from a secondhand store. What he left us reminds me of a quote from the French Art Brut artist, Jean Dubuffet: "I would not want to live in a world where only 10% was considered beautiful and 90% was thatought to be ugly." Roger Winter


INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITIONS

Documenta 6, June 24 – October 2, 1977, Kassel, Germany
Artistic Director: Manfred Schneckenburger


1 Batman, 1966; 2 Compositions (Kompsitionen), 1967; 3 Your Horoscope (Dein Horoskop), 1967.
Documenta 6, June 24 – October 2, 1977, Kassel, Germany
Artistic Director: Manfred Schneckenburger




3rd Salon du Livre, 1983, Caroline Corre, Grand-Palais, Paris, France

List of Artists: Denise A. Aubertin, M.M. S. Andre, Bacon, J.Baron, Baume, Benes, Broaddus, S. Brody-Lederman, Ch. Brown, Christo, Colaianni, Ghez, Gixen, Greenbaum, V. Hammond, R. Huegli, Kolar, A. Leblanc, Lohr, C. Maillard, May, Pages, L. Polansky, Sauze, E. Senner, Servin, Taillandier, de la Verriere, S. Waitzkin, S. Wick, Wolman.




PERFORMANCE ART  JUDSON CHURCH: POSTMODERN DANCE


We Shall Run, 1963 (detail). Performed in Two Evenings of Dances by Yvonne Rainer. Photo by Peter Moore. More info here:

Greenbaum performed in work by Yvonne Rainer in the 60s.

Interview with Yvonne Rainer:
"Marty Greenbaum was a Judson character. When I first met him he was taking magazines and painting them and burning them. He was a kind of Abstract Expressionist, junk painter. He presented himself as a complete eccentric; he’d go around with dice and little whistles. He’d give you some dice and say 'Let’s play,' and you’d make up the game as you went along. He loved hanging out at Judson. He was in Peter Schumann’s Totentanz and he was quite good. So I asked him to be in this. Lulu Farnsworth was his girlfriend, and I never saw her before or after that.
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Banes, Sally, Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theater, 1962-1964, Duke University Press, 1993. P. 176. Interview conducted (1980).

Marty performed in ROOM SERVICE (1963) by Yvonne Rainer from a collaboration with Charles Ross at the Judson Church Nov. 1963. Performed by Lucinda Childs, Marty Greenbaum, Lulu Farnsworth, Alex Hay, Tony Holder, Alfred Kurchin, Yvonne Rainer, Sally Gross, Carla Blank, Al Hansen and Dick Robbins.

Marty Greenbaum performed his own open-ended and spontaneous scripts involving, play, provocation and urgent interactions with strangers open to the unknown.

HAPPENINGS
Marty orchestrated large events called “happenings,” a burgeoning art form of the 60s, coined by Allan Kaprow in 1958.


Coney Island Carny, Produced and Directed by Marty Greenbaum, Assistant Producer Human Silverglad, Esq., Judson Memorial Church, NYC, December 27, 1966. Marty brought many of his artist friends together for this special happening.
Program Courtesy Fales Library. Program (link to pdf, click to open)



Coney Island Strong Man, Marty Greenbaum, Photo: Kristy E. Larson


 
FILM ACTOR / CINEMA

Marty Greenbaum in Hallelujah the Hills with Peter Beard, 1963.
Greenbaum frequented the Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza gathering films for the teenage club at Holy Trinity Church, where he met Adolfas Mekas, the film librarian. Adolfas would cast Marty in his first acting role as Leo in Hallelujah the Hills, 1963.


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LEFT TO RIGHT (Click on Thumbnail to view Fullsize Image)

Film Screening at Paula Cooper Gallery, NYC
: Collage by Marty Greenbaum, 1974, Films by: Robert Frank, Paco Grande, Danny Seymour, Adolphus Mekas.
Screening at Madison Art Center: Hallelujah the Hills, Directed by Adolfas Mekas; Home is Where the Heart Is, Directed by Robert Frank; Flamencologia, Directed by Paco Grande; Special guests: Marty Greenbaum, Paco Grande and Alan Shields, Madison Art Center, Madison, WI, November 14, 1974



Marty Greenbaum on the Fourth of July 1980, Life Dances On ... Fireworks and Music. Photograph and Film by Robert Frank.



Marty Greenbaum shaking a jar of dice in The Present, 1996.
Film by Robert Frank. Edited by Laura Israel.
Laura Israel: "..What we wanted to do with the diversions is to suggest that there is no end. I think that the most important thing about The Present is the ending in which Marty Greenbaum plays with a pair of dice. 'I've lost,' he says. 'But, so what?' That wasn't me, at all. That was Robert. We didn't know how to end the film, and he said, 'Oh, I have it. I just shot this the other day with my friend.' And it made complete sense." Doubt and Discovery: Laura Israel on her Work with Robert Frank, George Kouvaros, 2016, Senses of Cinema


1960-2020 ART COMMUNITY
LOWER EASTSIDE - THE BOWERY - EAST VILLAGE - FINANCIAL DISTRICT, NYC; DUMBO, BROOKLYN


East Side 1970-71, Paco Grande, Marty Greenbaum, Danny Seymour. Photo: Unknown Street Photographer
 


Marty and Robert Frank, New York City, 1978, Edition 11/12


Sessions at Marty Greenbaum’s 12/22/83, 11/20/83
Improvisational Music Sessions were weekly gatherings from 1974-87 at Marty’s Loft on Maiden Lane, New York City.
Dean Fleming - tenor sax; Dick Van Buren - alto sax, Pam Ehrhardt - clarinet, Will Gamble - bass guitar, Marty Greenbaum - percussion (bongos & harmonica).

"
Marty, a moving target of energy, fast talking, mambo jumbo words spilling out and landing in your face, aggressive and confrontational he was always challenging you to think fast and to respond to his sometimes outrageous remarks. At the time, Marty lived on Maiden Lane and occupied three floors in a loft building. During the weekends the surrounding offices of Wall St. were closed and there was no residential living; just a smattering of artists living and working in illegal lofts. Marty and his artist friends would get together to jam and play music; a cacophony of sound that screamed out the windows and defied description. The music would bounce off the towering buildings and reverberate with an echo that seemed delayed as if hesitant to repeat itself." Batya Zamir



Marty and Eileen (wife)


Marty Greenbaum’s show at Pacifico Gallery, 2001 June Leaf, Robert Frank, Marty Greenbaum


Eileen Mislove's show at M55 Art, LIC, 2012, Marty Greenbaum, Blair Birmelin, Al Kresch, Robert Birmelin (background: Karen Gentile, Sonia Sarin


Marty Greenbaum and Eileen Mislove's 2-person show at Windsor Whip Works, Windsor, NY, 2007, Max Spoerri, Eileen Mislove, Marty Greenbaum


Arthur Freed and Marty Greenbaum

1960-2020 ART STUDIOS

Sinatra, Yes Opera, I Love Her in New York, 1978, New York City, Edition 9/12. Marty danced at The Dom, a dancehall on Saint Mark’s Place and Max’s Kansas City in the East Village


Studio, 1995


Studio in DUMBO shared with his wife Eileen Mislove, 2015


Studio in DUMBO, 2015


Sadie Coulianos (niece) and Marty Greenbaum


 
COLLECTIONS


Blue Flames, 1972, mixed media, 18” x 13.25”, Bill Weege print shop, Madison, WI, Collection Brooklyn Museum Library, Brooklyn, NY
“We met at Bill Weege’s print shop in 1974 when he drove out from NYC with Alan Shields and Paco Grande and I was a lithography printer hired to work with them. Alan recalled on the trip out that Marty was working on his altered books and putting airplane glue on the pages and lighting it with a match. Enough said. I printed for Marty.” James Pernotto

 

In ’84 Returned in 2004, 1984-2004, mixed media, 8.25” x 6” x 12”, Collection Brooklyn Museum Library, Brooklyn, NY



Untitled, 1971, collage of cut-and-tipped elements (photographs, printed reproductions), with orange and black ball-point pens, graphite, black crayon, and rubber stamps and brown wash, over photo-offset on grayish ivory wove paper, 17 x 23", Art Institute of Chicago Collection, Gift of Lannan Foundation



Blue for Bird, 1965, mixed media, 21 x 12 x 5", Allan Stone Collection



Wreckers and Excavators Inc., 1966-68, mixed media construction, 17.75 x 13", Allan Stone Collection



Marty Greenbaum’s ‘tripbook’ “Batman” which he created between 1963-67 while living in Downtown New York. Courtesy Fales Library; Blog
 


Face to Face, 2018-19, mixed media, 5.75" x 8" x 2", Courtesy Eileen Mislove


Marty Greenbaum, Photo: Eileen Mislove


Walk in. It's free. Listen?

How many times have we talked of it of the movement...
outward
As well as in.

It's in the doing of it, the work.
But what kind of work?

Break the ice, wet wet, again & again
In time, one knows where to begin... in the beginning.

"Sing your song quickly or otherwise pulpy weeds
Will blot your kind" (WCW)
But who am I?
Begin at the beginning. Use,
Use your hands, (you only got 2)
Your nose, your breath, feet walk in again...
It's on the release of spirit.

Spell it out & out. Again.


Marty Greenbaum



Narrative text written by Eileen Mislove and Emily Harris including contributions from friends and colleagues: Arthur Freed, James Pernotto, Richard Van Buren, Roger Winter, Phyllis Yampolsky, Batya Zamir.
Contributions also found in "A Tribute to Marty Greenbaum (1934-2020)" published in The Brooklyn Rail, May 2021.
With gratitude to Noah Edelstein, Marty’s grand-nephew, for our many phone conversations at the start.



Marty Greenbaum, Photo: Eileen Mislove