Frederick Weston, a late-acclaimed New York artist who has inhabited the cramped apartments of the city’s one-room hotels for decades, hermetically creating meticulous collages exploring the male body and black queerness, deceased on October 21 at his apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. He was 73 years old.
Her cousin Denise Weston said the cause was complications from bladder cancer.
It is only in recent years that Mr. Westons’ art has finally received critical attention. Before that, it existed for a long time on the fringes of New York.
He arrived from Detroit in 1973 aspiring to enter the fashion world, but he retreated his dream after encountering, as a black man, stifling racism in the industry. In the 1980s, in a Times Square tougher than it is today, he ran a porn theater concession stand and checked coats in gay bars. like Stellas in the Theater District. He learned that he had AIDS in 1996 and that he lived very little on helping people with disabilities. And he resided in the sad old ORS hotels in Midtown, like the Esquire and the Senton, where rooms were only a few dollars a night.
In the 1990s, Mr. Weston moved to the crumbling Breslin Hotel on Broadway at 29th Street and lived there until 2009 when it was converted into the elegant Ace Hotel and its longtime residents evicted. A buyout deal provided him with a one-bedroom apartment in Chelsea. One afternoon last month, his gallery owner went to visit him there, but no one answered the buzzer, so 911 was called. Upstairs, it was discovered that Mr. Weston was taking a bath when he died.
Surviving day to day in New York, Mr. Weston created his art in private.
He worked on his bed, cutting out magazine clippings, fabrics and Polaroid photos to use in his collages. Almost every day, he visited Kinkos to photocopy money, body parts, sunglasses and pretty much anything he could slip under the cover of the machine. His rooms were filled with his instants, but he was as organized as an archivist, tagging boxes and files with descriptions like Taxi, Clubland, Bears, and Hobo.
A true artist can be creative with whatever is available, Mr. Weston said in 2008 in a interview with Visual AIDS, an organization that promotes the work of artists living with the disease. If I don’t create art, I don’t live. Being able to create is a real power.
He explored the male form and its representation in mass media as a subject. Two typical collages, titled Dark Meat and Tops and Bottoms, used clippings from erotic male escort ads; another, Body Map, featured portraits of Hollywood actors. Mr. Weston has also explored consumerism, pasting food and cleaning product logos into his elaborate collages.
The only thing I have never been able to move is being black and masculine in this world, he said in the 2008 interview. It colors every one of my dreams.
Mr. Weston didn’t consider himself a professional artist until 1996, when he learned he had AIDS and discovered more meaning in life through creative expression. Soon his work was discovered by Visual aids, and he started showing his collages in gay bars and day treatment centers.
I’m sure if you look long enough and hard enough you might see references to the virus, he said of his art. It’s just another coin in the wallet. Sometimes it sticks out of heads; it is a blessing. Sometimes he comes out of the tails; it is a curse. There are a lot of coins in my pocket.
the Gordon robichaux The gallery in Manhattan began representing Mr. Weston in 2017 and last year he had his first solo show in New York City. Last winter, a series of his collages were on display to favorable reviews at the Ace Hotel as part of the annual city Outsider art fair. (Arrangements were made for Mr. Weston to spend a night in his old room, which now had a minibar.) Last January, he was recognized with a Roy Lichtenstein Prize, granting him $ 40,000, from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Author Samuel R. Delany interviewed Mr. Weston last year about his experiences in Times Square in the 1980s for a book Visual AIDS plans to publish in January.
He was like a much lesser-known Keith Haring, Mr Delany said of Mr Weston in a telephone interview. Most artists do not make themselves known or are known very late. Art is a disproportionate business. He added, I think Fred Weston was that kind of artist.
In recent years, Mr. Weston had been happy to see his art garnered attention, but he couldn’t help but consider how far he had come to get there. Speaking to Senior Planet, an organization that teaches technology to the elderly last year, he said: “ I am now recognized as an artist because I am 73 years old and a professional AIDS patient who managed to survive and practiced art all this time.
Frederick Eugene Weston was born December 9, 1946 in Memphis. An only child, he briefly met his father when he was a boy. His mother, Freda Weston Morman, who worked at a children’s hospital, raised him in Detroit, where they lived in his grandparents’ house. Also a seamstress, she taught him how to make clothes.
After graduating from the High School of Commerce in Detroit, Mr. Weston received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., Where he helped found his first black fraternity.
He dreamed of entering the fashion industry, however, and traveled to New York City in 1973, where he immersed himself in the city’s black creative scene and gay nightlife.
Aspiring to be a fashion critic, he became disillusioned when he couldn’t land a job, his calls mostly unreturned. There’s already Andr Leon Talley, a magazine editor told him, referring to the black fashion writer and editor of Vogue. Why do we need you?
When the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan introduced a specialization in men’s clothing, Mr. Weston joined the program and graduated with honors. But he struggled to find work as a designer and eventually gave up on his fashion ambitions.
To make ends meet, he worked nights in Times Square, selling hot dogs at the X-Rated Marquee cinema and assistance Broadway Weapons steam baths. While managing the locker room at Trix, a gay bar in the theater district, his boss paid him to line the place with his erotic collages, perhaps his first art commission.
As New York City entered the new millennium, Mr. Weston became part of an endangered side of the city. He lived in decay Breslin Hotel, where elevators malfunctioned and broken faucets in shared bathrooms were patched with duct tape. Real estate developers looked at the building. In a short documentary film made at the time, Voices of the BreslinMr. Weston acknowledged that New York was changing.
I remember sitting looking at the newspaper at all these places that were going to become skyscrapers, he said, and I felt like at the time, well, it’s going to happen, but at this time -I’ll earn so much money, and I can stay in the neighborhood. Well, that didn’t happen. But I am determined not to leave without a fight.
He won his fight. After the developers acquired Breslins’ lease for $ 40 million, he was offered a buyout deal that provided him with an apartment in the Penn South residential complex in Chelsea.
Soon, his new home filled with his diaries, sculptures and collages. He became a recognizable neighborhood figure, with his smart outfit and pencil-thin mustache, and a light fixture in a nearby FedEx office, where he used his photocopier.
Mr Weston learned he had advanced bladder cancer this year. He was wary of the chemotherapy, fearing that it would interfere with his anti-HIV drugs. He was also intentionally optimistic: his next solo to show was on the horizon, he had just won a prestigious scholarship and a Manhattan gallery was finally representing him. He decided not to seek further treatment in the hospital and stayed at home focusing on his art.
He had faith, said Denise Weston, one of the four surviving cousins. He didn’t believe it was terminal. He had goals he planned to do.
She added, He was determined to make it to his next show.
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