“A hopeless shill” is how Oscar Hammerstein III — Andy, to his very dear friends at ART&INDUSTRY — most recently described himself to me when he stopped by a few weeks ago. Of course, mid-book tour (“whoring for the man”) Andy might just be a bit weary, but he remains a charming conversationalist with colorful material.
Hanging above our desk is Andy’s painting, “Theoretical Trees 1”: a vivid abstraction with regal trunks in bright Gaugin colors. It seems the palate of Broadway and Times Square has seeped into even Andy’s naturalist subjects. Or maybe that’s just conjecture; an invented trace of the Hammerstein lineage Andy’s wooded canvas. Either way, there is a liveliness in “Theoretical Trees 1” that echos the stage life.
Telling me that one of his earliest subjects was drummers in New York jazz clubs, I’m hardly surprised. Where else would Broadway progeny, Manhattan practically in his genes, go to find himself? Older iterations of Mud Club and ABC No Rio, unfortunately, yielded paintings more like Monet’s waterlilies than Kirchner’s urban scenes, but hey. Later explorations in plein aire and an abandonment of black and white paint have produced more vibrant, vivid works.
On achieving balance outside of black and white? “I don’t think about balance; the last thing you want to do is get buddhist in your artwork.”
And on subject matter: a background in plein aire and life-scenes has produced a portfolio absent of still lifes. Also fitting, it would seem, for a man who grew up around the constant bustle and flash of the stage.
Despite a childhood dominated by his father’s traveling — he was a director for numerous touring Broadway and Off-Broadway productions — Andy gravitated towards visual, rather than theater, art from a young age. So young, in fact, that when he began classes at the Art Students’ League he wasn’t allowed to paint the nude models with the other students. Turned towards a corner in the room painting vases and fruits, Andy tells me, made his first art school experience like a peep show as he tried to steal glances at the nude models. “It was almost better — it maintained the eroticism of it.”
ART&INDUSTRY looks forward to hosting Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III in a reading of his new book The Hammersteins: A Musical Theater Family in the near future! In the meantime you can read another interview with Andy here — as well as an illustrated interview with the New York Times ArtsBeat Blog here.
Hope to see you soon!