Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bob Stanley 1932-1997

The painter Bob Stanley was the boss on my first job out of college, filing margin slips at 4:30 in the morning. We were only 10 years apart, but that's a lot when you're 20 and 30, and Bob proceeded to show me the world. It was 1962, a year that held this century's terrors at a distance--a perfect moment to love the world as much as Bob Stanley loved the world. Bob was no pollyanna, but as a fervent empiricist and atheist, he meant to enjoy his shot. And I was an eager conduit for his enthusiasms.

So we talked. We talked Hofmann and Gottlieb, Gorky and Matta, Vermeer and Poussin. We talked Svevo and Trocchi, Beckett's novels, the rivet-removal scenes in Richard McKenna's The Sand Pebbles. We talked women, sex, and pornography, the designated hitter and the baby Mets. We talked about how to mince garlic, which I believed a powder, and sautee mushrooms, which I knew as little brown things in a Campbell's soup can. And we talked about WABC. Bob always had genius ears, an openness to quality music of any provenance, and though rock and roll was not yet intellectually respectable, he loved it as much as any 15-year-old--only with a 30-year-old's perspective.

Pop was made for Bob, who in 1963 turned from abstract expressionism to polarized two-color canvases based on published photographs--rock, sports, porn. Where the typical Pop deadpan permitted the rationalization that it was satire, Bob left himself no such out--you knew he was smitten by Ringo and the Shirelles, those grinning lovers and that intent woman with her mouth full. There were many other subjects as his technique became more lyrical--trees, trash, friends. But for the past 15 years he did nothing but intensely sexual and unfashionable female nudes. The warmest and deepest of these were hanging at Mitchell Algus when he died November 15.

Village Voice, 1997