Jan Frank: How A Gangster Of Love Walks The Fine Line Of Literalism & Abstraction

Jan Frank: How A Gangster Of  Love Walks The Fine Line Of Literalism & Abstraction

NYC artist talks about his latest work at the Nahmad Contemporary Gallery.

Jan Frank
  • 8 july 2014

I could write about the importance of drawing, and in my case, its relation to my paintings. But they are their own identity, as drawings.

John Chamberlain was introduced to my work at a solo show I was doing with his good friend, Renato Danese, in 1998. He was very excited about the paintings, and we started a relationship. Our relationship developed mainly through phone calls, openings, and seeing each other’s shows. His last show at the Gagosian Gallery, NYC, prompted me to utilize his form while still working with the nude in a series of drawings. I intended to show parts of this large series in two gallery shows I was working on (Tim Olsen, Australia, and AMS Marlborough, Chile).

Roughly 40 drawings, pen ink, correction fluid, on dutch linen paper had been produced. I intended to keep going (which I did) with the hope of doing a show with John as an end product.


In “CRUSH” for John Chamberlain, I found the works (at Gagosian / 2011) which were produced for John’s show so elegantly monumental, that homage to the work would be so honorable and having this reflection induced a sculptural glamor into my work; it gave me a new step.


I finished and sent out my project on December 20th, and John passed on the 21st. I retrieved the drawings. In the year 2000, I was approached by the architect Phillip Johnson to do a show of my paintings in a very large space he had temporally on Spring Street (next to the West Side Highway). I saw the vastness and called John to see if he would be interested in doing a show together, and he was very excited about the project, as I was.

However, before we could even get into our planning stage, the building was torn down. Joe Nahmad (Nahmad Contemporary) offered to do a show of the drawings with a Chamberlain sculpture “Gangster of Love,” painted and chromium-plated steel, 90 x 74 x 50 inches, executed in 1985. I jumped at the chance.

We hung the show June 23, 2014. Most of the day was spent placing the drawings without the sculpture, trying to visualize it, while making a hanging of the 32 drawings in the space, playing switch switch. At the end of the day, the Chamberlain arrived. It was such a moment. “It had arrived,” like a head of state walking into event, everyone waiting, and when they do, that silence and awe takes hold. “Gangster” was placed, uncovered, and the drawings started to dance.


It was a very beautiful, surreal moment for me, the marriage of the work truly a phenomenal gift. I felt my accomplishment in this project and understanding why I kept them together. I hope this carries over to the viewer…it’s special. I am sure John would have welcomed this show “Gangster of Love / Crushed.” I hope you enjoy it. I want to thank Joe, his staff, and John, who I considered one of the most important sculptors of his generation, interesting and wild, when artists still were (in a good way), hence the photo.

Jan Frank, NYC

After spending the course of a year paying homage to the late artist John Chamberlain via 32 ink drawings and also making use of commercial correction fluid and Dutch linen, New York-based artist Jan Frank’s work is now on display through July 26 at the Nahmad Contemporary Gallery on Madison Avenue.



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