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Vito Giallo (NYC)

"Resting On My Laurels"

​June 5 - July 4, 2010

Andy Warhol's first assistant comes to Houston to be rediscovered with his elegant assemblage constructions.



Vito Giallo explains that he does his best not to be influenced by other artists but he states Max Ernst’s use of unique materials and his unorthodox approach are greatly admired.  Giallo himself has been known to use a myriad of elements in his work from his vast personal collection including antique maps, fragments of fabrics, shards of rescued Persian manuscripts, newspaper clippings, and bookend sheets while affixing ink, shellac, pencil, paint or watercolor.  For Giallo, the process of creating a collage begins only when he is completely at peace.  After studying a blank canvas for a period of time, he inserts a single element that was created perhaps days before then slowly builds upon it by assembling pieces from pure impulse and intuition until he feels physically and mentally absorbed into the artwork.


Vito Giallo was born and raised in Brewster, New York. He graduated high school in 1949 and moved to New York where he enrolled in the Franklin School of Professional Arts located at 57th and Park Ave.  In 1951, Giallo graduated with honor and quickly became employed as a graphic artist in New York's bustling world of advertising.  Within two years, he was also employed under well-known graphic artist Jack Wolfgang Beck and took it upon himself to turn Beck's large midtown studio loft into an art gallery, known to all as 'The Loft Gallery'.  It was here that Giallo assembled a team of artists and gave Andy Warhol his first New York one-man show in October 1954, which consisted of hand-drawn imaginative poses of the ballet dancer John Butler.  Giallo and Warhol’s friendship grew by the summer of 1955 and when Giallo decided to close the Loft Gallery, Warhol asked him if he would like to work alongside him on his endless stream of commercial projects.  Giallo knew Warhol rarely turned down an assignment and was pleased to take on new work.  By then, most artists in the advertising business could only guess how Warhol achieved the sought-after look of his drawings.  Before long, Giallo too would learn the blotted-line technique that Warhol had perfected.  The mysterious technique consisted simply of tracing an image delicately with ink and then blotting the ink onto Strathmore paper, giving the impression that the finished image had been printed.  Giallo was surprised at how quick and easy the results were achieved using Warhol’s technique and stayed under Warhol's employ for nearly a year. During this time, Giallo and Warhol would spend the working hours churning out commercial projects and later, often go to parties staying out well into the evening.  Though many months later, Giallo received a taste of Warhol’s acute sensitivity and the fact that Warhol’s feelings could very easily be hurt.  One particular evening, Giallo turned down an offer to accompany the artist to a friend’s apartment and was never called upon again to work with Warhol, without even the slightest murmur of explanation.

New York’s abundant and varied artistic arenas provided Giallo with new opportunities.   After several years as a graphic artist and illustrator, Giallo's focus had changed. His growing fascination with antiquities led him to open an antique shop on 3rd Ave.  The venture only deepened his connections in the art world when many of his customers were revealed to be of the now infamous New York School of art.  Among the artists Giallo grew to know were Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Richard Pousette-Dart, Joseph Cornell, Richard Lindner, Walker Evans and the poets Kenneth Koch and John Ashbery.  Curiously enough, Walker Evans had amassed much of his monumental picture postcard collection through Giallo, later to be owned and exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum in 2009. . For awhile, Giallo assisted the artist Karl Mann, helping to assemble collages with unique items he found during his daily excursions but it would not be until years later that Giallo would define his own sense of collage with the use of found materials as the basis of his own works.    Giallo acquired items for his shop that intrigued him, that brought him joy.  His aesthetic touch became an extension of his art.  In a sense, his customers bought his artistic style and looked to him to bring joy into their lives.   Whether it was Jackie Onassis sneaking a quiet peek at his new stock, Gypsy Rose Lee attempting to barter down the price of an early American dresser or Andy Warhol pulling money from his shoe to pay for a Navajo rug, the shop rarely saw a dull moment.  Countless stories piled up over several decades and Giallo decided to close his celebrity-filled Madison Ave antique shop after 34 years. For the next five years, he focused on his antique prop rental business.  Eventually, he sold every piece that had been used to grace many entertaining and decorating magazine covers to none other than the homemaking queen herself, Martha Stewart.   For Mr. Giallo, it seems like the meaning of retirement eludes him.  In 2001, he sold his Manhattan townhouse and took up residence in Brooklyn where he could focus on his paintings, drawings and explorations in assemblage and collage, which he continues to this day.


written by Thomas Kiedrowski - author of the forthcoming book on Vito's adventures.  Both Vito and Thomas will be at the opening. 
curated by David B. Waller.

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