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'IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, and I was standing, freezing, outside American Fine Arts, Co., when a shiny new purple pickup truck arrived with its ferocious cargo: The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. Naked save for a coat of brightly colored body paint, seven band members leaped from the vehicle and paraded into the packed gallery for their performance. Inside the space, visitors were greeted by a photo in which bandleader Kembra Pfahler was seen prancing on a bed with another naked body--that of Colin de Land, the proprietor of American Fine Arts, painted completely blue and topped with a huge shock of artificial black hair. With characteristic humor and intensity, Colin had joined his new lover to create what looked like a nightmare version of John and Yoko. With Kembra, he had entered a new period of his life after the devastating loss of his wife, Pat Hearn, in 2000, one that abruptly ended with his own death from cancer on March 2, 2003, at the age of forty-seven.
What the art world risks losing with Colin's passing is described by American Fine Arts's Christine Tsvetanov as his provision of a "working studio for artists." For some, Colin was a champion of art's radical promise, for others their nagging conscience. Given that he was a cofounder of the Armory Fair--where he could be seen sporting a trucker's cap detourned with a simple piece of tape to read, DON'T BOTHER ME UNLESS YOU'RE BUYING--It may have been hard to understand the importance he placed on tweaking the moneymaking side of dealing in art. But Colin's politics turned on a single word: gallery. Opening in 1980 as a small spare room in a photographer's uptown studio before moving through the Lower East Side, the East Village, SoHo, and finally Chelsea, Colin's space never officially took that name. More than a gallery, it was, he said, his attempt to "reenter society," and Colin knew better than anyone how art turned on the creation of social value. As ArtClub 2000's Danny McDonald (to whom Colin vouchsaf ed the "company," with Christine) puts it: "Colin's ability to create a dynamic social space in his gallery was legendary. There was always a great mix of artists, animals, art-world veterans, and a few brave collectors to be seen there at any hour of the day or night. We all showed up to run into each other, but really everyone was trying to get ahold of Colin, who generously directed the flow by simply never saying no." What follows are the recollections of some of those who passed through that space.' - Gareth James, Artforum, June 2003