Pulling into the parking lot at LACMA one morning I noticed the museum's director, Michael Govan, placing a brand-new California license plate onto a tan-colored, 1989 BMW 325is. After the initial shock of watching him use hand tools in his impeccable suit wore off, I asked him about the car. He explained that he had recently had it shipped to Los Angeles from New York City and was considering having it custom painted. He noted that it was very similar to my own 1991 BMW 325i. "You drive that little black one, right?" As it turns out, Michael appreciates cars, and now that we had ours in common, he would, from time to time, update me on the progress of his. Turns out the custom paint was being created with art fabricator and artist Jack Brogan in an unassuming warehouse in Inglewood where, along with tricking out Michael's car, Brogan has been collaborating with Robert Irwin on a series of highly polished and gorgeously colored large-scale paintings on honeycomb aluminum. Intrigued, I recently sat down with Michael to find out more...
[caption id="attachment_2654" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="John Bowsher, Jack Brogan, and Robert Irwin"]
MT: Let's talk about your fabulous car.
MG: So hilarious that you're here to talk to me about that.
MT: Who painted it?
MG: Jack Brogan—he's a legend in Los Angeles. He was one of the key collaborators of the Southern California artists, who some people called finish-fetish artists, or conceptualist artists. In particular, he worked since the early 1960s with artists like Robert Irwin and Larry Bell. He often restores artworks; in his studio now is a Calder from San Diego, and a Larry Bell, and a Craig Kauffman. Whenever anything has to be done that is super precise, or requires unusually refined surfaces, you call Jack; he's a genius at that. He is currently working with Robert Irwin on a series of new paintings that were just shown at Pace Gallery. The surfaces of the black painting I saw recently is so perfect that to see it is to look into another world. While it's incredibly reflective, it's very different from looking into a mirror.
MT: And how did you find him?
MG: The simple story is that I was sick of making car payments on new cars that I mostly didn't love anyway, and since I only drive two miles to work every day, and occasional meetings, it seemed a waste to have a new car. I was toying with the idea of bringing my old car that was stuck in a garage in New York. I had to move it anyway, so I thought maybe I'd bring it out here.
John Bowsher, LACMA's director of special art installations, who was with me in New York and had ridden in that car up to Dia:Beacon many times, said, "You can't bring that color to L.A. It's not an L.A color." It was BMW's ‘80s "Bronzit" beige color. I had never liked the color anyway. A few days later John said, "You've got to change it, and I got it all set up. I talked to Jack Brogan." I had known Jack through his friendship and association with Irwin.
Anyway, I went over to Jack's and he showed me all the work he was doing with Bob Irwin—we spent probably an hour and a half just talking about color, and paint color, and he showed me what he was doing with metal paint. Long story short, he said he'd be happy to work on the car for me, and work on the color.