Art-Trope interviewed Kore Yoors, son of iconic Artist Jan Yoors who on the occasion of the upcoming release of the book Hidden Tapestry by Debra Dean:
Jan Yoors : a one-of-a-kind Artist tale
My father was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1922. Early on he had a familiarity with Art since his father, Eugeen Yoors, was a stained glass Artist. At the age of 12, he encountered a group of Roma children his age who he played with and eventually travelled with them, his parents who were forward thinking liberal pacifist, accepted his decision to travel with the Roma group. He initially moved between different families within this community. In 1933 he met Annabert and 1946 he met Marianne who would later become his two wives. From 1940 to 1944 Jan worked in the resistance side by side with his Roma family, he moved to the United States of America as a journalist. He settled in New York City which influenced his Art. New York in the early 1950s was a very vibrant and exuberant city. You could find the whole world in New York City.
In 1947, my father, Annabert and Marianne attended a tapestry show in London. It was deeply inspirational and eventually led them to embrace the Art of tapestry. Most people look at tapestry as a craft or a historical artifact from the Middle Age. My father had a different approach. By weaving a unique tapestry from a full scale cartoon he questioned the idea of tapestry as a craft and a medium of manufactured multiple editions.
His familiarity and proximity to Artists inspired him to use a wide range of mediums. As a result, photography was one of his many Art interests. From the 30s to the 70s he took 65,000 photographs, including portraits of communities in New York City and his Roma family. Weaving, photographing, filming, my father worked in all these mediums at the same time. They would cross pollenate and perpetuate his inspirations.
The titanic work of his son, Kore Yoors
I was 9 years old when my father passed away in 1977. Therefore as an adult I was very curious. Who was this person? What was his story? He was like a Russian doll concealing one mystery after the other. I grew up in a house that was more of a cloister. Entering the house was like stepping in an entirely different world that could have been anywhere but New York City. My ears were filled with classical music and we would watch Eisenstein and Kurosawa films as opposed to Disney.
In addition to my desire to get to know him better, the urge to preserve and promote his work also came from the fact that no galleries or institutions wanted to take over the case. Since my father promoted his own work rather than working within the gallery system, after he passed away, no gallery wanted to take care of the investigation and archiving work that needed to be done. This is the reason why I started to start this process myself.
There is a tremendous amount of work. For instance, it took a decade to catalog my father’s Artworks that were made between 1948 to 1977. Moreover, since he did everything at the same time, I had to classify the information chronologically as well as by medium. The catalog process was a full time job that took over 10 years. Within that time frame, we tracked down over 10 000 pages of correspondences, thousands of photographs and recordings. Kennesaw State University in Georgia has been very helpful in that process. The campus host the exhibition “The Heroic Present: The Gypsy Photographs of Jan Yoors” in March 2008.
A glimpse at the book The Hidden Tapestry by Debra Dean
Hidden Tapestry is a biography of Jan Yoors written by Debra Dean and that will be available on April 15th, 2018. The idea of the book emerged 18 years ago but it took 12 years to find the right person to write it. It all started when Annebert and Marianne’s landlord who was based in Florida sold the house and told them they had to move out. The New York Times journalist Robert Lipsyte wrote an article in 1998 which laid the foundation of the book.
Getting all the information was a long process especially since my father never wrote about his work. It also was a different time in the Art world where you could be “seen but not heard” as my father used to say. The biography is a compelling and comprehensive story about my father’s life and work. It reveals all the different aspects of his multi-faceted life: childhood vagabond, wartime resistance fighter, and polyamorous urban bohemian. My father did live many lives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
My goal for this book is to bring awareness of his life to a larger audience. I sincerely hope that it will get people who knew my father to come to me with new information and moments they shared with him. The book is a way to invite people to step in a different world and a different era.
The exhibition Mondes Tsiganes at the Musée de l’Histoire de l’immigration in Paris
The exhibition Mondes Tsiganes will be on view at the Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immgiration in Paris from March 13th to August 26th 2018. It will include the photographs my father took from the 30s to 1975, two years prior to his death in 1977. The Artworks tell a lot about my father’s relationship to his Roma family. The exhibition shows different depictions of Roma with a special attention to the French relation to this community. However, the international scope of the Diaspora is also included through a variety of Artworks.
In my opinion, the diversity of my father’s Artworks, both in terms of medium and themes, relates to the diversity of his friendships. Indeed, I have always been amazed by the range of his friendships. He had friends who were diplomats, CEOs but also filmmakers, members of the Roma community both in Europe and in the United States. Therefore, even though he was slightly isolated within the Art world, he always had a broad audience.
There is currently another exhibition that includes some of my father’s Artworks at the Virreina Centre de la Imatge in Barcelona entitled “Machines for Living: Flamenco and Architecture in the Occupation and Eviction of Spaces”. Indeed, the nomad tapestries of my father echo Le Corbusier’s idea of nomad mural. And their works hang across from each other. Architecture has always been an inspiration to my father.
Kore Yoors’ perspective on Art-Trope
I met Virginie Tison, Founder and President of Art-Trope, several years ago in New York City. At the time, she was doing her research to see what the Artists’ needs were and how the Fine Arts market worked. Like me, she realized that roughly 70% of the exhibitions would present Artists who were already represented by galleries or agents. For instance in my case, when my father passed away, no gallery wanted to represent my father and work on tracking down all the information unless money was involved. The question is how do you stand out and bring awareness to your work as an Artist? To that end, I definitely think there is a need for an alternative system that Art-Trope intends to provide to worldwide Artists.
Read our article about the stolen Edgar Degas’ Artwork that was found in a bus here.