“My general rule is, if I love something, I always go back and see it twice. And if I hate something, I always go back and see it twice,” says the collector Brad Hajzak. “I trust my eye, but it’s nice to have that little surprise once in a while."
Constant viewing—and re-viewing—is key for Hajzak, who works in New Haven, Connecticut as an IT consultant for Yale University but sets out for New York most weekends to make the rounds of Chelsea, Bushwick, and the Lower East Side. "I try to hit every important show in the city in a month," he says. "Then I try to hit the important museum shows—all the New York ones, and Philly or D.C. if there’s something great there. I try not to have the myopic attitude of, 'New York is everything.'"
His loft in downtown New Haven is filled with the fruits of those frequent excursions: contemporary paintings and works on paper, many of them by coveted “artist’s artists” such as Carroll Dunham, Nicole Eisenman, and John MacAllister. A taste for robust figuration runs through the collection, although not to the exclusion of more abstract works by the likes of Chris Martin, B. Wurtz, and Trudy Benson.
On the rare occasions that Hajzak doesn’t feel like making the trip down I-95, of course, there’s a wealth of art right underfoot in New Haven. “The Yale Art Gallery, the Center for British Art—what’s better in the United States, outside of New York?” he says. “Where are there better museums?”
Recently, he gave Artspace a tour of his collection.
All photographs by Ben Rowland
"Dario Robleto is one of those artists who changed the way I look at art. I think he’s one of the most profound artists working today, and terribly underrated. This is from his last show in New York, at D’Amelio Terras. The show was called “The Minor Chords Are Ours,” and it was about how the musical decisions your parents and grandparents make affect your own life. In one way it’s this very universal history of rock and roll piece, but it’s also very personal—he didn’t have any male role models in his life growing up, so he got his impression of what it was to be a man from the male figures that were on his mother’s and his grandmother’s record collections. He traced the silhouettes on black vinyl, the same kind they make records out of."
"I curated a show at ZieherSmith last summer, called 'All a Tremulous Heart Requires.' We had Franz West, Dana Schutz, Rose Wylie, Ida Ekblad. This painting by John McAllister was one of the pieces in the show, and I’m very happy to have it. He is heavily influenced by the past, but between the palettes and some other elements he updates it for the 21st century.
"Davina Semo uses all industrial elements, concrete, chains and mirrors. She's young, and I'm curious to see where she goes—from what I've seen so far, it's pretty interesting work.
"Those drawings are all Nicole Eisenman. I'm a huge fan. I advise for some people on the West Coast who can’t get to New York, so I took them to the Eisenman show out in San Diego. I’d already seen it in Philly, but it was worth the second trip. They had a giant salon wall just with her drawings—it was so impressive."
"Kirk Hayes is a groundskeeper in Fort Worth, Texas. He’s very suspicious of the art world. He makes about 10 paintings a year. That’s him in the painting, face down and urinating on the floor. There’s a Guston-esque element to it. Do you know that Guston painting from the late '70s, after he had had a couple of heart attacks, of his head all bandaged up and working its way up this slope? It’s like, 'I’m down, but I’m not giving up.' I love the spirit and the dark humor that’s in there."
"One day I just walked into Jeff Bailey's space and saw this piece by the self-taught artist Lonnie Holley, who is from Birmingham, Alabama [where Bailey is from]. I’d never heard of the guy and I was like, whoa. When something immediately speaks to you like that, you put down your credit card that moment.
"Those drawings are all Carroll Dunham, from when he left the 'Mr. Penis Head' behind and wasn’t sure exactly where he was headed. He started to take on the female bather, which is certainly not the freshest topic, but he has added his own new element to it. He’s toiled away for a long time on this slow, steady arc, and he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. At this point, I’m going to follow him wherever he wants to go."
"I've loved Ted Gahl's work since his first show. Halsey McKay, from out in the Hamptons, took him to the NADA fair in New York this spring and he looked really good there. I put him in that show I curated last summer, too.
"Chris Martin is one of those artists who doesn't really do any editing—it’s, 'I’m going to try this, and I know 80 percent of the time it’s going to be less than successful.' It's such an important thing, to take off the safety and let it fly, and you’ll end up getting a lot of successful works if you do that."
"William Anthony has got to be in his 80s now. At one point early in his career he was teaching art, and he found that all the students made the same mistakes—they made the torso too long, and they made the head too long. So he combined all of their common mistakes into this shape that he’s used for the last 50 years.
"I’m not a huge photography guy, but I think John Houck is pushing it a notch forward. Here he made every possible combination of a two-by-two grid with 24 colors, printed it out, folded it, re-photographed it, and put another fold on top. To paraphrase Jasper Johns, 'Do something to it—do something else to it.'
I loved the show Steve DiBenedetto just had at Derek Eller. The imagery is a little on the aggressive side—but so is Dunham’s, so is Peter Saul’s. And I’ve always been a sucker for artists like Alex Ross, who can sit down with the pencil and make magic happen. In his last show at David Nolan, he made some of the shapes turn into faces."
"I love Katherine Bradford. She’s part of that whole early Williamsburg crowd, with Chris Martin and Peter Acheson and Rick Briggs—that whole group that kind of settled in there, a lot of them in the late '70s. She’s just this gutsy painter. She restores my faith in people who have devoted their lives to the practice. I know a lot of artists in their 30s and 40s, and it’s all about where they stack up against everybody else, which gallery they show at. I just think, 'You’re in it for the wrong reasons.'"