Hayward King

Hayward Ellis King 1928 – 1990
Painter, Curator

Hayward Ellis King, held a unique position in Bay Area Art circles. He was the first Black artist here to be appointed as both Director and Curator of a major art facility. He held the dual position from 1966 to 1970 at the then brand-new Richmond Art Center.

Hayward was born in Little Rock Arkansas on March 28, 1928 to Patience and Jerimiah King. The family immigrated to Pasadena and Hayward attended the local schools through Junior College. In January 1949 he attended the California school of fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute.) He studied under such well know artists as Jean Varda, David Parks, Richard Deibenkorn James Budd Dixon, Elmer Bischoff and teacher-poet Jack Spicer. He was a founding member of the multi-media “6 Gallery.” He received his Fullbright Scholarship in 1955 to Sorbonne in Paris France. He was both registrar at the Art Institute and the Museum of Art in San Francisco, The Curator of the John Bolles Gallery, He was a respected teacher and lecter and was assistant teacher of art at the San Francisco State University from 1973 – 1978.

In January 1949, he came to the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) along with a number of other Pasadena art students. He studied under such well-known artists as Jean Varda, David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, James Budd Dixon, and Elmer Bischoff, and with poet teacher Jack Spicer. He was drafted during the Korean War, serving as a Company Clerk in Alaska. Back at CSFA, in 1954, he was a Founding Member of the multi-media, avant-garde “6 Gallery” (with Deborah Remington, David Simpson, Wally Bill Hedrick, John Allen Ryan and Spicer, all from Southern California). His acceptance as a peer was without question, long before desegregation and Civil Rights. At “The 6”, a Co-Op, such artists as Joan Brown and Manuel Neri had their first shows.

After receiving his BFA in 1955, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris. Mr. King was well known as an administrator and curator, being Registrar at both the S.F. Art Institute and the Museum of Art (now MDMA) and working as Curator at many galleries, notably the John Bolles Gallery (1970-74.) He served in Africa with the Peace Corps. In 1968-70 he was 2nd Vice President, Western Association of Art Museums. He was a respected teacher and lecturer, being Assistant Professor of Art at S.F. State University from 1973 to 1978. During 1976-77 he was a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. He served on many, boards as a consultant, and held guest curatorships at Grace Cathedral, the Stuart Gallery and SFSU. He was a juror for innumerable Exhibitions and Art festivals.

His own art was well received. He worked primarily with an idiosyncratic collage; usually in black and white, inked and drawn-on cutouts incorporating xerography, paste-up and clippings. He also .did many abstract oils.

Hayward King was gracious, yet shy, a meticulously dressed man who charmed all those he met. He was fluent in French, and had a Continental courtesy which was unmatched. As a friend recently said of Hayward, “He was the gentlest man; he never harmed another person in his life.”

An Article on Hayward and his times.


Introduction to the catalog for “Lyrical Vision: The 6 Gallery, 1954 – 1957,” Exhibition at the Natsoulas/Novelozo Gallery,
Davis, CA, 12 Jan – 28 Feb 1990.

The “6” Gallery: Roots & Branches

by John Allen Ryan

The “6” Gallery opened in San Francisco in 1954, but the roots of its founders are in Southern California. Jack Spicer, a poet and a teacher at the California School of Fine Arts, had come up from Los Angeles, butt he rest of us-Wally Bill Hedrick, Hayward Ellis King, Deborah Remington, David W. Simpson and I did not know Spicer then. At the time, we belonged to a group of students at Pasadena junior College who, during this time in the mid- and late-’40s, called ourselves, “The Progressive Art Workers.” The name referred both to the Wobblies, the old WWI labor movement that had spread among the working people in the American West during the ’20s and ’30s, and to Spanish Civil War songs, and these were things that reflected the way we felt about what we were doing then. We wore black Navy sweaters and Irish wool caps, and Calder-inspired bent-wire pendants on black silk cords around our necks. Like young art students everywhere, we were rebellious, but harmlessly so. We were simply high-spirited and deeply engaged in what we were doing. To have found each other, in this particular place and at this particular time, seems remarkable in retrospect.

What brought us together was mutual interest in art, and in traditional jazz and opera (Puccini & Wagner, oddly enough). Initially, we began finding each other at parties given by Robert Basset Jones & myself, although we eventually made our nest in Sierra Madre Canyon, at the home of sculptor Howard Whalen and his wife, Jo, a particularly vivacious woman. She had been in the antique business with my mother, but was particularly close to Hayward. The Whalens had a “‘ hi-fi” as they were known then, and a grand collection of jazz & new classical 78s. It was a place to gather and hear the latest music and talk.

In 1947, though, Wally Hedrick traveled to San Francisco with John Stanley, a potter, to see the California School of Fine Arts. We had heard a great deal about the school in San Francisco, and were curious to know more. The re was nothing comparable to CSFA in Pasadena or Los Angeles, and we wanted more than the city had to offer us at that time. Wally was introduced to Clyfford Still by Douglas McAgy, the director, and from that visit came the germ of the idea to move up to San Francisco.

In time, we did move, and, in February 1949, King, Remington, Simpson and I all entered CSFA. We were happy to be there, and all gung-ho about it. Other people that we knew from Pasadena were in the Bay Area during that first year, too: Jones; Bill Erickson (who played trumpet & piano with jack Sheedy’s Band at the Chinese Cellar, later known as the Purple Onion); John Stanley & Rudolph Jenkins, another potter, at CSFA; and Nancy Coover, who would marry Bill Morehouse in 1953. This was an exciting time to be in the city, and to be in school there. During the first three semesters, we studied under Jean Varda, Zigmund Sazevich, David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Ernest Mundt (who placed before us the Bauhaus version of Dada, Surrealism& Existentialism, and made it part of our thinking), james Budd Dixon, Richard Diebenkorn, & many others. Clay Spohn and Ansel Adams were still there, and even if we didn’t study with them, we were aware of their presence and their work. But none of us were in school for the first time; we all had studied at other institutions in Southern California before we came up to CSFA.

I heard a great deal about jack Spicer during that time, too, although we didn’t meet until later. He previously had taught at the University of Illinois, and in 1949 was at the University of California, Berkeley, where he and a number of other teachers would be suspended for not signing a “loyalty oath.” Eventually, Spicer came to teach English & other subjects at CSFA, where we finally became acquainted in 1953, alter I had left school and then returned again. We always marveled at not having met before then, because we had many mutual friends-especially Robert Duncan.

But other things were happening around the city, too, that had an affect on our thinking and the art we were making. Henri Lenoir, an interesting Swiss gentleman with an English accent, opened the Vesuvio Cafe, an artists’ hangout that was across from 12 Adler Place on Columbus. 12 Adler Place was another bohemian hangout. We went to all these places, and, at that time, California bars were also restaurants, and served food. Something was always going on in North Beach, and paintings by both younger artists and the older WPA painters were shown in most of the North Beach spots, and at the Black Cat and the Iron Pot. This often was the best Way to see the newest work.

Then, after three semesters at CSFA, Hedrick, King & I were called up for military service during the Korean Conflict. David Simpson had been in the Navy during the late ’40s, which is why he wasn’t drafted at the time. But we served from October, 1950, to October, 1952, approximately, and by some quirk of fate, I was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco during 1951, before being shipped to Korea. During that period I lived in an apartment over the ARK Press on Broadway with Knute Stiles, another writer and artist who was at CSFA at the time and setting type for ARK. Stiles introduced me to Robert Duncan in the Vesuvio one evening during that year, and Duncan became a kind of poetic mentor to me. He later sent a draft of his play Faust Foutu to me while I was in Korea. Duncan, of course, was close to Jess, who had been at CSFA with me in ’49 and ’50. During 1951, though, I also was able to continue my association with CSFA faculty & student friends. Deborah Remington and I often went to jazz clubs, to hear music or dance, and we came to be close friends during this period. All of these events and relationships, along with some of those made by other of the Pasadena group, would come to establish the basis on which the “6” was founded-or, in a way, inherited.

After leaving the Army in the Fall of’52, Hedrick& King lived in the famous “Ghost House” on Fillmore, where Duncan, Jess, Harry Jacobus, Philip Lamantia, Chris Md::laine & others had lived or were living. I moved in with Donald Pippin (of later “Pocket-Opera” fame) on Davis Street. Then, on December 20, 1952, Jess, Duncan and Harry Jacobus opened the King Ubu Gallery in an old stable and carriage-house turned garage at 3119 Fillmore, a part of the city known as Cow Hollow. The Ubu had shows that featured many CSFA faculty & students, including Remington.

The next year, 1953, proved to be particularly significant for us, however. In February, Hedrick and I, along with William Morehouse, a former student of Still’s at CSFA, rented a large house in Oakland and entered the degree program at the California School of Arts and Crafts on the G.I. Bill. We couldn’t keep our benefits unless we were enrolled in an accredited degree program, and CSFA didn’t have one at that time. But what else went on that year? We all went to the King Ubu. Morehouse married Nancy Coover. Hedrick was also very active. An artist, sculptor & mechanical whiz-kid, he was also an accomplished banjoist, and played frequently with the Studio 13 band at CSFA, along with David Park on piano, Doug McAgy on drums, and Elmer Bischoff on trumpet. Under Ernest Mundt, CSFA began its first-degree program in the fall, and hired Jack Spicer to head the English Department there. That’s what we were waiting for. Hedrick and I left CCAC to return to CSFA as more advanced students. King, Remington, Morehouse & others soon joined us, and we began studying under Kenneth Nack, who was one of the younger teachers at the school. Wally and I rented an attic together for the first month or so. Wally got together with Jay at that time, so I lived on the couch in Jack Spicer’s office for a few weeks, and then got a small place for another month. I was relieved, finally, to find a small fisherman’s cottage on Bay Street for $25 a month. I stayed there for a long time after that, about five years.

A number of other events during this period seem relevant to the eventual founding of the “6,” as well. Spicer and I knew such ARK and Black Mountain College people as Robert Creeley and Kenneth Rexroth, and Ruth Witt-Diamant, who established the San Francisco Poetry Center. Meanwhile, Stiles & Leo Krikorian, who had been together at Black Mountain College, the New School and CSFA, opened The Place, a North Beach bar catering to & showing artists and poets. Peter Martin & Larry Ferling (Ferlinghetti) opened the City Lights Bookstore on Columbus. Wally Hedrick married Jay DeFeo. But most important for the “6,” we knew Duncan and Jess, who closed the King Ubu, with many sighs & regrets, in December, 1953.

Between 1953 and ’54, DeFeo, Hedrick. Jess and I were among the artists who had one-person shows at The Place, but Stiles showed many artists there during that time. It had a reputation, and when out-of-towners came to San Francisco that was where they went first-Allen Ginsberg, Wally Berman, Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassady had passed through by then. Something was building; we could feel it coming. Then, in June, 1954, the five of us-Hedrick, King, Simpson, Remington and I were awarded scholarships for the following year at CSFA, and we began to think about opening a gallery in the space vacated by the King Ubu.

The “6” Gallery was now alive, if only as an idea. We rented a booth at the San Francisco Art Festival in Aquatic Park, in order to raise money for the new venture. It was, as Herb Caen reported in the San Francisco Sunday Examiner on September 26, 1954, “sponsored by six people interested in art, music, poetry, integrity and other worthwhile things.” Spicer played a reel-to-reel tape of his “California Poems” continuously for all three days, irritating many nearby who did not “dig” our idea of a “total art performance.” A lot of the people in the booths around us were furious, but it was a great deal of fun. We had another fund raising party at the Opus One, a club run by Wynn Astin in the basement of the Sentinel Building on Columbus where the hungry i club began. Wally Bill & I operated (or played, actually) a souped-up version of Hedrick’s light organ, an instrument-machine he’d been working on for many years, accompanied by jazz & other improvisational music. A lot of people came out for this, and it was a big success. We raised $30 or $40.

The “6” Gallery opened in the old King Ubu space at 3119 Fillmore in October. Harry Jacobus supplied the lights from the Ubu. Hedrick& I installed wall panels and a large, matte-black plywood “6” over the garage doors along the street. He had cut it in the shop at school. We also had a combination lock, which Wally Bill set to “6666.” It was exactly what we wanted. Anything that we wanted to have happen could happen. We had no set schedule, and we could do anything, as long as we met the costs. I liked seeing poetry on the walls, because I was very interested at that time in how poetry looked on paper, in its visual effects.

The “6” Gallery was a part of a network of focal points in San Francisco for poets, artists, musicians & hangers-on. A lot was going on, and people went to The Place, Vesuvio, 12 Adler Place, the Blackhawk (cool, modern, progressive) in the Tenderloin, Jackson’s Nook (jazz in the Negro part of the Fillmore district), CSFA, and the “6.” The Place was an old storefront- I put a toilet bowl in the window and hung a draft notice mobile over it, but the police soon appeared, and Leo & I had to remove it. In essence, North Beach, the “6” Gallery and the school were one, it was a social scene, and we all knew people in every field of the arts-the ballet school, the conducting school, all the models, the people at the museums, the Dixieland players and the progressive jazz people. There wasn’t a place we could go where we didn’t run into people we knew, and San Francisco seemed like a mighty small town then. But interplay existed between all of these places, and led eventually to such collaborations as Rexroth’s “Poetry With Jazz” readings at the Cellar, on Green Street. People were always getting together to talk. Sometimes I think that I learned more talking to Clay Spohn in bars than I did in the painting classes. The classes were often large; at The Place or the Vesuvio, things were always smaller, and functioned on a far more intimate scale.

From the very beginning, the “6” had everything, but operated on nothing: we had painting, poetry, sculpture, 3-D movies by Hy Hirsch and others, jazz (traditional & progressive), & Dada “happenings,” but no money. The gallery became a co-op, and membership soon grew to forty or more. As f recall, the seventh member was photographer Bill Eichel. The eighth was Knute Stiles. We had financial problems, of course, but there were “contributing members” to put up the extra money, and, somehow, it was always worked out. We talked things over. We were all pacificist-anarchistic individualists and so we had our disagreements, but those were always resolved. One night, we went so far as to fire Jack Spicer from our the board of directors, which is what we called ourselves informally, but then we tearfully took him back, and he remained with us. We seldom sold anything during a show, either. Most of the artist-members were poor, and they also made what sales they could away from the gallery; in fact, contributing members often bought artwork at a lower price that way. Following the precedent set by the Kmg Ubu, we exhibited work by both students & faculty, and the directors never had one-person shows. That was a policy.

In January, 1955, to start the new year, King & I had a joint graduate show at CSFA-as did all the out-going seniors-Duncan staged his Faust Foutu at the gallery, and Leo Valledor, Sandra D. Carlson & I did a three-person show there. Fred Martin had his first large, one-man show soon afterwards, and there were movies & readings. Fred had included a large painting done in drab military surplus paint that he could buy very cheaply. I had written a poem called “Golden Frog,” and, Lloyd Davis, a drummer with Dave Brubeck’s Oberlin trio and a friend of Remington’s, composed a setting for it: we recorded this at the “6,” featuring celeste and voice, sometime in February. But the tape has been lost.

In June, the five of us-King, Simpson, Remington, Hedrick & I received our B.F.A. degrees from CSFA. That marked the end of my active involvement there. Everything continued to evolve, but that had been our intent from the start. We simply passed it on to another generation of artists, and we felt that it was in good hands. Hedrick probably was the last of the old bunch to hang on there, working with Manuel Neri. In 1957, Joan Brown and Neri were among the artists who had their first one-person shows at the “6,” and Neri became the last director that year, of course, but the times were moving ahead, and things were changing. Other avant-garde galleries were opening. Duncan & Spicer led the “Poetry As Magic” seminar at the San Francisco State College Poetry Center, and I became involved with that. And so the “6” Gallery closed, shortly after a group show and poetry reading, on November 30, 1957. I was there for the reading, but don’t remember much about it. The gallery had been open for three years, a charged and productive period for all of us, but a new era was upon us, and we felt the change: Sputnik III was launched; Herb Caen had coined the word “beatnik,” which became a dread term for us; the Beats had been “on the road,” and were bohemians no more.
We were either artists with a capital “A.” or we were Beats. The F1ower Children were at hand.
These arc my recollections. I can speak only for myself-not for any of the others-and some forty years have passed since we left Sierra Madre for the Great Adventure that was San Francisco, and the art world we were so excited to discover. Much has happened, and to tell all of it would be impossible. At the beginning of our first class with Jack Spicer at CSFA, he began by saying, “I intend to be the best student in this class.” -and he was, irascible, irreverent, the best of all teachers-and my only regret is that Spicer will be unable to witness for himself after all these years this gathering together of the remnants of those wonderful, crazy times. This is the first effort to recreate a sense of what went on at the “6” Gallery, and the work here brings back a great many memories. jack died when he was 40, in August, 1%5, and it never would have occurred to me that I might be writing about him at a time when I am twenty-one years older than he was then. But he still speaks to me on occasion, in that private language known only to poets, and perhaps he will know what has come to pass. As much as we argued and dickered with him, Jack Spicer always pushed the “6” to become a place of productive arts, all of them. for all of us, and for those of you that came afterwards. I really do have an idea that he is off chortling somewhere about all of this.

San Francisco, September, 1989

John Allen Ryan (Passed Apr 27, 1994)