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 Café, 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)

2 thoughts on “Hayward King”

  1. Janet F. Langton says:

    Hayward was beloved by all who knew him. He lived with Ben and me for a short time and returned to help out by cooking and washing diapers after my daughter was born. Unfor­tu­nately I have been unable to find any photos of his work. In his painting he used geometric shapes and bril­liant color remi­nis­cent of African art.
    He is missed by all those he touched.

Comments are closed.