Interview: Christian O’Mahony of Wentworth Gallery on Ric Ocasek and His Art

OCAS-0466
Art by Ric Ocasek (Image courtesy of Wentworth Gallery)

Starting on Sept. 1, Wentworth Gallery, with locations in both Westfield Montgomery Mall in Maryland and Tysons Galleria in Virginia, began a new exhibition of the artwork of musician Ric Ocasek.

Famous as the frontman of influential new wave band The Cars, Ocasek took a turn as a painter later in his life. He appeared in person at the first displays of his artwork at the Wentworth Galleries in 2018. Sadly, Ric passed away soon after at his home in New York City in 2019.

Wentworth Gallery has brought Ric’s art back on display, and the galleries currently have much of his remaining collection for sale. Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter chatted with Christian O’Mahony about Ric’s art and the exhibition.

Mickey McCarter: So Wentworth Gallery is hosting Ric Ocasek’s art right now. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on with that?

Christian O’Mahony: I had met Ric maybe five years ago, six years ago, and we started to display the artwork in my galleries and had some appearances and shows, which was terrific because he really hadn’t made that many appearances recently. You know, he didn’t really perform musically, and he wasn’t making public appearances. The exhibitions did really well. We actually had an exhibit in the Butler Museum scheduled for October 2019, and obviously he passed away the month before. But I still have the collection of works, and I’m really honored to display them and sell them through my galleries.

MM: I understand he took a little convincing to exhibit and that he wasn’t necessarily gung-ho to display initially.

CO: That’s true. Any time you have somebody who is tremendously successful in one area, well, maybe they have a little bit of reluctance to put themselves out there in another avenue. Not to mention, one of his best friends was Andy Warhol. So that’s not exactly like an easy act to follow. But, I have 10 galleries, so I’ve sold a lot of artwork over the years, and I knew it would be very, very well received. So, it took a little bit of pushing, but not too much.

MM: Right now, folks can come in and see in the Wentworth Galleries all of the stuff that he has. What will they see there exactly? And they’ll have the opportunity to buy?

CO: That’s correct. The collection that we have is the only collection that exists. So that’s exciting for us. People will get an opportunity to look at it. They are either mixed media originals on canvas, or he had some limited editions with hand-drawn remarks on the bottom. Even though those editions were numbered — out of let’s say 50 — we never got a chance to complete the limited editions. There might’ve been five out of the 50 fully completed.

MM: And how long can folks come by and see them or buy them? Do you display them until they are all sold?

CO: They’re going to be on large display over the next six to eight weeks most likely. But there will always be a small collection there that the galleries will maintain — until we run out of course, which probably will be sooner than later.

There’s different sizes, different price points. And it’s really, really incredible artwork. I’m super proud to have his artwork in the galleries. You honestly get a chance to see really inside the mind of an artistic genius.

Watch an NBC 4 news segment with Ric Ocasek from his Wentworth Gallery display in 2018 on YouTube:

MM: I’m fascinated, again, about some of the backstory. How did you meet Ric? How did this even come to fruition?

CO: I met him through a mutual acquaintance. I work with a lot of other famous musicians. Paul Stanley, the singer for Kiss, has been workign with me for 15 years or so. He’s immensely successful. Obviously, he’s immensely successful in music, but he’s also immensely successful in art. And over the years, I get referred to friends of friends. It’s a small world! I got Paul Stanley and Rick Allen from Def Leppard and Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead. And then eventually I came into contact with Ric.

MM: Would you say you’re fans of these guys’ music, and then you sort of discover that they’re involved in other forms of art? Or do you seek to develop relatoinships with musicians who become mixed media artists?

CO: The Cars were definitely my generation, so I certainly appreciate their music and Ric’s solo music. He also produced a lot of famous bands! He was an immensely creative guy. He wrote poetry. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody so creative overall. You could see the way he was introverted, but very, very creative, and simply a wonderful person to be around. I was saddened just like everybody who actually knew him when he passed. It was tragic.

MM: Would you say you see his personality in his art at all? Do you do have any opinions on how you view that work?

CO: Absolutely. It was in the way that he actually created artwork and he had been doing it for a long, long time. He had been creating artwork really at least since the ’60s. He was friends with Andy since the ’70s. He would literally doodle and everything was stream of conscious. I like to say, when you see his artwork, you see inside his mind for that period of time. You get a snapshot of his mind and everything going in there. His music is the same way, but the artwork was very stream of conscious. A lot of artists are that way, but certainly in the case of Ric he would create the artwork, and you could almost see inside his mind at the time.

MM: You and I, we’re both fans of the music, so I got to ask. Do you have a favorite song by The Cars?

CO: Definitely “Moving in Stereo.” A famous song from a famous movie in a famous scene. [Editor: See a clip below!] I liked “Emotion in Motion” quite a lot as well.

MM: What an uderrated gem. That’s a great song.

CO: Ric had so many good ones.

Watch an unofficial music video for “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars, featuring scenes from Fast Time at Ridgemont High, a Gen X favorite referenced by Christian, on YouTube:

MM: Tell us a bit about Wentworth Gallery. When did you found it?

CO: We were established in 1987. It’s a family business. It was started by my father. I’ve been involved since 1997. We have 10 art galleries around the country, mainly on the East Coast — in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Florida. And since, again, I have quite a few musician artists, as well as artists tied into the rock and roll world — people like Peter Max, Michael Godard, etc. — over the last few years, we opened a couple of locations in Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. We have one in south Florida. We have one in the Atlantic City. There’s a little bit of a synergy with them!

MM: Anything else we should know?

CO: It’s an incredible collection. I would ask anybody to at least go and look at it. You get blown away with the colors and the vibrancy and the emotions really Ric put into those pieces. I don’t know how long the collection is going to last, because he didn’t do all that many of them. But they are here for people to see at least for the time being.

OCAS-0197
Andy Warhol by Ric Ocasek (Image courtesy Wentworth Gallery)

***

Visit Wentworth Gallery in Westfield Montgomery Mall
7101 Democracy Blvd # 2468
Bethesda, MD 20817
Phone 301-365-3270
Sun: 12pm-6pm
Mon-Sat: 11am-7pm

Visit Wentworth Gallery in Tysons Galleria
1807 U. International Drive
McLean, VA 22102
Phone: 703-883-0111
Sun: 12pm-6pm
Mon-Sat: 11am-7pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.