And, so, after the collecting and cataloging of nearly 1000 of Togo’s works, this virtual museum was born with the hope that the world will now become aware of a revolutionary artist whose credo is inspired by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's. “I may not be better than my fellow man, but, at least, I am different."
Briefly, Togo’s biography goes something like this...In 1946, Togo was born in a whore house run by mobsters on the Lower West Side of Manhattan. Father unknown. When he was a young teen, his mother, a Madam, brought him to live in Paris where she ran her own house of ill-repute. In 1960, she was murdered by an unidentified client and the crime went unsolved for decades.
The prostitutes at her Parisian brothel were not street-walkers.
"Not at all! Many came from middle-class, educated backgrounds. They made good salaries at the house where they had been treated fairly by my mother."
In fact, the women revered her so much, they decided to raise the young orphan.
"It was not a bad life. They tutored me, sent me to school, brought me to museums where I learned about Art."
Needless to say, while at home, he not only learned about the joys of sex, but, when well-known artists and celebrities visited the bordello, they acknowledged the boy's natural ability to draw and paint portraits and they'd teach him techniques and history.
"Of course, the girls would pose for me. Who doesn't like a for portrait? Ha! Before long, the whole house was filled with my sketches and paintings."
Togo's reputation among this slice of society grew and, soon, well-known strippers and magazine models not only paid him substantial fees for painted portraits, but, celebrities as well. His personal connections among the Parisian Art World is like a Who's Who directory...including Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Warhol, Nevelson... movie stars Catherine Deneuve, Jean Paul Belmondo, Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider...directors Francois Truffaut, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean Renoir, Federico Fellini... poets Allan Ginsberg. Michael McClure and Jack Kerouac...and, music legends John Lennon, David Bowie and Miles Davis...to name but a few. Allegedly, some of the female celebs had brief affairs with him. Others purchased works or, at least, inspired the young man to continue with his calling.
But, that was not to be. As he grew older and stronger, Togo became the bordello's security guard wherein he often employed a baseball bat or a gun against unruly clients or, even worse, protection gangs. By the age of 20, he had already ventured into a life of crime.
"It was a vicious path to take and, for my efforts, I was shot twice, severely beaten and stabbed numerous times. Once, I lost so much blood, I nearly died."
But, that was when he was on the receiving end. Most often, Togo was the one dishing it out. Eventually, he was caught, indicted several times and served various lengths of incarceration.
These days, Togo refuses to talk about that brutal, savage time in his life, especially about the nature of his crimes. He won't say why, but, in the mid-1970s, he was imprisoned for a stretch of six years. One version is that he was innocent and took the rap for a friend. In another version, he claims that he was framed by a well-respected judge who was a frequent visitor to the bordello. A year earlier, Togo had to silence the drunken judge who had beaten one of the girls. The humiliated judge then vowed revenge upon him. Who knows?
However, while in prison, his artistic skills once again proved useful.
"I'd draw or paint portraits, not only of my fellow inmates, but, of their lovers, male and female. Even the guards were begging for my pictures in return for favors, such as, canvasses, brushes and paints. When I'd run out of their photographs to copy, I practiced by sketching the sexy female models on the covers of men's magazines."
Though incarcerated, he found escapement by creating his own world of characters, titles and stories to which he was to return later on in life when searching for his own style.
In prison, Togo learned to barter his pictures of nudes for cigarettes, food and other necessities. Luckily, the bosses among the inmates defended the young artist, especially when he conceptualized them as powerful gods. Once, a new prisoner had threatened Togo for some fabricated reason. When Togo ignored him, the bully destroyed many of his works. Later, the man was found in his cell with his throat cut. The crime went unsolved and no one bothered Togo for the rest of his stay.
Upon release from his sentence in the early 70s, Togo had amassed hundreds of works. Unfortunately, in his eyes, they were of no value to the outside world, so, most were left behind. That act would turn into a pattern for the rest of his life which is one reason why Fame and Fortune may have knocked on his door at various times...but, he did not heed their call. When he had found gallery owners who were willing to display and sell his work, those relationships always ended badly. Twice, his works were just stolen by the sellers. Another time, he discovered that a dealer had cheated him out of his true percentage of sales over a year’s time. From then on, he shunned the professional Art World.
Togo traveled extensively around several continents, meeting many people from every level of society. Everywhere he went he would utilize his creative skills to pay his way. Some acquaintances bartered room and board for just a portrait.
"Hey, since the Renaissance, it’s the way many artists before me had survived, so, this, then, became my life, as well."
From high-born Princesses to rag-tag hippies, Togo moved in all circles. Having learned new ways of existence, he rejected his former life of crime.
As for his subject matter? The majority of his works are portraits. But, even those, sometimes, become humorous, critiques of the Art World or general comments on Political Correctness in today’s society. Taking a dialectical approach, he enjoys titling his pictures and he insists both title and image must be considered as an entire piece.
"Titling a piece 'Number 1' or 'Number 2' is idiotic. Leave that for an assembly line in a factory."
There are also a great many of his works that are autobiographical in substance and titled as such.
"Hey, when I was young, the pros, the artists, the teachers, the authors...they always said to paint what you know. Paint what you know. What did I know? I was raised among beautiful naked women who offered sex as a living. The oldest profession, so it is said. I had no father, no brothers, no siblings. Just ladies of the night. Photographer’s models. Artists’ models. They taught me everything I know that matters in this world. And, so, in my works, I pay homage to them. They are my strength. And, I love them. Is that wrong? I adore them. Why paint scenery, flowers, animals, and take months to paint carefully crafted eggs on a table, apples in a bowl, or, even worse, abstractions? Sure, craft and technique may be marvelous, but, really, the results are all ornaments to match someone else’s idea of décor.
“No, the great masters knew. It's all there in the face and figure of a woman. Any woman. Yeah, sure, you can take the psychological approach to my reasoning. Some clowns may even say that I hate or I'm afraid of females. Ha! Let me say this...if anyone should berate or threaten a woman, young or old, within my earshot...pray for his well-being. He may not see the dawn."
Although books of his art and this site, itself, have been banned on both Amazon and Facebook (both have since rectified these decisions) he ignores current attacks from the politically-correct Leftists who accuse him of sexism and exploitation of female nudity.
"When my censors online looked into the matter seriously...they came to the conclusion that my works are not pornographic! For thousands of years, artists have been sculpting or painting nudes, usually of women, but, plenty of men, as well. It is fruitless to list the hundreds of artists who have depicted nudity and sexuality in all kinds of situations from the Greeks down to the Renaissance and Baroque painters to the Impressionists even to Pop Artists. All of that Art is worth millions of bucks now and hang in museums or even churches for all to see and study. Ha! Yet, in their time, their critics railed against these examples of vulgarity. Some of the artists were jailed! Those politically correct Italians back in the day even painted over what they considered the naughty bits on Michelangelo’s great Sistine masterpiece. Meanwhile, the critics...and, I don't mean just the holy-rollers preaching their puritanical, religious dogma...were, once again, proven to be idiots, as usual."
By the mid-1990s Togo had been discouraged enough to drop painting altogether…
“Everyone paints, hundreds of thousands of paintings all over the world that will either end up in a dustbin somewhere or burn in a bonfire in someone’s backyard. A handful will be lauded by a few critics enough for the artist to become famous…either for a short while or on to history. But, for the most part, there is nothing new to celebrate in the recent past. Painters are doing the same thing since Giotto’s days.”
When Togo discovered a new creative tool, the computer, and a new art-form, Digital Art, they re-energized his artistic calling. Again, he taught himself what he needed to know…how to utilize 20th Century technology in order to create a new kind of Art. Although a loner, he joined a few burgeoning Digital Art groups which, much like the Impressionists, held their own group shows across the world. Soon, Togo’s new works were included in invitational shows at MOMA NYC, MOMA Australia and museums in Brazil, Russia, Germany, etc.
"Unfortunately, we met with strong resistance, not just from biased critics, but, from traditional artists who viewed this new art form and its tools as an anti-Art movement."
Three decades later, the Art World is still undecided about Digital Art, usually rejecting it in favor of old-world techniques and styles which haven't changed for centuries.
"You know, if the geniuses of yesteryear were still alive today, in whose footsteps the traditionalists seek to follow, it’s very likely they would probably sprint toward this modern, revolutionary approach."
Togo, who had taught himself those old-world styles and techniques, withdrew from the Art Market world in the late 1990s and retreated into his own world, both physically and psychologically, where he could continue to create works on paper and canvas that often resemble the oil paintings, etchings, watercolors, drawings, etc. he had once produced. Many of the portraits and figure studies of women he has known or sketches he once made since childhood he now utilizes in the pictures he calls his “Museum Series.”
"I love Art that tells a story. Not just a pretty, or, well executed work that blends in with the room design or if it's chosen or commissioned because it's just the right size to fill a particular wall or lobby. Perhaps, it's more important that it matches the color of the furniture or rug? Ha! A story is needed, something to think about, to talk about. To move someone. Some sort of drama or humor. It could be in a subject's eyes, a gesture, a couple engaged in a passionate embrace."
During the 2000's, Togo rediscovered his own passion for pulp art by illustrators who had long been forgotten.
"McGinnis, Moran, Avati...they could tell a whole novel's story on one magazine or paperback cover...and each could paint human figures better than all the classical artists before them...especially in their own non-commissioned works. But, because of their jobs as Commercial Artists, they'd been scorned by the Fine Art crowd. Wasn't the Sistine Chapel a commissioned work? Or any altar piece by any artist? And, of course, most portraits, especially of royalty or rich folk and their families down through the ages are all commissioned art. Van Dyke couldn't just paint a Duke the way he wanted to...portraits come with a wealth of suggestions and demands from the buyer just as commercial artists are instructed what to create for a corporation.
"Whether it's the Catholic Church or Marlboro Cigarettes, they're all clients. It's rather late now, but, at last, we're beginning to see Fine Art auction houses gathering and selling the best of 1930s thru 1970s magazine illustrations...art that was once relegated for the trash can once it had served its purpose....now going for high prices to new collectors who realize their worth to our culture. Yes, I've been highly influenced by lots of these guys and I'm not afraid to appropriate a few images when I can...they all did that. You know the saying..."Artists borrow, geniuses steal?' Ha!"
To date, Togo has created a huge amount of works by hand while using a 21st C. software's brushes and custom-made ball mouse, a palette of thousands of colors and several specialized filters. The results are called “giclee” prints and involve a complex use of inks that resemble oil paints. But, he is not interested in multiples. His prints are one-of-a-kind, hand-signed, estate-stamped singular editions on archival papers or glazed canvases.
Now that Digital Art has expanded across the world to become accepted in Art Schools and various shows, and, particularly in Populist and Commercial Art Markets, there are thousands of creators working in this format, so, it’s become necessary for Togo to place less importance on fostering the mechanical technique and aim toward creating a unique style using that technique. Perhaps, one day, as with every form of important movement in Art History, Digital Art will take its place as a time-honored, traditional Art form.
Dan Bianchi has known the artist Togo Love for over five decades and, so, he presents here the Maestro's most important and relevant works of which you may find that…if they are not better, at least they are different than anything else in the history of Art.
If you are interested in purchasing or exhibiting any of these works or books, please contact Mr. Bianchi at [email protected].