It’s 1970 and a group of artists living in New York City have taken over an abandoned factory building in SoHo. (Before SoHo became the hip district it is now, back then it was little more than a crumbling part of town.).
The space would become known as 112 Greene Street and famous for the radical works on show inside. It wasn’t an official gallery, but rather a space for any artist to come and go and create.
When it began, it was all about valuing the artistic community rather than the commercialisation of art – a culture that was sweeping the city. Establishments run by this community began popping up, such as FOOD Restaurant, a dining space and art co-op where there was no menu, just one daily meal, events and various performances.
It was an outright rejection of pristine white galleries and a way of questioning the contemporary movement; of asking what defines an art space and of examining the role of an artist in society. The participants took their work directly into the city, integrating it with the architecture and the people in order to engage with its problems, its politics and culture.
Artist Run New York: The Seventies presents some of the most groundbreaking pieces from this period. Many of those whose works are exhibited were at the forefront of establishments such as 112 Greene Street and FOOD, including Gordon Matta-Clark, Suzanne Harris, Alan Saret, Richard Nonas, Tina Girouard and many more. Their contributions range from visual arts to performance, film, writing and music, and the exhibition highlights the unique collaborations across those disciplines.
In a world increasingly obsessed with nostalgia for decades past – and eras that many of us have never personally experienced – this is an absorbing exhibition. Not only for its insight into a revolutionary period in contemporary art, but because it harks back to a time when people cared less about restrictions and more about creativity. Not content with what was on offer to them, this progressive group of people took things into their own hands and left an incredible legacy behind them, which still resonates in the art world today.
Open Sat-Thu 11am-6pm. Until June 30. Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Warehouse 45, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 258 7078).
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One of the key contributors to New York City’s art scene in the ’60s and ’70s, Matta-Clark’s work can now be found at prestigious museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Whitney.
Weiner’s early work focused on video, such as his piece Green As Well As Blue As Well As Red, in which two people playing with books at a table ask questions like, “What is the structural definition of logical positivism?”
Harris co-founded the dance collective Natural History of the American Dancer, which was based out of 112 Greene Street. She’s known for her performance pieces, large-scale public installations and work with glass and metal.
Girouard always favoured showing her work with non-profit organisations and those with community involvement, such as 112 Greene Street. Her work is primarily dance, live performance installations and theatre.