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The Book: ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery

ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery
Edited by Alan Moore and Marc Miller
New York: ABC No Rio with Collaborative Projects, 1985

ABC No Rio Table of Contents
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ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery, 1985. Edited by Alan Moore and Marc H. Miller. Designed by Keith Christensen. No Rio Blockhead by Becky Howland. Cover design by Joseph Nechvatal
ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery, 1985. Edited by Alan Moore and Marc H. Miller. Designed by Keith Christensen. No Rio Blockhead by Becky Howland. Cover art by Joseph Nechvatal.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s the art world underwent rapid change. More and more artists found inspiration by engaging the real world while simultaneously discovering the power of banding together either to confront or circumvent the established order. As the co-editor of ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery (1985), I was closely connected with one of the most radical, creative, and effective new groups that helped to shape art in the 1980s. The book was initiated by my co-editor and old Bowery friend Alan Moore, one of the founders of ABC No Rio, an artist-run gallery located in the Hispanic barrio of the Lower East Side. Alan and others involved with the creation of No Rio were part of Collaborative Projects Inc. (Colab), a loosely organized artist group with innovative ideas about what art should be, and how it should be promoted and distributed. The story of ABC No Rio began on New Years' Eve 1980 when a group of Colab members and friends started the new decade off with a bang by squatting an empty, city-owned building on Delancey Street and mounting "The Real Estate Show," an exhibition about greed, gentrification, eviction, and dislocation. Although the police quickly shut down the show, the guerrilla exhibition attracted so much media attention that as a compromise the city offered the artists the use of another abandoned building on nearby Rivington Street. Thus out of political confrontation and conflict the gallery ABC No Rio Dinero was born.

ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery is a catalogue of the gallery's first five years as well as an exploration of the broader artistic context from which No Rio emerged. Although No Rio never followed a strict agenda, it viewed itself as an interactive space where art, politics and community mixed. As such, the gallery was linked to artist groups like Colab, Group Material, and PADD, as well as the South Bronx gallery, Fashion/Moda. No Rio found inspiration in its Hispanic neighborhood, but it also connected with the East Village's newly burgeoning music and club scene, and the wave of commercial art galleries that opened in the area soon after No Rio began. During No Rio's first years, shows were generally organized by artists, and open to all who wanted to participate. The gallery specialized in theme exhibitions and was the launching pad for new ideas as well as for the careers of many successful artists.

Our 200-page book provides a contemporaneous, grass-roots account of artists, groups, and ideas at the onset of the art boom of the 1980s. Consisting of a cross-section of art and articles from the time, it has proved to be an important primary source for the period. In the present Internet version, the flavor of the original publication was maintained, although some improvements were added: color (an unaffordable luxury in 1985), updated introductory sections, and links to artists' current websites. In retrospect, the greatest importance of the book was its success in helping to define No Rio and drawing attention to it, thereby undoubtedly contributing to its survival. Against the odds, for nearly thirty years now, No Rio has stayed true to its roots as a community-based interactive space. The No Rio book only covers the gallery’s early years. A new chapter began in late 1983 when Jack Waters and Peter Cramer became co-directors. Since 1994, the gallery has been run by Steve Englander, whose perseverance held off eviction threats and ultimately secured the purchase of the building. Now a large city grant and private funds will facilitate a complete rebuilding. More information about the history of No Rio in the years after the book, and about the gallery today can be found at the links below.

(left to right) ABC No Rio book editors Alan Moore and Marc Miller pose with Roland Hagenberg editor of East Village '85 for an article about new books on East Village Art, New York Talk, June 1985.  Photo by Mark Stern

(left to right) ABC No Rio book editors Alan Moore and Marc Miller pose with Roland Hagenberg editor of East Village '85 for an article about new books on East Village Art, New York Talk, June 1985. Photo by Mark Stern