Joining ART/new york and working with Paul Tschinkel provided me with an opportunity to interact with both established artists and younger talents that I admired. In the 1980s my taste in art tended towards the extreme: the fusion of art, music and nightlife; fringe alternative spaces like Fashion Moda and ABC No Rio; and barrier-breaking art movements linked to gender, race and outsider concerns. The first program I worked on, "New York/New Wave," featured many artists who participated in the Punk Art show that I had helped curate a few years earlier. "Graffiti/Post Graffiti," "New Public Sculpture," and "Young Expressionists" have been my favorite ART/new york programs.
John Ahearn was one of the artists in "New Public Sculpture." His painted plaster casts of local South Bronx residents generated wide enthusiasm in the early 1980s at a time when young artists were searching for ways to connect with real life and real people. In July 1982, ART/new york covered the dedication ceremonies for "We Are Family," a public sculpture in the South Bronx that Ahearn made in collaboration Rigoberto Torres. The enthusiastic response to "We are Family" stood in sharp contrast to the negative reception that greeted Richard Serra's contemporary "Tilted Arc," a controversy we covered in another ART/ new york tape. Ironically, Ahearn experienced his own public art controversy nine years later, when a vocal community member loudly questioned the types of neighborhood people he chose to cast for a public sculpture to be placed outside a South Bronx police station. Stung by the criticism, Ahearn removed the sculpture only days after its unveiling in 1991. "We Are Family," the 1982 winner of best public sculpture, survives at 156 Street and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx.
In 1984 Paul Tschinkel and I completed a tape about graffiti that captured a key moment in its evolution from illegal street art to rarified art object exhibited in respected galleries. "Graffiti/Post Graffiti" was sparked by a chance encounter with Dolores and Hubert Neumann, two well-connected collectors who were then actively promoting graffiti to the art establishment. The Neumanns invited us to tape a "Collaborative Painting" demonstration they organized for art world notables at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and "American Graffiti," a major exhibition they helped curate at the Sidney Janis Gallery. With this key footage in hand we set out to complete the story of graffiti's rise. A visit to Fashion Moda in the South Bronx featured a show by Lady Pink, and a tour of local graffiti murals. At the Fun Gallery in the East Village we talked with Charlie Ahearn, the creator of the indie film "Wildstyle," and with two of the film's stars, Patti Astor, co-founder of the Fun Gallery, and "Fab 5 Freddy" Braithwaite, whose paintings were on display. Keith Haring was filmed autographing hats decorated with his graffiti-inspired cartoon images at the opening of his first show at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery; and, in a rare interview, Jean-Michel Basquiat talked about his graffiti roots.
Videos may be purchased at artnewyork.org
All photographs courtesy of Paul Tschinkel and ART/new york