Artists in Residence

Carla Dee Ellis, “First Residents of 98 Bowery,”, marker and pen drawing on cover of sketchbook, c. 1970.

The artists living at 98 Bowery in the 1970s and 80s were a diverse group: there were painters, photographers, collage-makers, sculptors, video pioneers, singers, poets, critics and writers with aesthetic leanings ranging from abstraction to expressionism to realism and conceptual art.   For most of us, recent arrivals in New York, the building was the initial point of contact with the city’s art world.  It was a place where we shared friendships, ideas and career advice. 

A collaborative spirit prevailed.  When Paul Tschinkel purchased a portable video camera he inspired his upstairs neighbors Ernie Gusella and Tomiyo Sasaki to do the same and enter the fledgling field of video art.  I learned to paint from Carla Ellis; about conceptual art from Mike Malloy; and much of my work in the 70s and 80s was in collaboration with Bettie Ringma, Alan Moore, Tschinkel and Curt Hoppe, who were all people I knew at 98 Bowery.

As an artists' building 98 Bowery was not unique.  It was part of a much bigger phenomenon, the wholesale conversion of vacant factory and warehouse spaces into live-in studios for artists, which was happening not only on the Bowery but also in Soho and Tribeca.  The Artist in Residence law of 1971 introduced new regulations, but with the influx of new artists into the city, the takeover of underused commercial buildings in the downtown area was unstoppable.    

The New Museum’s Bowery Artists Tribute (2008) documented around one hundred artists' buildings on or just off the Bowery starting in the late 1950s.  Standouts include 222 Bowery (Mark Rothko, William Burroughs, John Giorno) and 117Hester (Sol LeWitt, Adrian Piper). The New Museum’s Bowery project represents a valuable resource for future art historians researching ideas and influences.