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Gallery 98

Stefan Eins: the Enigma Behind 3 Mercer Street and Fashion Moda, 1970-80

By Marc H. Miller

StefanEins copyAs the founder of two idiosyncratic, do-it-yourself art spaces and as an early member of the artist group Collaborative Project, Inc. (COLAB), Stefan Eins played a central role in shaking up the insular, overly-intellectualized art world of the 1970s in favor of a more socially-engaged, multi-cultural art with broader public appeal.  Eins’ storefront at 3 Mercer Street (1972-79) pointedly called itself a store not a gallery, and encouraged artists to show low-priced art.  Fashion Moda (1978-93) was more radical.  Located in a dilapidated section of the South Bronx far removed from the traditional venues of fine art, this unlikely art space virtually forced downtown artists to move in populist directions and provided an opening for graffiti artists and others outside the mainstream to become part of the mix.  As an art impresario, Eins has a secure place in the story of art in the 1970s and 1980s.  Much less known, however is Eins’ own art.  This online exhibition looks at the work he made in the 1970s and shows its connection to the art spaces he was then creating.

Arriving in New York from Vienna in 1967, Eins joined a dynamic downtown art scene alive with change. In Austria Eins studied sculpture; in New York he worked freely in all media continually expanding his ideas in conformity with his belief that art was a universal impulse rooted in the souls of all people. The logo he designed for Fashion Moda expressed that philosophy incorporating four major languages — English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian.  Eins wants his art to embrace the mysteries in life and sees art as indistinguishable from magic, religion and science.   His creative strategies include appropriation and encourage viewer interaction.  Typical is his show of pulleys and crowbars where visitors at 3 Mercer Street were encouraged to handle everyday tools that demonstrate the simple mechanical wonder of lifting heavy objects with minimum effort.

Because he was always occupied running art spaces during the 1970s, much of Eins’ creativity was directed to graphic design for posters and signage.  He favored a simplicity of means: appropriated images, a typewriter or press type for text, and explored the possibilities of enlargement and the positive/negative reversals inherent to photostats and Xerox.  In Eins’ graphics there is room for chance and continual variation.

EXHIBITION HIGHLIGHTS:  1. Examples of Eins’ graphic works done at 3 Mercer Street include posters and one-of-a-kind design samples.  2.  A selection of “art products” by Eins, design sketches, prototypes, and documentary photographs including The Crowbar, The Cyclops, Rotating Disks, and UFO Posters.  3. Eins’ appropriation of death-row inmate Gary Gilmore’s drawing of girlfriend Nicole seen in two variations:  a Xeroxed Fashion Moda flyer, and a signed, enlarged Xerox from the same group of photocopies that Eins included in the Times Square Show (1980).


Exhibition Items

6 snapshots documenting Eins’ early participatory sculpture, 1969

Stefan Eins snapshot


Signed poster promoting an early Eins multiple, c. 1970

Stefan Eins, “Eye-Extension,” 1975


Signage, c. 1975

3 mercer sinage stefan eins

3 Mercer Store

A poster for an exhibition at 3 Mercer Street Store, c. 1975

october 20

Creating Fog

Poster for exhibition of Crowbars and Pulleys, 1974

Kro-bar an(d) Pul-e…,

Photographs of Pulleys from exhibition “kro-bar an(d) pul-e sa(a)l,” 1974

stefan eins pulley


Iron Crowbar And two (2) photographs showing Eins using Crowbar, 1974

Stefan Eins Crowbar

Crow Bar

Two (2) signed, cutout photographs of a conjuring trick, 1970s

Stefan Eins hand photo

Splitting The Thumb

Exhibition announcement and photograph of flying toy bird, c. 1976

Stefan Eins bird card

A Bird

Prototype model & working sketch for an “art product” by Eins, 1976

Cyclops Stefan Eins


Prototypes for Rotating Disks and Instruction Sheets, n.d.


Rotating Disks

Invitation for a participatory art exhibition At 3 Mercer, c. 1977.

Hit the Hole Card

Hit the Hole

Invitation to a group show at 3 Mercer Store, c. 1975

mercer bird fyer

Items Under $5

Fashion Moda poster, 1980

Flying Saucer

Poster featuring a sculpture by John Ahearn, 1980

fashion moda poster by Stefan Eins

Fashion Moda Poster

Singular photostat made for a Fashion Moda poster, 1980

FashionModa poster photostat White Variation

Design Study For Poster

Gary Gilmore’s drawing of Nicole used on Fashion Moda poster/flyer, 1980

Gilmore Poster for Fashion Moda

Gary Gilmore Appropriated By Eins

Enlarged photocopy signed by Eins of Gary Gilmore’s “Nicole,” 1980

photocopy of Stefan Eins drawing for Fashion Moda

Eins Work At Times Square Show

“No War” a signed limited edition print; new work by Eins

Fashion Moda poster that says 'No War' in many languages